Six Steps to a Winning Social Media Plan

If your business isn’t on social media, it should be. Regardless of what you do, who your customers are or what industry you operate in, the benefits of connecting with your market via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram are simply too attractive to ignore.

There are exceptions of course including key Tobacco industry players such as Marlboro who steer clear from social media to avoid advertising breaches.

So unless your business is tightly legislated the question is not “Should I be on social media?” but “How should I use social media?”

The key to your success is planning. A social media plan will be your businesses way of following a set of self-imposed guidelines to promote yourself without treading on any toes.

By following the following six steps, you can create a winning social media plan for your business.

STEP 1 – Set Your Social Media Goals

As a first step formally work out exactly what your business is aiming to achieve on social media. Your starting point is to set a broad goal(s) including;

  • Increase brand awareness?
  • Drive traffic to your website?
  • Generate leads or increase direct sales?
  • Build a community?
  • Increase customer satisfaction, utilising social as customer service?

Create Your Social Media Statement

If a business chose the goal to build brand awareness and the business provides safety equipment to the construction industry, this business may state; ” We will use social media to educate builders and key stakeholders on the potential dangers they face in the course of doing their jobs, and to inform them on best practice to mitigate danger.”

This statement should closely align with your brand identity and it should set the tone for everything you post online. In other words, if it doesn’t do this job, don’t post it.

The secondary and more tangible goal is to drive traffic to the website, where if optimised correctly could drive a tertiary goal of gathering leads or making sales.

The good thing about social media is there are plenty of platforms available to set different goals and achieve a variety of business goals.

Set KPIs to Measure Performance

The next thing to do is think about your KPIs. These should be clear, specific, measurable and, most importantly, realistic.

Unrealistic business goals will almost certainly lead to disillusion with social media. Keeping it real is the best way to go.

But don’t set the bar too low, stay ambitious, be optimistic and challenge your business to grow and experience results.

Standardise Your Metrics

To track performance, you need to standardise your businesses metrics. These will vary, depending on your goals and what social media platform you’re using.

Key metrics can be broken into four broad categories;

  • Awareness – brand awareness, audience growth rate, post reach, potential reach.
  • Engagement – applause rate (likes, favourites), average engagement rate, amplification rate, virality rate.
  • Conversions – conversion rate, click through rate, bounce rate, cost per click.
  • Consumer – testimonials, customer satisfaction score, net promoter score.

For further analysis on these metrics see the following article

STEP 2 – Define Your Audience

The next step is to form a clear picture of who your audience is. The whole idea of being on social media is to deliver content to serve the goals your business set. To do this effectively you need to understand your audience.

It’s most important to establish your target demographic, target business (for B2B’s) and curate content for these specific audiences to drive your conversion goals.

How Do I Define My Target Audience?

The best way to achieve this is by analysing readily available data. Use Facebook analytics to determine which demographic is engaging with your content and solidify it by using Google Analytics to understand if this demographic is converting across your website.

Once you know who your audience is, do multivariate testing on to discover what messaging resonates best, and continually optimise your campaigns to drive your conversion goals.

If you were able to identify your ideal or typical customer as a female, aged between 30 and 40 years, who likes sport and music and earns $60,000 a year, you would be in a great position to come up with content that attracts her.

Trust your data and avoid the pitfall of making assumptions on your demographics. Businesses often make assumptions that, in the end, turn out to be false.

My Audience Is Not the Demographic I Thought, Now What?

If there’s a mismatch between the data and who you thought your target demographic is there are several courses of action, however your business should;

  • Adapt to actual target demographic, optimising to further drive conversions
  • Re-work existing campaigns, landing pages and the website to facilitate growth for your perceived target market.

STEP 3 – Spy On Your Competitors Social Channels

Chances are there other companies in your market chasing pretty much the exact same audience you are. Unless you’re lucky enough to be the market leader, one of these competitors will hold that title.

So, it makes perfect sense to keep an eye on what these companies are doing online. It’s not about copying them but learning from them; seeing what type of content works well for other businesses and what doesn’t.

By examining your competitors, you can put yourself in a good position to identify gaps that you can fill; content ideas that nobody else is covering well; or areas that people are covering, but you think you can improve on.

For example, if you run a business that sells lift trucks, you may notice an absence of video material promoting materials handling safety. This can become an opportunity for you to chase.

Or you may notice that your major competitor devotes all its social media energies to Facebook, while ignoring Twitter and Instagram. This is another opportunity to take advantage of.

It’s important to note here that the businesses who make the biggest impacts on social media aren’t necessarily the overall market leaders. In some cases, the market leaders might prefer to pursue other marketing avenues.

STEP 4 – Decide Which Social Media Channels Your Business Will Use

Here, the first question to ask yourself is “What platforms am I using and is my audience here?”

Some industries and markets are better suited to certain social media channels. Almost every business B2B is well suited to the big three social channels – Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, while not all industries will have applicable content and the audience for Instagram, Pinterest and YouTube.

However, this should not be taken as a reason to instantly exclude niche channels as they may provide a source of untapped leads. Reddit, Tumblr and industry specific forums could be where you choose to spend considerable marketing efforts should these channels present opportunity based on your target demographic.

If you find that you have a profile on a platform that your audience has little interest in, you need to do the obvious and remove yourself.

Establish a Consistent Marketing Message and Voice

Check that there is consistency to your social media content, both in terms of regularity and tone.

Your audience should come to value you as a consistent source of quality content. Remaining quiet for weeks on end, only to wake from time to time and drop meaningless posts is not the way to go.

An identifiable tone will establish your brand in the market. Again, the key is reliability. If your current content swings randomly from sombre, serious to funny, you need to make a change.

STEP 5 – Work Out How You Will Deliver Regular High-Quality Content

You’ve established your social media goals, thought about who your audience are, examined your competitors’ use of social media, and worked out what you currently do well (and badly) on social.

Now comes the difficult part – creating and curating quality content to share on a regular basis.

Guided by your own unique selling point, differentiation or the advantage your B2B has over the competition is what must be leveraged into your content. Leave your mark, be different, and don’t conform to the norm.

There’s plenty of content types to choose from but the best choice will match the goal your business is aiming to achieve with your social channel including;

  • Images
  • Company News
  • Industry News
  • Videos
  • Blog Posts
  • Infographics
  • eBooks
  • Interviews

Remember, you don’t have to create it all yourself. By sharing quality content, you’re not only giving credit where credit’s due, but also giving your audience the opportunity to learn something worthwhile. You’re keeping them in the loop and marking your business and an influential thought leader in your industry.

STEP 6 – Establish a Social Media Schedule

It’s critical that you don’t fall behind on your social media posts. We’ve already mentioned that point in this post, but it’s well worth repeating. If you lose interest, your audience will too, and the problem with that is that it will be hard to win them back.

Even if the problem is more one of being too busy than losing interest, the result will be much the same, so you need to do everything to keep your social profiles on track.

Here, there are a few steps you can follow;

Decide Who In Your Organisation Is Responsible For Your Social Media Activities

Depending on the size of your business, it may not be possible to employ a dedicated Social Media Manage. Still, somebody needs to have that as part of their job description.

That doesn’t mean that person will necessarily be expected to create all the content, but it does mean they will be responsible for administering it and chasing up work from other staff members. On top of that, they will be responsible for the final posting of content.

Create a Social Media Calendar

Whether your business has dedicated Social Media staff, or it is a part-time responsibility, the best way to organise this work is by implementing a Social Media Calendar. This is an outline of what content you plan to post and when. It includes what type of content the piece will be (photo, video, blog, etc.) and the topic it will cover.

Note: treat your calendar as flexible to allow for room for market altering news and updates.

Decide On The Right Content Mix

This step is all about ensuring you’ve got a good balance on content on your social media channels; information intended to educate or inform your audience, content that aims to entertain, content designed to promote your brand, and content sourced from thought leaders outside your organisation.

Getting the balance right means satisfying the audience and painting your brand in a positive light. It means displaying not only a commitment to them, but also an understanding of who they are and what makes them tick.

There a couple of different schools of thought when it comes to getting the right content mix.

  • The 70:20:10 Rule – Following this method, 70% of posts are intended to add value and build your brand (such as thought leadership pieces and brand recognition content); 30% of posts are shared form other; and 10% are sales-driven promotional material (such as offers and discounts for followers – IE: sales driven posts.
  • The 80:20 Rule – Whereby 80% of posts aim to inform, educate or entertain; and 20% are intended to directly promote your brand.
  • The 33% Rule – Here a third of all social media posts are concerned with brand promotion, a third are shared post form thought leaders in your industry, and the final third involve interactions with those from your online community.

While there are slight variations in the above, the thinking behind them is the same. You need to settle on a consistent mix that serves the needs of audience and stick to it.

Final Thoughts

In summary, just as no two businesses are the same, neither are any two social media strategies. Successful social media marketing comes down to what sort of business you have, what markets you operate in, what products and services you offer, and who your customers are.
That said, all successful strategies do have a few things in common. They start from an understanding of your market and your customers. They are the result of making enough effort to lay out a clear, consistent plan. And they involve sticking to that plan.

Successful social media strategies involve a willingness to become a part of an online community and accepting that you’re just one part of a much larger conversation.

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