This is not a “sexy” article about social media strategy. This is an article that is meant to give you a step-by-step approach to formulating your business’ comprehensive social media strategy. It’s meant to be informative and actionable. So, if that’s the kind of content you enjoy, then welcome to the right place!
As always, feel free to leave your thoughts in a comment at the end of this article or reach out to us on social to talk more about social media strategy.
1. Conduct Research For Your Social Media Strategy
Every sound strategy begins with external research. Social media strategy is no exception. In the beginning, it’s important for you to do the necessary research so your strategy will be well-informed and have a solid rationale.
“External research” refers to research in the natural environment, societal environment, and task environment. Those are just fancy terms for saying, “The actual physical environment, the cultural environment, and the industry environment.”
So, to conduct this kind of research, you must look at your business’ social media through those three lenses: natural, societal, and task environments. We’ll use this information to inform our social media strategies later.
For example, if you have a business in Florida, it would be sunny throughout most of the year. Do some research to see if this would be true and if it is, plan more outside events where you can take Insta Stories highlighting your team outside enjoying the beautiful weather.
Another example would be, let’s say your research reveals that competitor spending on Facebook and LinkedIn ads has gone up in the previous year. This might mean it’s time for your business to begin utilizing Facebook and LinkedIn ads and that might be something you want to add into your social media strategy.
Here are some good places to go for external research relevant to social media:
- Social Media Today
- Mashable’s Social Media Section
- Social Media Examiner
- HubSpot’s Marketing Blog
- TED Talks on Social Media
- Statista Statistics on Social Media
- Hootsuite’s Social Media Marketing Research
The point at this stage in the research process is to simply get a lay of the land as it pertains to the three environments we listed above and how social media has been used in those specific environments.
If external research is relevant to your industry, market, and general forces outside of your business, then internal research must deal with the forces from within your business.
- Hierarchical structure (what is upper management’s (or a VC’s) view of social media?)
- Culture (what are some beliefs that your business holds toward social media? What is your business expecting to get out of its social media marketing efforts?)
- Resources (what social media skills do our employees already have? What type of social media knowledge can we capitalize on from within or need to impart to our employees?)
This portion of research should be understandable and intuitive to you since your analyzing the business you work for. But if not, here are some ways that you can collect information on the structure of your business and its disposition toward social media, your business’ culture and its beliefs about social media, as well as the social media resources available at your business’ disposal.
- Study upper management in the style of an ethnographer to determine their disposition towards and buy-in regarding social media.
- Distribute a survey to your business employees or department to identify and determine their social media skills.
- Research your direct reports, peers, and those that report to you on social media. Identify employees that are naturally good at their own social media.
While external research gives you a lay of the land for your industry or market, internal research gives you an idea of what you’re working within your own business as it pertains to social media (skills, knowledge, attitudes, etc.).
It’s helpful to know this information because it will determine if you have all the necessary resources and attitudes to execute on your social media strategy later or if you will need to outsource some of your efforts to an agency.
2. Formulate Your Social Media Strategy
This piece, identifying business goals, is crucial to determining social media marketing ROI. If your business implements a strategic management process (and it should), then identifying your business goals should be easy. Just pull from your business’ strategic goals for the year, quarter, etc.
However, if you don’t have any business goals, it would be best for you to identify those before moving on to social media marketing. Otherwise, your social media marketing efforts will be for nothing.
If you don’t have any business goals or know where to get started, read our article on How To Select Your Target Market. That should get you oriented in the right direction.
If there’s one piece of strategy formulation and execution that social media marketers suck at, it’s this piece. Again, having the skill to align business objectives and social media objectives will help you to more easily prove the ROI of your social media marketing campaigns, which will please your stakeholders.
Here are some common business objectives with aligned social media objectives:
- Increase revenue
- Generate X amount of business
- Grow brand awareness
- Increase website traffic
Social Media Objective
- Increase online sales
- Generate X amount of leads
- Increase brand mentions, shares, and RT’s
- Increase click-through-rate
This part of the social media strategy formulation process is very important! So, don’t skimp on it.
So, you’ve identified your business goals and tied them to your social media goals. Now what? Next, it is time to begin thinking through how you plan to accomplish your social media objectives. We call these your social media strategies.
For example, say you want to increase online sales. Your social media strategy would be to promote more of your business’ products on your social platforms, whether that be in the app itself (Insta, Facebook, etc.) or through a link that redirects people back to your site. It’s at this point where you would also decide if your promotion efforts on social media will be paid, organic, or a combination of both.
Another example would be for increasing brand awareness. You can set up a brand monitoring tool (like the one we use in SEMrush) and begin to monitor specific mentions of your brand on Twitter. From here, you can set a baseline number of brand mentions and monitor progress from that baseline. If mentions of your specific brand are growing, then so is your brand awareness.
The point in this step is to begin to get more granular with how you will accomplish your social media objectives. It is the best strategic practice to identify a goal and plan how you will reach that goal. The same is true in social media strategy.
Once you have your strategies outlined (exactly how you plan to reach your goals on social media), the next step is to create social media policies for broad decision-making.
Again, many businesses skimp over this part, but it is a crucial step in making sure your strategies are executed upon and your objectives are met.
Here’s an example of what Coca-Cola’s social media policies are. Coke refers to its policies as “principles,” which are essentially the same thing.
The point of creating a social media policy is to guide decision-making and behavior. For example, say you want to increase sales, so you are posting more of your products for sale on social media. An example of a policy related to this strategy would be “Post 1 for-sale product on Facebook per week.”
This will guide either your or your employee’s behavior to ensure that the strategy gets carried out and the objective is reached.
Good policies guide decision-making and behavior. Even on social media platforms.
3. Execute On Your Social Media Strategy
Now that you have your strategy formulated, the next step in the social media strategy process is to plan your social media campaigns for the year.
Depending on your budget and scope, it is best to run a campaign once a month, with larger campaigns stretching the duration of a quarter.
Like objectives, campaigns have a result or goal that you are shooting for. For example, say one of your business objectives for the year is to generate 100 new customers. You could then plan out four specific campaigns over the year with each campaign goal to generate 25 new customers. That way, each campaign would serve its purpose of building toward your yearly goal.
Use your campaigns as stepping stones to get your business to reach its overarching yearly objectives. This is how you connect your campaigns to your strategy.
Getting even more granular into your campaigns, you will need to think through the specific tactics that will accompany your social campaigns.
Returning to our above example, say we are running a campaign with a goal of generating 25 new customers over the course of three months. We then need to work our way backward from that goal to identify the steps needed to reach that campaign goal. Below are some questions that we think are worthwhile to ask of your campaigns in order to identify the specific tactics needed to reach your goals.
- Who do we need to target (demographics and psychographics) with this campaign to reach our goals?
- What social metrics (reach, impressions, CTR, conversions, etc.) will we need to track to make sure we hit our campaign goal?
- How many posts will we need to schedule in one week to generate the number of impressions we’ll need for the “top of the funnel”?
- What type of content (video, images, text-based, etc.) will our posts need to be?
- What type of message will we need to push to solicit our desired action?
- Which social platform (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.) is best suited to promote this type of content?
Continuing with the 25-new-customers-per campaign example, let’s answer some of these questions. Let’s say we’re the marketing director for a small business that sells heavy machinery (fun, eh?). Our yearly goal is to generate 100 new customers.
- Who do we target? – An older white male who works in manufacturing/production. Think 50-65 years old, lives in the suburbs, and works at a place like 3M or Cargill (can you tell we’re from Minnesota?).
- What social metrics do we track? – These men aren’t going to click a couple buttons and purchase our $250,000 heavy machinery online. No, they want to know they can trust us and they want to talk with a salesperson. So, for our social campaign, it’s important that we track reach (because the market is probably small) and clicks on our content. This way, we know that we’re reaching our target market with the content and they’re interested enough to click on it.
- How many posts to schedule? This question is more specific to your current social following and industry because your social following and industry benchmarks will dictate how many posts you’ll be required to share and the return you can expect. Let’s say that for every 1 post, our heavy machinery company generates 500 impressions and our industry standard for CTR is 10% and our industry standard for conversions is 1%. We’ll define a conversion action as filling out a form. So, for every 500 impressions, we generate 10 clicks and 1 conversion and 1 out of every 10 conversions end up purchasing. We will need to schedule 10 posts to generate 1 purchase then. Over the course of our 3-month campaign, we will need to publish 250 posts to generate 25 sales. That’s a lot of posting! Better get a tool like SEMrush or Hootsuite.
- What type of content? For our heavy machinery, it would be best to show lots of high-quality images to showcase our goods.
- What type of messaging? If we’re trying to generate clicks, then our message would be something simple like, “See the highest-quality heavy machinery you’ve seen in your life” or something like that. The appeal would likely be to the quality of our machines (because our audience probably cares more about that then price) and our CTA is to see our machines by clicking.
- Which social platform? Facebook is our best platform to reach this audience as well as YouTube.
Answering these questions and thinking through our specific tactics will allow us to map out each individual step for reaching our over-arching business and social media goals.
Now that we have our campaigns and tactics sorted out, we will need to consider our budget and how we will make this happen in terms of dollars.
The two most common types of social marketing spend come in the form of advertising and labor. Labor means, “Who are we going to hire to carry out our campaigns and tactics (whether that’s an employee, contractor, or agency) and how many hours of work a month are they going to be expected to work on this strategy?” Answering those two questions will help you determine the labor piece of your budget.
Advertising refers to the amount of ad spend that you’re going to invest in social platforms. This is up to you to determine. If you want to leverage social ads throughout your strategy, then be sure to build that into your budget. If not, then you’ll probably be relying on organic reach, which means more budget spent on labor. Be sure to incorporate that into the budget as well.
If your business uses Hootsuite to schedule posts, then be sure to include a procedure for creating, getting approval, and scheduling posts. It’s also wise to think through a procedure for responding to negative posts our situations that require a critical response.
Mostly, your procedures will center around scheduling posts, ads, and responding to comments. If there are any areas that you would need to create some systems or procedures, it’s probably these areas.
4. Evaluate & Control Your Social Media Strategy
Remember those social media goals that we tied to our business goals a few sections ago? These are the “measurables” of your social media strategy.
Again, returning to the “generate 100 new customers in a year” campaign, for each of quarterly campaigns, our measurables are obviously new customers. But, as we identified in our “social media tactics” section, there are certain steps that we will need to take to acquire those 25 new customers per campaign.
Some of the measurables related to generating these 25 new customers would be conversion rate, traffic generated via the campaign, and click-through-rate. These metrics would be important to this specific campaign because they all relate to our goal (generating 25 new customers) and help us to forecast our performance, as well as measure against industry standards and competitors.
The metrics that you choose to measure will depend on your objectives, campaigns, and tactics. So, it’s relevant to your business and its marketing goals. Hopefully, this article has helped you to think through some of those measurables more strategically, however.
Measuring results would be pointless if we didn’t have any system or criteria for evaluating those metrics. The three most used measures of evaluation that we’ve noticed are historical performance, industry benchmarks, and competitor results.
Historical performance comparison is the act of comparing your social campaign performance to the previous period, whether that be a month, quarter, or year.
Industry benchmarking is the act of comparing your campaign performance against industry standards (average CTR, average CVR, average CPC, etc.).
And competitor results are more difficult to measure against (these would be direct competitors in your market), but with increasingly transparent technology, we are able to do a deeper analysis on our competitor’s social efforts.
Regardless of the standard you choose to evaluate your social marketing efforts against, be sure to choose something and remain consistent with that measurement standard (be it past performance, industry benchmarks, or competitor results).
The final piece of the evaluation and control section is to control your results and pivot when you need to. Which in laymen’s terms means, if your social marketing tactics aren’t working, try something else!
One way to intelligently control and pivot is to do some A/B testing. A/B testing (or split testing for short) is the process of comparing two versions of [marketing material] and testing them to see which one converts best.
If you believe that the “voice” of your social posts has been putting potential customers off, then conduct an A/B test. Run a test post with two different versions of copy, measure the performance of both posts, and choose which one performs better. This will not only help you become more efficient with your marketing tactics, it will also help you to appeal to your audience more effectively.
If you’re not getting the results you want, then theorize, test, measure, and pivot!
We hope you learned something from our 4 step social media marketing guide for 2019. Again, the principles laid out in this article are useful for any business regardless of industry and applicable in any year, not just 2019.
Feel free to reach out to us on social if you have any interesting questions or contributions on social media strategy. We would love to hear from you!
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