With social media considered one of the most effective ways for businesses to connect with new users, build brand awareness, grow a following, and boost sales, increasing numbers of businesses are upping their social media presence and investing significantly in their public facing content on leading social media platforms.
However, in order for a digital marketing team to make the most of its brand’s presence on social media, a solid strategy is required. But if you’re new to social media marketing strategy—or, indeed, any kind of digital marketing strategy—where exactly do you start?
In this article, we’ll be giving you a step-by-step guide to creating a well-rounded and effective social media marketing strategy, as well as our top tips and techniques to making the greatest impact on your target audience using social media.
Here’s a clickable list of what we’ll be covering:
- What is social media marketing?
- What is a social media marketing strategy?
- How to build a social media marketing strategy
- Next steps
Ready to learn more about how to create a social media marketing strategy? Then, let’s get started.
1. What is social media marketing?
Social media marketing is the practice of companies, brands, and individuals using social media channels to grow an audience or following, build brand awareness and authority, convert and retain customers, and boost sales. Crucially, it is an opportunity to indirectly promote a product or service to key audiences, and educate them about their industry, values, and mission.
A company achieves these goals through the publication, promotion, and analysis of text and visual content on social media platforms which are popular with their target user groups. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, are still the frontrunners with regards to number of users, but other sites such as LinkedIn, YouTube, Pinterest, Reddit, TikTok, and others also have large and growing audiences that cater to more specific interests.
In addition to publishing content, social media marketers are experts at designing, implementing, and reviewing strategy: staying ahead of digital trends, tracking user behavior, and cultivating, managing, and engaging with a brand’s online community.
For businesses, social media marketing is crucial to competing in today’s market. Effective social media marketing can:
- Boosts awareness and recognition of a brand
- Be highly cost-effective when compared to traditional advertising
- Be an opportunity to engage directly with customers, build trust, and boost brand loyalty
- Provide opportunities for thought leadership and demonstrating authority in a particular industry
- Provide significant amounts of data about user behavior and preferences
- Be an opportunity for responsive customer service
- Build a conversation around a brand
So now that we’ve defined what social media marketing is, let’s look at what a social media marketing strategy entails.
2. What is a social media marketing strategy?
A social media marketing strategy is a plan for a company or individual which maximizes engagement and interactions with target users in order to achieve the goals of the business. There are numerous benefits to investing time, people, and resources into building a comprehensive social media marketing strategy. Here are just a few of them:
Aligns social media goals with business goals
A strong social media marketing strategy provides an opportunity to align social media goals with those of the business. This is crucial because the goals of the business should be at the forefront of all departmental goals.
Builds and maintains brand voice
A social media marketing strategy ensures consistency of voice and tone across all channels, which is important for maintaining trust with users, and for carving out a unique space for your brand in the market.
Identifies audience and key users
Creating social media buyer personas is a key element to any social media marketing strategy. These personas will help you define the characteristics and behaviors of your key users and customers, and in turn enable you to create content that speaks directly to them.
Provides insight into competitor activities
A social media competitor analysis will help you understand your competitors’ activities on social media: what they’re doing well, what they’re not, and where your social media posts could meet user intent and needs in the instances where your competitors’ posts fall short.
3. How to build a social media marketing strategy
Ready to build your first social media marketing strategy? We’ve put together all the steps you need to get started.
Step 1: Set social media marketing goals which align with business goals
Your first step in building your social media marketing strategy is to set some goals that you and your team are hoping to meet. A social media goal states what you want to achieve with a specific tactic or campaign, or it can also apply to your overall social media marketing strategy. As previously mentioned, you’ll want these goals to both align with and complement the company’s overall goals, so that all departments are supporting and enabling each other.
Some examples of common social media marketing goals are:
- Increase brand awareness
- Increase traffic to your website
- Boost conversions or sales
- Generate leads
- Boost engagement and interaction
Establishing social media marketing goals is important, because goals provide a clear focus for the team to work towards that, if successful, will ultimately benefit the whole company. They can also help you to streamline your workflow, improve collaboration with other teams, manage budgets, and prioritize your team’s workload.
Step 2: Define your metrics and KPIs
After you’ve established your overarching social media marketing goals, you’ll need to drill down into defining your metrics and your key performance indicators, otherwise known as KPIs. Metrics are measures of quantitative assessment typically used for the assessment, comparison, and tracking of performance and output for specific business activities. A KPI will measure performance based on the key business goals.
Some examples of KPIs in social media marketing are:
- Reach (measured through impressions, follower count, audience growth rate, and so on)
- Engagement (measured through likes, comments, shares, and so on)
- Conversions (measured through new users, click-through rate [CTR], bounce rate, cost per click [CPC], and so on)
- Customer satisfaction (measured through testimonials, net promoter score [NPS], and other methods)
So, if your overarching social media goal is to “boost engagement and interaction ”, a KPI you could use to judge performance could be “an increase of 25% on likes year-on-year”.
Step 3: Research and identify target social media audiences
Identifying your social media audience (or audiences) will be key to recognizing specifically what kinds of content to create in order to have maximum impact, as well as knowing where to spend your money and resources. There are some tried-and-true methods of honing in on your targeted social media audiences, which include:
Create buyer personas
Think about who your current customers are and dig into your analytics to get concrete facts about their lives, needs, behaviors, and preferences. Ask yourself: Where do they live? What do they do for a living? How old are they?
Consider what their biggest pain points are, or the biggest challenges they are hoping to solve. Once you’ve collected this information together, you’ll be in a good position to create a buyer persona: a detailed description of someone who represents your target audience. You can learn more about personas in this guide.
Identify where your audience is currently most active
While older users tend to congregate on Facebook and LinkedIn, younger users are much more active on social media platforms like Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok. Using the information you uncovered while creating your buyer personas, and studying the analytics of your own social media platforms, piece together the most popular online hangouts of your users to gauge the sort of content that is getting the most interaction and engagement.
Send out surveys to your current user base
Your current users and customers hold the key to finding out everything you need to know about your target audience. Consider sending out a survey to your current users to glean more information about their preferences in order to establish the best way forward with your social media marketing strategy.
Conduct a competitor analysis
Who are your closest competitors and how are they behaving on their social media channels? How frequently do they post and what kind of content–video, image, carousel–do they post the most? Which channels are they most active on? Which posts create the most engagement with users?
You’ll also want to make a note of the voice and tone these brands are using, who their top followers are, and which hashtags they regularly use. This information will help inform your own social media marketing strategy and draw your attention to areas where your brand could do better.
Step 4: Create your social media content mix based on audience
Now that you’ve gathered some key insights into your target audience, their behaviors, preferences, locations, ages, and online hangouts, you should be able to build up a pretty clear picture of what kind of content will be most appealing to them. Combine this knowledge with what you now know of your competitors and their marketing activity on social media to start creating your first posts.
Some tips for posting:
- Experiment with A/B tests to see what audiences best respond to. For example, try out different images or headers, and track which are the most popular with users.
- Be mindful of when you post. Do some research into the most effective times of day for posting.
- Be consistent. Once you’ve established a visual style and a brand voice, be sure to utilize them consistently to build trust with audiences. Consistency in regularity of posting is also key. If you usually post twice a week, don’t suddenly start posting every day.
- Don’t forget to use relevant hashtags, and to tag individuals and other organizations where appropriate.
- Consider partnering with an influencer in the field to improve reach, bolster engagement, and solidify industry authority.
- Stay ahead of trends that are relevant to your audience and brand (but don’t just follow trends for the sake of it).
- Write timely responses to your users comments and messages using the same brand voice and approach you’ve developed for the rest of your content.
Step 5: Build out a social media calendar
Once you’ve started creating your content, you’ll need to start planning your publishing schedule to ensure fresh, regular, timely posts for your users.
Some things to keep in mind while you’re building your calendar:
- Plan your posting frequency and how often you should post. Check out this article by HubSpot outlining optimal posting times for each social platform.
- Plan how you’ll mix up content styles and formats. For example, one video post per week and two carousels per week on Instagram, with stories updated every day.
- Consider repurposing blog content or older plain text social media posts into more exciting social media content.
- Customize your content for each social media channel. For example, the style and length of post you have on Twitter is going to be vastly different to your LinkedIn output, even if the topic and theme of both posts is identical.
Step 6: Measure and analyze
Once your social media marketing schedule is underway, you’ll want to start tracking your chosen metrics and analyzing your posts in order to rate each one’s success and improve your output over time. While each social media platform will be able to provide you with some basic stats and data on performance, engagement, user behavior, and growth, there are additional tools out there that can help you analyze these data points further, which we’ve outlined in this post (which include some great tools that help plan and publish your posts, too)!
Let’s now take a look at some of the most frequently asked questions around social media strategy.
Why is a social media marketing strategy important?
A social media strategy is a great planning and alignment tool that creates focus for the social media team. It’s important because it ensures that every element of a brand’s social media presence can be tailored towards the company’s overall marketing and business goals.
With time in your strategy set aside for measuring, analysis, and reflection, you can be certain that your social media output doesn’t become stagnant but that it actively improves over time. It’s also far less likely that the team’s targets fall to the wayside (as they might if there was no strategy) as results are continually measured against the team’s original targets.
Finally, a strategy guarantees that users are kept at the center of a brand’s social media output with posts curated with a specific target audience in mind.
Other benefits to having a social media marketing strategy include enabling larger campaigns, ensuring consistency, and boosting efficiency and activity
What are the key elements of the best social media marketing strategies?
Some key elements to the best social media marketing strategies are:
- Provide your audience with high value content: This content might inspire or simply entertain
- Connect with industry influencers: Consider using micro-influencers–those with a very niche audience who are speaking on topics related to your field. Although it can be tempting to go for influencers with the largest followings, the audiences of micro-influencers are much more active and engaged
- Educate your audience: This is the only way to become a trusted authority in your field
- Choose storytelling over direct selling or promotion: Storytelling is a great way to relate to your audience while sharing an important message. It’s also much more engaging than pushing a product or service onto unsuspecting users
- Create and nurture communities around your brand: Ask and answer questions in groups, respond to comments, likes and follows, and respond to content requests to get your community engaged and invested in what you’re doing
- Conduct a social media audit: Go through your posts and assess what’s working and what’s not working
- Communicate like a human: Impersonal branding has never been more of a turn off to users. Show your humanity in your social media content and you’ll see your rates of engagement soar
- Don’t forget about video: Video as a format is more popular than ever before, as is evidenced by the rise in popularity of social media platforms like TikTok. Live streaming provides numerous benefits for business too, for example, it’s a chance to get instant feedback and reactions from your users.
How do you create an effective social media marketing strategy?
If you follow the guide that we’ve set out in this article, you’ll be well on your way to creating a very effective social media marketing strategy. On top of the steps we’ve already outlined, here are some top tips to bear in mind.
When working on social media marketing strategy, the absolute best use of your time is researching and getting to know your target audience and their pain points in as much detail as possible. Why? Because this data will inform your content, your content style, your tone, your voice, where you are most active, and how to most effectively impact their lives positively. All these things will keep your target users returning to your social media channels, recommending your brand to others, and becoming long term, loyal customers and even brand advocates.
Use your social media posts to provide value to your users. Although regularity of posting is important, what’s more important is the quality of your posts and the value that they offer to your users. Posting just for the sake of it won’t benefit your brand at all; in fact, it will do the opposite. Users want to see solutions to their problems, answers to their questions, and learn more about an industry, theme, or product. Sometimes, they just want to be entertained. Failing to do any of these and you will turn users off and lose their trust. Your social media posts are your opportunity to provide value, don’t waste this chance on content that doesn’t benefit anybody.
Don’t be afraid to automate.Trying to do everything manually–from posting, to analysis–not only requires a superhuman effort, it’s a waste of your valuable time. Marketing automation is the adoption of tools that can automate different social media marketing activities such as scheduling and posting to boost efficiency, streamline activities and goals, increase transparency, and enable the tracking and analysis of large amounts of data. When mundane or routine social media tasks are automated, you and your team are freed up to focus on the important things such as creating user-focused content, and building long-lasting and loyal customer relationships. For more info, check out this post we wrote all about marketing automation.
5. Next steps
In this article, we’ve covered all the key steps you need to take to create your very first social media marketing strategy, with some extra tips, tricks, and techniques thrown in for good measure.
If you’re feeling inspired by this post and you’re keen to learn more about digital marketing, social media marketing, or strategy, then consider taking our free, 5-day digital marketing short course. You’ll learn about the different digital marketing channels, how to conduct research to inform your campaigns and strategies, all about marketing metrics and KPIs, and how to create eye-catching and inspired posts, blogs, and emails to win over your target user group.
You can also read more about social media marketing over on our blog. Here are some of our favorites to get you started: