Last Monday, I did a workshop on that topic, and this post is based on that. I will focus on the relevant questions you should ask yourself when creating a social media strategy for your business or yourself.
For this post, I assume that you are starting from scratch and are free to choose your social media platforms. If you consider yourself a social media pro, you will still find some tips and tricks to help you further optimize your current strategy.
Table of Contents
- Who is Your Audience and On Which Platforms?
- Define which Content You Wanna Post
- The Aesthetics of your Social Media Posts is Important
- Do You Have the Know How to Publish on That Platform?
- Do You Have the Resources to Manage an Additional Social Media Channel?
- What Is the Competition Doing?
- You Need Some Advertising Budget
- Setting the Right Goals
- Your social media strategy should have a timeline
- Plan the execution of your social media strategy ahead
- Measure a few metrics
- Tools And Apps for Managing Social Media
- Look Out For Emerging Platforms
Who Is Your Audience on Each Platform?
It is best to create personas of the audience that you would like to reach. Then, research which social media platforms these audiences are most likely using. You won’t start from scratch here, as you should already know to whom your products or services are sold.
At this step, you could realize that your target audience is not social media savvy or that your company’s services are not meant to be discussed on social media. If that is the case, you could focus on classic digital marketing tactics like online advertising or sending newsletters.
Look at this simple example:
Imagine you are recruiting a young audience, say students to work in a call center during moonlighting hours. You have a chance of reaching them via video content on Snapchat or using a more creative approach with a chatbot on Facebook Messenger.
If the second audience that you want to reach is business decision-makers in the automotive industry, Snapchat and Facebook Messenger are not the right channels. You will consider LinkedIn or research specific niche platforms or discussion boards.
It is important to have peer review for the results and to work on this question as a team. If you do this for yourself instead of a company, come up with three #hashtags that you want to be known for and reach out to friends to get feedback. Think about your future in the next five years ahead and what you would like to be known for.
Define the Content You Want to Post
Now that you have defined your audiences, create a list of content items that you think should be posted on your social media channels and categorize them. Following that, determine whether you will create that content yourself, guide someone else to do it, or find shareable third-party content.
This categorization could look like this:
|What||Where||Who Delivers Content to Share?|
|Open Job Announcements||HR|
|Blog posts from our company posts||Facebook||Marketing|
|Pictures of new items in stock||Product Marketing|
|Photos of team events||HR|
|Share content from magazine X||Facebook||Content Marketing|
|Promote our reseller||Sales|
|Cover our basketball sponsoring||All Channels|
|Black Friday offerings||Everywhere||Marketing|
|CEO Letter – Financial results||Leadership Team|
|Customer success stories||Customer Service|
|Some crazy content idea that will go viral||YouTube||Everyone|
The Aesthetics of Your Social Media Posts Is Important
In our world of Instagram pictures, high-definition videos, and time-lapse videos, it is important that you publish content your audience will be interested in, but the look and feel of the post is also vital. While creating your social media strategy, you should think about the design and the identity that you want to create.
Some of the questions to answer could include the following:
- How do your company accounts look across different platforms? For example, what are the right pictures and logo images?
- What are the possible hashtags to use alongside your postings?
- What tools should be used to support your content creation process?
- Are you able to create the material in house, or do you need an external designer?
- Who oversees quality control?
Do You Have the Know-How to Publish on That Platform?
Distinct platforms require special skills for content creation. Not everyone who is good at writing a blog is also good at handling Twitter. A platform like Snapchat requires other skills for content creation (video, pictures, etc.) then LinkedIn. Twitter supports animated GIFs and videos, Facebook offers live video, and so on.
Take this tweet from AirBnb, promoting a new offer using the video feature of Twitter.
— Airbnb (@Airbnb) November 21, 2016
Do You Have the Resources to Manage an Additional Social Media Channel?
Starting a presence by creating an account is done within five minutes, but building an audience takes time. Especially in a world where everyone has become more careful about clicking Like or Follow on one more source of information. So, don’t start using a platform because everyone else is doing it, and don’t continue using a platform just because you have built some followers there if you have realized that it’s no longer supporting your goals.
In general, you could say building an audience on a social media platform is easier than building readers for your company’s blog, but the audience is less connected to you. Algorithms on social media platforms change and so does your reach.
What Is the Competition Doing?
Every social media strategy is unique, and a copy-and-paste approach will not work, but checking out what your competition is doing is important for two reasons:
- First, check out which platforms they use and how much interaction and reach is happening by looking at the specific posts and posting frequency.
- Second, think about how you can top their strategy or how you can stand out from your competition.
The knowledge gained in that process will help you to get a feel for what your potential reach could be and what type and quality of content others try to deliver.
Do not focus only on the competition; ask your co-workers which channels they use and which brands they are following and why. This should bring up a diverse list of brands to check out and will trigger a more creative approach when thinking about the content items you could publish on social media.
You Need an Advertising Budget
Organic reach has gone down dramatically on Facebook over the last few years. Facebook tweaked its feed to make money from the brands using it. If you think you can create a Facebook page and easily attract people to follow it, you would need to be managing the Facebook page for the next Batman movie or Lady Gaga’s next album. If you are a small or midsized business, building an audience will take time.
If your goal is to reach your loyal followers, readers, customers, clients, and partners, you may not need an advertising budget, as these people will happily follow your channels on a platform they are already using. But do not expect to grow exponentially.
Always be aware that, even when you have built a large following, that does not mean you can reach your followers free of charge. On Facebook, because of the algorithmic feed, posting an update does not mean that every follower of your page sees it. On Twitter, only people using it at the time you publish the tweet can see it.
Setting the Right Goals
The goals of your social media strategy should be aligned with your business goals. Building a presence with a large following would be easy if you could come up with any type of content you want to share and go for it.
Defining the right goals is crucial. As a consumer brand, your potential goal is to build a huge audience and reach lots of new customers. As a company offering services or products for other businesses, your goal is to reach the right 5,000 people in a specific market instead of the wrong 5 million people around the globe.
Depending on your answers to the above questions, you can go deeper by answering the following questions:
|Which business goals can be translated to social media?||If you run a complicated business, social media may not be beneficial to all business goals. On social media, you can track reach, clicks, interactions, engagements, view time, etc.|
Focus on a few metrics and re-evaluate your previously set goals.
|Are there event-specific social media activities?||Are you throwing one big conference or event once a year? What does that mean for publishing frequency throughout the year? How can you reach your audience for the initial following? For example, think about the French Open or US Open.|
|Can you position individuals as domain experts?||This could be the case if you decide as a company not to invest in social media but would rather work with people inside your company who are already successful in using some of the platforms and position them instead of your company brand.|
|Is a high follower count important?||Remember that building followers organically is hard; advertising budget helps but generates a lot of followers that you will potentially not engage with later, as they had to be convinced via an ad to follow you.|
|Are your social media channels only for subscribing to your blog’s content?||That would mean building a social media presence around an existing (self-hosted) channel like a blog. This is often the case for B2B brands where the goal is to get people to consume content from you on your site and to take action, such as contact you, subscribe to a newsletter, etc. Before social media, people subscribed to RSS feeds, but nowadays few continue to do so. Most people consume content on their social media feeds.|
|What type of launch activity would support your newly created social media accounts?||What type of incentive or content would generate a first wave of followers for your newly created accounts? It might not be the revenue results of the last financial year.|
Your Social Media Strategy Should Have a Timeline
The strategy you start out with is different from the social media strategy you apply when you have already reached your target audience. Convincing someone to follow your channels at launch time may require different content to reach the audience than when you already have most of the target audience following you.
|Phase 1||Phase 2||Phase 3|
|Make people aware of new presences in newsletters and websites and with advertising.||What keeps your audience engaged and provides benefit?||You initiated the engagement and discussion, how can you get them to act?|
|Which content appeals to the audience at the beginning of the implementation of your social media channels?||The content that attracted the followers may not be the right content to keep them engaged and create a discussion||This could range from getting them signed up for your newsletter to actually selling them products.|
Remember that you never have a homogenous audience on all your channels; you should mix and shake up the content.
Plan for the Execution of Your Social Media Strategy
Social media is a team effort. It is very hard to build a social media presence without helping hands. If you are a small business or a start-up, you should reach out to friends and partners and ask for support when you are in the phase of building up your presence. If you work in a larger company, you should consider creating a virtual team inside your company with people from different business units with a focus on people who are already using some of the platforms on which you are trying to build a presence.
The roles for delivering a social media strategy are different, and they could look like this:
|Social Media Manager/Facilitator||Ensuring that shareable content is detected, created, and published. Training and syncing the team. In case of emergency, this person would manage a crisis alongside public relations.|
|Leadership Support||In an ideal world, this role would not only provide support but would also provide content to share or at least have someone closely following the social media activities.|
|Content Creator||The person helping or creating the content for the business units. Remember that not every person is savvy in writing, shooting videos, or photography.|
|Support and Publishing||The person picking up the content and publishing it, watching the results or reactions, and acting accordingly. This could mean republishing at different times of the day with different images or copy and answering tweets or comments on Facebook.|
Measure a Few Metrics
When you start fresh with establishing your social media strategy, you will soon realize that there are a lot of metrics you could measure. Don’t make the mistake of over-analyzing your social media accounts, and keep in mind that lots of the data you are collecting are extrapolated results.
There is no general standard on what a “view” or reach on social media is; it’s different on every platform. You can be sure that your reach is actually lower than these tools indicate.
Tools and Apps for Managing Social Media
After you decide which platforms to build a presence on, you can start to think about how to land your strategy. This is where the discussion about tools and apps begins. There are thousands of apps that try to help you to master your daily routines as a social media marketer.
Think about the following:
- Web apps manage and monitor several social media accounts from one dashboard (like Hootsuite, BufferApp, and Swat.io).
- Tools supporting the process of content creation, such as image editing tools, video recording, grammar correction, and numerous others. Check out my post on browser extensions for marketers to stay productive.
- Tools like Slack or Microsoft Teams help you to work together as a team.
If you search the web for tool tips for social media marketers, you could spend 100 hours looking at tools. Do not make the mistake of evaluating ten tools for each task.
Look Out for Emerging Platforms
When Facebook was fresh, brands had lots of reach. Imagine that it is 2008 and that the brands are still undecided regarding whether to build a presence on that channel. It was a bit ‘wild west,’ and the rules were not written (think about sponsored content, branded content, quizzes, and games on Facebook).
If you follow developments around social media platforms, you could assume that there is not much dynamic in the market. That is true, as Facebook bought Instagram and WhatsApp, both of which could have become threats to Facebook. However, Snapchat (which Facebook also tried to buy) is different. Snapchat made the case of finding an audience (a very young one) and building a big platform even with fierce competition and companies trying to copy their features. How would your brand have benefited from being the first consumer brand using Snapchat perfectly and building an audience before all others had already joined?
The next Snapchat is already in development or on the market, it just hasn’t reached us as of today.
Trends come and go, so do not invest all your time and energy on a single platform that is new to the game.
Defining a social media strategy can be done by one person inside your company. Your social media expert should gather people from different business units and backgrounds and work with them to define a fitting strategy. It is easy to create and launch social media accounts, but building an audience takes time. Social media is not a one-way communication, so constantly think about what could trigger engagement with your audience and how to participate in the discussion.
The big social media platforms are crowded spaces. Doing the basics right will not build followers. You probably need to hire an agency or freelancers to work with you on the definition of your strategy and on creative ways to spice up your social media accounts.