Build a Social Media Strategy in 7 Steps

Social media is an important piece of any marketing plans today.  However, between the evolving platforms and the endless choices, it has become very difficult to make sense of it all.  Actually approaching social media in a strategic way seems virtually impossible.  However, if we remove the noise, and just focus on the basics, it is possible to develop a social media strategy.

Step 1:  Listen, Analyze, and Compare

To start, you need to first understand where your audience is at currently.  Social media is often compared to parties.  You attend parties, socialize, and build relationships.  Social media is very similar in that fashion.  However, you can’t socialize with the right people if you don’t know where to go.  So, the first step to a successful social media campaign is to know where your target audience spends time.

To find out where they spend time, start with identifying people or brands who have the audiences you’re trying to attract.  Start by looking to influencers in your space, competitors, business partners.  What they are doing on social media will serve as a good guide on what you need to do on social media.  Look at what they are doing.  What is working for them?  What platforms do they use?  What type of content are they creating?  What type of content is being actively shared and re-shared?

Also, consider following your top customers.  By studying what they share, you will learn what is relevant for them and their industry.  This will help you better understand what content would attract your audience.

Step 2:  Choose Your Platforms

Next, you need to determine which social network you’ll use based on where your target audience is.  You want to go to where the party is already at.  Be purposeful in selecting your network.  You do not need to be on every social network, just like you do not need to go to every party.  You only go to parties that will help you grow your business.  Otherwise, it’ll be a waste of time and efforts.  Likewise, only sign onto social networks that would serve a purpose for your business.  It’s better to be great on one social network where you can truly connect with your audience, than signing for 10 that you do not have the time to maintain.  Let’s use the party example again.  Often, it’s better to go to one party where you know your customers are at and really work that party, than to just pop into 10 random parties where you say hi and bye without actually making any connections.  Once you’ve selected your social networks, brand your pages.  If you’re going to be active on more than one network, be sure to keep your branding consistent.  However, don’t mistaken consistent branding with consistent content.  Each network offers a different way to engage.  You will need to adjust your content accordingly.

Step 3:  Research Content For Creation and Curation

You already know what types of content work best for your audience based on your research in Step 1.  While it’s good to be unique, it’s important to tailor to your audience.  This is particularly important at the beginning when you’re attracting your audience and trying to get them to engage.  For example, if you’re a dog food manufacturer, and you know that puppy pictures are popular, you cannot just post nutrition reports.  You need to tailor to the audience or risk being ignored.  You need to find a way to deliver your message in a way your audience is ready to receive.  Also, on social media, you don’t always have to provide original content.  Follow people who regularly share great content so you can re-share with your followers.  Re-sharing helps you establish your expertise and establish you as someone pays attention to industry trends, not just always someone who focuses on pushing your brand.

Step 4:  Identify Your Social Team

Now that you’re ready, you need to identify who would be responsible for maintaining these accounts.  You need to know who will be responsible for creating content?  Who will be responsible for distributing and promoting content?  Who will be responsible for listening and surveying the social landscape to stay up-to-date?  Who will search for content to re-share?  Who will interact with the audience?  Who will build relationships with influencers?  This may be just you, but you would still need to make sure you have your bases covered.  Don’t underestimate how much time this will take.  You may have heard that you shouldn’t let an intern be responsible for your social media.  This is because an intern may not know your brand as well as other members of your team, so it would be easy for an intern to misrepresent your brand and possibly damage your brand.  However, it’s important to make sure that you can have a sustainable social team, and your social efforts can survive someone’s vacation or sick days.  Having a strong brand guideline will help to keep the entire team (or as new team members join) on the same page.

Step 5:  Humanize and Engage

There are a lot of automation tools out there.  However, social networks are platforms for socializing.  Therefore, the human element is important.  Interact with your fans.  Ask them questions.  Create relationships.  Tools are helpful in helping you monitor all mentions of your brands, but don’t leave interactions to automation tools.  Interact with your fans online just like you would interact with them in person.

Step 6:  Build your Toolbox

There are a lot of tools.  Many of them are useful.  You can have tools for social listening.  You can have tools to help you schedule posts.  You can have tools for analytics.  Consider which tools will help you, always keeping in mind of the end objective of nurturing customer relationships.  Consider which tools you may be willing to pay a premium for.  At the start, you don’t need a big toolbox, and you can build up as you grow.  Here are a few to get you started:  Buffer, Canva, Topsy, Google Alerts.

Step 7:  Select Metrics to Track

As the saying goes:  What gets measured gets done.  What are you trying to do on social media?  Select the metrics that will help you track if you’re meeting your goals.  Try to tie your metrics back to specific efforts or a period of time.  That will help you identify if a particularly effort is paying off, and also help you understanding if you’re growing as time goes on.
Are you ready to build your own social media strategy?

Here is a quick introduction on some of the most popular social media networks to get you started!

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How I learned this lesson (and how you can too): Eliv8 shares many useful presentations on their Slideshare channel. Infographic by Leverage.



Photo source:  Jason Howie

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