How to Create Your Social Media Strategy

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Social Media is a powerful business tool. Used effectively it can provide a range of business benefits for company visibility, marketing, branding and sales. At the same time it can also require an investment to learn, implement and maintain the optimal social media solutions for your business.

Having a clear, concise social media strategy for your business will make social marketing more effective, more efficient, less costly and less time consuming.

To assist with your social media efforts Web Presence Solutions has identified eleven clear steps for  growing social media marketing results and ROI within your business. We have also included a list of suggested tools to use in growing the social web presence of your business. Let’s get started.

1.  Develop a Written Social Media Strategy

Write it down. Starting with some form of written strategy will provide a clear foundation to build on in the future. Social media marketing can be quite time consuming if not planned and managed effectively. Your initial written social media strategy does not need to include extensive detail and can be easily revised and enhanced over time.

Blasting out content to a wide range of social platforms on an inconsistent basis without recognition of the specific needs of each platform can be ineffective at best. You can avoid having a scattered or inconsistent social media business presence by having an actual written strategy.

One common challenge with social media is the perception that a business needs to be on many different social media platforms. This can be defocusing and time consuming for a small business with limited resources. Having a clear strategy that is communicated to everyone within your business will provide focus.

Your written strategy does not need to be exhaustive or lengthy and it may only be one or two pages initially. Start with the basics and revise or expand it over time. Your strategy will likely evolve just like the continuing evolution of social media marketing platforms and methodologies.

Social Media Strategy Checklist bonus Web Presence

2.  Identify Your Main Social Media Goal

What is the primary result you want to achieve through social media marketing? One potential goal could be to develop a broader web presence and visibility. Another goal could be to develop sales leads and prospects. Having clarity of the overarching goal of the social media efforts will provide focus for objectives, investments, resource requirements and work efforts.

3.  Determine Your Social Media Objectives

It is not uncommon for small businesses to jump heavily into social media with a belief that “we need to be on social media.” While social media marketing can provide many benefits for a business having clarity and focus will help avoid wasting time, energy and money.

  • What specific objectives do you want to achieve through social media?
  • Over what time period?
  • What will define social media success for your business?

Answers to these Objectives questions could include:

  • Building visibility to drive traffic to your website
  • Creating connections with potential business partners
  • Building brand awareness
  • Interacting with potential sales leads and prospects
  • Educating followers
  • Generating sales building a community
  • Growing your email list

Identifying the specific objectives your business wants to achieve through social media will provide focus for your work efforts. This will help you avoid social media becoming overwhelming for your business. It will also help in determine what your business needs to measure to determine social media success.

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4.  Identify Who Your Business is Trying to Reach

Defining your target audience is an important step. Identifying both general and specific characteristics of the different types of people that your business wants to connect with will be a key factor in determining how to reach them most effectively.

Can you break the audiences into categories and potentially subcategories? These could include:

  • Current customers
  • Business partners
  • Influencers
  • Sales leads and prospects
  • Industry contacts
  • Media contacts

The more effectively you can be at defining the people your business wants to reach the better you will become at engaging them.

5.  Identify What is Important to Your Target Audience

Having insights on what is important to your target audience is important in determining how to reach and engage with them most effectively. This information is useful in developing a strategy for the types of content you will post and share through social media. Content length and structure will likely vary by platform and target audience.

Depending on the specific social media platform you will potentially be able to use text, images, and video within the content that you share. Testing will help you determine what content resonates best with your target audiences. Different platforms will have different requirements for the amount of text, size of images and formatting and length of videos.

6.  Determine Which Social Media Platforms Are Best for Your Business

Small Business Social Media Strategy SEO Web PresenceUnderstanding where your target audience resides on social media is key for reaching the right people. Researching which social media platforms your target audiences engage on will be crucial in optimizing your strategy. It will also be very beneficial in focusing the best usage of your time and resources.

Methods for identifying the best social media platforms for reaching your target audience can include:

  • Doing targeted searches on each platform to assess the level of activity for important topics, keywords and events in your industry.
  • Asking business partners which platforms they use/don’t use and why they use/don’t use each one.
  • Asking your customers which platforms they use/don’t use and why they use/don’t use each one.
  • Researching which platforms your competitors use and what their level of activity and engagement is on each one.

Options will vary on which platforms are best for your business. to use. Some businesses have significant success on video sharing platforms such as YouTube and Vimeo. However, many small businesses don’t have the interest or resources for creating and promoting their own video content. Other businesses have success on Pinterest and sharing (pinning) visual content. While others have greater success and ROI on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.

7.  Define Your Message

What do you want to say to your audience and how do you want to engage with them? Your message will frequently relate directly to your brand. How does your social media presence relate to who and what your business is?

Social media presents a huge array of options for what you can post or share. Much of this will directly reflect on your business. Having a clear vision of the identity you want to present will help in shaping your messaging and the content you will want to post or share.

At the same time you don’t want your social media postings and sharings to become too formulaic or stale. Try different approaches and see what engages with your fans and followers most effectively. Testing and measuring results is a key to success.

8.  Determine What to Post

Having useful, interesting, quality content to post is important for social media success. Content will frequently vary by the platform being used. Having sources for content to share in an efficient manner will also be important.

One content source that many people find useful is the Feedly feed reader. It  allows you to collect a wide range of sources with potentially shareable content. Within Feedly you can group content by topics and then select the most relevant, timely and useful content for sharing.

Blog posts and articles within your website will provide content for sharing. You can also cross post content from one social media property to another – i.e. Tweet about a FB post. Again, having some form of content strategy will help avoid chaos, inconsistency and wasted time.

Providing Value in the content you share is key!

Share quality content relevant to your prospective audience. Providing useful, engaging, informative, timely content significantly increases the likelihood that people will connect with you and engage with your content. Include images or video when you can and where it makes sense.

Visual content stands out, especially on Twitter. Tweets with images have a much higher retweet rate.

Outreach and engagement: share, Like, Favorite, retweet, and comment on people’s messages and content. This raises your visibility and will lead to other people engaging with you over time. Join relevant active communities and groups. This offers the potential to reach a targeted audience, but will require exploration and engagement to determine the value of each group or community.

Social Media Strategy Goals objectives Facebook

9.  Level of Investment of Time and Resources

Social media marketing requires an investment of time and potentially other resources. The amount of time required will depend on factors such as:

  • The number of posts per day per platform
  • The number of platforms being used
  • Methods/tools used to identify and gather shareable content
  • Tools used to automate and manage the posting processes
  • Level of interaction with other people on each platform
  • The sharing of other social media user’s content

An initial strategy may be to research which platforms contain the greatest concentration of users from your target audience. Then choose one or two platforms to focus on while you refine your strategy, tactics and the best tools to use. Measure results over time and adjust tactics as necessary. Expand to other platforms as your audience indicates and as times and resources allow.

10.  Measuring Your Social Media Success (Or Not)

A common mistake with social media marketing is that a business fails to measure its level of success and ROI. What gets measured and what determines success can vary significantly depending on the nature of your business, its goals, objectives, level of investment and social media platforms used.

A positive development in the social media world in the last few years has been the growth of tools  to measure social media results more effectively. All social media platforms now provide some level of analytics and reporting. Some are more robust than others. Google Analytics also contains  social media engagement metrics.

There are also a range of third party tools that can be used for social media analysis. Some of these tools are focused on enterprise level businesses and some are focused on smaller businesses. Many offer free limited time trials.

Tools like Buffer and Hootsuite also provide analytics, although they may require you to use the paid versions of the products to get full analytics functionality. The good news is that the paid versions of each are relatively inexpensive.

Measure your success. Don’t spend time where there is little ROI for your time. Social media can quickly use up a lot of time and resources. Sometimes there is a clear, quick way to determine the level of success of your efforts. Other times it is a longer term process (building Followers, for instance). Occasionally a given tactic can become a waste of time and should be abandoned.

11.  Social Media Marketing and Email Marketing

It is worth taking the time to compare the levels of effort and investment in your social media marketing and email marketing. Over time you will be able to measure and compare the ROI between the two marketing efforts. This will help in assessing where to best invest time and energy.

There will also be opportunities to leverage one marketing effort with the other. You want to include social sharing buttons with all email campaigns. You can also tweet/post about email marketing campaigns and include a link to the archival web page or the landing page of the email campaign in a tweet or post.

Conclusion:

Developing a clear but concise social media strategy from the start (or at least from today forward) will provide two major benefits: it will save your business time, and it will help your build a more visible and effective social media presence (think ROI). Start your planning today and revise and evolve it over time as your business grows.

Social Media Strategy Checklist bonus Web Presence

Suggested Social Media Tools:

The number and scope of social media tools available has skyrocketed in the last few years. Here are a some recommendations for finding and sharing content. There are also a number of feature-rich packages for analyzing, tracking, managing and reporting on a wide range of social media platforms. It  would be best to leave those for a “next step” and focus on building the size and scope of engagement for your respective properties in the initial phase.

1.   Feedly – This is a cloud and mobile-based application that allows users to subscribe to blogs and news stories and receive updates when new posts are added. An excellent tool for finding new content to share from targeted websites, blogs and publishers that you identify and categorize.

2.  Buzzsumo – This is a tool for analyzing what content performs best for any topic or competitor. For example, enter in a keyword and find the most shared content related to that keyword. Very useful for finding targeted, relevant content to share.

3.  Buffer – An alternative to Hootsuite. Buffer is a social media management tool which allows you to set up a schedule for content posting and then add content to a queue. When the scheduled time comes the content is posted automatically for you. There is also useful analytics available within Buffer to assess how your sharing is performing. I use both but prefer Buffer for scheduling tweets, posts, updates.

4.  Hootsuite – Referred to as “social media management, simplified” Hootsuite’s focus is on engagement, publishing, analytics and insights. Like Buffer it will allow you to set up a schedule for content posting and then add content to a queue. It also allows you to view activity on your Twitter lists. Along with publishing and analytics capabilities Hoosuite provides an effective tool for quickly seeing your Twitter mentions, retweets, tweets, and more.

5.   Facebook Insights – This tool is actually part of Facebook Pages and limited to Facebook only. If you are using a Facebook Page for your business (recommended) be sure to learn more about the wide range of metrics and measurements that Insights provides. It will be time well spent.

6.   Twitter Analytics and Advanced Search – Twitter provides its own search tool although it is not always the easiest to locate. You can find it here. Twitter also has a robust analytics tool located here: .

7.    Social Media Tools Resource – For information on social media tools and much more visit Razorsocial.com,  a very useful website developed by Ian Cleary. The site includes several “How-To” articles for using some of the tools listed above. Recommended.

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About Mike McEvoy

Mike McEvoy has a strong and successful history in the technology business world. With more than 25 years as a technology, marketing and Internet professional, Mike has also been a small business owner since 2002.
 
The primary focus of Mike and his team is on helping small businesses build a stronger web presence using digital marketing, search engine optimization, pay-per-click advertising, social media and email marketing.
 
 Connect with Mike on Twitter - @Mike_McEvoy and @WebPresenceBiz