What is a social media marketing strategy anyway? Let’s first break down the terms:
- Social Media is called “social” for a reason. These are digital places where friends, acquaintances, and strangers “meet up” and have conversations. They talk, express their opinions, tell jokes, inspire, and, yes, sometimes even educate one another. They also argue and have “falling outs,” but in terms of business-related accounts this hopefully never happens.
- Marketing is a method of bringing consumers messages that engage them and move them to ultimately make purchases
- Strategy is often called the master plan (or the game plan) for achieving a certain goal. Related to business, the goal is sales.
So, a social media marketing strategy is your overall summary of what you plan to do on social media platforms to help meet your business marketing goals – brand awareness, lead generation, conversion of leads to customers, retention of customers, and turning customers into brand advocates. For each of these goals, you will be developing specific content to post on specific platforms, and then track the success of that content.
All of this should be put in writing, or you will not really follow your strategy and you will then not be able to test its success.
Here are the steps you must take to do just this.
Develop/Revise Your Customer Persona
You may have developed a customer persona quite some time ago – you used whatever information you could find about the type of customers you already had, those who were patronizing your competition, etc., and you came up with a demographic to market to.
We live in the age of big data now, and you have far better tools to use to learn far more about your audience than ever before – not just their demographics and past behaviors, but even the ability to predict future online and purchasing behaviors. You can learn more about the type of content they need and/or appreciate, what entertains and inspires them, and of course when they are on social media and the devices they use.
Everything changes – and so does your customer and his/her behaviors and preferences. Keeping up on these and upcoming social media trends will be key to reaching the right audience. Using data gathering and analysis tools allows even small businesses to keep up. There are also plenty of social media-specific data gathering tools that will give you tons of information about who is connecting with what type of content, making purchases, and even such detail as to where they live.
Spy on Your Competition Regularly
Social analysis and social listening are two activities that will serve you well. Access their accounts, learn what they are doing and what is resonating with their audiences (and what is not). On which platforms are they getting the most play? Are they ignoring other platforms where your audience hangs out?
Conduct an Audit of Your Current Social Media Activities/Content
Again, you can use the analytics tools that all major platforms have in place. What type of content is most popular? Where are you getting the most likes and shares? This will give you solid information about what to keep doing, what to improve, and what to dump altogether. For example, if your audience seems to connect with a particular type of humor, use more of it.
If you have been following discussions both on your platforms and on those of your competitors, as well as using good data, you will know what your audience appreciates, what it needs, where its pain points are – all of these things should provide you with topic categories for your social media content. Topic categories should be a major part of the social media marketing strategies you develop.
Susan McDonnell, a content marketer for Studicus, states that her company’s audit made a big difference in ultimate revenue: “We were really just ‘out there’ posting on our social media accounts randomly, using topics that just popped into our heads. We were not increasing our following. Once we decided to develop a cohesive and logical strategy, we began with a full audit, using the analytics tools that these platforms provide. We were able to see what was working and what was not. And we used that data to help develop a strategy that was consistent and much more successful in terms of growing a following.”
General and Specific Content Types – Know Your Platforms/Audience
First and foremost: Especially if you are a smaller business with smaller marketing staff, you will need to pick and choose among platforms for your focus. If you have done your research right, you will know where most of your audience is. If, for example, you are a B2C e-commerce business, you will probably find Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest, and even Twitter far preferable to a site like LinkedIn. And if you have a quite young audience, Snap Chat is a steadily rising platform. But you can’t do it all, unless you are a Coca-Cola with huge content marketing departments who can cover all of them, and cover them well.
Your strategy should begin with the most popular platforms with your audience, and even if you can only begin with two, do those two really well. And develop a specific content strategy for each platform that you do choose. Here are the questions to ask as you work on this part of your strategy:
- Have we really studied and researched this platform? Do we know the regulations, requirements, etc.? Are we up on the latest elements and functions (e.g., Instagram Stories)?
- Have we completed enough research to know which types of content resonate with our audience? And can we duplicate those types of content with the resources we have?
- How often will we publish on each platform? How will we choose topics or categories of topics?
- Which analytical tools will we use to determine the effectiveness of what we publish?
Try to develop a mission statement for each platform you choose. For example, because Instagram is so visual, will you develop visual and media campaigns that feature your customers and their use of your products or services? Will you develop themes?
When Nathan Chan first began to market his digital magazine, Foundr, on Instagram, he chose a theme – an inspirational quote that would resonate with young new entrepreneurs against a related and beautiful photograph. And he posted several times a day. Within 3 months, he had over 100K followers – quite a feat!
Create a Calendar and Posting Schedule
This is not carved in stone but you must begin with one. Obviously, if some huge event occurs within your sector, you may want to address it on social media accounts. But the calendar will serve as a good mapping part of your strategy, ensuring that you have your topics/categories well-organized and a plan for publication.
The worst thing you can do is open a social media account, begin with a bang and then fail to post great content on a regular basis. This can happen when content writers are overwhelmed – trying to maintain too many accounts with too small a department to do so. At this point, you either shut down some accounts or you contract out some of this creative, engaging post writing. There are plenty of resources out there to do this: you can use a professional writing service, like Grab My Essay or WowGrade, that have creative copywriting departments, or numerous freelancers who are registered on sites like Upwork or Freelancer. The point is this: you do not want to start something you cannot maintain – you will lose all of your following (and some 0f your reputation).
Plan How You Will Evaluate and Modify Your Strategy(ies)
Nothing will be exactly right, maybe ever. And that is why your strategy must include a plan for evaluating how your general and specific activities are doing. Using the analytical tools that social media platforms provide is the best place to begin. You will be able to track and to dig deep into what is working and what is not. When you do this regularly you have the factual data you need to revise and improve what you are doing.
New social media platforms emerge; others rise and fall in popularity; consumer demands for new types of content constantly evolve. New technologies give new opportunities for content types. All of these things will impact your social media marketing strategies. Accept the fact that developing, revising, testing, and re-developing will be an ongoing process as long as you are in business.