Developing a comprehensive strategy involves more than just planning your content and hoping to go viral.
As you work your way through each of the following 8 steps you’ll learn all the different elements of a strategy that you can work with to achieve great results.
All the elements of your strategy are connected to each other. Choices made in one element will affect the other elements. It’s important to realise this connection and to hold all the elements together.
1. Start where you are
It’s important to understand the activity currently occurring on your Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube profiles. You’ll need to conduct a social media audit – a really important way to see what is and isn’t working when it comes to social media. Here’s how to do it:
- Review and analyse your current online presence
Look at which platforms you already have social accounts with and whether you should be looking into expanding onto other platforms to increase your reach. Look at your results and any goals you set and see if you met them. If you didn’t, look at why.
- Assess your profile consistency
Now you know where you are online, make sure your brand identity, style and profiles are consistent across all platforms. You want to make sure your brand (even if it’s a personal one) is clearly recognisable. This doesn’t mean each profile should be identical – just consistent.
- Examine key and emerging competitors
By looking at those who are doing well in the social space, you can mimic and learn a lot. Find your key competitors and see how they are succeeding.
- Review SEO results
Your social media activity has an impact on your overall SEO results. Reviewing your current results gives you a benchmark to compare your success with down the track.
- Conduct a SWOT analysis
Having gathered all the data, it’s important to now reflect on it and identify Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats.
2. Define Your Objectives
Your objectives need to be driven by your organisation’s priorities. It’s a top-down process – a social media strategy exists to serve the broader marketing strategy which exists to meet your organisations vision, mission and values. It’s important that the tail isn’t wagging the dog!
The first step in developing an effective social media strategy is to clarify the organisation strategy. Similar to the Vision, Mission and Values this likely already exists. Making sure that this strategy is acknowledged at the top of the process will also be a great first step to getting buy-in from senior management and ensuring that the social media strategy serves its purpose.
Moving down from the organisation strategy we come to the overall marketing strategy. This will be defined by your marketing team.
Next in line is the social media strategy. Achieving success with social media requires a significant investment of time and resources. Aligning the social media strategy will help the organisation to allocate the right level of expenditure to achieve the desired return on investment. The social media strategy must align with both the business and marketing strategies.
Finally, the content strategy is developed so that the content is aligned with the overall social media strategy.
Your objectives need to be both qualitative and quantitative, they need to be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-framed) and remember to include some BHAGS (Big Hairy Audacious Goals!)!
3. Identify Your Audience
Knowing your audience, their demographics, interests, motivations and preferred channels is crucial. This allows you to shape your message to suit your ideal audience. The creation of audience personas will help to create and serve relevant content to that audience.
So where exactly do we go to find all this information?
For a large, established company, buyer personas would come from analysis and research of existing data, questionnaires and customer interviews. If you already have a customer database, you may be able to extract some information from this, such as names and locations.
If you don’t have the means to collect and analyse this information, try looking to your customers. Pick someone who is either a top customer or one who is very engaged on your social channels. You can even reach out to them and ask if they are happy to be interviewed by your team – perhaps in exchange for free product or a discount code. This is a great way to get a true insight into who you are targeting.
Market or Online Research
There are multiple existing sources online where you can research and gather data about customer behaviours. Sites such as the Sensis Social Media report enable you to view statistics about social media usage in Australia.
This includes, frequency of use, most popular times, most popular platforms, where people are using social media, how different age groups compare, and more.
You really want to get into the head of your customer and think the way they would. This will help you target them even more effectively.
4. Choose the Right Channel
The desire to be on all networks at once, or simply diving into all the well-known ones because you think you have to be on them, often sets in motion social media marketing activities which are hard to rewind. Choosing the right channel/s to use will mean more effective and efficient social media marketing.
Selecting your channel based on these five ideas will help to ensure you use the right content, to engage the right people, on the right channels while meeting your business objectives and maximising your return on investment.
Purpose: Your choice of channel/s will be guided by what suits your organisation’s purpose.
Audience: Who is your audience on this platform? Are they your ideal audience? For example, If you are looking for business managers, then LinkedIn would be the best choice and you probably won’t find Instagram nearly as useful.
Channel purpose: Understanding what each channel is for will also guide your choice. For example, Twitter is to share current news in short snippets, does this suit your organisation?
Content: What type of content suits your organisation? Images? Videos? Infographics? What do you have the resources to develop? This will help determine which channels are a good fit for you.
Cost: This refers to a cost in $$ for advertising, but also a cost in time. Perhaps you are spending hours each week scheduling on Facebook, but getting nothing in return? Is it worth your time, or are you targeting the wrong platform?
5. Create GREAT Content
Good content is not good enough! To cut through the noise and sheer volume of content you have to be GREAT! You need to understand content categories and formats. Feeding your audience with great quality content will build an engaged relationship and is pivotal to success on social media
There are three content categories – Created, Curated and Co-created.
Created content is what you make yourself. Curated content is made by others and you share it (perhaps resizing by breaking it down or combining it). Co-created content is made in collaboration with others (including influencers and user-generated content).
Your content will also serve one or more of three purposes – to entertain, to educate or to inspire. These are the three core purposes of good social media content. All three must add value to your audience.
Nathanial Bibby of Bibby Consulting Group says, “Before you post, you need to define your goal. Always ask ‘why would someone share this?’ ‘How is this going to engage my audience in conversation?’”
To entertain, consider posting amusing industry commentary, or thought-provoking content. To educate, include thought leadership content, tips, tricks, and insights. To inspire, share stories of relevant organisations or individuals who are excelling.
6. Be Social
It’s called SOCIAL media for a reason! How you interact with your audience can make a big difference to their engagement levels. Collaborating with others and integrating influencer marketing alongside positive community management will strengthen your strategy.
Look at brands that are working in a similar space. You ideally want to find a brand you can work alongside, rather than one you are in direct competition with. This way you will both benefit from the collaboration, rather than competing for the customers.
There are several benefits of integrating influencer marketing into your overall social media marketing strategy.
Lift in brand awareness
Many influencers have significantly more followers and engagement than most brands. With the right influencer and the right content, you create a genuine lift in brand awareness.
Positive brand association
Influencer marketing is a form of word-of-mouth marketing, creating powerful brand associations for an organisation.
With all forms of marketing, it’s important to convey your message to the right audience. If you look for an influencer in your niche, their followers will match your target market. This means you won’t just reach a larger audience, but also a more receptive and engaged audience.
Most influencers have built their large follower-base through consistent content and community engagement. This means that partnering with an influencer could generate an organisation substantially more post engagement than their own brand is capable of getting.
The basic function of a community manager is to engage with the community on social platforms and encourage the conversation there. This involves responding to messages, comments and enquiries from the audience.
Commenting and replying means that every post can result in a larger, potentially more intimate, conversation with your audience, which is not only imperative for brand management, but can also increase organic reach.
A community manager also set the brand voice on the network and ensures that it stays consistent.
Comments that ‘surprise and delight’ will also keep your audience engaging with your posts, as well as looking out for further content in their newsfeed.
7. Implement the Strategy
All the strategy in the world won’t give you results if you don’t implement it. Developing the strategy into an implementation plan to ensure the work is actually completed correctly and important deadlines are met will make all the work on your strategy worth it.
Once you’ve started creating valuable, relevant content, you must work out how to deliver (or ‘distribute’) the content to your target audience. After all, there is no point creating content if hardly anyone sees it!
Paid social media advertising is imperative in today’s social media landscape because it:
- Drives relevant reach at scale
- Offers unique formats and call-to-actions (E.g. ‘Swipe up to learn more’ in Instagram Stories)
- Generates greater ROI on your content creation efforts
- Unlocks additional data and insights surrounding your performance
It’s important to have a framework or a plan around your paid social media ads to avoid wasting money or missing an opportunity to promote content. When running large campaigns with big budgets, marketers can outsource the management of paid social advertising to agencies who have experience in setting up, managing, and reporting on the success of campaigns.
You’ll need to set up you budget, identify the required human resources (both in-house and outsourced) and make sure that you pay attention to the relevant legal and ethical requirements.
You may need to consider the use of management tools to make your implementation plan efficient and save you some time!
8. Analyse for Improvement
Test, measure, analyse, reflect, repeat!
One of the key strengths of social media marketing is the availability of clear data and analytics on what you do. This data allows you to continually go back to all the other elements and improve your strategy and your results!
You’ll need to find and analyse the metrics that matter – understand your business objectives, put them into a marketing perspective, and then map them to tangible social media metrics.
It’s not just about ‘vanity metrics’ – likes, followers, reach and views. You’ll also need to research engagement, sentiment, traffic, subscribers and sales!
A ‘One post, one metric’ approach will help you to have clarity about what each result means. Bringing all the data together will enable you to calculate the all-important cost-per metrics and ultimately your return on investment.
Bring it all together
If you’re serious about social media marketing (and we are!), then before you get into it, you need to invest the time in developing a comprehensive social media strategy. This will make your social media marketing stand out from the crowd and deliver the results that you’ve been looking for.
If you’re interested in some further reading and resources on social media strategy, check out these!