Studies have shown that social media has a significantly higher lead-to-close rate than outbound marketing, in some cases up to 100%! In addition, a higher number of social media followers tends to improve trust and credibility for your small business through social proof. As such, a solid social media strategy is an imperative tool as part of the marketing and communications strategy for all businesses, no matter the size or industry.
Whilst the various social media platforms may be overwhelming at first, they are an essential part of any modern marketing plan and can be effective for any business, from the big B2B firms right down to your next door neighbour’s organic toothpaste home factory. In this article, we break down the basics of a social media strategy for business so you can begin to grow your business through the power of social media!
CREATE A SOCIAL MEDIA STRATEGY IN 7 EASY STEPS
1. Identify business goals
You have probably already defined your business goals for the year (or quarter, or week), but if not, now is the time to determine what exactly you are aiming to achieve. Do you want to make $20k sales per month? Or are sales less important, and you are simply looking to increase awareness of your business through store visits? A clear business goal is important for measuring success and defining the strategy of your overall business, and is also necessary to design the direction of your social media strategy.
Once you have identified your business goal, you can begin to consider how social media can help to achieve the desired outcomes. If you need to achieve $20k sales per month, how much of that will come from walk in customers, compared to customers found through social media or other marketing channels? Let’s say you are hoping to make 50% of sales through social media channels – you now have your first goal set and are ready to work on your strategy!
Before moving to the next step it is a good idea to check that your social media goal is SMART. As an example, using the above goal of $10k sales:
- Is it specific? Yes, $10k is a round number and a clear target.
- Is it measurable?
- Is it acheivable? It depends on your business and current sales, but for argument’s sake let’s say yes.
- Is it relevant? Absolutely – $10k sales through social media will allow the hypothetical business to pay its staff for the month.
- Is it time-bound? Yes, we have specified $10k per month.
2. Define your audience
With such vast numbers of people on social media, you have the potential to reach customers in every corner of the world! That being said, it is unlikely that your target market is every person in the world, so it is necessary to define your ideal customer to ensure you can target your ads and avoid wasting precious time and money by advertising to the wrong people. Ask yourself:
- Who am I talking to? How old are they and what do they do? Imagining an ideal customer can help you answer these questions and shape the type of content you will qpost.
- Where are they located? Is your business local or global? You will want to ensure you are connecting to only the people who are actually able to purchase your product or service.
- What do they like to talk about? What do they like to do? Posting content related to the interests of your audience is imperative in your social media strategy. You want to share information that is engaging to them, not you.
- What’s in it for them? What will your audience get out of connecting with your business on social media? Will you share discount codes or invitations to special events? Think about what your audience wants and work out a way to give it to them!
3. Research competition
For a new social media strategy, competitor information is invaluable in creating an effective campaign. Not only is it free, a competitor analysis will allow you to see what type of content engages your audience, which platforms they are engaging on and how they are likely to respond.
The first step in competitor analysis is to identify your competitors. Search for businesses similar to yours and with a common target market, and take note of how they engage with social media. Are they engaging with videos, lists or blog posts? Is your competitor offering special discounts or giveaways? And how much engagement do they have compared to the number of followers? You should also keep an eye on how the competitor is responding to engagement, whether they respond to comments and what type of responses they craft.
4. Identify channels
There are new social media channels popping up daily, so it is wise to identify exactly which channels are most frequented by your customers, and which will encourage the most engagement at the best value. Each channel has it’s pros and cons, and the below list shows just a few of the most widely used platforms:
- By far the biggest channel with an estimated 1.44 billion users each month, a Facebook page for your business is a must. Facebook allows for highly specific targeted advertising and allows customers to interact publicly with the business. Facebook advertising can be expensive, however when used correctly in conjunction with an integrated social media strategy can be highly effective.
- This channel is more for communicating directly to your audience, as compared to Facebook which is more focused on networking. The 140 character limit may be restrictive, however the use of great hashtags can keep you in the loop with current news and pop culture, allowing a wider reach.
- Google +. This platform is often overlooked, however has approximately 359 million active users. Hangouts and hashtags can grow page popularity rapidly, and the fact that it is a part of Google means there is a positive effect on SEO. When Google + users search for your business they will see your most recent posts on the right side of their search results, a simple and effective way to encourage engagement.
- A valuable social media channel that allows you to share images and increase your website traffic. Pins encourage users to click through to your site, and well-designed pins are often shared rapidly amongst other users.
- LinkedIn. As a social network specifically for business people, LinkedIn enables you to target specific groups of professionals. Furthermore, LinkedIn Groups offer an opportunity to establish yourself as a market leader in a particular niche, with exposure to hundreds of thousands of potential customers.
- YouTube. A fantastic channel for encouraging engagement as your viewers get to see your face or hear your voice, which builds a trusting relationship and increases conversions. Not only is it a social media platform, YouTube is also the second largest search engine after Google, so good use of keywords and SEO tactics are a must.
5. Create Content Calendar
A content calendar sets out what type of content you will post to which social media networks, and at what time. It can be as basic as a calendar that displays your topics for the month, along with the form of post (video, meme, article, infographic etc.) and the context (eg. should your videos be serious, educational, funny or something else?).
The content calendar should also include the frequency of posting to each channel. This must be carefully designed and monitored, as too many posts may irritate your audience and cause them to unfollow, whereas too few posts will lead to lower engagement and potentially lower SEO results. Below are a few widespread rules of thumb regarding the optimal frequency for posting on each social network, however it is really down to trial and error, and requires constant monitoring of all your channels to see what works best for your business.
- Facebook – 2 posts per day
- Twitter – 1-4 tweets per day
- LinkedIn – 1 post per day
- YouTube – 1 video per week
- Pinterest – 4 pins of related content for every 1 pin you post
6. Get Started!
Once you have planned your content calendar, it’s time to get started! Begin to write your content focusing on what you know your audience wants to hear, then as feedback starts rolling in you can adjust your content or refine your niche as required.
Almost all social networks allow you to schedule posts in advance which can save a huge amount of time, however don’t rely on this feature too heavily and make sure you are responding to your audience.
7. Review & refine
Your social media strategy is not immutable, and should be regularly reviewed adapted to increase audience engagement. Set away some time each week to work out which type of content received the highest engagement, and plan your future content around the best performing content. You can also capitalize upon current events by reacting quickly and releasing related content, driving viewers to your page through trending topics.