8 steps to an effective social media strategy

Welcome to Social Brighton. In this article we’re going to give you some advice on how to develop a social media strategy for your business. We’ll cover: how to set objectives; understanding your customers; generating great content; managing your resources; measuring and improving performance; and how to involve your wider business.

As every organisation is unique there is no single perfect approach, but we hope you find this a useful starting point. If you want help with a more tailored approach and to find out how social media can benefit your business do get in touch. We’d love to help!

We help businesses create and implement tailored social media strategies. We do this by running training courses and working with organisations on an ongoing basis, helping them launch their strategies and keep improving their social media marketing performance.

Why should I consider social?

  • It’s where your customers are – 60% of the UK’s population are active users and this number is growing each year
  • When used well it can help build emotional connections with customers, brand loyalty and advocacy
  • Social platforms are free to use, and you can scale your use of social media to suit your available resources
  • Paid advertising on social can be highly targeted to give you the best return of investment – and you don’t need a huge budget to get started

Intrigued? Ok, let’s dive right in.

What does a social media strategy look like?

It can take any form you like. Your social media marketing strategy could be a written document, a diagram, a wall of post-it notes or a mind map. We love a good mind map here at Social Brighton.

It should also be flexible enough to adapt to changes to your business, customers, technology, or the wider market.

Here are some of our favourite free thought-organising tools (MindMeister, Trello).

Whatever format it appears in, you’ll need to make sure your social media strategy is visible, accessible… and celebrated! Stick it on the wall or your desktop and surround it with bright neon lights. Just make sure it’s not stuffed away in a dusty drawer or buried in a forgotten folder.

It is your guide and you’ll need to refer to it on a regular basis.

This first step involves reflecting on exactly what it is you are trying to achieve. Forget about the platform and the technology, the tactics and the limitations, and really think about what your business is about. What is the core aim of your social media strategy?

A well-written mission statement can serve as a guide. Your social media objectives will stem from here.

As a starter, perhaps try putting these common social media goals in order of most to least important. This will affect the way you approach your social strategy.

  • Drive traffic to your website
  • Build brand awareness
  • Produce new sales leads
  • Increase press mentions
  • Build awareness of a specific cause
  • Improve brand engagement and sentiment
  • Develop an online community
  • Manage customer service

You should use the ‘SMART’ objectives (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-based) technique when developing objectives. Employing these criteria help focus your objectives, for example the vague objective to ‘get more customers’ becomes a more specific ‘increase website homepage traffic by 10% within 3 months, by the use of organic social media posting.’

This clearly outlines the desired result and helps focus your social marketing tactics to ensure everything is working to help deliver that objective. You also see here the importance of measuring and benchmarking – we’ll come on to that shortly.

Social Media create Audience Personas

Who are your customers? The better you understand your customer, the better you’ll be able to serve them, and the more they’ll value you.

Firstly, dig out any customer data you already have – market research reports, previous sales statistics, previous social media activity, or website analytics. These will give you a picture of the makeup of your customers, by age, location, gender, ethnicity, income, education, interests, and employment. Social media channels hold of lot of data.

If you don’t have any research of your own you can do desk competitor research yourself, or look for industry reports. You could also email a survey to your customers or run focus groups to really get to know your customers. Look for trends – are most of your customers young and female? Older and male? Mainly based in London?

Once you’ve defined your target customer groups it’s a useful exercise to breathe life into them. Extract two to five groups based on the trends you’ve spotted and sculpt them into real people. Your younger professional woman cohort could be represented by a virtual person called Nadia. Nadia is 25, single, professional, has a university education and lives in London.

Now comes a bit of imagination and intuition. Consider what drives them. What do they want? A new car? A partner? A great holiday? Somewhere great to eat out? How might your business help them achieve their goals? How might your business make their life better? Do they struggle with the morning commute? Do they suffer from wearing uncomfortable shoes?

All of this serves to ensure your social media strategy is truly centred on the customer. Keep these personas in mind and refer to them regularly.

Social Media Channels

Now it’s time to decide which social platforms your (potential) customers are most likely to inhabit and where you can best make use of your available resources.

Refer back to your objectives and customer personas (see, worth doing, right?). This will help you identify which platforms are worth putting time into. The major platforms in the western world are Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, Google+, Pinterest, Snapchat, and LinkedIn.

Not only do the types of people vary between these platforms, but also the way people use them.

Very few people share pictures of their dog’s birthday party on LinkedIn, nor do people post lengthily articles about “The Effect of CO2 Leakages on Autotrophic Growth in the Subsurface During Geological Sequestration” on Facebook. So it’s important to get to know the platforms.

Here’s a very brief overview to get you started. Here at Social Brighton we also offer training on most of these platforms.

  • Facebook – the biggest platform. Everyone, everyone’s parents, and everyone’s babies are on here. Great for targeted advertising as it holds an immense amount of data.
  • YouTube – Broad appeal, but younger users and men spend more viewing time. Great for uploading and distributing videos.
  • Twitter – A microblogging site popular with a broad range of people, but skewed to those under the age of 34. Great for disseminating timely news as users check it several times a day.
  • Instagram – A photo-sharing site used mainly by a younger generations via their mobile devices. Marginally more female than male. Great for businesses with a lot visual content, or for showing the behind the scenes personality of your company.
  • Google+ – Mainly male. Great for building communities around your products and supporting good search visibility.
  • Pinterest – Mainly used by female users who access via their mobile device. Great for reaching users planning for a life event (e.g. getting married, having a baby, baking a cake :0)
  • Snapchat – A rising star hoping to overtake both Twitter and Instagram, this is the haunt of younger audiences who like to share life stories. Great for engaging with the youth.
  • LinkedIn – Used by an older, professional audience for promoting business-related content. Good for B2B and reaching high earners, as well as recent graduates.

Get Creative with Social Media content

Now you’ve identified your preferred channels to include in your social media strategy, you’ll need to devise social marketing content that suits those platforms and appeals to your target audience segments.

Just like search engines, social media platforms use algorithms to determine which content to serve to each person. You can improve your chances of having your content included in social feeds by using a memorable username and photo/logo, including video content, including keywords in your posts (without sounding unnatural), posting evergreen content, and linking back to you website.

Also, experiment with posting at different times. Consider whether your customers will be on social media mainly during working hours or at evenings and weekends? When will they be most receptive? Try posting different types of content. Content that includes pictures or video usually performs better.

Remember, it’s not always about just achieving the biggest reach. Getting people to interact with your content by commenting and sharing can be far more effective in achieving your aims.

As a guideline, consider employing the Rule of Thirds, spending equal amounts of time delivering original posts, curating other people’s posts and responding to comments from your followers. This really increases engagement. People love to feel listened to, and this can help build a rapport with your customers.

Be open, transparent, conversational, and show a bit of character. Post as if you’re talking one to one (“Hi, you”) rather than broadcasting to a large audience (“Good evening, London!”).

Think Social Media Community

Whether your company has a number of people managing it’s social media accounts or just one person you’ll need to consider the style and tone of the posts and responses. Writing down some guidelines will lead to consistency between different social media managers and ensure content reflects the company’s ethos.

It’ll also help prevent anyone going ‘off piste’ and posting something that negatively affects the company’s reputation. (Ref: #SouthernFail, #EdBallsDay, #WalkersWave)

A useful way of approaching this is to create a persona for your company. If your business were a person what kind of character would they have? What language would they use? How would they respond to your customers?

Remember that social media is founded on one to one connections between friends. This is the world you’ll need to inhabit, so it follows that your posts need to be more human than corporate.

At Social Brighton we have worked with large organisations that have dedicated social media teams, as well as smaller companies where just one person handles all social media.

It’s predicted that by 2020 businesses will be spending 21% of their marketing budget on social. That gives an indication of where your competitors are heading, and what you need to do to stay ahead of the pack.

For small businesses, it can make sense to start small. Pick a couple of social media channels, allocate a set amount of time and test the performance (more on this later). Once the value of your social media strategy is proven you can look at expanding the amount of activity.

If you’re posting across multiple platforms it can help to use social media aggregator tools such as Hootsuite, TweetDeck, and Social Flow to allow you to schedule your posts. A word of warning though – don’t blindly post the same content across all platforms, you’ll need to tailor the language and content to each.

Who in your organisation should lead on social? Who can contribute? People from across the organisation can provide content and help improve engagement. By doing this, you’ll help your business become more social media centred and, therefore, more customer focused. Which we think is a great thing.

Before launching your social media activity you’ll need to benchmark your current performance. This snapshot will give you a base so you can measure the success of your new strategy and make improvements.

All social platforms give detailed insights into how your account is doing. It’s important not to focus solely on headline numbers such as overall reach and engagement, but to drill into these figures to understand what marketing content and strategy is working and what isn’t.

For example, you may see that a certain style of post outperforms the rest, or that videos are doing much better than text-only posts, or that you get massive engagement on Friday afternoons. Note down these learnings and incorporate them into an updated social media strategy.

With such a wealth of information available it’s a good idea to select just half a dozen key statistics to track. These will be directly derived from your objectives. So, if your main aim is to drive traffic to your website, then track the number of people clicking through from your social media channels. Also the amount of time they then spend on your site. Are they finding what they want?

It’s only through regular measurement that you’ll be able to optimise your social media strategy.

Coming up with ideas for content to post week after week can be tricky. I’ve met many a social media manager, wild-eyed with chewed pencil in hand, complaining of a lack of inspiration. When this happens, the first step we advise is to ask for help from colleagues across your business. The chances are that exciting things are happening every day and never get reported.

Working for an outside broadcast company that delivered TV coverage of events such as Wimbledon tennis, 6 Nations Rugby and the London Marathon I was struggling to devise social media content that would engage our audiences.

I asked our camera crew and engineers on the ground to start sending me photos and stories, and incentivised them by running a ‘photo of the month’ competition. The only proviso was that the photo had to feature the company logo in some form. People got really creative with their entries and we soon a great flow of relevant, branded social media content to share.

Finally, when talking to your colleagues it’s good to be clear about the potential advantages of a successful social strategy. When your company starts to see sales leads generated by social media, or your charity starts getting more donations you need to shout about these successes.

Demonstrate the power of social and involve people from across the organisation.

Make social an integral part of your company.

Now you’re ready to tackle your social media strategy!

We hope this article has given you a useful outline of how to create your own social media strategy. Taking the time to harness the power of social media is absolutely worth doing – it can really benefit your business.

If you need some help getting started or your strategy isn’t working as well as it could then please get in touch.

We’ve helped lots of businesses achieve their goals using social media.