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How to Build Your Social Media Marketing Strategy

Looking to build a social media marketing strategy? Feeling overwhelmed by the countless platforms available today? You're not alone.

The social media starfish, an image devised by Robert Scoble and Darren Barefoot back in 2007, resembles a many-headed hydra a decade or so later.

While the dozen generic arms of the starfish hold up well, the social media networks missing are as significant as the ones that have lasted. Hello, Instagram, Pinterest, SnapChat, TikTok, and Ello, among others, have come onto the scene and made a tremendous impact on the world of social media and content marketing.

Importance of a Social Media Marketing Strategy

The explosion of social media use in the last two decades means developing a social media marketing strategy is more important to your business goals than ever. Failing to build a social media strategy as part of your marketing plan is a common mistake businesses make.

You may even realize you're omitting a social strategy, but might feel that you don't have the money or the available institutional knowledge to take on the task.

The most important thing when it comes to social media is to know that you need it. Fortunately, it's free to use. Even if you aren't sure how to use social media, a good marketing manager can guide you through the process.

You may have a dedicated social media manager on staff, or you may be thinking about outsourcing that role. Either way, there's one essential task to undertake before starting your strategizing. Snag placeholder accounts on all possible social media platforms to ensure someone else doesn’t try to spoof you online.

The Complexity of Social Media Platforms

Perhaps the Rubik's Cube image is a better one to illustrate social media for beginners. After all, it captures the complexity of social media marketing strategy development in 2020. Choosing which platforms to focus on and determing which pieces of content should be shared where is no easy undertaking.

Fortunately, there is a basic path most businesses should follow when setting up Facebook, Twitter, or other social networks for the first time.

The first step in creating a social media strategy is to figure out how to fish where the fish are.

In other words, if your product is aimed at millennials, Facebook may not be as good an investment of time or marketing dollars as Instagram. You will still want a presence on Facebook. But you can probably rely on organic growth and take advantage of newish features like Facebook Live and Facebook Stories.

Not sure where your target audience hangs out? Your social media specialist can help you find that information through marketing research and apply it toward your social media goals and content marketing strategy.

Researching Your Audience and Your Market

Want to get started with your social media and content marketing efforts? Look at the demographics of various social platforms and pick the ones that map most closely to what you know about your customer demographics.

Urban or rural? Young or not-so-young? Professional versus blue collar? Male or female?

The social media outlets you invest in should map to the customers you have and the customers you want.

If you’re marketing a high-end or business-to-business service, LinkedIn is the place you will want to demonstrate your thought leadership. If you’re marketing to women between the ages of 18 and 35, you’ll need a solid presence on Pinterest. And if your prime audience is millennials or Gen Zs, you can’t afford to ignore or do Instagram badly.

While content and campaigns can be recycled between social media platforms, it needs to be tweaked for each specific medium. This is incredibly important and is consistently overlooked by businesses in all industries.

Hashtags are every bit as important as written content and almost as critical as eye-catching photos and videos on Instagram. Without proper hashtag use, you simply won't be found by your target audience, no matter how active on social media your company may be. Platforms like Twitter have become much more versatile microblogging platforms, since tweets are longer than they once were, and threads can be created.

Take a look at what your competition is doing. Don't forget to look at the folks who are industry leaders as well as smaller fry. Sometimes the most inventive and cost-effective social media strategies are developed by folks with more time than money.

Also take a good look at how your competition handles controversy. A good example is the flack Yorkshire Tea received on Twitter when the Conservative Chancellor of the Exchequer featured its tea in a “budget prep break” shot. Best line of the exchange (although there was a cute little tweet of support from competitor PG Tips): “Sue, you’re shouting at tea.”

Setting Social Media Marketing Goals

With any kind of business planning, setting goals is the first step in creating a strategy. Start building your social media marketing strategy by determining reasonable and achievable goals.

Building brand awareness, growing your audience(s), increasing community engagement, and driving more traffic to your website are all valid objectives. You’ll also need to quantify what constitutes success.

Take a look at the number of followers, fans, and connections your competitors have. In addition, consider the average follower statistics for the platforms you’re creating content for. Then, try to beat them in a reasonable period of time.

Establishing Metrics to Track

When setting hard data goals for social media strategies, there are four things you need to look at: reach, clicks, engagement, and how your hashtags are performing.

How many people actually saw your post? Is it being liked, favorited, shared, and commented on? Are people clicking on your content, your logo, or your company name? If they are, it means they want more information from you.

At this stage in the sales funnel, it's okay to give your audience what they want: great and thoughtful content. This makes it more likely you will convert their clicks to sales down the line.

Next, take a look at how many people are interacting with your brand as opposed to just seeing your posts. This level of engagement gives you a clue as to whether the content you're sharing provides value of some kind to your audience.

Regularly look at the hashtags you’re using (especially on Instagram) and look at the hashtags others use when referring to your brand. Piggyback on the ones that align with your branding and marketing objectives by incorporating them in your own posts.

Drive engagement by inviting user content in a variety of ways. One particularly good strategy is to ask your friends, fans, and followers to create hashtags that work for your business. Adjust your content accordingly. Just because a hashtag is important to you doesn’t mean it will be either accepted or applauded by your audience.

Generate, Disseminate, and Curate Top-Notch Content

Just as PG Tips commiserated lightheartedly with Yorkshire Tea on Twitter, don’t forget the overarching 20:80 rule of social media content. While the ratio can and should be nudged higher for brand content, listening is at least as important as talking in the sales process. When one of your competitors does something brilliant, be generous and give it a like, a retweet, or a share with a comment that’s sincere but brief. “Wish we’d thought of that!” will do.

Create themes for your own content, and plan ahead. It might help to think of it like the specials of the day or weekly meal plans.

Rather than constantly searching for copy and images at the last minute, plan a photo shoot to take care of all imagery at once. Make sure you get enough images to post once a week for three months. If you’re a supermarket, think “Fish Fridays” or “Pasta Wednesdays," for instance. At the same time, develop a content plan well in advance.

Measure, Evaluate, Communicate

Once you have your social media strategy in place, execute it for three months and then do a social media audit. Take a look at your results and optimize your social media time and money spend. Make sure you involve the entire team in the evaluation process so you can keep them engaged and tap into their collective intelligence.

Still have questions about your social media strategy? Wordsmyth Creative Content Marketing offers businesses and brands guidance on how to use social media to sell their products and services. Contact us today for more information or for assistance with your social media goals.

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