I often get asked how business owners or marketing professionals should approach their social media marketing. Invariably my answer is to draft a social media strategy before they go any further.
Simply having a Facebook page won’t increase sales. It’s what you do with it that can be effective. You need a plan and to operate with intention.
A social media strategy is a written document that details goals, processes and more. It’s a living document that requires updating. But it always serves as a touchpoint for making decisions regarding social media.
Your strategy doesn’t have to be fancy. I create mine in Microsoft Word. But I spend a lot of time deciding what to include in each of these fields.
What do you expect to accomplish on your company’s social media? Maybe it’s to increase sales, attract leads, or raise awareness. Start with your company’s mission statement. Your social media objectives will probably mirror that of your real world business. Avoid specific goals or numbers for now. (We’ll get to that later.)
Who are you trying to reach? List the demographic and behavioral details of your target market. Include things like age, educational level, career experience, or lifestyle. Consider geography as well and think about where your audience lives and if they’ll have access to your physical location.
What’s your organization’s online personality? Your company’s brand might be serious or silly. Consider how you’d talk to customers on the phone if they called. You should probably talk to them the same way online. If you’re selling professional or financial services, you want to maintain professionalism. If you’re representing a sports team or kids birthday venue there may be more room to goof around.
Take this seriously. Since you’re not looking contacts in the eye, it’s easy to let loose and communicate less strictly than you normally would. But if your messaging is inappropriate, followers will notice.
Where on social media will you be active? Be choosy! You’d rather be strong on one or two platforms than weak on many. Think about where your audience spends their time online. Facebook is pretty universal for most ages (despite what you may have heard). But other platforms will be better suited to certain applications.
Instagram is a great platform for promoting food, clothing, art, or other visual products. LinkedIn would be an appropriate platform for selling insurance. But customers aren’t hopping on Snapchat to decide where to invest for retirement.
What, when, and how often will you post to social media? Think about what your audience will find interesting and shareable. And each platform is different. Facebook is a low volume, high value platform. So you may only post every few days there. Twitter on the other hand is high volume, low value. So you may tweet several times every day.
Make sure your content is always relevant to your product or service, but don’t be overly promotional. Ad agency owner and author Gary Vaynerchuk has a helpful philosophy on content. One of his books is titled Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook. Think of the jabs as free, entertaining content you post between messages trying to close the sale.
I like to follow what’s called the “social media rule of thirds.”
- 1/3 of content from outside sources
- 1/3 of content promoting yourself
- 1/3 of content based on personal interactions
Partners & Competitors
Who should you watch to see what they do online? This serves several purposes. First, you’re simply seeing what works well for others in your field. Obviously you wouldn’t want to copy someone else’s campaign. But it could give you some ideas.
Following partners is also a great way to curate other people’s content. List media outlets that may report on your company, nonprofits you’ve donated to or volunteered for, and strategic business partners you can share leads with. Then include their social media profiles in Facebook and Twitter lists so it’s easy to share or retweet their content.
Conversely though, create lists you can use for competitive monitoring. Following your competitors online could give you early notice of new products in development, promotions that could hurt your sales, or reveal opportunities for your company to fill gaps competitors can’t.
Goals & KPI’s
What are measurable key performance indicators that can tell us social media is helping to achieve business objectives? I like to set goals for both online engagement and real world behaviors.
For example, likes and retweets are important. So set goals for the number of new fans, shares, etc. But also outline the number of sales, requests for information, or appointments you expect to see. I tend to evaluate these numbers every 3-6 months and reassess the strategy from there.
Who will you call during a crisis? If a lower level employee runs your social media, they should know who to contact when they receive certain types of questions. They should also know how to behave during emergencies such as natural disasters, robberies, or service outages. Social media can serve as a valuable communications tool in those situations. But it can also contribute to confusion if posts to the page are ill-advised or the person posting doesn’t have accurate information.
Bonus: Paid Advertising
Social media (especially Facebook) is increasingly becoming a pay-to-play environment, requiring administrators to boost posts with paid advertising. While you’re planning your social media strategy, take the opportunity to create a brief social media advertising budget.
You may want to use ads to boost posts, build your audience, or send people to your website. Decide how much you’re willing to spend on each, and outline the targeting tools you’ll use to reach your target audience.
Once you have a completed social media strategy, use it as a guide in decision making. You’ll find your social media activities are easier and more effective going forward.