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How to Create a Social Media Strategy

Many businesses are unsure of how to effectively leverage social media as part of their marketing efforts. Some merely post messages once a year on their Facebook fan page or on Twitter only to say that social media ‘didn’t work’ for them.  For a small business with limited resources, it might be difficult to hire in-house or even outside social media help, so they continue to blindly navigate the waters.  It pains me to see this, so I’ve decided to share a formula we use for our clients when determining their social media strategy.  My hope is that small business owners can use this as a template for getting started with an effective social media plan.

  1. Determine marketing goals.  Get clear about the specific objectives you want to achieve. We all want more clients and more money, but consider the steps it takes to get the business leads that result in more business. Reasonable online marketing goals could include: increase in website traffic or foot traffic to your location, increased customer feedback on social sites, and generating more email opt-ins.  
  2. List your current marketing outlets.  Review this list and consider what can be integrated to maximize the use of social media. For example, if you use direct mail, could you add the links to your Facebook fan page or Twitter handle? If time or money is a concern, also consider what marketing activities can be shifted or replaced with social media. If you’re running costly print ads in a local newspaper, but find you’re not getting the results you want, would it be reasonable to start to shift some of those funds to hiring part-time staff to manage your social media?
  3. Determine your target audience or ideal client. It’s important to identify exactly who you want to reach in order to develop a solid plan of action. Be as specific as possible. Consider industry, gender, age, purchase habits, income level, education level, etc.  For the purpose of this blog, let’s say that your plan is to target brides.
  4. Decide on the message. Now that you’ve established your goals and decided on your audience, it’s time to determine how you plan to reach them.  What do you have to say? What value can you offer?  Using brides as an example, you may want to inform them of ways they can save money and still have the wedding of their dreams.
  5. Determine channels for reaching your audience. Where is your audience?  If you are targeting brides, you might find that more brides are using Pinterest or watching YouTube videos.  You could display DIY boards on Pinterest. You might create short video clips with money saving tips. You could even feature video testimonials of brides who have used your service and saved money. For small businesses doing it themselves, I recommend starting out with no more than two social media channels.
  6. Set a 90-day plan.  It’s tempting to try to do it all, but in order to remain consistent, you must start small.  If you’ve decided to use Pinterest and YouTube, a reasonable 90-day plan could include building your social media community on these channels (remember to use your traditional or offline marketing avenues to help you get started) and engaging that audience with consistent, compelling content.  
  7. Develop an editorial calendar. Now it’s time to get specific on what you’ll do in that 90-day plan.  Develop a theme or focus-area for each month. Determine the type of content you’ll post and frequency of the content.
  8. Build a maintenance schedule. This is where we get to the nitty-gritty.  Create a maintenance calendar of daily, weekly, monthly, and as-needed tasks. Consider things like monitoring the accounts and responding to the audience, continuing to build the audience, and writing the content for the day, week or month.
  9. Assign responsibilities. If you’re like many business owners, you might intend to do it all yourself. But I find that’s not always realistic. Be sure to assign a specific person to each task – even if it is you. Also consider the time involved in completing each task so you can schedule your time appropriately.
  10. Evaluate.  After 90 days, review your progress. Were your goals met? Did you reach your intended audience?  What worked and what didn’t work?  Should you shift your focus or maintain what you’ve done? Are there other forms of media you want to consider?  Be honest with yourself about these results and adjust your social media plan accordingly.

What steps have worked for you? What other elements could I include?

Join The Conversation

  • Oct 7 Posted 3 years ago amir hassan

    Hi Rachel, I am Amir

    First, your article is interesting ! It gave me some ideas and filled some gaps in my social media strategy. 

    I'd be thankful, if you'd advise me on a strategy in my S M unit to promote our social media venues to our employess in order to make use of the word of mouth techniques, etc . I'm really confused about what can I use or apply to get those employess motivated to leverage their company's social media and play a key role in branding the company and report any complain or something

    Your advise is really appreciated 


    Thank you

  • Rachel Strella's picture
    Sep 3 Posted 3 years ago Rachel Strella


    Great point. I talk about integration, but it's important that larger companies integrate social media marketing into in-house policies, as well. Everyone needs to understand their role and contribution to the bigger picture of the company.



  • Rachel Strella's picture
    Sep 3 Posted 3 years ago Rachel Strella

    Hi Arlinda,

    Non-profits can use this as a formula, as the non-profit will need to determine goals: ex: website traffic, increased awareness, opt-ins, etc which will lead to the donations.

    I also recommend including the board of directors in the social media marketing. Often times, their resources and networks are overlooked while it's up to staff and volunteers to do the marketing.

    Feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn and we can talk more!


  • Sep 3 Posted 3 years ago Frank Hampshire

    Hi Rachel, very good post... One thing I would add though (perhaps in point 4.5!) is that it is essential that every social media strategy/plan must get key stakeholder buy-in... Social media cuts across so many different departments within organisations (customer relationships, marketing, HR, IT to name a few) that for it to be seen as simply an adjunct to the marketing department is the sort of error that could result in the plan being unsuccessfully implemented. Once all the stakeholders (and/or staff) appreciate the value of social media and how it can help develop & enhance their company's business objectives, this will make the implementation of any strategy very much easier. What do you think?



    Chris Lucas


    Frank Hampshire Media & Consultancy


  • Aug 20 Posted 3 years ago Arlinda Cezar


    Do you have any additional advice for non profit organizations?



  • Aug 9 Posted 3 years ago pmorris25@comca...


    Thanks for the suggestions! I'll add this ling to my class resources.  I love your insight.  

    In the words of Wendy... "I believe..."  and I don't think you even need fairy dust to fly! We just need a well designed strategy!



  • Rachel Strella's picture
    Aug 7 Posted 3 years ago Rachel Strella

    Hey Luca,

    Great point. If they don’t have the right mindset, then it’s going to be difficult to make it work!


  • lucaleonardini's picture
    Aug 7 Posted 3 years ago lucaleonardini

    The only thing I'd add to your very comprehensive list is simply: "to create a social media strategy one must truly believe in the power of social media; if this is not the case, it's safer and wiser don't even have a try."

    I found out that in many cases people don't believe in social media because they don't know it well. They tend to think social media in the wrong way such as it's all about FB or TW, it's all about technology, ... But it's not! A good part of our business is explaining what social media really is and how to get it to work for us all.

    Great post Rachel!

    Luca Leonardini

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