Five things you need to create a successful social media strategy

October 13, 2016Social Media

Social media is one of the most powerful tools in your marketing arsenal. However, many businesses readily delve into social media marketing without a clear strategy in place. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach. Everything you do will depend on your audience and its unique needs and interests.

Failure to do so will see your social efforts muted. While everything needs to be tailored for your own organisational goals and audience interests, there are five things that every brand can do to ensure their social media efforts has the potential to get some love.

Know what you want to gain from social media

With 1.6 billion people on Facebook, over 1000 million on WhatsApp, around 400 million on Instagram and 320 million on Twitter, businesses around the world are aware that many potential and active customers are on social media. This simple fact results in brands feeling pressured into hopping onto the social media bandwagon – something they too often do without any purpose or strategic intent.

And it’s here that things can go terribly wrong.

No matter what kind of organisation you’re behind or product you’re trying to market, you need to have a solid concept of what you want to gain from social media. Do you want to drive traffic to landing pages? Do you want to amplify a content strategy and run a drip-fed marketing campaign? Do you need to drive attendance to an event? Or simply let potential service users know you exist?

Take, for example, the social media marketing campaign run by the US-based private school, Sewickley Academy. Sewickly knew it wanted to connect with students and recruit prospects. To do this, the marketing team strategised an inbound marketing strategy aimed at women with prep-school-aged children. The data showed women of this age group were highly active on Pinterest at the time so that’s where they concentrated their efforts – on a killer Pinterest strategy to promote their school.

Of course they used other platforms, including Facebook, Twitter and a blog, but Pinterest was their star and all other efforts were considered supplementary. Brendan Schneider, director of admission and financial aid at Sewickley Academy, told Contently: “From internal research, we know that women, a.k.a. moms, make the decision in terms of schooling for their kids. If that’s where the moms are, that’s where we should be.

“It started as an experiment in that way. When we first started, we were definitely pinning stuff – to use it effectively, you have to not only think about your Pinterest but also your web strategy. All our news stories have to have a great, big image so when it pins, it will show up nicely on the screen.”

Their strategy was to appeal to mums of a certain age, education and economic background. Schneider says he learnt pretty quickly that if Pinterest was going to play a crucial part of its inbound marketing strategy, he would need to do more than just share content specific to the Academy. Instead, the Pinterest boards are filled with ‘Fun Stuff for Kids‘ and Great Ideas for Families.

Find the right social network for your business

Yes, the majority of social media users are on Facebook. But that doesn’t mean you should be. Choosing the right social network for your business is an important step in mapping out your social media strategy.

There are some questions you should ask yourself before jumping into any network:

  • How much time do you have to dedicate to social media? Remember, this has to include creating, sharing, curating content, responding and engaging with your audience.
  • Do you want to advertise on social media? If so, what’s your budget?
  • Who is your audience and what social networks are they on?
  • What networks are your main competitors on? How effectively are they engaging audiences?
  • What devices do your customers use to access social media and at what time during the day?
  • Do they supplement their social media with other forms of activity, such as exercise, watching TV or shopping? And if so, which are the best networks to engage with them in real time during those events?

As Dara Fontein from Hootsuite’s blog says, “You may feel like if you don’t have a presence on each and every network you’re missing out on audience members there, but the time and money required for keeping up with this mass platform strategy is unrealistic and exhausting for any social media marketer.”
For this reason, it’s important to concentrate your social efforts in a strategic way. Take a look at Fontein’s post, The Top Social Media Sites that Matter to Marketers, to find out which networks marketers believe perform best along with some key demographic stats.

Know your audience, act like your audience, be your audience

There’s a caveat to this section – you should hopefully know something about your audience already. If you’re an established business, you should have some understanding of your customer or user personas. If you don’t, or if you’re just starting out, take a look at how to define buyer personas for your content marketing.

This knowledge will give you a solid framework around your audience’s:

  • age.
  • gender.
  • location.
  • interests.
  • pain points.

The framework this information provides should naturally lead you to gravitate to certain social platforms, such as LinkedIn if your brand is targeting 35- to 54-year-old financial professionals with some senior decision-making authority in their business.

Once you’ve started your social media pilot, then you get the opportunity to use social media to discover more about your audiences and how they use their platforms of choice. Social Media Examiner has an excellent post on How to Research and Locate your Audience using Social Media, but there’s an element to social that needs to be just that – social.

Listening to what your audience is doing online and replicating their behaviour, even leading them in it, is key to becoming influential on social media. For example, let’s return to the social geniuses behind the Sewickley Academy’s content marketing. The team didn’t just post content about how great their school was – they made boards about things that their audience was interested in. In effect, they were replicating the kinds of content their audience – mums – was pinning and posting themselves.

Lately, we’ve seen political campaigns (both in Australia and overseas) go strong with this approach. The Hillary Clinton campaign has an entire team dedicated to social media – including Twitter, Facebook and Instagram – so they can deliver an ‘authentic voice’, the kind that social media users on those platforms have come to expect from non-political influencers they admire and follow.

This way, they can deliver live tweets during key debates and advertisement spots and engage with the many celebrities they have recruited to support them online, in ways that naturally reflect the behaviour patterns of the app users themselves.

Use a calendar and automate what you can, but don’t just set and see

First you’ll need an editorial calendar to keep on top of your content marketing, including your blog, your newsletters, your video content and any ebooks or white papers you plan to publish. Then you’ll need a social media calendar. Hootsuite updates its incredibly detailed calendar regularly, and even though it’s been bouncing around in its various forms for years, it’s still one of the best you’ll encounter. It’s number four on this list of social media templates.

If you’re doing a lot of social media, you may want to consider using an app to automate it. These include Hootsuite, Buffer, SproutSocial, HubSpot, Social Oomph and Social Flow. Each has unique features but essentially they all allow you to schedule social media posts in advance and monitor your accounts when someone mentions your brand or leaves a comment.

But don’t use automation as an excuse for laziness. You need to be present, interactive and even a little unpredictable at times. Customers and audiences love to be responded to promptly and personally.

Head to Mashable’s blog for more tips on how to automate your social media.


Start posting, testing and reviewing your metrics, then adjust, adapt and evolve

The depth of your metrics and goals should be continually evolving and up for consideration. During your pilot campaign, it’s best to keep them broad, such as complete three sets of A/B testing and review metrics.

Once your pilot is complete, you can start to set more defined KPIs and work with the metrics that best represent the values and goals of your campaign.
We advise you stay clear of vanity metrics and focus on actionable metrics if you want to gain real insight. Vanity metrics include things such as:

  • likes.
  • shares.
  • followers.
  • downloads.
  • page views.

These are nice to have as background info but they tell you little about what’s really happening with your campaign. Split testing is one way to get valuable feedback about what your audience wants. This involves running multiple versions of a campaign. The tweaks can be minor (changes to the copy or call to action) or they can be significant creative differences. You can also split test demographics, such as showing the same creative to two different audiences to see how it performs.

The most important component of actionable metrics is the action. Once you’ve got your data, don’t be afraid to tweak your campaign to reflect the learnings. One of the greatest returns on your social media investment is the option to change it up as a response to live performances and data; you don’t have that fluidity when it comes to television, radio or print.

Most importantly, you should be regularly reporting on your learnings, strategising new experiments and tests as a result of them.

Use these tips to create a well-defined social media strategy so your business can set its expectations, what platform to use, how to effectively talk to its target audience and measure results.


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