How to Execute a Social Media Strategy

Whether you get social media or not, going through these steps to develop a social media strategy is a worthwhile exercise for every business or brand to perform. It might actually prove by step three that you need not bother. More likely, it will prove just why you should develop an online presence. In other words, social media is here to stay. Are you?

You need to put any fears aside, or fight the urge to just dive in head first, and do some strategic thinking and planning, as with any marketing communication tactic. Chances are there is at least one social medium that makes sense for your business but it is not necessary for every business to be everywhere. This step-by-step process will help guide you through the process of determining where to engage in social media, why you need to be there and how to do it.

1. Assess your resources

This is step one because there is no point in spending time on any of the other steps if you can determine right off the bat that you do not have the people on staff with time and experience to execute plans or the money to pay for consultants. Social media is extremely cost-effective compared to traditional marketing tactics because m any of the tools are free to use; however, it can be labour intensive. Having a good sense of the resources available to you will help you to make decisions throughout the process and potentially save you money.

2. Define your target audience

As with any strategic marketing plan you need to know your target audience. Strategic digital marketing makes it possible for your potential customer to find you, if you understand what they want. Chances are you already have data about your customer’s behaviour. If not, you can always use the old fashion method of asking them, or even purchase someone else’s data.

3. Identify the appropriate social channels

Leveraging the insights you have gained from defining your audience, you will compare them to user statistics for any of the major social media tools. These can easily be found online or by contacting the platform’s sales team. This information will tell you who is on the social channel and what they are doing there. If you can match a social platform’s users to your target audience, you have an opportunity to engage or convert them through a strategic marketing communication plan.

4. Set goals and expectations

Social media is a long term strategy. You’re not going to start a Facebook page today and have 25,000 followers by Christmas unless you are a high-profile international brand, nor is that necessarily the goal you should set. Your plan will be more effective if you target fewer qualified leads rather than greater numbers of less engaged people. If that means you only grow by 100 followers a year, that’s okay. Think about who you are serving with these channels, what they need, and what you have to offer. Be realistic with your expectations and how you are going to reach your goals.

5. Take stock of your existing content

Social media is all about sharing content. Content is more than text. It is all of these things:

  • Images
  • Videos
  • Press releases
  • News stories
  • Audio clips
  • Commentary and quotes
  • Any of these can potentially perform well alone or in combination in social media depending on how and where you use them. The great thing about social media is that it is just as much about sharing other people’s content as your own. So you don’t have to worry about amassing an endless stockpile of images and videos, or writing press releases or articles every week. But you do need to think ahead about what you already have, what you may need to create, and how to balance that with shared content.

    Some Interesting Statistics to Think About

    Posts and tweets with images attached outperform those without by approximately 55%

    Consumers are now spending 22% of their time online watching videos

    6. Map your content roll out

    Your social strategy is like running a magazine and you should approach it the same way. Think about your reader and what they are interested in so that you can brainstorm relevant themes and topics. Use this information to develop an editorial calendar. Look for seasonal trends, special holidays, local news and events, and mix this with your annual promotional calendar to fill your calendar with meaningful ways to reach out and engage with your audience. Mapping it out can take away the stress of having to come up with fresh ideas daily.

    Once you start building a calendar, you will start to see where you can share content across multiple platforms. You can use free tools like HootSuite to manage multiple accounts on one interface, or use plugins and apps to make sharing quicker and easier.

    7. Establish measurement tactics

    There are numerous ways to track and measure results for social media, from sophisticated and expensive software to free tools like manual spreadsheets and Google analytics. Your goals and resources will inform what you data you need in order to measure your results. Whatever method you choose, it simply has to be done in order to make justify the effort and gain valuable insights that will help you progress in the right direction.

    To track your success, you can look at the number of friends or followers, likes, shares, impressions, click-through-rates, goal completions, and their changes over time to assess the impact of your strategy. In the end, the data is the data. It will not lie but it may take a trained eye to analyze all that it can reveal.

    8. Create your budget

    At this stage, you should be able to flesh out a budget that takes into consideration any cost associated with tools, people and content.

    9. Create new content to use across multiple platforms

    Look at new and exciting ways to create branded content for promotional touch points throughout the year. Be creative but pay attention to best practices or expert advice on what works well in each platform. Each has its own personality and should be treated as such.

    10. Register and set up your user profile accounts

    Registering an account for a social media tool is fairly easy, and typically involves creating a username and password and supplying a contact email and phone number. Setting up your user profile takes a little more time and a lot more creativity.

    Each platform looks different and has different rules and specs for your account. This is very important to note because you cannot just use the same profile picture or cover photo for all of them. They simply won’t fit and you will end up looking unprofessional and like a novice. Take the time to understand how best to represent your brand in each and have images made custom to fit whatever platforms you are using.

    Ready, Set, Post!

    You should be all set to go now. I am feeling fairly confident that there is at least one platform that your business should be using because I know roughly how many users are on each of the most popular social media platforms, and this number continues to grow every day. Just remember, you don’t have to be everywhere but you do need a presence. If for no other reason, be there just to monitor what your potential customers are saying and doing. Once you get into the swing, it will become obvious how you too can use social media to engage and create loyal customers.

Written by

Red Dot Marketing Founder and Content Strategist, Nikki Gentles has spent more than a dozen years in the communications business. She has harnessed the power of a well-crafted message for companies like Kellogg’s, Media Profile, Abbott Laboratories and the Stephen Lewis Foundation. It has been her privilege to write speeches for Cindy Crawford, accompany William Shatner on a promotional media tour and plan a concert featuring Alicia Keys and Harry Belafonte to benefit AIDS organizations in Africa.

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