A good social media strategy is the difference between making some noise and getting lost in it.
Social media is a complex and multifaceted realm. There’s an assortment of different platforms, an expansive array of content formats and best practices, and an ever-evolving set of trends to keep up with. And, every brand under the sun is on social media competing for attention and engagement.
In such a dynamic setting, it’s crucial to develop a clear strategy to guide your initiatives. Attempting to leverage social media without a well-defined strategy is like trekking through a dense forest with no compass. In such a case, you’re liable to get lost — or, at the very least, you’ll struggle to find the most profitable path.
With a concrete social media strategy in place, your efforts will be more decisive, efficient, consistent, and, ultimately, effective.
In this guide, we’ll cover the essential elements you need to create a robust social media strategy:
- Define your goals
- Understand your target audience
- Study the competition
- Focus on the right channels
- Create a content game plan
- Leverage helpful tools
- Analyse and refine
Define your goals
The legendary Yogi Berra once said, “If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll end up someplace else.”
While this paradox was meant to be comedic, the notion rings true for both business and life in general — which is why goal setting is the first step toward building a social strategy.
Business goals are the foundation of any social media strategy. If you lack clarity in your objectives, your strategy will be baseless.
So, let’s begin by reviewing six common goal categories you may choose to pursue:
- Awareness: positioning your brand in front of your target audience to establish familiarity
- Traffic: driving users to your website and/or social profiles to take further action
- Engagement: spurring audience interaction to build trust and nurture relationships
- Sentiment: shaping the public perception of your brand to win your audience over
- Conversion: capturing subscribers, leads, and purchases to fuel your bottom line
- Customer experience: turning your existing customer base into loyal supporters of your brand
Note how these categories are aligned with the stages of your marketing funnel. So, for brands, the question becomes which segments of the marketing funnel will we prioritize in our social media efforts?
Once you’ve considered your overarching goal categories, you’ll then need to dig deeper by developing S.M.A.R.T goals.
A S.M.A.R.T goal is:
- Specific: replacing general concepts with quantifiable outcomes
- Measurable: using objective metrics that can be tracked
- Attainable: setting ambitious but realistic aims
- Relevant: understanding how the goal ties into the bigger picture
- Time-bound: using dates and deadlines to stay accountable
To demonstrate, here’s an example of a S.M.A.R.T goal within the traffic category: “Reach 5,000 unique visitors per month from social channels by June 2023.”
With your goals in place, the next step is to prepare to reach them — and that starts with a combination of thoughtful reflection and diligent research.
Understand your target audience
To resonate on social media, you need to know who you’re talking to.
This involves identifying, researching, and listening to your target audience to craft content and messaging that’s relevant to them.
Customer personas are a primary method for defining target audience segments. A customer persona is a fictitious character you create to represent the key traits and characteristics found within your audience.
A complete customer persona will include a detailed profile with information such as:
- Marital status
- Personality traits
- Behavioral tendencies
Those detailed profiles will allow you to tailor your content accordingly, maximizing its relevance and effectiveness. But, a potential pitfall with customer personas is the temptation to create them based on intuition rather than data. This results in a set of personas that reflect who you want your audience to be — instead of who they actually are. The solution? Audience research.
Unless your company just launched, you already have a rich source for audience data: your existing customer base. To learn more about them, implement surveys at various touchpoints (eg email, checkout pages, etc).
You should also carefully analyze your brand’s online reviews, customer service logs, and CRM data to gather insights about their preferences and challenges.
If you already have a social media following, you can use the built-in analytics tools on each platform to assess your audience’s demographics and interests.
Brandwatch Social Panels is another way to learn about your target audience – it helps brands listen to the conversation from specific groups of people and learn about their interests, needs, and opinions.
You can also use public forums like Quora to research what questions people ask about a particular topic. Those will often indicate what they’re struggling with.
Remember, your goal should not only be to know who your audience is — but to understand what delights and challenges them.
Study the competition
You don’t have to reinvent the wheel from scratch, when you formulate your social media strategy. Observe what other brands in your niche are doing (and what’s working for them) to get a lay of the land and guide your own strategy. You can try to beat them at their own game by doing it even better or find areas to capitalize on.
Put together a list of 5-10 top competitors in your space. If you need help, use Google and enter search terms related to your products/services. The results on the first page will likely be from the leaders in the field.
When assessing your competitors, here are some key questions to be asking:
- Which social channels are they most active and popular on?
- What types of content are they posting? (video, images, stories, paid ads, etc)
- How much engagement are they getting on various channels and content types?
- What tone and aesthetic do they use in their content?
Avoid doing a competitive analysis to copy what others are doing. Take notes of general principles, tactics, and trends you see with the goal of determining how your brand can make its own unique splash in the space.
Focus on the right channels
Once you have completed your customer personas and a competitive analysis, you can decide on which platforms to concentrate on.
Factors to weigh include:
- The platforms your audience is spending time
- The differences between platforms
- Your industry
- Your goals
Here are some key highlights of the leading networks to consider:
With your primary channels selected, the next step is to outline a plan for publishing consistent, compelling content to engage your audience within each channel.
Create a content game plan
Content is the lifeblood of social media, which is why everything we’ve covered so far has been leading up to this critical section.
At this point, you’ve now compiled a substantial set of useful information to help guide your content creation:
- You’ve pinpointed your goals, which should influence the content types and formats you use (eg branded images for awareness, stories, and polls for engagement, product images and demo videos for conversion, etc)
- You’ve defined your customer personas, which should influence your messaging (eg speaking in a relatable way, celebrating the things they love, and calling out the pain points that bother them)
- You’ve assessed the competition to see what tactics they’re using, what’s working for them (and what isn’t), and how your brand can differentiate itself
- You’ve identified the social media channels which suit best your customer personas
By tying the above concepts together, you can develop a series of content buckets to categorize the content you want to publish. These buckets will bring organization, focus, and clarity to your content endevors on social media.
Here’s a hypothetical content bucket for a fitness app company:
It’s good to have a diverse array of different content buckets. But one unifying aspect that should be the same throughout all your content is your brand voice.
Maintaining a consistent voice across social posts and channels is the key to establishing a brand identity. So, ask yourself, if your brand was a person, how would it sound? Would it be bold, quirky, playful, inspirational, dramatic, thoughtful, professional? And you don’t have to select just one tone. You can compile a collection of adjectives to paint a more holistic picture.
Implement a content calendar to stay on top of your posting activities. In addition to the day of the week, your publishing calendar should also consider optimal social media posting times.
You can put your calendar together manually or save time and resources using a social media scheduling tool to streamline the process.
Leverage helpful tools
We know what you must be thinking at this point. With all these different social media channels, target audiences, SMART goals, and strategies, you’ll have to be on social media around the clock to keep up. Nope!
There’s an abundance of social media tools out there to make your life a lot easier—and you should take advantage.
These could include tools that help with:
- Scheduling tools
- Social media inbox management
- Performance monitoring
- Content ideation
Analyze and refine
With the concepts and guidelines above, you have everything you need to create a clear, robust social media strategy for your brand. This will allow you to be more decisive, efficient, consistent, and effective on social media.
Once you begin acting on your strategy, you should periodically review your performance to learn from your successes and identify weak areas to improve.
When assessing your social media performance, the truth is in the data — which means you’ll be digging into your KPIs and other metrics. Need some help? We’ve got you covered!
To inspire you
|Goals||Awareness: 15k new followers by April 2021 AND Conversion: 5k new app downloads by April 2021|
|Customer personas||Motivated Martin: male, age 30-38, urban area, corporate job, feels like he’s falling out of shape in his 30’s and is eager to reverse that. AND Busy Brenda: female, age 28-35, suburban area, middle income, struggles to find time for fitness, balancing work, young kids, etc.|
|Primary platforms||Instagram, Facebook|
|Brand voice||Upbeat, motivational, understanding, with a dash of humor|
Now you know what it takes to stand out and how to make social media work for your business.
You understand the ins and outs of SMART goals, psychographics, content game plans, and brand voice — all invaluable when building a following with scroll-stopping social media content.