A social media strategy outlines how your business will use social media to assist in achieving your overall business goals. It should be used as a tool to both guide your actions and measure your success against.
Without a strategy, you are flying blind and are more likely to just contribute to the “noise” on social media, rather than be able to leverage the power of social media to help achieve your goals.
Your social media strategy should outline details of your:
- Goals/Objectives for using social media
- Audience being targeted
- Content to be shared
- Social Media Platforms where you will establish a presence
- Monitoring procedures
- Tools used to assist with the implementation of the social media strategy
- Influencers/Circle of Influence that will assist your business in achieving your goals
- Paid Advertising strategy to support organic social media efforts
- Measurement and Reporting practices to determine the success of the social media strategy
- Resources/Budget required to implement the social media strategy
Your social media strategy should complement your overall marketing strategy and business plan.
Below are some guidelines you can follow to assist in creating a social media strategy for your business.
What is your business trying to achieve by using social media? Is it to create or raise awareness of your business; position yourself as an expert; increase engagement within your community; build brand loyalty; increase customer retention; recruit staff; deliver on commitments to suppliers, etc? These goals are not mutually exclusive, but you may wish to focus on a limited number initially instead of trying to cover every possibility.
Create SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time based) objectives based on your goals for using social media. For example, if one of your goals is to drive more traffic to your website, you may set a goal of increasing referral traffic from social media sites by 10% each month.
These can then be used to determine performance benchmarks to strive for and Key Performance Indicators that you can use to measure your performance over time.
As part of developing your strategy, you should also consider how social media will complement and enhance your other marketing goals/objectives (i.e. increase brand awareness, increase email marketing subscribers, enhance your overall communications strategy).
A quality social media strategy will focus on targeting the right people, with the right messages, at the right time. To do this, you need to clearly understand the ideal audience(s) you are targeting.
This is often done by creating audience avatars for each of the main audiences you are trying to attract and communicate with. For each audience avatar you need to determine their common characteristics, which include their demographics and psychographics.
Demographic characteristics include: age, gender, location, profession, income level, marital status, etc. Psychographic characteristics include: interests, hobbies, habits, motivations, values, etc.
Once your target audience(s) have been identified, your social media strategy should focus on attracting those audiences to follow and engage with your business on social media.
You should develop an editorial mission that identifies the key topics and messaging that resonate with your ideal audience(s) and provides scope around what type of content is and isn’t appropriate to share on the social media platforms for your business. This will help set you apart and give your business a unique brand voice. Anyone creating or curating content to share on social media on behalf of your business should be guided by your editorial mission.
Content created for sharing on social media should also comply with your Brand and Style Guidelines. This should include guidelines relating to the use of brand colours, fonts, logo and images and be consistent across each social media platform.
To assist in ensuring compliance with these guidelines, you may consider developing templates for images and/or video posts.
Tone of Voice Guidelines are also useful for ensuring that any social media content and/or conversations are consistent with the brand voice. This is particularly important if there is more than one person posting content and/or responding to comments on behalf of your business across the various social media platforms.
To keep the audience engaged, it is important to share a mix of content topics that resonate with the various audience avatars, as well as mix up the content format (e.g. images, videos, links, lives, etc), as different people will have content format preferences.
This should be tested over time to determine what type of content resonates best, the best time to post, ideal content frequency, types of calls-to-action and other variables that may impact the level of reach and engagement your content receives.
Your business will benefit from developing a strategy for the use of hashtags and tagging for those platforms where these features are available. It may be beneficial to create a list of hashtags for use under different circumstances. This can be a way to increase the reach of your content, as well as a time saver if this information is already curated and easily accessible to those people posting on behalf of your business.
Creating content can be a time consuming task. To reduce the workload, consider ways to repurpose content (e.g. taking an article you wrote and creating it into several pieces of bite sized content, such as image posts).
Creating processes for capturing user generated content, gaining permission to post that content and then sharing that content via your social media channels is a great way to take the pressure off from having to create content and this type of content often performs well.
4. Social Media Platforms
Once you have identified your goals, defined your audience and determined what type of content you plan to share, you can then determine which social media platforms are most appropriate for your business to develop a presence on.
The most important aspect in choosing which social media platform(s) to use is your audience. For the best results, you should develop a presence on those platforms where your audience is already present and are interested in communicating with you via that platform.
Not all social media platforms are the same and therefore you may have to adjust the type of content shared and the way that it is shared so that it is appropriate to the context of the platform(s) you are using.
For example, Twitter has a character limit, Instagram requires an image or video to post and Facebook has multiple places you can post information (e.g. newsfeeds, groups, stories, events, marketplace, messenger, etc). The use of hashtags and tagging also varies between platforms.
You should develop guidelines around when, where and how your business responds to conversations, enquiries and/or inappropriate content on each of your social media profiles.
However, it’s just as important that you also have systems and tools in place that allow you to monitor any conversations happening on social media that mention your business or other aspects of your industry that you would like to be aware of or engage in discussions about, regardless of where they happen online.
This could include cross-platform keyword alerts, following hashtags or monitoring platform specific notifications from each of the social media platforms where your business has a presence.
Monitoring beyond just your own social media presence is especially important, as not all conversations about your business will happen on your social media profiles and therefore without tools in place to alert you of these conversations, it is often difficult to be aware of them in a timely manner.
Joining in conversations on social media (external to your own profiles) can also help boost brand awareness and credibility, as well as expose your business to new and relevant audiences.
Conversations on social media can escalate quickly, so it’s important that your business has at least one person responsible for monitoring any alerts and have processes in place for escalating any potential issues as soon as possible once they are identified. Developing a procedure and assigning the responsibility for monitoring social media out of hours is also an important consideration.
There are various tools available that can assist you with social media creation, monitoring, scheduling and reporting. Tools for managing social media workflow can also be useful for increasing efficiency.
There are various free or low-cost tools available for creating images, videos and other forms of content for sharing on social media, enabling your business to create large amounts of content on a low budget.
Scheduling tools can help save time and increase the chances of your business regularly posting content to the various social media platforms at the most appropriate times for generating the best level of engagement.
Monitoring tools allow you to be alerted about relevant conversations in a timely manner.
Reporting tools can ensure you are regularly measuring your performance against your objectives so that progress can be quantified.
You should determine which tools are most appropriate for your requirements and then make them available for use by those people within your business that are responsible for implementing the various elements of your social media strategy.
7. Influencers/Circle of Influence
It is natural for people to look to others for social proof and influence prior to making decisions. People may seek out social proof from friends, experts, celebrities, other users, the crowd in general and/or some other stamp of approval.
This could include past or present customers, industry colleagues, other businesses or high profile personalities that have access to your ideal customers.
Being endorsed by any of these groups that influence your audience can greatly assist your business in achieving your social media goals. An endorsement could be as simple as liking or leaving a positive comment on your post, through to sharing content about your business on their social media platforms.
Businesses can facilitate this by forming relationships with those people and/or organisations that have influence over their audience and actively engaging with them on social media. Formal strategic partnerships, with clear deliverables as part of that arrangement may also be formed as part of your social media strategy.
8. Paid Advertising
Most social media platforms have algorithms in place that determine who sees what content and when. As a result, not all of the content you share on social media is going to be seen by all of your followers. Also, sometimes you want your content to be seen beyond your current following.
Social media advertising allows you to increase the reach for your content, targeting your desired audience, specific to your objective for each piece of content you are promoting.
Businesses that are investing in the production of content to share on social media should also consider allocating a budget to strategically promote key pieces of content (or calls-to-action) to ensure they get the best possible reach and return on investment for the time put into creating it and/or the outcome being sought.
9. Measurement and Reporting
It’s important to regularly review your results against the performance benchmarks and Key Performance Indicators that you set when you established the social media goals and objectives.
This includes determining what’s working, what’s not working and what you can improve upon across your social media channels. This includes auditing the success of the channels you are on, the content you are sharing and how well you are performing against your goals.
Platform specific analytics, along with other metrics relevant to your goals, such as the amount of website traffic driven by a particular social media platform or membership growth statistics can help determine the success of your social media strategy.
The strategy should outline what formal reports need to be created, including the content, frequency and who they should be shared with.
It is also a good idea to audit the social media presence of other businesses, organisations or people targeting the same audience as your business to learn from their successes and mistakes. Reviewing the performance of others can assist in determining which strategies may or may not work for your business.
Whilst social media platforms are ‘free’ to use, there are associated costs with using them, such as staff wages, content production, social media advertising, etc. This needs to be budgeted for, along with the appropriate resource allocation to effectively implement your social media strategy.
It is likely that there will be more than one person responsible for implementing the various elements of your social media strategy. These roles should be adequately defined, with backups assigned for some of those roles (e.g. posting, monitoring) to ensure there is no disruption to service.
There should also be a budget allocated for training.
Once you have developed your social media strategy, it is important that you communicate it throughout your team and revise it regularly (particularly if there are any major changes within your business) to ensure it remains relevant and appropriate to your overall business goals.
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