Fed up of frantically posting on Instagram for a handful of likes? Of Tweeting away with no clear reward? Snapchatting without really knowing why?

“Pushing a company agenda on social media is like throwing water balloons at a porcupine.” – Erik Qualman 

What you need is a serious social media strategy with clearly defined goals and a pathway that helps you get there. In this guide, we’ll walk you through a tried-and-tested, 9-step process.

Read on to learn about the following aspects of creating a successful social media strategy:

  • Setting Attainable Goals
  • Understanding Your Audience
  • Learning from the Competition
  • Setting a Schedule
  • Honing Your Social Media Strategy Over Time

Without further ado, here’s how to create a knockout social media strategy in 9 practical steps.

STEP ONE: Establish Why You’re Doing This

What exactly are you hoping to get out of your social media interactions? What are your big goals here? 

Perhaps you want to offer faster, more responsive customer service. Perhaps you’re building brand or product recognition. Or, you want to use it as a recruiting tool. Maybe, you’re trying to bring more traffic to your website or increase sales.

Whatever your reasons, be very clear about them before you start. Note down 3-5 at the very most and keep referring back to these as you move through the next steps.

STEP TWO: Create Audience Personas

Next, you need to establish what kind of people you actually want to reach through your social media. That means defining your audience persona or personas.

Note that a lot of people get bogged down in unnecessary or unhelpful details here. The point is to get a picture of the kind of person who will benefit from what you provide so that you can imagine you are talking to this person when you create your social media content. However, you only really need to focus on details that pertain to your brand, product or voice. 

For example, if you sell breakfast cereal bars, it’s relevant that your target audience works 9-5 in an office, because you may be pitching this as breakfast-on-the-go for busy professionals. On the flip side, if you sell office furniture, it (probably) doesn’t matter what your target audience eats for breakfast. It doesn’t affect their decision to buy an office chair, so you don’t need to dwell on it. 

To help you narrow down the key details and picture your ideal audience, ask yourself:

  • Who are they?
  • What are they interested in that relate to what you do / what can you help them with?
  • Where do they usually spend their time online?
  • When would they need/go looking for the kind of thing you provide?
  • Why would they consume the content you put out?
  • How would they consume this?

STEP THREE: Audit Your Current Output

The next thing you need to do is figure out what you’re doing so far that works and what doesn’t.

Go through each of your social media accounts and note:

  • Who is responsible for managing the channel?
  • How regularly do they post and what kinds of things do they post?
  • Which 3-5 posts on each channel have had the most engagement (and what kind of engagement this is, e.g. likes, shares, retweets, replies, clickthroughs, etc.)?
  • What is the demographic makeup of your audience on this platform? Most importantly, how does this reflect the audience personas you created in Step Two?
  • In what ways (if any) does your output through each channel further each of the goals you listed in Step One?

STEP FOUR: Conduct a Competitive Analysis

Now, repeat this process as closely as you can, but with your competitors’ social media channels. What are they doing that you aren’t? Is it bringing them better results? 

STEP FIVE: Read Up On Successful Campaigns

Brands love to brag about their success stories. Just look at Facebook’s detailed case studies, which describe the results of a brand’s marketing campaigns on the platform. Or Twitter’s. Or here’s Instagram. And look, LinkedIn has done the same thing. 

Basically, no matter what your brand type, goals or preferred platform, there will be a company out there that has tried something similar and explained exactly how they did it. It’s well worth digging to see what kind of results are possible, specifically which tools will help you achieve this, and to get ideas about how to approach the challenge.

STEP SIX: Set SMART Goals

Now that you’ve thoroughly researched your options, you can set Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Timebound (SMART) goals. 

The difference between this and Step One is that these are precise, trackable and measurable, rather than a grand vision for your social media presence. 

This is also essential for figuring out which of your efforts bring the desired returns. Yes, it’s nice to get more likes or retweets. However, if your SMART goals are “increase site traffic by at least 15%”, “encourage sign-ups to the webinar” and “capture qualified email addresses to build our list”, these other interactions are really just fluff.

STEP SEVEN: Decide Which Platforms You’ll Use for What Purpose

Now, cross-reference your SMART Goals with a) your audience personas and b) which platforms these kinds of audiences use for what purpose. 

This will help you decide which channels to use for different types of goals. For example, you might decide to use Instagram primarily to show off your products and encourage people to make a purchase, Twitter to deal with customer queries, and Facebook to build a community around your brand that you draw on for recruitment.

STEP EIGHT: Spring Clean Your Existing Social Accounts

Once you know what you’ll be using each channel for, you can work on adapting the language and tone of the account. That means selecting images/videos and writing “About Us” sections that reflect the purpose of the page. It also means deciding on a tone of voice and appropriate content for that particular channel. This needs to be consistent with the brand as a whole but adapted to the audience or segment. 

STEP NINE: Draw Up a Content Calendar

You’re finally ready to start creating content for your social media channels.

Just make sure that you’ve established in advance:

  • Exactly what you’re going to post?
  • Who it’s for?
  • Why you’re posting it, i.e. which SMART goal it relates to and how it furthers that goal?
  • Where you’ll post it? 
  • When you’ll post it (the day and time) and why?

This allows you to plan out (and stick to) a detailed, well-thought-out social media content schedule so that you’re never just firing things out because you think you should. Of course, it helps to be responsive and adaptive, putting out timely content based on real-world events – but this will be far more effective if you also have a solid content calendar to back it up.

Final Thoughts

To go back to the quote at the start of this article, the key to all of this is creating content that people really want to engage with, instead of aggressively advertising your own agenda.

Before you schedule anything, think about why your target audience would want to see this content, why they would want to see it here, and why they would want to see it right now.

It will seriously help you track and analyse your results, tweaking and experimenting as you go to figure out what works. Your audience’s reactions are the only real measure of your success, after all. Pay attention to them.

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