Social Media Marketing Strategy

How to Create a Social Media Strategy in 9 Easy Steps

January 8, 2019

Updated January 2019

What if one afternoon of preparation could make you 429% more likely to succeed?

Or, what if one document could give you a 44% edge on the competition?

Writing a social media strategy is one of the most profitable activities a marketer can tackle.

In this article, we’ll show you how to pump up your profits by writing an effective social media strategy for your brand.

Before you plan content, brainstorm tactics, or create social media campaigns, follow the 9 steps listed below to ensure that your efforts deliver the highest ROI possible.

What’s a Social Media Marketing Strategy?

A social media marketing strategy is a guide that helps you stay on track during the planning and execution stages of your social media marketing.

Get ready for a wild ride, my friend, because things are changing rapidly on social media.

Thanks to 2018’s social media landscape and the rise of mobile device usage:

  • Social habits are changing.
  • Consumer behavior is changing.
  • Algorithms are censoring brand content for quality.

The fast-paced changes in today’s social media can be overwhelming, but we’ve got you covered.

By the time you finish writing your social strategy, you’ll have a blueprint for success that isn’t dependent on today’s latest trends and features.

What are the differences between a social media strategy and a social media plan?

The terms “strategy” and “planning” often get mixed up, so let’s clear up any confusion before we get started.

Your social media strategy is a guide that defines your overall purpose and intentions. It’s used to guide the day-to-day planning and execution of all your social media publishing and marketing.

During the strategy phase, you make decisions and document your choices on important points like:

  • Goals and key performance indicators
  • Target audience and buyer personas
  • Content guidelines
  • Social Platforms

Planning happens after you’ve created your strategy.

During the social media planning stage you lay the groundwork for achieving your goals. The planning stage includes:

  • Setting up your social media channels
  • Creating a content calendar
  • Delegating tasks to your team
  • Developing social media campaigns
  • Planning advertising campaigns

In this article, we’re going to show you how to create a social media strategy — the important first-step you need to be successful on social media.

Why is a social media strategy important?

Your social media strategy is like a roadmap that guides your social media planning and activities. It helps you stay on track with your original intentions.

If it seems like creating a strategy is too big an investment of your resources, consider this:

Research shows that marketers who set goals are 429% more likely to report success*.

Yet,  56% of business owners don’t have a strategy.

Do the math, and you’ll realize that creating a social strategy gives you a 44% edge on the competition.

A report by Audience Bloom content marketing agency found that the most successful brands on social media have a handful of traits in common. 3 of these traits begin with your social media strategy.

The most successful brands on social mediaThe most successful brands on social media:

  1. Know their audience
  2. Thrive on competition
  3. Reach consumers through multiple social platforms

We’ll cover all 3 of these traits in the 9 steps below, giving you an even higher chance of success.

Step 1: Establish Your Social Media Goals

In this step, you’ll make a list of social media goals that align with your overall business goals.

Why are you investing time and money into social media marketing?

Are you hoping to raise brand awareness, drive traffic, or increase conversions? Or, do you want to convert followers to leads, drive sales, or get feedback on your products?

There’s a temptation for brands to feel like they’re succeeding as their number of followers increases.

But, more followers don’t always equal more profits.

And let’s face it, selling more product is why businesses get involved on social media in the first place. So the question to ask yourself is:

How are you going to use social media in a way that ultimately increases revenue for your business?

Here are 10 possible social media goals you might want to include in your list:

10 goals your brand can achieve on social mediaBefore you choose goals, it helps to understand what social media is best for.

According to an industry report by Social Media Examiner, here is what over 5,000 of your fellow marketers say about their success on social media:

Make a list of your social media goals, in order of priority.

Set Goals that are S.M.A.R.T.

Before you choose goals, be sure they’re S.M.A.R.T!

Specific: Be clear and precise about what you want to accomplish.

Measurable: Be sure your goals can be measured in numbers.

Attainable: Challenge yourself and your team, but be reasonable about what you can accomplish.

Relevant: Be sure your goals align with your business in a way that contributes to the success and profit of your brand.

Timely: Give your goals a realistic timeframe that includes deadlines.

Once you’ve written down a list of your social media goals, you’re ready for step #2.

Step 2: Define Your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)

KPIs that can help you measure engagement, reach and ROI

Only 41% of marketers are able to measure their return on investment from social media.

Social media marketing requires a great deal of time and effort on the part of your team. This costs money, so it’s a “must” to understand how much, if any, profit your social marketing generates.

The key to tracking your success is right here in step #2 of your social media strategy.

Choose your key performance indicators (KPI’s).

In other words, decide how you’ll measure the success or failure of the goals you set in step #1.

KPIs are an essential component to a successful social media marketing strategy.

They provide real-time insights as to how your digital efforts are performing, and if you’re meeting your goals.

In this section, you’ll decide what types of measurements you’ll use to define whether or not you’re succeeding in your social marketing efforts.

KPI’s help you discover problem areas so you can take corrective action before problems get out of hand. They also help you understand what type of content is working best, so you can deliver more of what’s working.

In a recent survey, 344 marketers indicated that the most important metrics for tracking the success of their brands on social media are engagement and conversion rates.
Choose the KPI’s that align with the social media goals you set in step #1.

Here are some common KPIs that can help you measure engagement, reach and ROI:

  1. People Reached
  2. Organic vs. Paid Reach
  3. Total Engagements
  4. Total Reactions
  8. Link Clicks
  9. Video views
  10. Average Watch Time
  11. Conversion rate
  12. Brand mentions
  13. Profile visits
  14. Active followers
  15. Time spent on the website
  16. Bounce Rate
  17. Goal conversion rate

Define specific KPIs for each digital channel

Different social platforms have different personalities. So, brands often interact differently on each platform.

When defining which KPIs you’ll use to measure the success of each social channel, consider the following:

  1. What does your audience use this network for?
  2. How does your audience like to engage with brands on this platform?
  3. How can your brand enrich their experience?
  4. What KPI’s can help you measure the success of your goals listed in step #1?

Make a List of Your Top KPI’s

List the key performance indicators that you’ll use to measure the success of your social media marketing.

How do you measure the progress of KPI’s?

Most social platforms offer free analytics or insights software for business pages. These statistics give you real-time feedback on all of your KPI’s.

For example, Facebook shares analytics through a program called Facebook Insights, which is connected to your account. Insights is a free service that offers hundreds of real-time data points that show how customers are interacting with your brand.

The image below shows a glimpse of one screen from Facebook Insights.

Facebook Insights

Facebook Insights

Each social platform has its own analytics software, so get to know the insights section of the social channels you are active on. Then, you can track and measure your KPI’s with ease.

Step 3: Research Your Audience

Find out as much as possible about your audience so you can get a head start on creating content that they’re likely to engage with.

For example:

  1. Take a look at what types of content your audience likes to interact with.

    Do they engage more with videos than photos? Do they respond to positive messages over negative ones? What inspires them to like, comment, and share other brand’s content?
  2. What time of day is your audience online, and at what times are they most likely to interact with videos, photos, or stories?
  3. Are they engaging during work hours, or is your brand a part of their after-work and family hours?

This type of information can offer valuable clues into what kinds of content you should publish on social media.

A lot of this information will come from the social media analytics that each platform offers. If you don’t have enough social media history to form helpful insights, try researching information about each channel to get started.

For example, Best Times to Post to Instagram – For Marketers is a helpful industry report put together by our team here at Sharelov.

You’ll learn what kinds of content people are most likely to engage with, and what times they’re most likely to engage with brands on social media.

Plus, you’ll get plenty of tips and advice for increasing your engagement rates on Instagram.

Speaking of your audience…

If you’ve never created buyer personas before, drop what you’re doing and take some time to set up your buyer personas right now.

What is a Buyer Persona?

A buyer persona is a description of a specific type of customer. It’s fictional but represents a real group of people.

Aim to create 5 or 6 buyer personas altogether.

Each one should represent a specific type of customer that purchases from you.

If you’re just starting out, it’s okay to begin with 2-3 personas and develop more as you grow.

Begin by thinking about the different types of customers that you already have.

Fill out each buyer persona with a fictional name and image, along with details about their personality.

When you choose the name and image for your personas, pick something that helps you identify and remember them, such as:

  • Shopper Salle
  • Picky Patrick
  • Family-minded Fred.

The personal details you add should include information that helps your business better understand the persona. You might include things like:

  • Age range
  • Profession
  • Income level
  • Social habits
  • Activities and interests

Completing your buyer personas is a significant milestone that will help with all of your digital marketing efforts.

These cards help you to humanize the people you’re marketing to. Keep these personas in mind as you create and publish content.

When writing and planning out your social media posts, consider how these different personas might respond, so that you can serve them better.

Here are more details that you might consider including in your personas. Pick and choose the traits that best help your brand to deliver quality content to each personality:

  1. Personal statement: Write a quote that describes the user’s relationship to your brand.
  2. Demographics: Include age range, gender, profession, income, location, and education.
  3. Preferred social media channels: How does this person spend their time on social media?
  4. Personality Traits: List characteristics that remind you how to serve this type of customer best.
  5. Motivations: What factors can influence the customer’s decision making?
  6. Goals and frustrations: What problems does the customer need fixing? What benefits might appeal to the most?
  7. Preferred brands and influencers: What other brands and influencers do this customer trust?

Step 4: Research Your Competitors

Step 4: Research Your Competitors

In this step, your goal is to conduct a competitive analysis across various social media channels in order to:

  • Discover what your competitors are doing on social media
  • Learn how their audiences are responding
  • Find gaps in their content

There’s a wide variety of tools and software that can help you research your social media competitors. But, a quick glance at your competitors’ social pages can also give you a handful of powerful insights.

Visit your competitors’ social pages and write down answers to the following questions:

  1. What social networks are they using?
  2. Which platforms drive the highest engagement rates for their brand?
  3. How are they using social media to increase revenue?
  4. What topics are most popular with their audience?
  5. What tactics are working or not working for them?
  6. What are they missing?

Create a Competitive Analysis Chart

Create a chart for future reference that lists:

  • The names of at least 2-3 competitors
  • The tactics that are and aren’t working for them
  • The behavior traits of their audience on social media

Document the answers to the questions above in a chart that’s easy to skim and review.

The competitive analysis chart you create for your social media strategy helps your team brainstorm ideas and schedule content during the planning stages.

A smart social media marketing strategy includes information that helps you learn from your competitors and gain an edge moving forward.

The competitive research you’ve completed in this step will be helpful as you move forward in your strategic planning. Next, you’ll choose your brand’s social media platforms.

Step 5: Choose Your Social Media Platforms

In this step, you’ll identify the social networks that your brand will focus on.

Choose the best networks for your brand. Ask yourself:

  • What platform is your audience most active on?
  • What platforms can best help you achieve your goals?
  • Which platforms allow you to serve your audience best?

Each social media channel serves a distinct personality type. Your goals may be similar, but your style will likely change from channel to channel.

A recent survey found that most popular channels for B2C businesses are:

The Most Used Social Media Platforms by Marketers

The most popular social channels for B2B businesses are:

  1. LinkedIn
  2. Twitter, Facebook, YouTube (tied in popularity)
  3. Instagram

When you’re choosing social networks, look for traits that will allow your brand to succeed in the long-term.

Here’s a bit of information to help you choose your social media channels:

  1. Facebook: With more than 2.7 billion monthly active users, Facebook is generally the social hub for consumer brands. From Facebook Live to 360 videos, Facebook offers marketers the most diverse content formats to reach consumers with an unparalleled worldwide reach.  
  2. YouTube: YouTube is the king of video with more than 1.8 billion monthly active users. In fact, we watch more than 1 billion hours every day. YouTube is the destination for video discovery.
  3. Instagram: IG’s impressive growth of more than 1 billion monthly active users, as of July 2018, has positioned the network as the second most important social media platform for many brands.
  4. Twitter: Twitter is the medium for real-time communications for 336 million monthly active users. 67% of U.S. adults get news from Twitter.
  5. LinkedIn: With 260 million monthly active users as of April 2018, LinkedIn is all about business networking. It’s worth building your brand presence here if your target audience is business professionals.
  6. Pinterest: Pinterest is a visual inspiration network for product discovery and shopping. With more than 250 million active users, Pinterest is now popular with both men and women of all ages.

Make a list of Your Chosen Social Media Platforms

Make a list of the social media channels that you’ll use to promote your brand.

Tip:  If you’re a small business working with limited resources, it’s better to choose only 1 or 2 social media channels.

Then, you can focus your efforts on doing an excellent job on those networks

Step 6: Create Your Content Guidelines

Step 6: Create Your Content Guidelines

Social media users are in a constant search for news and entertainment.

If you want to hijack their attention, you have to be compelling.

Oh, and by the way, no pressure, but…

You only have about 5 seconds to tell your brand story on social media.

Your content needs to be engaging enough to make people stop their newsfeed scroll to consider your brand’s message.

In this section of your social media strategy, you’ll document guidelines for your social media content.

Begin by creating a style guide that lays out policies for how you’ll communicate with your followers. Will your brand:

  1. Will your brand seeks to entertain, inform, or educate?
  2. Will you use humor, inspiration, or data to connect with customers?
  3. How will you respond to customer complaints?
  4. How will you handle internet trolls?

Set policies that your team can follow so that the way your brand communicates on social media is consistent in quality and style.

Next, choose the types of media you’ll publish and document guidelines for each platform. Be sure to:

  1. Indicate how you’ll tailor your content for each channel.
    Each social network has a distinct personality. So, you don’t want to merely re-post the same material and messaging on each platform.
    Take the time to craft and optimize your captions, images, and videos for the personality of each channel.
  2. Include instructions that ensure your content aligns with your goals and can be measured with your chosen KPI’s.
  3. Set policies that explain how your team will determine the scheduling of your posts.
    Be sure you’re posting to social media at optimal times for user engagement. What resources or research will your team use to determine the best posting times for your brand?
  4. Consider how to balance the different types of media content like articles, videos, and images.

Creating style and content guidelines helps you stay on track with goals and deliver consistent messaging that builds trust with your customers.

Once you’ve completed your content guidelines, you’re ready to choose the tools and software that you’ll use to manage your social media marketing.

Step 7: Build Your Stack

Build Your Stack

Once you have your content guidelines written, it’s time to decide how you’ll manage the different tasks involved in social media marketing.

Tools and software can help you manage your social media marketing more effectively. Choosing the right tools and software is important because it helps you:

  • Stay organized
  • Work together more easily
  • Plan and schedule content in advance
  • Better respond to your audience

The collection of software and tools you use is called your “stack.”

In this section, you’ll choose which software and tools your team will use to help you achieve your social media goals.

Here are the tools you need to manage your social media efforts:

1. Collaboration software: This tool is at the heart of all your social media efforts. It’s a communications center that allows your team to share documents, images, and messages with each other.

Choose collaboration software that allows you to:

  • Organize your communications by campaign, date, and groups of people in one place
  • Onboard quickly.
    Choose software with an easy-to-use user interface, so your team doesn’t have to spend large amounts of time learning how to use it
  • Do your job easier and have fun while you’re at it!

Additionally, it helps if your collaboration software can:

  • Develop and preview multimedia content as it will look when it’s published
  • Assign tasks to team members
  • Automatically create “to do” lists for each team member
  • Record feedback and approvals on all items
  • Share assets with teammates

2. Content Planning & Scheduling Software

A content calendar is an essential social media tool that helps you plan and publish your content with ease.

The calendar tool should allow you to record the following information for each social platform:

  • Topics to discuss
  • Distribution and frequency of topics
  • Date & time for posts
  • Key messages  
  • Creative formats to develop
  • Special opportunities and events to consider

This tool is a priority for your team because it helps them stay on track with goals and maintain consistency for your brand’s quality, tone, and messaging across all social channels.

Be sure your content calendar allows you to publish directly from its platform! This helps you save time and spend less effort keeping your content organized.

Pssst! Sharelov gives you all the features you need for tools #1 and #2!

Our awesome social management platform includes collaboration tools plus a drag-n-drop content calendar to easily manage all your campaigns and social profiles.

Stop by today and sign up for free trial!

Try Sharelov, the best marketing collaboration platform, for Free

Analytics software: How will you track and measure the results of your campaigns? You can use the native app included with each social channel or a more complex tool that interprets data from multiple channels.

Social media listening tools: What software will you use to track what people are saying about your brand across social media? If you’re just getting started, you can hold off on this tool until you’ve built an audience.

Customer service software: If you offer customer service on social media, consider what tool(s) can improve the quality of your customer service.

Choose the tools that you’ll include in your social media stack, and write them down in your social media strategy.

Once you’ve chosen your tools and software, you’re ready to move forward by assembling your social media team.

Step 8: Organize Your Team

In this step, you pool your resources to create a team of people who will execute your social media strategy.

Successful social media requires an ongoing commitment of time and resources. The best way to meet these challenges is to develop a strong social media team.

Consider ways that your current employees or freelancers might be able to contribute. Here are some of the talents you’ll want to pool to create your team:

  • Writing
  • Design
  • Photography
  • Illustration
  • Brainstorming
  • Campaign planning
  • Trend-watching
  • Planning and organization

Working in teams helps you produce better ideas and execute them more quickly.

In the next step, we’ll take a look at how you can test, track, and optimize your social media activities.

Step 9: Test and Analyze

Step 9: Test and Analyze

In this step, you’ll define how your team will monitor and respond to data.

Testing is a critical step in social media marketing.

As you begin publishing content and interacting with your followers, analytics will help you understand which areas of your marketing are working better than others.

Begin by analyzing the results of your social media efforts — based on the KPIs you established in step #2.

For example,

  • If data indicates that Facebook is your most cost-effective channel, then consider how you can respond to that. Perhaps you’ll double your efforts on that channel.
  • If the data reveals that your audience engages more with a specific video that you posted on Instagram — then think of ways to add more content that’s similar.

Your social media marketing strategy needs to be responsive to the results.

To achieve great success, you need to take a bit of risk.

It’s great that you get started by following examples from other brands or getting tips from industry reports.

To outrank your competitors, you’ll need to do some things differently.

You want to discover which content and messaging drives the most engagement for your pages.

This requires calculated testing and experimentation.

Determine how your brand will find ways to offer unique content that’s compelling to your audience, and how you’ll test different approaches along the way.

Embrace Your Data

Statistics used to be for math nerds, but things have changed.

Social media platforms have made it simple and fun to check out what’s happening with your content. So, there’s no need to fear the data!

Adjust your social strategy along the way.

You want to continually adjust your strategy to keep up with the rapid changes in social media algorithms and behavior.

Identify the channels and efforts that are producing the highest ROI and adjust your strategy accordingly.

An effective social media marketing strategy is a constant work in progress that adapts to the changing times.

Remember to share the results and changes with your team!

When teams are armed with insights of the tactics and executions that are working and understand the ones that don’t, they can accomplish great things.

A Good Social Media Strategy Gives Your Brand a Better Chance of Success

Social media algorithms and trends change constantly. So, to keep audiences engaged, marketers adjust tactics and content in response to what’s working.

All these changes affect the type of content you’ll publish and when you’ll publish it.

Quite honestly, it can leave your head spinning.

Your social media strategy saves the day and reduces the “overwhelm” that’s part of any marketer’s job.

Take as much time as needed to develop your social media strategy.

It’s a guide that you and your team will refer to over and over again as you navigate your way through the decisions and creative processes that make your brand a success.

Do you have any tips for writing a social media strategy? If you’ve written a social media strategy for your brand’s social marketing, we’d love to know how it’s working for you.

Please share your experience, comments, and questions below – we’d love to know how your strategy is making a difference!

With Sharelov, your team can work together faster to produce better marketing campaigns from social media to traditional.

How to Create an Effective Social Media Marketing Strategy [Infographic]

Infographic: How to Create an Effective Social Media Marketing Strategy in 2018