Unless you’re a popular celebrity or a big, iconic brand, a lot has got to come together in order for you to succeed on social media. Not only do you need to have an engaged, loyal audience and something valuable to offer them, you need to be able to maintain a strong social presence by sharing timely, relevant content on a non-stop basis.
There’s no rest for the weary on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and other such online communication channels.
If you make the development of a solid strategy a top priority, however, everything else should fall into place. A comprehensive strategic plan articulates the action you’re going to take during the course of your campaign. It explains the who, what, where, when, how and why of what you’re going to do on social media.
No one plan fits all, of course, but to not have one carved out from the outset is like attempting to walk across a high wire without a safety net below. Proceed at your own risk.
So to minimize the chance of falling short of your expectations, here are a number of steps you can take to put together your own social media strategy, one that you and your colleagues can follow with the utmost confidence.
1. Establish a team. Such a broad range of skills are required to succeed in social media that it only makes sense, budget permitting, to have a handful of collaborative, cross-functional stakeholders on the case. Marketing. Sales. Creative. Analytics. The more representation you have from all corners of the company, the better.
2. Agree on your objectives. Are you using social media for thought leadership? Branding? PR? SEO? Or do you intend to increase sales? Develop a list of goals you want to achieve and an accompanying timeline. Make sure every member of your team is on the same page from the get-go, including how you’re going to define success down the road.
3. Understand your audience. In direct marketing, it’s understood that a bad offer to a good list works better than a good offer to bad list. Same in social media. If you’re not connecting with your constituency, you’re wasting your time. Know what makes your customers and prospects tick. The last thing you want is to have your tweets, updates and messages falling on apathetic ears.
4. Research the influencers. It’s one thing to have a large quantity of fans, followers and friends. It’s quite another to have a quality audience, a select number of people who have the clout to help spread the word on your behalf to their own respective networks. Identify those who wield the greatest influence in your space and forge mutually beneficial relationships with them.
5. Study the competition. Something too few brands take advantage of is the opportunity to monitor what others are doing on social media, especially those in similar circles. Don’t hesitate to examine the behavior of those who are trying to attract the same customers. What are they doing better than you? What can you learn from their strategies and tactics?
6. Develop your content. Tap into a library of continuously refreshed content to flaunt not just your knowledge, expertise and unique sales proposition, but your personality as well. Work off a creative brief. Leverage all pertinent assets. Show off your brand in words and pictures. Today, every company is a publishing company.
7. Consider paid activity. If you’re lucky, it may happen, but you can’t bank on even your best content to go viral. There’s just too much competition for eyeballs, not to mention the fact that social media algorithms aren’t working in your favor. Sometimes you have to put your money where your posts are and turn your owned media into paid.
8. Identify your channels. Don’t think you have to be on every single channel to be successful. Don’t fall prey to the fear of missing out (FOMO) and spread yourself too thin. Establish a presence where your content has the best chance of being seen. If that’s on half a dozen properties or more, fine. But if your audience is only found on Facebook and Twitter, don’t lollygag elsewhere.
9. Choose your tools. While there’s a seemingly infinite array of tools at your disposal that will not only support, but amplify your social media efforts, it isn’t always easy to differentiate between them. There are tools for everything from curation, publishing and editing to listening, monitoring and measurement. There are tools to help you attract more followers and tools to help you create compelling graphics. Deciding which ones to use is an ongoing chore in and of itself.
10. Deploy your tactics. Planning is one thing. Execution is another. This is where the rubber meets the road. Don’t take your foot off the pedal. Share a strategically sound mix of quality, relevant content – some of it promotional, much more of it conversational. Take advantage of real-time engagement opportunities and respond to others promptly, all the while keeping the human side of your brand front and center.
11. Monitor your activity. If you expect to succeed in social media, you can’t just set it and forget it. You need to immerse yourself in the scene as often as possible. Pay close attention to your audience’s reactions. Are they commenting on your content? Do they like it? Do they share it? Thank loyal constituents for their interest and time.
12. Measure the results. When all is said and done, the bottom line is what counts. Are you realizing your goals? Is the ROI acceptable? Have you seen an uptick in connections, engagement, chatter, traffic, leads and sales? If not, make adjustments. Test and learn well. Fine-tune your strategy until the results not just meet, but exceed expectations.
Note: This post, “How to Plan a Social Media Strategy in 12 Steps,” was originally published on ClickZ on October 7, 2014. To read the post there, click here.