Gone are the days in which social media marketing was a novelty of which only large corporations could take advantage. On the cusp of 2016, incorporating social media into your marketing efforts is a given, regardless of the size of business you are promoting.
Almost 75% of all internet users are now active on social media, and that number rises to 89% for the all-important 18-29 demographic, making a social media presence a must in your digital marketing strategy.
At the same time, too many businesses use social media as an afterthought, developing a bare-bones presence on Facebook or Twitter without much planning or foresight. Without a strategy, your efforts will lose significant effectiveness, which may lead to the conclusion that social media isn't as important as marketing experts have been telling you.
But with an effective strategy, your social media efforts can be the lifeblood of your digital marketing efforts. So without further ado, here are 7 steps to developing an effective social media marketing strategy for your business.
1. Know Your Audience
As in all marketing, your social media efforts should be centered around your target audience. If you know just who your users and potential customers are, you can make sure that all of your efforts aim solely to reach and convince that segment of the population that your product or service is right for them. That's why your social media strategy should begin with an audience evaluation.
One tactic you might want to consider is developing a persona for your core target audience. Buyer personas are fictional versions of your ideal customer—in other words, it's the research you did to find your target audience put into narrative.
Say, for example, you're an apparel outlet trying to reach local young professionals, particularly female shoppers between the ages of 25 and 34, who are looking to advance in their careers. In this case, your persona could be Rachel, a 28-year old who has a job interview coming up and might need a new outfit. What sort of problems does she encounter? And how can you convey how you can help her solve that problem?
Personas can be invaluable in helping you visualize your target audience, turning sets of data into actual personalities. And once you've found that ideal customer, you can begin with the next step of your social media strategy.
2. Pick Your Network(s)
Businesses often make the mistake of setting up a social media presence based not on their audience's preference, but their own familiarities. As a result, their messaging may not ever reach their core target audience. Instead, picking the network on which you will post and interact with your current and future consumers should be driven, above all, by your first step.
As you probably know, most social networks attract very distinct audiences. Facebook as the largest community comes as close to attracting the most internet users as any, but beyond the market leader, a variety of networks are carving out individual niches. Instagram, for example, is the preferred social media outlet for most American teenagers, while professionals flock to LinkedIn, whose audience skews older and more educated. Women gravitate toward Pinterest, while Twitter attracts college students and recent graduates.
Picking a network with the most potential for your individual marketing success depends heavily on what networks your consumers use.
Staying with the persona example above and keeping the distinct demographics above in mind, it may make more sense to advertise your apparel store on LinkedIn and Pinterest than the often-typical Facebook and Twitter. In doing so, you can reach Rachel and others like her when they're in the frame of mind to look for a new, professional outfit.
3. Determine Your Goals
Once you've picked the network(s) on which you want to focus, it's time to determine just what you seek to accomplish with your social media efforts.
In most cases, your goals will be a mix of tangible and intangible goals, from increased website traffic to better community engagement. But narrowing down these goals for your individual needs will help your strategy tremendously.
4. Set Your Benchmarks
On the basis of your goals, you should set specific benchmarks that you hope to accomplish. These can be a specific number of web clicks from social media per month, a specific engagement number, or simply a set growth in your community.
As an apparel outlet, your LinkedIn goal may be to grow your follower base and increase web traffic. Now you should set your benchmarks to measure your goals more specifically, such as growing your follower base by at least 50 users per month and generating at least 200 web clicks each month. Setting these benchmarks will be absolutely crucial for your later steps.
5. Assign Your Roles
Consider this a bonus step that only applies if more than one team member manages or has access to your social media account. In that case, you should be sure to assign specific roles to each of your social media managers. Here are the three roles we recommend:
- Content Creator. This person is in charge of crafting individual posts for the network, ensuring a consistent voice that reflects the overall strategy and goals.
- Content Editor. This person works with the content creator, ensuring that all content is consistent, well-written, and without typos.
- Community Manager. This person communicates directly with audience members who leave feedback on the page or interact with individual posts.
Of course, especially in small business operations, you may wear all three of these hats. In that case, you should still be aware of these core rules to ensure that you don't neglect each of these three individual responsibilities. You may even want to think about planning out your time to ensure that you don't neglect each of these rules.
6. Develop a Content Calendar
With all of your preparation out of the way, it's time to actually get working on some great content! And here again, being strategic is crucial to success.
Many social media managers, especially those without formal marketing training, follow a similar pattern: They set up a new social media profile and jump into the network with enthusiasm for the first month or two. But as their regular duties begin to catch up with them, they begin to neglect social media altogether, leading to inactive accounts that actually hurt your business more than they help.
To avoid falling into this all-too-common trap, consider setting up a content calendar.
A content calendar allows you to plan out your social media activity days, even weeks in advance. Here, you can craft posts well in advance of their publishing date, ensuring that you have a consistent flow of content that doesn't end after your first 30 days on the platform.
And that part is crucial: Networks like Facebook and LinkedIn now use algorithms to determine which posts are relevant enough to be shown in your users' news feeds. These feeds are no longer chronologically ordered, and if you don't publish regular content, the network will downgrade you and your posts will no longer get the exposure they deserve.
With a content calendar, you can ensure your relevancy and increase the strategic nature of your social media presence.
7. Evaluate Success
Now that you've set up your accounts and come up with your content, it's time to begin evaluating your success. Without this step, you will never know whether your efforts are actually successful. This step is why the goal and benchmark setting steps above were so crucial.
On a regular basis, you should set up a specific time to evaluate how close you've come to reaching your goals, what you can improve, and whether you should adjust your goals. Most social media networks now offer their own analytics platforms that allow you to get the data you need relatively easily, simplifying this step especially for marketers new to social media.
You may even want to consider creating a weekly report that tracks the success (and failures) of your individual posts, even if you will be the only one reading it. This step allows you to better understand what works and what doesn't on your network of choice, ultimately resulting in a more successful social media presence.
Building your business’s presence on social media is easy, but it’s also easy to drop the ball without a game plan in place. Being successful in marketing your business on social media requires more effort, along with a strategic approach, but the benefits your business can enjoy down the line are worth the time it takes to do it correctly.