Do you think a football coach would let his team go out on the field without a game plan?
Not likely. Because it maximizes performance and increases their chances of success.
You may or may not be a sports person, but if you’re a marketer, I’m sure the importance of having a strategy is not lost on you. The challenging part is creating one.
If it’s social media you want to tackle, you’ve come to the right place. In this article, we’ll go through all the steps of building a successful social media marketing strategy.
What is a social media strategy?
1. Set objectives that are in line with your business goals
2. Get to know your target audience really well
3. Study your competitors’ activity on social media
4. Set up accounts on the right platforms
5. Create a social media content calendar
6. Craft captivating content and ads
7. Engage with your audience and build communities
8. Measure and analyze results to track performance
9. Adapt and optimize the strategy along the way
But before we get to that:
Understanding Social Media Marketing
Social media marketing refers to using social platforms to promote a brand and its products and/or services in order to achieve marketing goals like increasing brand awareness and driving up sales. It includes organic content creation as well as paid social media advertising efforts.
The potential is huge thanks to the massive audiences that keep growing. This year, nearly half of the global population (48.3%) will be using social networks. Moreover, these platforms provide advanced targeting capabilities, so it’s quite easy for brands to expand their reach and acquire new customers.
But remember the game plan we talked about in the beginning? It’s called a social media strategy, and marketers need it to navigate the social landscape and achieve the desired results.
A social media strategy is a blueprint for how your brand will use social media platforms to reach specific goals and objectives. It is meant to give you a clear direction on all the actions you should take and help you measure the impact of your efforts.
This strategy should incorporate tactics and goals for all platforms your brand is active on, and everything should fit in with your overall digital marketing strategy and ultimately serve the company’s business goals.
Without further ado, let’s see how you can build your own social media strategy:
First things first. You must think about what you want to achieve through your social media endeavors.
These objectives should align with your overall business goals so your work on social media contributes directly to the company’s success.
So how do you set goals for your social media marketing strategy?
You start from the business goals and work your way to social media marketing strategy objectives that support them. Some examples are:
- Business goal: Increase revenue → Social media objective: Grow sales;
- Business goal: Increase revenue → Social media objective: Generate leads;
- Business goal: Enhance brand awareness → Social media objective: Increase brand mentions;
- Business goal: Increase revenue → Social media objective: Increase website traffic.
But there’s one issue with the objectives above: they are not actionable. To avoid this, we recommend you take the S.M.A.R.T. approach when setting your strategy goals. This acronym stands for the following attributes: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.
Since nothing beats examples, let’s take the five social media goals above and turn each of them into S.M.A.R.T. goals:
- Grow social media sales by 15% within the next two months;
- Generate 200 new leads from social media in the following three months;
- Increase brand mentions on social media platforms by 30% in a two-month period;
- Increase social media referral traffic to the website by 40% in the first half of the year.
From the moment you set your social media objectives, you must also think about the metrics you’ll track to analyze performance. You will probably need to track different metrics for different objectives and different platforms.
I could tell you which social media metrics it’s best to track, however, they should be specific to your particular case. But going back to our examples, these metrics are relevant:
- Click-through rate (CTR), conversion rate, etc.
- Click-through rate (CTR), email sign-ups, etc.
- Reach, impressions, followers, mentions, etc.
- Click-through rate (CTR), bounce rate, etc.
I can’t stress enough how important it is to have a good understanding of your audience before embarking on your social media journey.
If you haven’t already, build a buyer persona representing your ideal customer. This description will shed light on things like:
- Marital status
- Education level
In addition to this demographic information, other characteristics such as interests, hobbies, lifestyle choices, and online behavior can also help you mold your social media strategy.
Different platforms attract different audiences. For instance, LinkedIn is the place to go if you want to reach high-earning B2B professionals, predominantly millennials.
You analyze the buyer persona traits to determine which platforms you’re likely to find your audience and begin your activity there. Plus, it helps you tailor your content so it resonates with them and generates engagement.
When you’ve had some activity on your accounts, you can use social media analytics to gain more insight into their actions and polish your strategy.
There’s a lot to learn by looking at what your competition is doing. Seeing what kind of content they share, how their audience responded, what worked for them, and what didn’t will help you shape your own strategy for social media for maximum impact.
Some social networks make it easy for you to follow your competitors. For example, Facebook has a section called Pages to Watch, where you can check out their popular posts and other essential metrics.
Apart from this, you can use a couple of techniques to assess your competitors’ social media presence.
This is the process of closely examining what other brands in your industry or niche do on these platforms. Performing competitive analysis reveals information about your direct and indirect competitors’ marketing strategies for social media and helps you identify opportunities.
For instance, if you notice image posts don’t perform well for your competitors, you might try including more video content in your social media marketing plan.
This means analyzing what is being said about your competitors on social. Through this technique, you gain insight into customer sentiment and feedback which has immense value, especially if their target audience overlaps with yours.
It’s okay to get inspired by what you find, but you shouldn’t copy your competitors’ every action. Knowing when and how to do things differently (or better) will help you stand out and make a difference.
There are various social media platforms to consider, but you don’t need to take on more than you can handle. Just pick the ones that best suit your business.
How to do this?
Well, as I’ve previously mentioned, you should consider where your audience spends their time. But there are other factors to take into account.
For instance, some platforms may be more suitable for certain types of businesses. If you sell handmade products, it makes sense to use Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest since they are visual platforms that can help you showcase your work.
On the other hand, if you provide B2B services, it would make sense to focus your efforts on LinkedIn.
Also, remember that different social media platforms can serve different purposes.
As an example, National Geographic uses Instagram mostly to share beautiful photos of wildlife, landscapes, and different cultures, while on YouTube, they upload documentaries, short films, interviews, podcasts, and other video content.
After you’ve made your decision and created the accounts, fill in relevant profile information and upload social media images with the right sizes.
Once your accounts are up and running, it’s time to shift your focus to what you’re going to post.
You need a plan, or more specifically, a content calendar, to help you stay organized while keeping your activity aligned with your social media strategy objectives.
Here’s what you should consider when setting up your social media content calendar:
Choose your content mix
You can include various types of content in your social media strategy: educational posts, memes, user-generated content, social media ads, and so on (we’ll get into more details in the following section).
You must decide which ones to include in your plan and keep a balanced approach between the different categories.
Many social media managers swear by the 80-20 rule, which is great, especially in the beginning:
- 80% of the content should provide value to the audience
- 20% of the content should openly promote your brand
An alternative to this is the 70-20-10 rule that goes like this:
- 70% of the content should be informative
- 20% of the content should evoke emotions
- 10% of the content should openly promote your brand
Define the posting schedule
Moving on, it’s time to set the dates and times for publishing the different types of content.
Some posting hours might lead to better engagement rates than others, which is why you should determine the right one for you. Knowing your target audience comes in handy here because their demographic information and behaviors usually point to the best posting time.
You should also think about posting frequency.
Remember that consistency is key on social media, so ensure your posts aren’t too spread out. However, you don’t want to post too often either because your audience might get frustrated.
Try to analyze the posting frequency of successful brands in your industry to have a starting point. You can adjust it as you go.
Leave time unaccounted for
Last but not least, make sure you set aside some time for engaging with your audience or any unforeseen events or opportunities you might encounter.
For instance, if a huge worldwide event takes place, you might want to capitalize on it and create relevant content. A little real-time marketing never hurt nobody.
There is a multitude of social media content planning tools available that can help you get organized and even schedule your posts. Project management tools are also an option.
However, if you’re on a tight budget and can’t afford to splurge on a new tool, good ol’ spreadsheets work just fine.
Here’s a harsh truth: social media platforms are oversaturated with content. So much so that it’s difficult to earn your audience’s attention. But not impossible.
All you need to do is come up with creative ideas and experiment with different content types to see what piques the interest of your followers.
Here are a few different types of social media content that you should consider incorporating into your social media content strategy:
Content reflecting brand values
Consumers’ interest in brands’ values is higher than ever: 82% of shoppers want to buy from companies whose values they share.
Needless to say, brands that stand for something, whether it’s sustainable practices, diversity and inclusion, social justice, or something entirely different, have much to gain.
Below is an Instagram post from The Body Shop, where the brand speaks about its history of fighting animal testing and raises concerns regarding the UK government allowing this practice to resume.
Even more powerful than the text is the image depicting a protest organized by the brand, showing commitment to the cause and willingness to take action.
If there’s one type of content on this list that is a must-have for your social media content calendar, it’s probably this one. Not only does it demonstrate expertise and build brand authority, but it also addresses customer needs and establishes trust.
Any social media post that shares valuable knowledge with the audience is considered educational. This includes how-to guides, informative articles, infographics, or video tutorials, among others.
To help you get a better idea, here’s an example of an informational post from Creatopy’s Facebook page.
As you’ve probably guessed, our audience is made up of designers and marketers, and it’s important for them to know which mistakes to avoid when advertising. We have this know-how, so why not share it with our social media followers and create a connection at the same time.
Funny and relatable content
All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, or, in this case, all serious content and no jokes makes your social media page a dull time.
It can be easy to forget that users are on social media to have fun. To ensure they do, we recommend you share funny stories, memes, or jokes from time to time. They’ll land well as long as they are somehow related to your brand and speak to your audience.
Check out this meme shared by Wendy’s on Twitter which ticks all boxes: it’s funny, related to the brand, and relatable. I mean, can anyone truthfully say they have never stolen fries from a friend’s order? I seriously doubt it.
Social media ads
It’s not all about organic content. You also need to add sponsored posts to the social media strategy mix in order to boost conversions.
If executed well, social media ads will encourage users to take actions like visiting your website, signing up for newsletters, webinars, and events, making a purchase, or anything else that contributes to the goals you’ve set up.
This short-form video ad featuring Marshall’s Major IV iconic headphones highlights the product’s top features while prompting users to click the shop now button below and head to the brand’s website.
I didn’t choose this ad example randomly. Your safest bet when it comes to social media advertising is using short-form video ads. They bring great engagement across all social channels, but according to our short-form video advertising case study, YouTube is the best platform for this type of ad.
It’s also important to remember every ad is a small piece of a bigger social media campaign strategy puzzle, so they all should reinforce brand identity and create a cohesive experience for the audience.
Sharing user-generated content that comes from customers, employees, or creators (more on this a bit later) can do wonders for your social media engagement metrics and even influence purchase decisions.
Compared to promotional content, UGC is more authentic and trustworthy. Not to mention it’s cost-effective—little to no brand resources go into its creation.
Besides, it shows that you value and appreciate customers. At least, that’s what comes across from posts like this one Apple shared on Instagram.
The focus is on the photographer’s skills and creative vision. Only the ShotoniPhone hashtag references the brand and ties in the visual to the capabilities of their product.
Partnerships with other brands
Creating a partnership with another brand that is not your competition but addresses the same target audience can expand your reach and increase visibility.
Usually, both brands do cross-promotion on various channels, including social media.
When it comes to collaborations with other brands, Vans takes the crown. This recent partnership with Haribo was featured on the brand’s official Pinterest profile with a colorful visual that looks as yummy as the gummy bears.
Collaborating with creators can help your brand reach new audiences and increase brand awareness. In addition to this, 36% of social media users say influencer posts convince them to try new products.
The key here is teaming with creators who are a good fit for your brand and products.
For example, high-end cosmetics brand Charlotte Tilbury partnered with influencer Abby Roberts for a series of TikTok makeup tutorials like the one below featuring only Charlotte Tilbury products.
The collaboration was a match made in beauty heaven, and it turned out to be very successful in helping the brand achieve its goal–creating authentic content that resonates with Gen Z, an audience segment they hadn’t reached before.
Now that you have seen a few types of content that can elevate your social media strategy let’s talk a bit about creating it.
With all these types of content, we recommend you follow your brand style guidelines to maintain consistency and nurture brand recognition.
Also, it’s worth mentioning that repurposing content can lighten your workload and make it easier to manage different social media accounts simultaneously. I said repurpose and not reuse because you need to adapt content to the destination platform.
Social media is not a one-way communication channel. You can’t log in one day and share your content, then disappear until your following post is due. Or, even worse, schedule all your content and never show your (brand’s) face on these platforms.
Well, you can take this approach, but it will likely fail to bring you the desired results. 90% of social media marketers agree that fostering communities is indispensable to success.
Social media community building implies connecting with your audience, encouraging engagement, and nurturing a sense of belonging.
For instance, if your followers like, comment, repost, and share your posts, you should reciprocate this behavior. This applies to all platforms your brand is present on.
Take a page out of Netflix’s book. The brand is notorious for interacting with its social media followers and sparking conversations.
They also leverage user-generated content and encourage fans to share their experiences and opinions. Overall, this is a social media strategy example worth following because it can help you ensure your followers are active and willing to take action, not just consuming the content you put out there.
It’s time to measure and analyze the results of your work; otherwise, all that social media planning was all for naught.
Besides, you can’t ignore the possibility of your strategy not bringing the results you expect. This happens more often than you think, and you should be prepared for it. The good news is if it does, you can catch it early on and turn it around.
How do you measure the success of your social media marketing efforts? I’m glad you asked.
Look at performance metrics
I briefly mentioned metrics earlier in the article, so let’s get into a few specifics.
Every social media network has built-in analytics tools to help you measure your performance.
The thing is, marketers tend to look at vanity metrics like the number of followers or likes because they are in plain sight. However, these numbers rarely hold real value for measuring progress towards goals.
To make informed decisions you must look at precisely what is relevant to what you want to achieve.
Also, you should integrate your social media efforts with website analytics tools like Google Analytics. This way, you’ll know exactly how they play into the overall marketing strategy of your brand.
Perform social media audits
This is another useful tool that you can use to assess performance. Conducting a social media audit will give you an overview of all your social media channels and point out the strengths and weaknesses of your current strategy.
On top of this, you can perform social media audits on your competitors to find opportunities for improvement by comparing performance.
Get feedback from your audience
Sometimes analyzing the impact of your social media activity can be as simple as asking your followers what they think of it.
You can create quick surveys or polls on most platforms and ask specific questions about their content preferences, posting times, or satisfaction with your brand.
You didn’t gather all that data in vain but to determine the adjustments you need to make to your strategy.
For instance, if your audience’s responses to a survey revealed the majority prefers different posting hours than your current ones, you can optimize your posting schedule to see if there will be a boost in engagement.
Once you decide on the changes and implement them, you might be tempted to think your work is done. I’m sorry to disappoint you, but it isn’t. Actually, it never is.
You must regularly track and analyze your chosen metrics to measure your progress and identify areas for improvement. And every time you do, you need to make optimizations according to your findings.
The frequency with which you do this might vary depending on factors such as the size of your business, your activity on social platforms, or even your goals.
A common practice in social media marketing is looking at metrics once per week to make sure you stay up to date and make timely adjustments if needed.
However, you might want to perform a more in-depth analysis once a month when you try to identify patterns and compare results with those of previous months.
No matter the rate, this should become a regular practice.
Something else that can help you make data-driven decisions regarding your social media marketing strategy is A/B testing. You can easily compare two different ad creatives, posts, or even campaigns to identify the better-performing version.
As you can see, creating a social media marketing strategy for your brand is not rocket science. But it does involve data and numbers.
What’s worth remembering is that you’re dealing with a fast-paced environment, and you need to be quick on your feet.
Emerging social media trends and technologies, algorithm updates, or changing audience preferences can and will impact your strategy. You need to adapt and seek continuous improvement. Only this way you’ll be able to reach the established goals and grow your business.