In an era where Facebook has more users than the population of the largest three countries combined, social media has truly become entrenched in our daily lives. For many brands, crafting a well-planned social media strategy is crucial for not only attracting but converting more customers through their digital marketing funnel.

Why you need a social media strategy

The purpose of a social media strategy is to summarise everything a brand intends to do with their social media — from scheduling times and dates to the specific content, and medium that content will be distributed.

A well-thought-out social media strategy enables companies to measure the success of their social media footprint and make necessary adjustments to drive success. By strategising, brands have the opportunity to test different social media approaches and see what works and what they should move away from.  

Every interaction on social media, whether it be a reply, post, comment or share serves a purpose, and this purpose should align with a brand’s overarching marketing and business objectives.

The creation of a successful social media strategy is both an art and a science, with many companies struggling to determine the success of their efforts.

What steps do companies need to make to ensure their social media strategy drives success?

Step 1: Establish the right goals

To create a successful social marketing strategy, you first need to identify what you want to achieve and why. These goals should align with the business’ overreaching objectives and reason for being.

To do this, it’s important that a brand establish SMART goals. SMART goals are:

  • Specific
  • Measurable (more on this in step 5)
  • Actionable
  • Realistic/relevant
  • Time-bound

Setting up the right goals is like following a recipe — to succeed you need the right ingredients.

One method that ensures a company’s social media objectives are SMART is to align them with a brand’s target customer’s biggest pain points. To understand a customer’s biggest pain points, a brand should conduct research to determine what their ideal customer is, and what problem(s) they are looking to solve (step 3).

Examples of some common social media objectives include:

  • Increased brand awareness
  • High-quality sales leads
  • Improvement of ROI
  • Enhance customer engagement

Step 2: Conduct a social media audit

Like SEO, a brand’s social media strategy is a long game that requires consistent investment over time. Depending on a brand or product’s maturity, a social media audit helps identify areas of expertise and improvement. The purpose of an audit is to serve as an ‘as is’ snapshot of how your social media efforts are going.

Key considerations for a social media audit include:

  • What is currently working well for your brand/product on social media?
  • What isn’t working well for you on social media?
  • What social media does your target audience use?
  • What content formats does your target audience consume on social media?
  • How is your social media presence compare to leading competitors?
  • What are your competitors currently doing?

Once an as-is state is captured, the next step of creating an optimum social media strategy is to conduct research.

Step 3: Perform research

Research forms a major part of a successful social media strategy and should take place on a number of levels:

Customer Research

By examining customer demographics such as age, gender, employment, location, and online consumption etc, you can craft your social media approach to meet specific customer consumption patterns and needs.

For example, Instagram’s major user group (at 59%) is people between the ages of 18-29. Therefore marketing a product suited to 40-50-year-olds on the platform would not be ideal. Likewise, the main demographic of Snapchat users are those who earn less than US $50,000 dollars, thus marketing a luxury sports car on the channel may not generate optimal results.  

After gaining insights into users, a company can use this information is through creating user personas. Similar to the persona’s created in User Experience Design, a marketing user persona is designed to identify potential fans, followers, and customers with real, tangible wants and problems. By capturing your ideal customer archetype, it’s easier to tailor your marketing efforts to their specific needs.

Competitor or Market Research

After obtaining a micro view of your customer, the next step is to get a macro view of the market — who are your competitors or potential competitors and how are they performing?

An easy way to conduct competitor research is through Google. Active social listening with applications such as Buzzsumo provides information about the industry’s market appetite and what other players are doing. By examining keywords, phrases, and industry lingo, you can both track and follow market movements.

Following a high-level analysis, brands can collect real-world data from each of their social media channels through the platform itself (such as Facebook Analytics) or through a third party such as Google Analytics. If you use a scheduling or automation tool such as Buffer or MeetEdgar, these platforms also provide reporting and analytics.

Step 4: Create, repurpose, and automate

Following robust research, the next step to an effective social media marketing strategy involves creating, repurposing, and automating engaging content.

Creation and curation

As much of the success of social media is dependent on a solid strategy, the quality of content plays an equally big role. Deciding what content should be created and how it will be distributed forms the basis of a brand’s social media schedule.

Tips for content creation or curation:

  • Ensure content shared aligns with your brand voice and identity
  • Plot a diverse content mix: what percentage of your content will be written, visual such as infographics, video, or longer form such as white papers or ebooks? As a good rule of thumb, it’s important to include a diverse mix of content types
  • What underlying marketing objectives does the content align to (step 1)? Is the purpose of the content to engage, inform, or promotional?
  • Arrange your content into themes: for example, if your brand is having an end of year Christmas campaign, it would be beneficial to keep all content shared on the theme of ‘Christmas’ for content consistency and continuity.

Repurposing

When creating a social media strategy, it’s easy to get caught up in content production and focus your time and efforts solely on creation. As with Pareto’s 80:20 principle, the key to a successful social media strategy doesn’t lie within the creation, but in the distribution of your content.

Top considerations for content redistribution include:

  • How can you create evergreen content that remains relevant whenever it is consumed?
  • Are there ways you can convert one form of content into another? For example, a 2000 word long-form blog post can be easily converted into a short video or infographic and reshared
  • What format do your ideal customers like to consume content?
  • Can you outsource or automate any of your repurpose efforts?

Automation

In conjunction with repurposing, automating as much of your social media efforts is key to delivering the most value-add activities for your business. There are numerous automation tools on the market to help schedule and automate social posts.

Rather than posting on one platform at a time, tools such as Zapier, HootSuite, and PostPlanner are designed to reduce the amount of time spent on scheduling and posting content across social media. With the number of platforms rising, that is a lot of time saved!

Step 5: Test, measure, and optimise

Following well-established objectives, research, and solid content, the next step of a social media strategy involves testing.

As American consultant Peter Drucker said, “you can only manage what you can measure” the ability to test and measure your social media performance is crucial to success.

Things you should test:

  • Content types: such as written copy, videos, infographics etc
  • Posting days and times
  • Headlines: Through split A/B testing
  • Voice and tone
  • Content purpose: does one type of content work better than others? (for example engaging content might work better than promotional content)
  • Surveys, competitions, and giveaways
  • Both organic and paid marketing content
  • Long form vs short form content
  • Channels: does one social media perform better than another? What channels have the best engagement?

Measure

Most social media scheduling tools and third-party applications such as Google Analytics provide a comprehensive view of social media data. These tools present the metrics and content that matters, and what approaches and content brands should pivot away from.

According to Sproutsocial, almost 47% of B2B marketers don’t know if their social media efforts are successful — effectively making almost half of all social media efforts redundant. With around 80% of all social media efforts used to drive engagement, it’s vital for marketers and brands to understand why users engage with them online, and what needs the brand is actually serving.

Aligning a brand’s measurement to their marketing objectives outlined in step 1 will ensure that a positive feedback loop of identifying, implementing, and measuring exists and that there are no social media efforts being put to waste.

In addition to the channels themselves, UTM parameters; which is a specific piece of code that can be used to track links can be employed to see the movements of social visitors throughout a website.

Test and learn

Once the feed of data and results from social media come in, brands can use this information and reevaluate their strategy where appropriate. The data received can be used to re-test different content such as posts and campaigns so that you can pivot your strategy in real time.

Beyond data from different tools and channels, questionnaires and surveys are another way to uncover how well a social media strategy is working.  

Ask your social media followers, subscribers, and website visitors whether their needs are being met, and what else they would like to see more (or less) from you.

By gathering these learnings, a brand’s social media strategy will become more refined, generating better results, and achieving optimal ROI for the amount of time and effort expended on strategising, planning, and executing a social media strategy.

In the world of social media, things move quickly. New channels emerge, while others go through significant changes or become obsolete.

A social media strategy is a living approach and requires constant measure, tracking, and adjustment. All social media efforts should align with a bigger marketing and business objective that reflects changes in a brand or company’s direction.

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Learn how you can optimise your social media efforts and drive results with our course in Digital Growth Marketing.

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