Social media still feels fairly “new” to many of us.
It’s hard to overstate the rate at which social media has grown since then, to become an integral part of our daily lives.
There are now countless social media platforms, with new competitors popping up weekly (at least, it can feel that way).
Today, we use social media to maintain relationships across continents, share our big (and small) life moments with our loved ones, get the latest news, track our favorite celebrities, and more. It has reshaped how we connect, communicate, and consume content.
Social media has also become a cornerstone of modern marketing.
From the biggest global brands to nonprofits, universities, or local mom-and-pop shops, no marketing strategy is complete without a social media component.
For marketers, social media offers the opportunity to connect directly with customers and prospects, grow awareness and positive sentiment around your brand, and build a community of engaged and loyal followers.
A robust social media strategy can set you apart from your competition and drive real results for your bottom line.
In this article, we’ll explore what a social media marketing strategy is and why you need one, before diving into a step-by-step guide to creating your own strategy from scratch.
What Is Social Media Marketing?
Before getting into the specifics, let’s start with the basics: understanding the concept of social media marketing and its purpose.
Social media marketing employs social media platforms and networks as tools to promote brands, products, and services, and for organizations to connect directly with their target audience.
This is done primarily through creating and distributing content designed to engage and provide value to a brand’s ideal consumer. There are two overarching social media marketing approaches:
- Organic – content you share on your social media profiles for free.
- Paid – sponsored content on social media that leverages advertising spend to drive audiences towards a specific goal (e.g., generate leads, drive traffic to your site, etc.)
It’s a cost-effective method for reaching a diverse audience, meeting your customers where they are, and gathering insights about your target consumer’s behaviors and interests.
Beyond just producing content, social media allows your brand to build and nurture a community. By interacting directly with customers and answering their questions and concerns, you can positively influence your brand’s reputation.
Let’s look a little closer at what else makes social media marketing so powerful.
Increased Brand Awareness
There are 4.8 billion social media users worldwide, representing almost 60% of the total global population. That’s a sizeable audience and a promising one for marketers.
Whether you’re looking to attract new customers in markets from the other side of the world or help build awareness with local shoppers, social media marketing can help you do it.
And all marketers know that with increased awareness comes more leads, which creates more sales.
Good Return On Investment (ROI)
You don’t need a huge budget to build an audience on social media, and that’s one of the things that makes it such a popular marketing tool.
Creating a business profile is usually free on most platforms, and it’s not essential that you put money into paid social content; you can achieve your goals with the right organic strategy.
Just by focusing on consistently posting content your targets will find valuable, you can build an audience and expand your reach.
Social platforms can also help your search engine optimization efforts.
While there’s no direct correlation between your search engine ranking and social media – in that, your ranking is not directly affected by what you post on YouTube or Instagram – there is a connection.
For one, social media allows you to boost your content. This leads to more traffic and more engagement, which are positive user signals.
It also gives you more opportunities for generating backlinks, not to mention that your profile could rank in its own right for search terms.
Better Customer Service
Increasingly, customers are turning to social media to easily reach out to brands – whether they need help troubleshooting an issue or are looking for tips and tricks.
This provides a major opportunity for companies to offer seamless customer service and help rectify problems.
It can be an effective way to turn a negative experience into a positive one while allowing you to keep your finger on the pulse of patterns in buying, use, and potential issues.
What Is A Social Media Strategy?
All the benefits we just talked about sound pretty darn nice – so how do we make them happen?
That’s where a social media marketing strategy comes in.
A social media strategy is a thorough roadmap that outlines how your brand will leverage social media to achieve your marketing and business goals.
The purpose of a social strategy is to provide direction for your social marketing efforts, ensuring that they are aligned with your business’s overarching objectives, and are thoughtfully designed to create results.
Your social media marketing strategy will typically include details such as your target audience(s), which platforms you’ll use, any key metrics or KPIs, content strategy, community management approach, and more – which we’ll cover in more detail later in this guide.
Why You Need A Social Media Marketing Strategy
Now that you know what a social media strategy is, the next logical question is: Do you really need one?
The answer: a resounding ‘yes’. If you’re going to jump into the world of social media marketing, you must have a strategy.
Things move extremely fast on social media; the algorithms, features, and platforms are changing day to day. And without a well-considered strategy, it’s incredibly easy to fall behind.
A social media strategy gives you the guardrails and structure necessary to keep you on the path to success and prevent you from getting overwhelmed. Here are some other reasons why you need a social strategy:
- Efficiency: Having a concrete plan in place means you can allocate your time and resources to the areas that matter most. Your strategy should provide clarity on where you’re focusing, the platforms you’re prioritizing, what your content strategy is, and where to put your advertising dollars (if any). From here, you can make sure you’re allocating your resources appropriately.
- Consistency: With your strategy in hand, you’ll be able to maintain consistency in your content, your messaging, your brand voice and tone, and your visual identity across platforms.
- Long-term sustainability: Your strategy will keep your brand on the straight and narrow so that you can nurture a meaningful social presence. It will help you keep your key goals and metrics top-of-mind, and prevent you from getting sidetracked by fleeting trends or short-term efforts that ultimately peter out.
How To Create A Social Media Strategy In 11 Steps
1. Set Clear, Measurable Objectives
As with any other marketing approach, the first step to crafting an effective social media strategy is to clearly define what you aim to accomplish.
Start with your “why.” Why is your brand diving into the social media space, and what do you ultimately hope to achieve? These are the first questions you should be asking yourself.
As you define the answers, you should be keeping your brand’s larger goals in mind, and thinking about how your objectives will ladder up to, or align with them.
Do you want to boost brand awareness? Increase traffic to your website? Generate new leads or conversions? Improve your brand’s reputation? Nurture an engaged and loyal audience?
You might have one specific goal or several – just be sure that each of them satisfies the following three criteria:
- It’s achievable.
- It’s measurable.
- It’s relevant to your brand.
Once you know why you’re doing this, you can start getting more specific.
2. Identify Your Audience
Next, you will want to determine who you are targeting on social media.
This is crucial, as success will depend on creating content that interests and engages your audience – and that starts with knowing who they are.
One helpful step you can take is to develop customer personas that represent who you will be talking to on social media, and group similar audience members together.
These detailed personas can (and should) cover everything from how old they are and where they live to their interests, pain points, content preferences, and online behavior.
Be sure to include things like:
- Demographics – age, gender, job title, salary, location, etc.
- Interests – what type of content would interest them? What topics do they engage with? What are their hobbies and passions, both at work and at home?
- Their goals in relation to your content – are they looking for a new job? To improve their fitness? To learn a skill? To find a software solution to save them time? To discover a delicious new ice cream brand? Think about how your brand, product, or service will be the solution to their goals.
- Where they spend time – what is their social platform of choice? Are they hanging out on LinkedIn or TikTok? Or both?
- Content consumption – are they more likely to watch videos or read text posts? What kind of content are they looking for on social? What other brands or individuals are they following?
One caveat to note: Don’t get too granular trying to target outliers or exceptions. Instead, look for generalities that are consistent with each grouping.
All of this information will be paramount in informing what content you make, where, and how it comes to life.
3. Check Out The Competition
By now, you may have enough audience data to understand which platforms you might prioritize.
But before you make that call, it helps to take a look at the social media activity of your competitors, or other companies in similar industries.
There’s a good chance some of your competitors already use social media marketing, which is great news – you can learn from them.
Do a deep dive into their profiles and content to see what strategies they’re employing, what topics they’re covering, and what kind of engagement they’re getting on different pieces of content. This will help you get a feel for the kind of content your audience likes – as well as the ones they’re not as interested in.
Which platforms are your competitors active on, and which ones are they not using? Where are they getting the best results, and where is engagement lacking? Is this because your targets prefer one platform over another, or are your peers missing an opportunity?
By studying your competitors’ social profiles and content, you can spot gaps and opportunities in the market, and gather important insights to guide your strategy.
This is not a one-and-done thing, by the way. You should always stay abreast of your competitors’ social media presence as part of your social listening process.
4. Choose Your Platforms
Now it’s time to choose which social media platforms your brand will focus on, at least to begin with.
Before you go any further, take note: Your brand does not have to be on every single social platform. In fact, your brand probably shouldn’t be on every social platform – especially if you’re just starting out with social media marketing.
Selecting the right platforms is a crucial step, and you should focus on platforms that align most closely with the activity and preferences of your target audience.
The most obvious options are the “big four” platforms: Facebook, X (formerly Twitter), Instagram, and LinkedIn. But these might not all be right for your brand – and there are so many more to choose from, including TikTok, Pinterest, Snapchat, and more.
At the end of the day, it’s all about meeting your audience where they are.
Are you targeting retirees? TikTok might not be the best choice for you. But if you’re looking to reach a Gen Z audience, you should likely be there. If you’re a B2B brand, you probably want to be on LinkedIn – but there are also opportunities there for B2C brands, too.
Do some research into each platform to understand their strengths and weaknesses and how they might fit into your strategy.
5. Define Your Brand’s Voice And Tone
In social media marketing, just as with all marketing, keeping a consistent brand voice and tone is key.
Before you begin posting on social media – and even before you develop your content strategy – you should align internally on what you’d like your tone to be.
Will it be cheeky? Serious and informative? Casual yet educational? Snarky? Whatever you choose, ensure it makes sense for who you’re speaking to, and that it’s infused consistently throughout your content.
In an ideal world, your marketing department already has established guardrails here that you can leverage – but feel free to make small tweaks to optimize for a social audience.
6. Optimize Your Profile(s)
Your social profiles are where your content is aggregated on each platform, and it’s the first place social users will go to learn more about your brand. That’s why it’s important you include all the necessary information upfront.
Start by choosing a handle that reflects your business. Then, include your business name, contact details, some information about your company in the bio, and anything else visitors might need to know.
Here, you can use a keyword research tool to determine which words and phrases your customers use in search and include them in your profile.
The visual elements are key here. Make sure your branding is consistent, and you’re using correctly sized and formatted images so that they show up in the highest possible quality.
The goal is to make your brand instantly recognizable across all touchpoints.
7. Develop Your Content Strategy
It’s time to build your content strategy, which will be the essence of your social media marketing presence.
Before you do too much, revisit your goals and the target audience information you compiled in earlier steps. These will help form the foundation of your strategy and the content you plan to make.
Then, think about the platforms you’re going to be using and what trends you have noticed there in terms of content formats, types, and topics that are most popular.
Depending on the platform(s) you’re using, your content might include educational videos, links to blog posts, memes, polls, or anything else your audience will find useful.
This usually generates better engagement and sharing among your audience than strictly sales-focused pieces.
Focus on including a diverse mix of content types – from informative to entertaining to promotional content about your brand – as well as formats.
Just make sure every piece of content reflects your brand’s voice and tone, serves your objectives, and provides value to your audience.
8. Create A Social Media Content Calendar
As we’ve touched on, consistency is very important when it comes to social media marketing. You want to maintain audience engagement, which requires a consistent flow of valuable content.
In order to achieve this, you need to make a content calendar that clearly outlines when you’ll be posting and where you’ll be posting it.
At first, you might want to experiment with posting times and frequency to find what works best for your brand and audience. Ideally, you want to find a sweet spot between posting too much (and annoying your audience) and posting too little (and being forgotten about).
Your goal is to catch the attention of the most people and generate as much engagement as you can – and this will vary, depending on several factors like your business, your audience, the time of year, different holidays, etc.
The great thing about a content calendar is that it will keep you organized and allow you to think ahead. Using your calendar, you can plan for major events, holidays, industry moments, and trends.
Is there a specific holiday that is super relevant to your brand and audience? Start planning your content at least a few weeks in advance, so you’ll be ready to roll.
A content calendar can also be very useful for keeping team members (and stakeholders from other teams) informed about your social media plans.
9. Consider Community Engagement
Social media marketing isn’t just about posting content and signing off. It’s about really engaging your audience, and building a community on each platform.
You should consider how you will do this as you build out your strategy.
Ask yourself questions like, who will respond to comments and messages? How will we handle customer complaints or customer service inquiries via social media? How can we actively start conversations with our audience?
Make sure to include space in your social strategy to proactively engage with other individuals, brands, and content in your space.
10. Track Your Performance
At this point, you should have started posting content to social media – and it’s time to start analyzing your performance.
By looking at your metrics, you can gather information about what’s working and start to identify trends.
This is another one of those steps that never ends; you should regularly assess how your content is performing on social media and optimize based on what you find.
Most social media platforms offer some analytics for business accounts, where you can view numbers for metrics like reach, impressions, engagement rate, click-through rates, and more. The ones you focus on will depend on your goals and the KPIs you set for yourself.
For example, if you’re looking to grow brand awareness, you’ll want to look at the number of impressions your posts are getting. If your goal is to increase engagement, you’ll want to track likes, comments, and shares. Or, if you’re using paid ads, you probably want to keep an eye on your cost per click.
Look for commonalities among your most successful and least successful posts. This will give you insight into the type of social content you should lean into, and what you can deprioritize.
Also, don’t forget to read (and reply to!) the comments. Comments from your audience can be very insightful and will help you understand the sentiment around what you’re posting.
11. Optimize And Refine Your Strategy
Social media is constantly evolving, and so should your marketing strategy.
Social media marketing isn’t the type of thing that pays instant dividends. It takes time to understand what works and how to be successful.
But one thing is certain: You won’t be successful by playing it safe and sticking to a static strategy.
Even once you feel confident that your content is on-brand and generating the right results for you, your strategy will still require regular adjustments based on changing preferences, trends, and audience needs.
Keep looking to your performance insights to find what works best, and adjust content as needed.
Experiment with new content formats, features, and tactics to see what opportunities you might be missing. There are always new content features being released on social media platforms, as well as being phased out. Stay on top of these.
Pay attention to the social landscape and what your competitors are doing.
The goal is to always be looking for new ways to maximize the impact of your social media presence.
And while that’s a job that is never done, over time, you’ll gain a feel for what you’re doing that will help you generate more consistent results.
The world of social media marketing can be a daunting one, and it’s easy to get distracted or discouraged.
But keep at it.
A well-crafted social media marketing strategy can go a long way in growing your business and even boosting your bottom line – and the returns are well worth the investment.
Remember to regularly step back and look at the bigger picture.
Focus on creating valuable, engaging content that’s aligned with your brand goals and objectives.
Be willing to experiment, put in the resources, and embrace the unknown, all with the purpose of creating authentic connections with your audience and helping your business thrive.
By putting in the work, keeping an open mind, and not being afraid to take risks, your social media marketing strategy will help you reap the rewards for your business.
Featured Image: mrmohock/Shutterstock
Subscribe to our email newsletter to get the latest posts delivered right to your email.