So you run a brand and you’ve decided to dive into the world of social media. Before you hop in that rocket ship straight for Facebook and Twitterland, and start sharing things all willy nilly, consider the effects a calculated social media marketing strategy will have on your efforts. Like any business decision, it’s important to have a clear flight path that outlines the who, what, where, when, why and hows. Social media is no different!
Ask yourself these questions before planning out your social media marketing strategy.
- Who is my audience? In order to even begin to put a strategy together, it’s essentially important to have a target audience in mind. Males, schoolteachers, or children are not specific enough of a focus. Generally, there are 3 major things you should identify when defining an audience: demographics, interests and needs. If you can point out the exact demographics of your target audience, understand their interests, motivations, but especially their needs, you will be able to reach their beloved news feeds.
- Which platform is my target audience on? Before you can share content with your newly found audience, you need to know where it is that they are sharing and receiving content. Platforms such as Instagram and Twitter are extremely common, and are considered a “must” for brands to participate on. Now, however, these social networks are becoming more defined and their user base is becoming more and more unique with different ways to engage with them. Not all brands belong on Facebook, and attempting to build an audience on there could be a waste of dollars. Instead of being on absolutely all the platforms, do the research on who is using which networks, and post accordingly.
- What are my short vs. long term goals? Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither will your brand’s social media presence. (Unless you commit a social sin and buy some fake followers!) Clear short and long-term goals should be a foundational first step. Short-term goals should be measurable things such as “get 10 new followers each week for the month of May” or “increase Facebook engagement by 50% in a month.” Whereas long-term goals are more about positioning: host a Twitter forum, or to secure 25% more new business deals via Twitter. You’ll want to make sure that you are continually evaluating your short vs. long-term goals, and adjusting them as you go.
- What is my budget? Sharing content on Pinterest and Facebook may be free, but extending the reach of your message through advertising will take a few dollars, research, and time. Identify a reasonable budget before you start planning a social media strategy to help better visualize where paid ads will be and exactly what they will look like.
- What are my competitors doing? Peeping out what strategy your competition is utilizing is a must. A brand can learn a lot about the playing field simply by observing what the industry’s top 3 competitors are doing. Take note of which networks they are on, what type of content they’re sharing, and how their fans are interacting with them. Is there anything you can duplicate, or possibly do better? What isn’t working for them? Take much needed time to scope out competitors’ social media strategy, and then move in for the kill!
- What types of content do I need to create, according to the platforms? The component of a brand’s social media strategy that will set it apart from others is the original and creative content. This can be in the form of a blog, YouTube videos, photos for Facebook and Instagram or how-to’s for Pinterest. While you’re creating content and planning your social strategy, take into account that some content works better on certain networks than others. For example, the Facebook algorithm prefers images to links, so sharing high quality photography on Facebook makes sense. A network like LinkedIn however, is better suited for industry news, brand stories and thought pieces, as opposed to stunning visuals. Align your content with the proper networks to have the most effectiveness!
- What types of content should I be curating and sharing? Another part of a social media strategy involves curating content from other sources to share with your network. This content should be highly informational and useful to your target audience. You should also always provide your own take on the piece in conjunction with sharing the link itself. Let your followers know what you think about the content and add to the conversation. You might be surprised at the engagement you receive!
- How will I engage with the target audience? Social media is less about the followers and more about the engagements. That’s why determining how you will actively engage with the followers you’ve amassed is extremely important. Instead of outright asking for likes or retweets, ask your followers to share their own stories with you or to submit photos to a hashtag. To get your followers to engage with you, you must present them with a good reason why they should. Provide an incentive like new information, exclusive content, or even a social media shout out. Think of social media as a two-way street between you and your followers, and your social media marketing strategy will grow and thrive!
Utilizing social media should be part of every business plan, but it should also be done right. Take the time to plan your social media marketing effort so that the time you spend in the future isn’t wasted. Get to know your audience and predict what they will want to learn more about based on your interactions with them and what’s currently happening in your industry. Just be sure to keep evolving your social media strategy as your influence and audience grows!