Social media marketing is no longer the new kid on the block. Now an established and respected marketing stream - with social media ad spend expected to exceed $35 billion in 2017 - it needs to be treated as any other type of marketing channel would.
This means you can no longer afford to half-heartedly execute your social media efforts with the enthusiasm of a household chore - take this attitude and you're not going anywhere.
If this sounds like you, then we know exactly what you need: an awesome social media marketing strategy. A strong strategy should comprise an audit of the current situation, and assessment of where you want to be, and a plan for how you're going to get there. And it needs to be specific - broad statements are no help to anyone.
Sounds overwhelming? Sure, becoming a social media master may seem like an unachievable objective, but it needn't be with the right processes in place. Here are some key tips for developing an effective social media marketing strategy.
1. Establish business objectives
'Raise brand awareness' and 'increase sales' - easy right?
Yeah, we've heard those goals before, and sure they're important, but you need to be more specific.
For example, saying 'increase sales' is too vague. How much do you want to increase sales by? At what point will you have achieved the objective? Do the net margins on sales cover the investment into social media?
It's important to set parameters in order to make objectives achievable and tangible. This approach will enable you to measure the success of your strategy, and determine a more accurate ROI that's in line with your business' goals.
Also, don't overdo it. Too many goals will overwhelm and distract. Be specific, be smart and be aware. If you can demonstrate the value of a social media marketing strategy in terms of clear business objectives, then it's far more likely that you'll be able to get support and approval from decision makers.
2. Audit of current situation
It's difficult to establish a process of getting to where you want to be if you don't have a clue where you are right now.
Perform an audit of your current situation, including all the different platforms and the activities taking place on each (if any).
Carry out competitor research, note your strengths and weaknesses, and pay attention to the learning outcomes.
Again, the more specific and focused you can be the better, so you need to understand the current situation on order to establish realistic objectives and time frames.
3. Create buyer personas
One of the key advantages of social media, particularly when it comes to paid advertising, is how wonderfully targeted you can be. It's therefore all the more important that your targeting is on point.
Create buyer personas to help you identify exactly who these people are. In other words, create a fictional representation of your target audience based on real data from market research. This should include age, gender, location, job title, interests and any other relevant factors.
Ultimately, reaching the most appropriate audience will increase conversion rates, therefore reducing the overall marketing costs. This will also help you focus on the platforms and content types most relevant to your key markets, as opposed to jumping blindly onto the next shiny new thing - which leads to the next point.
4. Choose your platforms
When it comes to social media platforms there's almost too much choice. Just remember one super important tip: there is no need to be active on all platforms all the time. In fact, it pays to be focused.
Start with one or two key channels and only expand your undertaking if you have the capacity to do so. If you're a one-man band in charge of all social media output, then the chances are that time is a rare commodity - it's much better to prioritize.
Doing a fantastic job on a couple of your most relevant platforms is far better than doing a mediocre job across all platforms. Quality not quantity.
5. Content, content, content
A social media marketing strategy wouldn't be worthy without a solid focus on content. Content is King and Queen and every type of royalty there is, corgies and all.
First you'll need to decide what type of content works for your business and audience - and this, of course, will vary depending on the platform. Professional, corporate, friendly, quirky, humorous - the personality opportunities are endless, choose them wisely.
Your strategy should also cover frequency of posting and tone of voice. Carry out tests to determine what works best, and get inspiration from other accounts. There's no shame in adapting ideas for your own audience, as long as it's not outright plagiarism.
Remember not to be too salesy - reserve this type of content for adverts. Here it's about creating a personality that customers can relate to and engage with.
Want to lock down your content approach at a higher level? Create a content calendar to keep your business on track at all times.
6. Metrics and tracking
This is a critical part of any strategy - you're not maximizing your opportunities if you aren't tracking and amending accordingly.
This needs to go much further than counting your likes and follows too - these are only surface metrics which don't provide a clear indication of the important stuff, such as conversions.
Be clear on the tools you will utilize to track the success and measure conversions. The metrics will depend on your overall business objectives outlined in our first tip, but ultimately tracking should always come back to conversions. This is where the Facebook pixel and goal conversions can be handy.
7. Remember to budget
But social media is free. Actually, it's not.
Sure you can post organic content for free, but top-notch social media management takes time, and we all know that time is money. If you really want to take your social media strategy to the next level then you need to be looking at paid tools to help.
Plus, with the reduction of organic reach over the past few years, you'd be mad not to include a budget for paid advertising within your strategy.
If you're short on cash then prioritize areas that have a short lead time for ROI so you can generate revenue more quickly, and invest it back into the social media marketing strategy.
Devising a social media strategy from scratch is no mean feat but it's crucial to ensure consistency and ROI. Objectives, parameters and processes are all necessary to keep the strategy on track.
Our final tip is always remain agile. Social media changes all the time - which is one of the reasons it's such an exciting industry to work in, but it does make our jobs a little tricky. Any strategy should be a working document that can be adapted, tweaked and revamped where necessary.