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Published July 24th 2023

Social Media Strategy: Your 5-Step Plan to Success

We cover what goes into a successful social media plan, from finding the right metrics to identifying your target audience and more.

What makes a successful social media marketing strategy?

Aside from being clear, concise, and measurable, it also needs to outline your goals for the year or a set time period and how you’ll achieve them.

In this guide to effective social media strategy planning, we will look at five actionable steps that you should take to ensure your brand produces an ambitious yet actionable social media marketing strategy. 

Let’s start with an introduction to social media marketing strategy and why it's so important.

What is a social media marketing strategy, and why do you need to plan one?

Social media marketing covers all steps and initiatives you undertake when you manage your social media channels to promote and sell your brand, products, and services. This can include promoting and scheduling social posts, replying and interacting with customers, or analyzing the results of your efforts. Social media marketing helps brands to raise awareness, sell products or services, build a community, advertise to target audiences, or provide customer service. 

Depending on the size of your company, social media marketing is most likely handled by your social media team or a dedicated social media manager, and they’ll use social media management tools, like Brandwatch, to excel in their performance.

Every clever marketing team has a strategy in hand before they start any new campaigns. Social media marketing is no different. Having a strategy in place is essential for a seamless workflow in your team and long-term success on social media. It can help you and your team to improve your social media skills, focus on the initiatives that really matter, and prove your social ROI. 

A social media marketing strategy contains the goals you want to achieve with your social media marketing initiatives, the steps you need to take to achieve them, and how you will measure success. It contains information about your personas, what social media platforms are best to run specific campaigns, which content works best for which platform, and which posting times work best. This sounds like a lot, but once it’s in place you can easily keep it up to date to meet the needs of your business going forward.

With this blog, we give you a hands-on, step-by-step guide that will help you set up your social media marketing strategy plan in no time.

Step 1: Audit your previous social media performance

Before you can start considering your social media marketing strategy, it is crucial that you gain an in-depth understanding of your brand’s social performance in the previous year, half-year, or quarter. We’ll speak in terms of “years” for the purposes of this guide.

Look carefully at the metrics from each social channel so you can see where and how you have generated leads, driven traffic to your website, pushed social follows, and increased conversions.

Here are some of the most common metrics to track:

  • Average engagement rate: this metric gives you insight into how engaged your followers are with your content. This includes likes, comments, or shares. The average engagement rate is a good indicator of what kind of content works, and these insights can be valuable for your social media marketing strategy.
  • Social share of voice: the social share of voice shows how often your brand is mentioned online compared to your competitors. It gives you insights into how your brand fares compared to other players in the field and what you can learn from them.
  • Conversion rate: Engagements are welcome, but are they converting into leads or sales? Driving sales is one of the most important goals for social media marketing, and it’s important to keep track of what social media initiatives contributed to the overall business goal.
  • Response time: This metric helps to measure how long it takes your social media team to reply to comments and messages. If you see room for improvement this is a great area to focus on to ensure excellent customer service.
  • Sentiment: Gives you an overview of how people feel about your brand. In-depth sentiment analysis can help you to understand how the sentiment of your customers changes over time, what campaigns gained the most positive feedback, and how your brand fares compared to competitors. With social listening tools like Brandwatch, you can gather sentiment insights that can help you to adjust your social media marketing strategy.

Make sure you align these results with the goals you set for the previous year. Although a high number of likes and shares of a particular campaign you ran may look encouraging, ultimately, you need to ensure every campaign is achieving its specific pre-defined objectives.

Tracking social metrics in relation to your brand’s social goals will allow you to monitor whether your social media performance has been successful in terms of return on investment.

After you have fully audited your year’s social performance, you will have a clear understanding of your successes and areas for improvement from the previous year. You can then use this information to plan an effective social media marketing strategy for the year.

Step 2: Define your social media marketing goals for the year

You can break down your social media marketing goals into two categories: branding and revenue-linked.

Branding Goals

Goals Metrics
Awareness Engagement
Positive Sentiment Discussion
Relationships Sentiment
Loyalty Sharing

Revenue-Linked Goals

Goals Metrics
Informing prospects Traffic driven
Inciting behavior (like sign ups) Desired behavior
Picking up leads Number of leads
Increasing sales Conversion volume

Social media marketing goals should always be closely aligned with your company’s wider goals. Marketing goals can vary greatly depending on your industry, the size of your company, your audience, your competition, and many other factors. However, potential goals could include:

  • Increasing brand awareness: With this goal, you are interested in growing your brand, and your social media posts can help increase your reach, target new audiences, and get your brand values across.
  • Driving traffic to your website: You want your audience to take the next step and visit your website to get more information about your brand, products, and services.
  • Building a community on social: The goal is based on increasing your followers on your social media channels and nurturing them to turn them into an engaged community.
  • Generating leads: Leads are one of the most important goals for any marketing campaign. Your social media campaign can help get potential customers interested in your products or services and to lead them in the right direction to take action. 
  • Boosting sales: Your social media channels can also be used to boost sales in promoting special offers and discounts.

Your social media audit should also feed into goal setting, as it will give you a clear picture of what needs to be achieved in the coming year.

Social post around increasing brand awareness

Social post around generating leads

Social post around boosting sales

SMART Goals

When setting goals for your social media marketing strategy, use SMART criteria to determine what success will look like for each of these goals and how to track what is contributing to this success. SMART stands for:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Time-bound

Break each goal down, documenting what you want to achieve so you have measurable and attainable objectives to work towards. In general, it’s best to focus on up to three goals so your strategy plan is achievable and realistic. Then identify which key metrics should be used to measure your progress toward your targets. 

For example, if you have a goal of generating leads, what metrics should you track, and what are the measures of success?

  • Number of leads: Specify how many leads you’re aiming to collect and how this number breaks down across the different social media platforms.
  • Content metrics: Track metrics based on content type, designs, images, ad campaigns, etc, to understand what content is performing the best.
  • In-depth data: Dig down to determine the long-term impact your social goals are having on your business. Analyze which social channels, campaigns, content, and other elements are driving leads that then convert into paying and returning customers. This data can then be used to prove ROI.

By defining your goals and what metrics to track to measure their success, your social media marketing strategy immediately becomes a useful and workable document.

It is inevitable that you will have numerous assumptions about your audience. But to truly understand your fans and followers on social media, you need to analyze data. Social analytics will enable you to identify key information like:

  • Demographics such as age, gender, interests, education, employment, etc.
  • Topics discussed, comments written, hashtags used, and posts liked and shared.
  • Overall numbers across networks.

Once you have a better insight into your audience and how they are behaving on social media, the next step is to create audience personas.

Step 3: Create audience personas

Whatever your business, your audience will be made up of different audience ‘groups.’ Break down the data to find out who your different audience groups are, where they hang out on social media, what content they are engaging with, and more.

For each audience group, you should then create a persona, helping to clearly define who your followers are.

You can gather a lot of information about your audience with the social analytics features within the social site you’re using or with sophisticated third-party tools. From demographic data, like age or location, to their interests and how they interact with your brand, these insights can help you to understand your audience better and cluster them into different personas.

The insights gleaned from your audience personas should be used to tailor your social media marketing strategy and help you to develop a clear plan to ensure you engage with all target audiences on social media. Audience personas should inform content creation, marketing campaigns, ad targeting, and more to ensure you meet your goals.

Define up to four buyer personas you can target in your social media and advertising campaigns. Take a look at every key persona and what challenges they are facing, and how your products and services can help solve their problems. It’s helpful to do this with other teams, like your product marketing colleagues, to pool your knowledge and be strategic about which personas you’re prioritizing.

Step 4: Identify distribution channels and key times to post

It is important that you identify your key distribution channels and define your strategies for each channel. In 2022, Statista identified the most important social media platforms for marketers worldwide.

According to Statista, 47% of marketers said Facebook was their most effective social channel, with Instagram at 24%, LinkedIn at 19%, YouTube at 7%, Twitter at 2%, and TikTok at 1%.

However, although these generic stats are useful for providing a bigger picture, knowledge of how your own brand and audience interact on social is much more powerful. And, as we’ve seen in recent years, popularity of new and existing social platforms can fluctuate very quickly, so this is something you’ll want to check in on regularly.

Research will show the social media platforms where your audience is most active and engaged with your niche and brand. This will help you determine where to focus the majority of your resources.

Determine the purpose of each social media platform

Your marketing strategies will differ for each social media platform. For example, it may be that you use Facebook to create an interactive community via your Facebook page and groups, while on Instagram you promote your products through beautiful images.

Your social media marketing strategy should document your brand’s purpose on each social media platform. You can then adapt your content and actions on each platform accordingly. Use your audit from last year, as well as your audience data and audience personas, to help you determine each channel’s purpose and what content performs best on it.

Here is a rule-of-thumb breakdown for each of the major networks:

  • Facebook: Often geared towards news and entertainment, you might want to keep your content light and entertaining. And video content performs the best here.
  • Twitter: Twitter is more of a news platform. Curation and retweeting are thus encouraged here. You definitely want to focus on trending hashtags and topics.
  • LinkedIn: The professional network where industry articles, interesting data, and short, to-the-point sentences go a long way.
  • Instagram: A platform well suited for visual brands. Pictures, call-out quotes, and short videos are doing well here.
  • TikTok: TikTok is all about videos. Snackable, authentic, and entertaining content works best.

Decide the key times to post

Much research has been done on when brands should be posting. By understanding when your audience is most active on social, you can post content at the optimal time for your brand, ensuring the highest levels of engagement.

Data from a Hubspot survey shows the top days and posting times on social media. Let’s take a look.

For more information on optimal days and times to post, check out our article on the best times to post on social media.

Of course, along with this data, you need to study your own audience and when they are most active on social. Combining these findings will enable you to identify exactly when your brand should be posting on each channel to ensure you connect with your target audience.

This info can then be used as part of your social media marketing strategy to create an accurate and successful posting schedule.

Step 5: Check out your competitors

The last step to creating a social media strategy is to check out your competitors. This helps you to get an understanding of their social media marketing strategies and how you fare compared to them. With competitor benchmarking, you can identify areas for improvement. It can also help you to get some inspiration for future campaigns.

You should identify the following:

  •  Who are your closest competitors?
  • Which social channels are they using to connect with their audience?
  • What are they doing well and not so well?
  • What content are they producing, and how is it performing?
  • Where do they need to improve on social?

The most effective way to do that is with social media listening platforms like Brandwatch.

Monitoring the sentiment around competitors’ brands and within your niche is also important. This will help you to understand which key industry terms are trending, which content and campaigns audiences are responding to, and how competitors’ strategies are changing over time.

By understanding your competitors and how they interact with their audiences, you will gain a better understanding of your market. You can then use these insights to improve your social media marketing strategy.

Ready to rock your social media marketing?

Now that you’ve run through all the steps, you are ready to implement your social media strategy. Remember, this is your foundation for success on social media. Skipping defining a strategy can lead to chaos, inconsistent messaging, and problems connecting your social media initiatives with actual results.

Use the data from your previous social media audits and dig deep to find key information on your social media performance, your audience’s behavior, and your competitors’ actions.

This will ensure that you are well placed to create a precise, workable, and goal-driven social marketing strategy moving forward.

You can get more tips about social media strategy, like creating a content game plan and analyzing your results, in our Guide to Building a Social Media Strategy.

Want to find out how Brandwatch can help you with your social media marketing strategy?

Book a meeting with our experts and find out more.

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