8 Steps for Developing a Social Media Strategy

How to Develop a Social Media Marketing Plan for Small Business Owners

If you are a small business owner, you may need some assistance in developing a social media strategy or social media plan. If you need to develop your social media marketing plan, this is for you. Keep reading!

Step 1: Create Marketing Objectives & Goals for Social Media Strategy

When you are developing a social media strategy — marketing objectives and goals — they should align with your company’s broader marketing and business objectives. What do you want to achieve as the result of your social media marketing investment? Go beyond vanity metrics such as number of retweets and likes, and focus on things such as leads generation, web referrals, and conversion rates.

This is also a good time to create an audience or customer profile—including demographics, interests, pain points, etc. You will want to keep that audience and customer profile in mind as you create your social media goals and objectives.

First, take a look at the larger objectives. Then assign more specific, channel-oriented goals that are measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound. You will also want to set effective metrics to measure their success.

A good example of a well-written, smart objective might look something like: “We would like to acquire 10 new long-term clients in a six-month period of time.” You will tie those numbers into your overall business planning. It also helps you decide what time and money will be allocated to achieving that goal based on how much a new customer is worth to your business. Another type of social media goal could include: “Generate 5 new leads a week.” Outlining your goals will give you an idea of what you will need to do to get there.

developing a social media strategy

Step 2: Investigate Social Media Channels for Your Social Media Plan

The number of social media channels increases daily. It is important that your brand is on the correct social media channels that your audience is on. And, your brand doesn’t necessarily have an audience that interacts on the so-called “popular” channels. Check today where your audience is and go there.

Step 3: Conduct A Social Media Audit for Your Business

Before going further in developing your social media marketing plan, you will need to assess your current social media participation. Assuming you have some form of social media presence already, it’s time to evaluate the different channels and how they are performing.

Your audit should begin with a clear outline of each social media channel you use, who the administrator is for each, access information, and specifically why you originally chose that particular channel.

Answering these questions for each channel can help you determine which channels are most effective for your company’s brand:

  • Why do people come to this particular social media channel?
  • What does the average audience look like (sex, age, profession, interests)?
  • What segment of my customer base is appearing on this channel?
  • Is this a segment I want to maintain or grow?
  • How many followers do I have on this channel?
  • In what ways can my business participate on this channel?
  • Is my competition actively using this channel, and if so, how?

By all means, investigate your competition. Find out what their social media pages look like and how yours compares. What social channels do they use? How do they use them? Do they have a lot of page likes? What kind of information are they sharing? Evaluate as many of your competitors as makes sense. The information gathered can be used for developing your own blueprint. You will want to surpass your competition if you are able in your social media efforts!

Now you can decide which channels you want to continue to use or add to the mix. And, you can begin to formulate your social media marketing plan to maximize your exposure on these channels. Please keep in mind, it is better to engage on fewer social media channels than to stretch yourself too thin. It is important to regularly review the demographic usage of any social channel as the audience can be fickle and change primary channel of communication depending on trends.

social media marketing plan

Step 4: Create or Improve Your Social Media Accounts | Set Specific Goals

In order to get the best results possible, you will need to choose which networks are best to focus on. Then, you will need to update and refine your accounts, deleting ones that no longer serve any real purpose or whose audience do not factor relevantly.

Build social media profiles for each network you focus on, with your broader goals and audience in mind. Each social network has a unique audience and should be treated differently. Determine for each channel what you want the brand’s voice, tone, and style to be. This includes things like what language style, or slang, your social accounts will use, what type of post you will make, etc.

Ensure that all your social media profiles are thoroughly completed. Text should be optimized for each social network. And, you will also want to optimize/resize photos and other graphics according to different channels so that they appear clear and crisp. Also optimizing profiles for the search engines using good search terms for your industry can increase traffic to your social media channels and build credibility.

You will want to cross promote over several social media networks to extend the reach of your content. For example, you can advertise on Facebook and your ads can automatically appear in Instagram as part of your campaign. You will reach your audience whether they are on Facebook or Instagram. But you will also want to know the way social media networks differ and how to appeal differently on each social media channel.

Remember to create a mission statement for each network you plan to use. A one-sentence declaration can help you very specifically to outline your goals for Instagram, Facebook, etc. An example mission statement might look like this: “We will use Snapchat to share the lighter side of our company and connect with younger prospective customers.”

Then create some more specific goals which can be measured over a specific time period. One example might be: “For Instagram, we will share three photos that communicate our company culture.” The measurement for success might be: “To gain at least 30 likes and five comments on each photo per week.” Your goals must be realistic.

social media plan for small business owners

Step 5: Gather Social Media Marketing Inspiration for Content

A great place to start is to take a look at what content other businesses in your industry are sharing. There are social media listening programs which enable you to see what people are saying in your industry that you might want to consider. They can help you better know how to distinguish yourself from your competitors. If you know what they are providing and talking about, you may be able to appeal to the prospects they are missing. You can do this by providing something to the prospects that the competition does not.

Following consumers of your industry can also offer social media inspiration. Your target audience writes, tweets, comments and posts. You can strive to mimic that style. Learn their habits—when they share and why—and use that as a basis for your social media marketing content planning.

A great resource of social media inspiration is industry leaders. Go take a look at their social media pages. These guys probably have a LOT more money to spend than you do, but you can get ideas that work for you that you can afford to implement. You can find out how they manage to distinguish themselves through advanced social media strategies.

social media marketing plan calendar

Step 6: Create A Social Media Content Development Plan & Calendar

In order to succeed in social media marketing, creating great content to share is a must and will be essential to succeeding. Your channel-by-channel social media marketing plan should support your overall digital marketing goals. This social media plan should outline what content you will deliver, as well as list strategies for content creation or curation. It will be helpful if you put this information into a content calendar to keep you track.

Your content development plan should answer the following questions:

  • What types of content do you intend to post and promote?
  • Who is your target audience for each type of content?
  • How often will you post content?
  • Who will create the content?
  • How will you promote the content?

It helps if you can plan as many of your social media posts as possible—from images you will need, to links you will want to share, to blog posts and videos. These planned campaigns should reflect the mission statements you’ve assigned to each social profile. For example, if the purpose of your LinkedIn account is to generate leads, make sure you are sharing enough lead generation content with plenty of calls-to-action. Or maybe offer something of value to solicit leads.

Creating a calendar and scheduling posts in advance will ensure you don’t miss important deadlines. And, you won’t have to continually interrupt your day to post on social media. You can use an Excel Spreadsheet to create your calendar, which should include the type of posts and the dates and times you intend to publish them. Many social media managers use a social media content matrix to ensure their calendar is full of the right mix of posts.

If you focus on content creation in blocks of time, it enables you to pay more attention to overall presentation of the messages and create a cohesive campaign. When it comes to content development, in most cases you are better off planning ahead than creating content on the fly. Content should be developed in a structured manner in order to align it with your marketing objectives.

It is far better to be spontaneous when engaging your customers online in order to deliver great customer service. It’s easier to make a favourable impression on your audience when you’re focused on them instead of posting content. And, by spending that time solely interacting, you increase the likelihood that you will connect with your audience and convert prospects to customers.

developing a social media strategy for channels

Step 7: Create A Social Media Content Matrix

It is extremely helpful when developing a social media strategy, if you develop a content matrix which aligns the type of posts (video, memes, blogs posts) with each of your particular marketing objectives. And, then you will want to decide how you will measure the success of each one. How you will measure the success becomes a specific goal you can shoot for.
For example, if your immediate objective is to raise brand awareness, you may decide to establish a measurement goal of achieving 100 new page likes. And, then you can decide what post types will best help you achieve that goal. So, in this case, posting memes, photos and extremely short information posts may do the trick, IF you include a call-to-action to like to your page.
Different post types can be used for the different marketing objectives. Finding the right combination to accomplish each one, delivers your media mix and content matrix.
Another general guideline to consider is that 80% of your posts should inform, educate, or entertain your audience; the other 20% can directly promote your brand. You might want to factor that into your brand’s content matrix.
Another possible way to look at this is to apply the “social media rule of thirds:”

  • One-third of your social content should promote your business, convert readers, and generate profits;
  • One-third of your social content should share ideas and stories from thought leaders in your industry or like-minded businesses; and
  • One-third of your social content should for audience interaction
social media plan for content creation

Step 8: Test, Evaluate, and Adjust Your Social Media Marketing Plan

In order to find out what adjustments need to be made to your social media plan, you should rely on constant testing. You can build testing into each of your social media marketing activities on all channels.

For example, you may want to track the number of link clicks you get on a particular social network using a UTM parameters. UTM parameters are tags you add to your URL. And, whenever links are clicked, these tags send information to Google Analytics. With these parameters, you can gauge the effectiveness of your campaigns and identify the best ways to drive more visitors to your website.

If you are using social media sharing tools like Hootsuite or Zoho Social, you can use their social media analytics to track the success and reach of social campaigns. Facebook has its own analytics as well. It makes good sense no matter what channels you use to refer to the analytics of that particular channel. That information, combined with data from Google Analytics, will allow you to measure how your marketing efforts are impacting your website traffic.

Make a habit of recording and analysing your successes and failures. This will enable you to adjust your social media marketing plan as you go. You can also take surveys, online and offline, in order to gauge success. For example, ask your social media followers, your email list, and/or your website visitors how they feel about what you’re providing on social media. More often than not, a direct approach will be most effective.

You can ask your customers (offline) if social media had any role at all in their purchasing decision. See what kind of insight they provide. You can then look for ways to improve your coverage. No matter what, just know that your social media marketing plan should be constantly changing as you make adjustments and apply what you learn. And, as new networks emerge, you will want to evaluate them to see if you need to add them to your plan.

As you attain your goals, you will continue to hone your social media marketing plan by setting new targets. At some point, you may even need to rewrite your social media plan altogether to reflect your latest insights. If you are considering doing that, you might be wise to have an independent social media strategist work with you to develop and plan a new way forward.

Read the next segment in the Small Business Owner Social Media Series ======>6 Ways to Delegate Social Media Responsibility for Your Business

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