‘If you fail to prepare, prepare to fail.’
Whilst Benjamin Franklin wasn’t speaking to the owner of a local cupcake company looking to start a Facebook page when he said those words, they still ring true when it comes to a business starting out on social media. Just as you wouldn’t set up a business without a business plan, you can’t just jump straight into social media, start aimlessly posting and expect the customers to come rolling in. Rather, you have to sit down, grab a cup of coffee and develop a clear social media strategy. While there’s no one-size fits all solution, you can find social media success if you’re armed with the right questions to get you started. After all, a plan equals focus and focus is what is going to drive your business forward online.
What Objectives do I Want my Business to Achieve by Using Social Media?
Whether you want to use your social media presence to gain exposure for your brand, directly educate and interact with your customers, promote specific products and services or all of the above, clearly identifying your objectives is the critical first step towards a successful social media presence. Identifying your objectives in the beginning ensures a multitude of critical elements of your social media marketing, it allows you to effectively tailor your content and posting schedule, provide value to your customers, right through to helping you accurately measure your success as you will be aware of the most appropriate metrics to track efficiently.
Common Social Media Objectives
- Build Brand Awareness
- Drive Traffic to Website
- Provide Customer Service
- Engage with Fans
- Establish Thought Leadership
- Launch New Products or Services
- Generate Leads and Increase Sales
- Research and Insights
- Build Your Community
- Improve SEO
- Competitive Analysis
What is the State of My Current Social Media Use?
If you are already present on social media, you need to take a good hard look at your content from the eyes of a new (or potential) fan or follower. There is a whole host of important questions you need to ask yourself when you look through your online presence. Here’s a few taken from the checklist I use when I conduct a Social Media Audit;
- Assess their presence: has it been thought through? Profile/cover photo/about section completed, effective and branded?
- Can potential followers immediately get a sense of company culture, products and services on offer?
- Content: How does their content support their strategy? What content receives the most clicks, likes and shares? Are they sharing engaging content? Do they encourage engagement? Offer something valuable/useful? How often is it updated? Are they engaging back with fans? Do they use hashtags effectively? How do they use images to tell the company story?
- How are the individual platforms being used to drive trafﬁc to the main web presence? Is it clear what the next step is that they want fans/followers to take? Call to actions in tweets/pins/posts?
- Record numbers of followers and following – are they both relevant and targeted audience?
- When the last time was their Twitter / Facebook/Pinterest etc. presence was updated?
- What feedback do they get from followers?
Who are My Target Audience?
Determining the audience that you want to reach and engage with on social media is fundamental to your strategy. Whether your target audience is your current or potential clients or customers, affiliate businesses, thought leaders or all four, your aim is to create a successful social media strategy that matches and is tailored towards understanding and acting on your target audience’s behaviours online. Creating Buyer personas helps you define and target the right people, in the right places, at the right times with the right messages. When you learn important factors about your target audience from their age, job status, income, interests, problems, to their likes, dislikes, motivations, where they spend their time online and in what format they like to digest their content online then it becomes easier to target them on social media. The key is to remember that the more specific you are the more successful and targeted you are going to be with your social media strategy that will bring real results and conversions for your business.
What Platforms am I Going to use for my Business?
What platforms you choose to use will ultimately depend on where your customers are and which ones are best suited for your business. Spend the time researching where your current customers are online and what platforms can be best utilised with your resources and business. The key is to not spread yourself too thinly across lots of social media platforms just because you think this will gain your business more exposure, rather it is much more effective to run a handful of platforms consistently and efficiently and to spend the time reviewing the platforms you are on to make sure they are as effective as they can be. You should also keep up to date with research into new technologies and platforms that your business could potentially utilise in the future.
Selecting the Right Social Media Platforms for Your Business
Each social media platforms is unique, with its own best practices, style, and audience. The key to choosing the right social media platforms relies on you having a clear understanding of your objectives for social media, your target audience and what resources/ information you have to share. Simply put, choose the ones that best fit your strategy and the goals you want to achieve on social media. You don’t have to be on them all—just the ones that matter to you and your audience.
To help you decide the best platform, ultimately ask yourself these questions;
- Purpose – What information do you want to share with and communicate to your audience?
- Format – In what format is the best way to present this information? Videos, Podcasts, extended pieces of writing etc.
- Platform – Which social media platform will allow me to share this message best and which platform has the correct audience that I want to reach?
- Time – How much time can I devote to a social network? Aim for at least an hour per day per social network. Once you get going, tools like Buffer can help you effectively manage your time.
- Resources – What personnel and skills do you have to work with? Visual social platforms like Pinterest and Instagram require good quality images. Social platforms like blogging emphasize quality content. Do you have the resources to create what’s needed?
- Audience – Where do your potential customers hang out? Which social network has the right demographics for you?
Have I Done my Research?
A successful social media presence is always aided by a good, solid foundation of prior research. You should look to do initial research into key areas such as your competitor’s social media, your target audience demographics, the latest trends and news in social media, marketing and business as well as many others. Conducting research and paying attention to changes in your industry and audience for example should also be a regular and active occurrence as things, especially social media, evolve and change so you need to keep up to date to ensure your strategy is as relevant and effective as possible.
- Market Research – Who is your target audience? How do they behave on social media? Where are they online?
- Competitors – Which platforms are your competitors using? Are they directly engaging with prospects online? What are they good at online? In which areas could they improve? Can you get case studies? (Both successful and unsuccessful examples?)
- Latest Business and Social Media News, Trends and Techniques – Do you know the latest techniques on your social media platforms that are effective? What is changing in social media and/or business that could affect your marketing?
Am I Clear on My Marketing Voice and Tone?
The temptation at this point might be to jump right in and start sharing. Before you do however, it is crucial to cultivate a voice and tone of your marketing that effectively encompasses your brand.
To help you with this, start with questions like these:
- If your brand was a person, what kind of personality would it have?
- If your brand was a person, what’s their relationship to the consumer? (A trainer, friend, family member etc.)
- What do you want your customers to think about your company?
- Describe what your company’s personality is not
- Are there any companies that have a similar personality to yours? Why are they similar?
Who is Going to set up and Maintain my Businesses Social Media Platforms?
In the beginning you will need to decide who will implement and maintain your social media accounts. Whether you want to run them in-house or hire a social-media marketing manager or firm, you need to ensure that the person who is in charge of your platforms can effectively represent your brand and has the know-how to create and maintain a successful social media presence. That person is going to ultimately control how your business is presented to others in the online world so you need to be absolutely confident that they are the right person for you and your business.
Have I Chosen My Core Topics?
The key to a successful content strategy is finding the core topics you want your business to be known for and the topics that attract and keep the attention of fans and followers. What topics or categories best represent your company? For most this is a combination of 3 areas,
- Your Passion – the topic you are passionate and love to talk about
- Your Assets – the topic you’re known for and skilled and trained in
- Market Reality – is there a demand on social media for the type of content you are offering?
What Resources/ Content do I Have at my Disposal?
Each social media platform has a certain type of content that is best suited towards it, for example Pinterest is inherently visual and as such requires good-quality and memorable images to be effective. From this, you need to understand what type of content that the platforms you are using is most effective and importantly what content resonates best with your audience. Once you are clear on both these aspects, you will be able to form an effective content strategy with maximised effectiveness. It is important that you share with your audience a diverse and interesting mix of content types that encourages engagement so you need to think about the types of questions you will ask, updates you will share and ultimately what resources you have that you can utilise and repurpose for your social media platforms.
What Should I be Posting?
A quick glance through any social media article, research and blog post will show an emphasis and push towards sharing visual content. This trend towards the visual has plenty of anecdotal evidence too, with it being a widely known fact that image posts get more views, clicks, re-shares, and likes than any other type of post. On Facebook, photos get 53% more likes, 104% more comments and 84% more click-throughs on links than text-based posts. Similarly for Twitter, in a study of over two million tweets from verified users across a number of different industries, Twitter found that photos have the greatest effect on retweets. Photos average a 35% boost in Retweets with Videos getting a 28% boost. What does this mean for your business? Simple. You must prioritise producing good quality visuals in your social media content strategy.
So now we have established that you need to incorporate the visual into your content strategy. It’s time to take a look at what elements should make up your other content. There are hundreds of rules, strategies and theories on the best way and most effective ways to structure your content, the most used and most simple but effective strategy I use is the 70:20:10 rule.
The 70:20:10 rule
As a general rule of thumb, the rule states;
- 70% of posts should add value and be brand and business building, stuff that your followers will find interesting, valuable and insightful and that supports who you are as a company.
- 20% should share ideas or content from other sources e.g. blogs, digital PR, websites, other social media channels etc.
- 10% should be self- promotional – your offers, discounts, marketing and promotional, sales etc.
21 Quick-Fire Example Content Ideas
- Business Tips: People love to hear valuable business tips.
- Humour/Relatable: Whether it’s a funny meme or something funny that’s happened in your life or your business, share it.
- Inspiration/Motivation: Inspiration is the number one most shared type of content across every social media platform.
- Open-Ended Questions: People love to talk and they love to answer questions.
- Offers and Deals: Did you know that getting deals is still the number one reason that people like brands on Facebook? We all love a good deal.
- Behind the Scenes/Sneak Peeks: People love to feel like they’re a part of what’s happening in your business.
- Opinions: You can give yours and/or simply ask for theirs. People love to give their feedback and feel like their voice is being heard.
- Industry News: There’s a huge value proposition in this. Firstly, you are educating your community on things that are happening in your space or in your niche. Secondly, doing this routinely will help you become an industry news or thought leader.
- Fill in the Blanks: It’s an alternative way to phrase a question and the best ones only require a one or two-word answer, which makes it easier for your fans and followers to answer and engage with.
- Strike Up a Conversation: Take the time to strike up a conversation. It’s a great way to build relationships.
- Testimonials: Let people know that other people value your services or your products.
- Open Q&A’s: Are a great way to provide value and get some real-time engagement with your followers.
- Polls: You can use a poll for a number of different things like collecting opinions and/or ideas. Polls are a great engagement tool, but it’s also a great way to get great information.
- Caption a Photo: Asking your fans and followers to caption a photo normally elicits good engagement.
- Make Predictions: People love predictions. They want to know what you think.
- Crowd Source Ideas: Ask other people for ideas. Whether you’re getting ready to do a new product or anything of that nature…ask!
- Highlight Your Customers: Let your social media followers know that you value them. It’s important.
- Tech Tips or Tools: People love tools and they love tech tips.
- Advice: if you have some great advice and you feel like its valuable then share it.
- Share Video or Audio Clips: In some cases video and audio posts are more impactful than a simple text based or image post.
- ASK!: Ask your followers what content they want to see.
What is my Publishing Schedule?
Whilst it is wonderfully easy for you to be told from a social media expert that you should post 2 Facebook posts a day, 10 Tweets and 2 Blog posts a week for example, the ironclad and definitive answer to the questions ‘What, When and How often should I post?’ is simple: It depends. Everything about the social media experience is about your individual audience and niche. What works for you might not work for me… the important thing is that you experiment and learn what does work for you.
Your publishing schedule is going to be ultimately dictated by three things, your business capabilities, the platform you’re using and your audience needs. In the beginning you will need to experiment to find a publishing schedule that works best for your business, goals and readers and is the perfect balance of what you want and what your audience wants. Part of this consideration is also understanding the nature of the platform you’re using to publish and whether it is one such as Twitter that favours several short updates per day or Facebook where posting 7+ times a week is effective. Ultimately, when you are creating a publishing schedule you need to ask yourself, Can you keep this schedule consistently? Can you always publish high-quality content at this rate? And will you have enough content for this schedule? Once you’ve discovered the most effective schedule for you, being consistent with your publishing schedule has the benefit of increasing SEO value, maximising value and engagement from readers and encourages readers to come back regularly for more.
How Often Should you be Posting?
As you have come to realise, everything about a business social media experience is unique to you. There is no one size fits all approach to what content to post, just like there is not one for about how often to post to social media either. Some of the factors that will impact your specific sharing frequency may include your industry, your reach, your resources, the quality of your updates and the social network you’re using. The best way to discover the ideal posting frequency is by looking at your own analytics and several tools available in the market, these are a great way to show you the best time of day to post on your social media platforms, how often and even when your audience is online. So what are you to do if you are just starting out on these social networks, with no audience and no history? This is where best practices come in. As a good example, SumAll, which compiled timing research from sites like Visual.ly, Search Engine Watch, and Social Media Today has created a great visual resource of what their extensive research found in terms of timing.
- Twitter – 1-3pm weekdays
- Facebook – 1-4pm and 2-5pm weekdays
- LinkedIn – 7-8:30am and 5-6pm Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday
- Tumblr – 7-10pm weekdays and 4pm on Fridays
- Instagram – 5-6pm weekdays and 8pm on Mondays with a sweet spot at 6pm
- Pinterest: 2-4pm and 8-11pm weekdays with weekends being the best
- Google+: 9-11am weekdays
How am I Going to Ensure my Business Branding is Representative and Consistent?
Having a social media presence is a great way to show a wider audience who you are, what you stand for and ultimately why they should love you. From this, it is important that you know clearly what your brand stands for and how this is going to be conveyed consistently and accurately across your platforms. This consideration needs to be applied to everything from the voice you want for your brand that can be consistently applied across all your posts to the creative aspects of your platforms- that is the overall presentation including the colour scheme and typography. By setting consistent guidelines over the presentation and integration of your branding into your social media platforms it ensures that all these factors support and are in line with your overall branding and help reinforce your message and brand.
Am I Going to Have to Create a Written Social Media Policy for my Employees?
If there are going to be several different administrators of your platforms or you run a business with staff members who have personal and/or business social media accounts, it is well worth creating a social media policy for your staff to sign so everyone is clear on their responsibilities and what is deemed appropriate and inappropriate behaviour when they are representing or discussing your business online.
Have I Considered My Mobile Strategy?
With ever increasing numbers of people accessing the internet and social media platforms from their mobile devices, it is vital that you optimise your profiles for mobile users and give them a mobile friendly experience. Therefore you should test and experiment with your platforms to see how they look on both your desktop and a variety of other mobile devices to ensure you provide a seamless experience for those visiting your social media platforms no matter what device they are viewing them from. When assessing your site from different devices, you should check for several key areas such as; do your images still remain high quality? Are the social media sharing buttons clearly positioned and working properly? If text is used, it is readable on a small screen? The time you spend to perfect your platforms from your desktop should also be spent on making your site work for mobile too, if you fail to do so then you could lose traffic and sales as you will not be providing users with a good experience.
How am I Going to Measure the Success of my Social Media Marketing Efforts?
Tracking your social-media marketing metrics is a fundamental part of the social media marketing process as it helps gauge which tactics are successful and which areas are in need of improvement. Put a plan in place that allows you to track, measure and assess your results consistently to see what content/strategies resonates best and to ensure you are successfully meeting your social media objectives and if they are still relevant to you. Adjust your strategy and your content when appropriate to keep your social media content fresh and your information topical. The more you post, the more you’ll discover which content, timing, and frequency is right for you.
Ultimately, Have I got a Clear Strategy?
Having a clear idea on every aspect of your social media marketing strategy is key to its success. Ultimately, you should easily be able to answer confidently and with clarity the below questions that form a basic social media marketing strategy. Part of maintaining a strong, successful presence is also to regularly assess whether certain aspects of your original strategy have changed (For example are your objectives still the same? Is there a new social media platform that your audience is using?) and then adjust your efforts accordingly. As you become a regular participant on social media you will find ways in which you need to improve certain areas and areas in which you excel in, so never stop learning and listening to what your audience and your analytics tell you.
Keep referring back to this handy checklist;
- Why have I joined social media?
- What is my brand’s overall purpose?
- What does my business aim to achieve with social media?
- Who is our target audience?
- Which social networks do they use?
- What topics and sources of information are most important to them?
- What problems can I help them solve?
- What jobs can I help them complete?
- What is my brand voice?
- What is the overall tone of my social media updates?
- What emotions do I hope to convey through my brand’s messaging?
- What types of content should I post on which social platforms?
- What type of content best supports my content marketing aims?
- What are the main topics, categories or messages that support my brand?
- Should I use social media to provide customer service?
- What realistic resources do we have?
- Who should set up and maintain my company’s social media accounts?
- What is the workflow from content creation to publication?
- How often should I post new content on my social networks?
- How does social media fit with our other campaigns?
- How will I measure ROI and define success with my social media strategy?
- What is working with my social media marketing efforts?
- What is the customer journey from search to purchase?
- Where does social media fit within my funnel?