6 Steps to Creating an Effective Social Media Strategy

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These days, every company out there has a social media strategy.  Even if it’s not one that you consciously control, you can bet that your friends, customers and other contacts have made mention of you and your brand name at least once on sites like Facebook and Twitter.

Because of this, ignoring the potential benefits of setting and following a defined social media marketing strategy is downright negligent.  Instead of allowing these conversations to go on without your direct participation, take on the following steps in order to regain control of your company’s social media presence:

1 – Start with measurable goals

Before planning out the details of your future social media marketing strategy, it’s imperative that you take the time to map out a few measurable goals that will be used to demonstrate that your campaign is on the right track.  Jumping into social media marketing without an end result in mind will only result in wasted time and effort on your part!

So, what kinds of metrics can you track?  Consider any of the following measurable social media goals:

  • Number of fans or followers
  • Number of Facebook fan page “Likes”
  • Number of Twitter retweets
  • Total brand mentions on a given site, in a given time period
  • Number of questions answered
  • Website referral visitors from social media sites
  • Website conversions from social media visitors

Keep in mind that it’s best to choose both goals that indicate your social media marketing activities are paying off (for example, as you spend more time on Facebook, you should see a corresponding uptick in page fans) and that demonstrate value for your company’s bottom line.  Having more Facebook fans might not result in higher on-site sales, which is why you may want to track website conversions from Facebook visitors as well.

2 – Analyze your existing social media presence

Once you have an idea of where you’d like to go with your social media marketing campaign, take a look at where your current strengths and weaknesses lie.  To do this, take a look at all of the following campaign components:

  • Do you have a Facebook fan page set up?  If so, is your page attractive?  How many people have “Liked” your page and what do you offer new visitors in order to engage them?
  • Have you set up a Twitter account?  If so, do you have a custom background?  How many followers do you currently have, and how does this compare to others in your industry?  Do you make it a priority to interact with your followers on a daily basis?
  • How’s your Google+ profile looking?  If you have one set up, how regularly do you post to the site?  Do you take time to connect with others in your industry using the service?
  • What other social media channels have you engaged with?  Do you have a Youtube channel, Pinterest board, Tumblr blog or LinkedIn profile?  Are you active on any industry-specific forums or message boards?

Don’t be too harsh on yourself.  If you haven’t invested significant resources in your social media profiles in the past, that’s okay – you’re about to change your situation for the better.  For now, just take an honest look at where you’re currently at, paying special attention to any particular strengths that can be leveraged in later steps of this process.

3 – Understand your target audience

Now, before you begin diving into your social media marketing campaigns, devote some time to getting to know the people you’re trying to reach.

In particular, look at where they spend time online and how they interact with both their friends and the brands they follow.  This is important, as the trends you identify at this stage will ultimately determine how your own social media marketing resources should be invested.  If, for example, you see that your audience isn’t particularly active on Youtube, you’ll know not to spend tons of money investing in video clips that no one will ever see.

4 – Anticipate future stumbling blocks

As you build your social media marketing campaign from this information, put a little effort into identifying the elements that could crop up in the future.

For example, who will manage your day-to-day social networking activities?  If this person already has defined responsibilities within your organization, how will they be covered?  How will you handle someone who leaves repetitive posts of negative feedback on your Facebook wall?

To prepare for these pitfalls, try searching Google for examples of companies that have handled social media poorly.  There are plenty of great case studies out there that will show you what not to do in order to make your campaign more effective.

5 – Participate daily

While you’re defining what social media marketing looks like for your organization, you’ll find that there’s a tremendous amount of flexibility in terms of the specific priorities you choose to focus on.  One company might decide to commit more strongly to Facebook, while others will find their tribes on Twitter.  Others will take more of a “grazing” approach, spending a little time on each of these popular social networking websites every day.

However, if there’s one thing that should be consistent across campaigns, it’s the need to participate on your chosen social media website at least once a day.  It sounds cheesy, but social media marketing really is all about “the conversation.”  And if you aren’t there, playing an active role in shaping this discussion, you can bet that your target consumers will get their leadership from one of your competitors!

So yes, it’s time-consuming, and yes, some of the drivel that passes for “conversation” on sites like Facebook and Twitter will make your eyes roll back in your head.  But by taking a few minutes out of your day to post status updates and respond to messages that others have left for you, you’ll increase the odds that you’re in the right place at the right time to build relationships and referral traffic from your ideal customers.

6 – Track and evaluate your social media performance

Finally, as with every other aspect of digital marketing, tracking your social media performance is an absolute must.

From time to time, compare your current results with the goals you set for yourself in Step #1 of this process.  Are you on track to hit the milestones you laid out for yourself?  Do your current social media profiles reflect the type of web presence you dreamed of having in Step #2?

If you find that your results don’t match up with your expectations, tweak your social media marketing campaigns in order to get them on the right track.  By making this ongoing tracking a part of your social media campaigns, you’ll prevent the frivolous waste of resources that sometimes occurs with unfocused social promotions.

Does your company currently have a social media marketing strategy?  If so, share the tips that have made the biggest difference in your campaign’s success or failure in the comments section below!

Image: Rob Warde

5 Responses

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  5. robert hill

    What a great post and what fabulous and helpful tips. I love it when I read a post such as yours and have absolutely nothing to add. That’s rare for me because I always have something to say. This time you covered it all.