Companies now understand that they need to incorporate social media in their marketing strategies in order to be relevant and to connect with as well as reach their target audiences. But “where to begin?” is often the first question. There are numerous valuable aspects of social media to think about as you get started with developing a social media strategy.
Identifying Your Social Media Goals
Like any marketing activity you want to undertake, you want to first identify your goals — why you’re implementing a social media marketing plan and what you hope to accomplish (e.g. drive traffic to your website or establish thought leadership). Knowing your goals will help you with taking your next steps: identifying the social networks you’ll focus on and the types of content (including video and audio content) you will post on those networks.
Choosing the Right Social Media to Use
This brings us to the second question companies often have when developing a social media strategy: “How do I know which social media or networks I should be focused on?” The answer is to conduct research — explore and monitor the different social media channels to see which one(s) will be a good fit and look into which networks competing and complementary businesses are using. Your business doesn’t necessarily have to be on Facebook (particularly if it’s B2B), but you should probably be on Twitter and LinkedIn. New social networks come along every now and then, such as Alignable, the local, small business network that launched in 2012 . You might also find there are social networks specific to your industry. There’s also Instagram (for photos), YouTube (for videos) and SlideShare (for slide presentations). Lastly, you want to make sure you have a presence on (and post regularly to) Google My Business.
Determining What Content to Post
As far as determining the types of content you will post and share, you should think about what “voice” and tone you’ll use and follow the social activities of others, particularly brands whose approach you like, to settle on the style you’ll use and the approach you’ll take with your followers. You need to make the journey as a follower a part of your research in order to get a feel for how conversations are started and responses are made. It also makes sense to get an idea of the protocol around posting and commenting.
Best Practices for Developing a Social Media Strategy
Here are other best practices for developing a social media strategy and ensuring it executes smoothly and delivers results:
- Build an easy-to-follow calendar of your social media activity, indicating which social media sites you’ll post to and how often (weekly, twice-weekly, daily — you’ll want to post at least weekly). Posts can be new content (e.g. blog articles and marketing communications), upcoming news and events, email marketing campaigns, conversation starters on industry hot topics and trends, surveys/polls, contests, images, videos and tips/tricks/techniques related to your business that would be helpful to your target customers.
- Schedule your social media posts and messages for when your customers (including global ones) will see them. That could mean posting off-hours in your time zone to reach your customers at the right time during their workday. Generally, posting in the afternoon is best. Tools such as HootSuite can help with managing this.
- Take into consideration those customers who are in other geographic areas, as they may have different information needs and follow different trends. You need to do the appropriate research to ensure you create content for them that’s relevant.
- Set up keyword search streams, using Google Alerts or similar tools, to gain insight into what the industry is saying, what your customers think is trendy and what your competitors and complementary businesses are doing. This allows you to stay on top of what’s happening in your industry to ensure you are always providing timely, relevant and attention-grabbing content.
- Get your team of employees to participate and collaborate on executing your social media efforts in order to offer a multi-dimensional voice. You could incentivize them in some way to contribute, even if they’re just reviewing content your outside marketing resources create. Content creation or approval should be part of an employee’s job performance metrics, otherwise you could be wasting everybody’s time. You should also get your customers and partners engaged (by guest blogging, providing testimonials, etc.).
- Analyze metrics such as click-throughs on links and data provided by Google Analytics and similar tools to get a sense of which messages are resonating, whether your scheduling is spot on, and what’s generating followers. Metrics will tell you whether your social media strategy is succeeding and help you to determine and demonstrate a return on investment.
Looking to the Experts for Developing a Social Media Strategy
Before designing and implementing a social media strategy, you may want to engage a public relations or marketing expert with a focus on and proven experience in working with social media. BBWrites specializes in helping clients develop a social media strategy and calendar for posting on regular basis. Our colleague, Debra Murphy at Masterful Marketing can help you establish an effective online presence that will help you get found in the search engines and draw customer traffic in your direction.