These days, you're no doubt constantly bombarded with articles elaborating on how important it is to develop a strong social strategy.
And while it's great to find ways to develop a strong social media presence, all too often we forget that to do any good for our brands, social media needs to be a team player - it needs to be part of a concerted business strategy. If you focus your efforts on building a large social media following without clear business goals in mind, you won't get the needed results for your brand, no matter how many followers you accrue.
This isn't to say that a social media strategy should be ignored altogether. But it's important that it's put in its proper perspective.
Here's how a business strategy plays an essential role in guiding your social media efforts.
What Are Your Goals?
Your company's goals are the key starting point for any business strategy. Regardless of whether these goals focus on percentage growth, raw sales numbers, improved customer service, or some other metric, deciding what your primary business objectives are is vital before you begin your social media efforts.
These goals aren't the type of thing that should just be picked at random. Truly effective business goals are the result of industry research and a dedicated analysis of your target audience. The better you understand market trends and your own company's strengths and weaknesses, the better equipped you will be to establish effective goals.
Without this clear sense of direction, many social media strategies run the risk of falling into what boardview.io founder Romek Jansen refers to as "conditioning to deliver the "WHAT", without being properly informed about the "WHY"." In other words, failure to clearly explain and apply business goals across social media and other marketing channels will only result in social media efforts that fail to deliver on your overarching goals.
But even after your business goals have been established, you're still not ready to dive into your marketing and social media strategy. The business strategy needs to come first.
As the Kauffman Foundation notes, this strategy encompasses a wide range of business items, but should most importantly answer key questions such as which customers will be targeted and which products will be offered (or removed from the market). These adaptations to business strategy should directly contribute to the company goals.
Only after the business strategy has been decided upon should you begin forming a social media strategy. Remember, social media is just one tool in your marketing tool belt - focus all your efforts on this one form of marketing, and you'll likely fall flat on your face. Take the time to examine which messages need to be communicated by your marketing efforts to better determine how different mediums can help you contribute to your company's goals.
Match the Strategy
So how do you ensure that your social media strategy is a success? Writing for Convince and Convert, Jon Gatrell notes, "Social is valuable, and businesses should participate, but when, where, why, and how to do so should be firmly anchored in the businesses' priorities. Make sure your social activity maps to your buyer personas...There's a reason no one posts about holiday crafts on LinkedIn, and why there aren't many whitepapers showing up on Pinterest."
Without a clear understanding of your brand's higher-level business and marketing goals, you could miss the mark entirely as you embark on your social media efforts. Using your business strategy as a guidepost will have a significant influence on how you execute your social media efforts - from the platforms you choose to establish a presence to your brand voice and other promotional strategies.
There are some platforms that simply won't be effective for your marketing efforts, and that's not a bad thing. A clear understanding of your business strategy will save you from wasting a lot of time on a platform that won't help you reach your brand goals, allowing you to instead put a greater emphasis on other channels that will be more beneficial.
Yes, social media strategy is a vital part of your digital marketing efforts. But it needs to be recognized for what it is - a component of your marketing strategy, not the be-all and end-all of how you try to connect with your target audience. As you align your social media strategy to your company's overarching business strategy, you won't just build a digital following for your brand, you'll connect with the right target audience and make a meaningful contribution to your company's goals.