How to Build an Effective Social Media Strategy from Scratch
If I were to ask you 'what’s the most important rule for a marketing specialist', what would you say?
My answer would be to never neglect your audience. It seems like an obvious element, but if your business is not marketing on social media, you’re doing exactly that.
There are now around 3.03 billion active social media users worldwide. As such, the chances of your target customers being among them are very high - and people are increasingly looking to use social for more than just catching up with friends and sharing photos. With more people turning to social to connect with brands also, it's important for your organization to be present, and meet them where they're spending time.
But the world of social media marketing can also be overwhelming. At first, it can seem impossible to even reach a hundred followers, then it can seem impossible to stay on top of all the content you need to post, all the comments you need to respond to, and the mentions you need to acknowledge.
To help, this guide will outline how to create an effective social media strategy - and one which limits the time and effort required on your behalf to maintain it.
In marketing, people often make decisions based on generalizations, sometimes without checking them first. “We’re making a product for Millenials, so let’s just use avocado toasts in all of our ads.” Of course, I’m joking, but I can bet you, the famous Pepsi tone deaf commercial came out of a similar generalization.
To boost your audience understanding, you need to conduct research - and the more data you have the better.
You can use focus groups, surveys and other tools, but the beautiful thing about social media is that you have a rich survey database right at the tip of your fingers.
Here are some tips on how to use social for audience research.
Define your target audience - Most likely, you already know who your target audience is. If not, there’s a really great article on this topic which I recommend you to check out.
Learn more about your target audience - In the context of social media marketing, learning about your TA first and foremost means learning where they are digitally.
There are so many different platforms, it’s impossible to cover them all equally without significant resources - it’s better to focus on two or three and make them count.
The best way to decide which platforms to prioritize is to use a social media listening tool. For example, using Awario, you can enter all the keywords related to your product and see which platforms have the biggest number of mentions.
As you see in the screenshot above, if you wanted to promote a meditation app, you would probably look to Twitter – more than 80% of your audience are hanging out there.
Learn about your competitors. -To paraphrase Wilson Mizner, “If you steal from one brand, it's plagiarism; if you steal from many, it's research”.
Spying on your competitors has many benefits - you can see what works and what doesn’t, what’s lacking in their strategy and what could be improved. But following their profiles is not enough – you should also monitor people’s reaction to their posts. After all, these people could become your customers someday.
Again, social media listening can come in handy here – if you create an alert with your competitors' brand name, you’ll be able to see their activity, as well as what people are saying about them as it happens.
With your audience research established, now you’re ready to start on the next element - preparing your social profiles.
Chances are that you already have your accounts set up, so it can be tempting to skip this part. But we’re here to build your social media presence and make it consistent and engaging.
So what do you need to know to do it?
Set goals - Social media marketing can be used for various purposes: raising brand awareness, enhancing brand image, even finding leads. But it’s important to have smaller and more tangible objectives to push yourself further - and be able to check in with yourself in the process: “Is it working for me? Am I doing it right?”.
My advice would be not to focus on vanity metrics.
You could say “I want to reach a thousand followers in two months and get around 80 likes on average”. But for your brand and, coincidentally, for most platforms, the most important metric is engagement.
The number of people leaving comments or clicking on your links is much more important than the number of likes you receive.
Define the voice and the tone - Social media is a good place to broadcast your brand’s “personality”. If you’re not sure what your tone should be, go back to the first stage and look into how your target audience communicates on social media.
Funny, witty and conversational language can all work well, depending on your approach.
Alternatively, you can opt to keep it formal and professional. The key is to embody your brand values, and stay authentic and consistent in your communication across all channels.
Choose content - Naturally, to establish your social media presence, you need something to post. In a perfect marketing world, you would just be able to promote your products or services in every post you send out, but that’s a big no-no for social media marketing. The general rule is to follow the "80/20" ratio - 80% of your posts should be non-promotional, with 20% directly pushing your products.
Everyone in marketing is probably tired of hearing it by now, but content is king. No matter how many ads you buy, if you don’t have anything entertaining and useful to offer, people won’t stick around - however, creating content takes time and effort, which you won’t always have.
The solution to this is content curation - curating a collection of audience-relevant content, from your brand and from other related sources.
These might be pictures, videos, articles or blog posts. Just don’t forget to be consistent with your voice and your brand image.
For example, social media management tool Buffer posts useful, educational articles, related to social media management, as well as videos and news, related to technology and business.
Set up profiles - Maybe you’re reading this post to figure out why your social media following isn't growing, or to simply revitalize your profiles. In that case, you already have the profiles set up, but you may want to revise your profiles to check if everything is done right.
If you’re just diving into the world of social media, here are the things to keep in mind:
- Your bio should be simple and short - A person who comes across your social media account should have no trouble understanding what it is that you’re selling - but at the same time, stay human. Here’s an example of a good bio - authentic, informative and with a call-to-action.
Don’t forget about visuals – all of your profiles should have a similar color scheme and style. Customize as much as the platform allows you to.
- Create a content plan - This will help you stay consistent - you can do this by using a scheduling tool, but even a simple Google spreadsheet will do. Mind you, different platforms are suited for different posting schedules and different content. Keep this in mind when designing your content plan.
- Choose tools - If you’ve been doing social media marketing manually all this time, social media tools will be a real game-changer. The right tools can save you a lot of time and effort - my personal must-haves include a scheduling tool, an analytics tool and a social media listening tool. This should cover all your needs, and once everything is set and running, they will enable you to spend much less time on your social media marketing.
- Engage - The ultimate purpose of social media is – surprise, surprise – to be social. This is not traditional marketing where you just send your messages into a chosen channel and it’s done. Start engaging with people, communicate with them, retweet and like, leave comments, initiate discussions. Through this, those who don’t follow you will see your social media activity, boosting brand awareness. Needless to say, this communication should revolve around topics, relevant to your brand.
- Try new things and have fun - Once you’ve established your social presence, get ready to utilize social media platforms to the fullest. You can do so much on social media: lead generation, influencer marketing, messenger marketing, etc.
In this post, I've written a lot about how social media is perceived as a more genuine and authentic channel of communication - and that’s great news for marketing specialists. You’re no longer just a salesman/saleswoman – you can be a valuable expert and a companion. Act accordingly and tap into the full benefits of social media communication.
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