How to Create a Social Media Strategy

Many businesses are unsure of how to effectively leverage social media as part of their marketing efforts. Some merely post messages once a year on their Facebook fan page or on Twitter only to say that social media ‘didn’t work’ for them. For a small business with limited resources, it might be difficult to hire in-house or even outside social media help, so they continue to blindly navigate the waters. It pains me to see this, so I’ve decided to share a formula we use for our clients when determining their social media strategy. My hope is that small business owners can use this as a template for getting started with an effective social media plan.

1. Determine marketing goals. Get clear about the specific objectives you want to achieve. We all want more clients and more money, but consider the steps it takes to get the business leads that result in more business. Reasonable online marketing goals could include: increase in website traffic or foot traffic to your location, increased customer feedback on social sites, and generating more email opt-ins.

2. List your current marketing outlets. Review this list and consider what can be integrated to maximize the use of social media. For example, if you use direct mail, could you add the links to your Facebook fan page or Twitter handle? If time or money is a concern, also consider what marketing activities can be shifted or replaced with social media. If you’re running costly print ads in a local newspaper, but find you’re not getting the results you want, would it be reasonable to start to shift some of those funds to hiring part-time staff to manage your social media?

3. Determine your target audience or ideal client. It’s important to identify exactly who you want to reach in order to develop a solid plan of action. Be as specific as possible. Consider industry, gender, age, purchase habits, income level, education level, etc. For the purpose of this blog, let’s say that your plan is to target brides.

4. Decide on the message. Now that you’ve established your goals and decided on your audience, it’s time to determine how you plan to reach them. What do you have to say? What value can you offer? Using brides as an example, you may want to inform them of ways they can save money and still have the wedding of their dreams.

5. Determine channels for reaching your audience. Where is your audience? If you are targeting brides, you might find that more brides are using Pinterest or watching YouTube videos. You could display DIY boards on Pinterest. You might create short video clips with money saving tips. You could even feature video testimonials of brides who have used your service and saved money. For small businesses doing it themselves, I recommend starting out with no more than two social media channels.

6. Set a 90-day plan. It’s tempting to try to do it all, but in order to remain consistent, you must start small. If you’ve decided to use Pinterest and YouTube, a reasonable 90-day plan could include building your social media community on these channels (remember to use your traditional or offline marketing avenues to help you get started) and engaging that audience with consistent, compelling content.

7. Develop an editorial calendar. Now it’s time to get specific on what you’ll do in that 90-day plan. Develop a theme or focus-area for each month. Determine the type of content you’ll post and frequency of the content.

8. Build a maintenance schedule. This is where we get to the nitty-gritty. Create a maintenance calendar of daily, weekly, monthly, and as-needed tasks. Consider things like monitoring the accounts and responding to the audience, continuing to build the audience, and writing the content for the day, week or month.

9. Assign responsibilities. If you’re like many business owners, you might intend to do it all yourself. But I find that’s not always realistic. Be sure to assign a specific person to each task – even if it is you. Also consider the time involved in completing each task so you can schedule your time appropriately.

10.Evaluate. After 90 days, review your progress. Were your goals met? Did you reach your intended audience? What worked and what didn’t work? Should you shift your focus or maintain what you’ve done? Are there other forms of media you want to consider? Be honest with yourself about these results and adjust your social media plan accordingly.

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