This is a seven step guide to creating a social media marketing strategy to reach more customers and drive greater on-line awareness for your brand or product. For a business to really capitalise from social media, it needs to build a clear strategy that takes into account what are the goals, what are you trying to achieve, who are the target customers are and what is the competition is doing.
Social media marketing can be defined as the use of blogs, articles and content marketing, white papers, video and images to share on social networks to raise awareness to pull in the web traffic and prospects
1st Step; Understand your social media goals
As with any planning in business, the first thing anyone needs to do when creating a social media marketing strategy is to understand what you want to get from it?. What are the goals (traffic, leads, likes, buyers, SEO) so you know the purpose of your social media efforts. For some businesses it is to do with creating or raising awareness of a brand or product. For some companies the focus will be on generating leads, increasing sales or driving website traffic. Larger companies many look to social media to build customer loyalty, increase community size or use as a communication channel. The key point here is the goal for your social media strategy has to go beyond simply gaining Facebook likes and Twitter followers. The above examples are only a few areas a business could focus on, but depending on your resources a business should ideally focus on one primary or one secondary goal. Remember if you do not have goals, targets and measures of success then in all likelihood you are not going to accomplish any meaningful results from social media activity.
2nd Step; Create measurable targets and objectives
The second step is to now set clear targets and objectives based on the goals you have set. Remember the “S.M.A.R.T” method, so make sure your social media goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time based.
Let us take the example of a business with a social media goal focused on increasing sales, then you might decide that the target is to generate an additional fifty on-line leads a month via landing pages, whitepaper or eBook downloads. If on the other hand, the goal set is to create brand awareness, then a target could the number of times your brand is mentioned on the social media networks per month. Also worth noting at this point, your goals, targets and objectives for social media should be directly tied to overall business goals, and they should be achievable. Goals without targets, actions and activities are just wishful thoughts. It is important to make sure the objectives are time limited. For example, you need to achieve a 100 percent growth in on-line leads generated within the next six months, not at some vague point in the future.
Now that you have set the targets and objectives you need to make sure you can measure them. There are lots of social media tools to track and analyse activity and quantify your progress. These tools like Klout, Google Analytic, TweetDeck, Buffer or Social Mention to name a few, can let you know when your progress plus they will also help you to identify any trends early and adjust your activities if you have to.
3rd Step; Customer targeting – who do you sell to
So now, the goals, targets and objectives have been set so now you know where you are going, so all set, right?, well no because you still do not know how you are going to get there. You see a successful social media strategy is all about customer targeting, reaching the right people with the right messages. To do this, a business needs to understand “who do you sell to”. For example, there is no point in targeting everyone who has an interest in sport if you really want to target only those who are cycling enthusiasts.
The best way to do this is to draw up a buyer profile. What does the profile of your ideal customer or buyer look like? Make it personal and give them a name. Where do they work? How old are they? What social networks are they likely to be on? What is their income? How often do they cycle (as in above example) Do they have children? What brands do they like or dislike? What motivates them? The list of detail goes on. If you find that you have more than one ideal customer or buyer profile then create a persona for each.
4th Step; Monitor the competition
As social media activity is mostly transparent, monitoring your competitions activity will tell you a lot about what works and what does not. After all, you are all targeting the same customer set. By constantly monitoring the competition, you have a fantastic opportunity to learn from their activity and actions.
This fourth step involves researching your competitors, maybe select ones your own size, in similar locations and some of the big ones. Find out what social networks they are active on, study their content (articles, case studies, whitepapers, videos, promotions, links). Is it direct or educational? What kind of industry references do they use? Do they talk about their product, markets, industry or brand and what if any other things do they focus on (events, discounts, and webinars)?
If for example you sell bicycles, do your competitors talk about how their bicycle brands perform in races or do they post cool cycling videos that just happen to include their bicycle range? Now see how well each competitor is doing on the social networks (followers, connections, mentions, comments, shares, likes) they get on their social media pages like Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn. This should give you a good insight into what social strategies work and which ones do not.
5th Step; Develop your content marketing messaging
OK, now that you have an ideal customer or buyer profile plus insights on your competition, next up on the list is to start developing your social media messaging. This is your top line titles and key messaging you want to share (writing the detailed content comes later); a list of key messages that you think will create awareness with your customers or buyers based on the profiles you have created in step 3. A suggestion is to target three or four buzzwords or better still “Keywords”, then break each keyword down into longer tail keywords so you build up a messaging plan.
Based on monitoring your competition a lot can be gained from adopting some of their successful messaging ideas and blending them with your own unique messaging that sets you apart — this has the effect of creating a unique voice in social conversations. Be creative, daring, controversial and educational as social media activity should be exciting, not dull.
6th Step; Select the social media channels
Depending on whether your business is B2B or B2C you will need to choose the right networks that are worth investing in for the products or services.
Most of us would agree that LinkedIn is a good platform to target for business buyers or business type sales while Pinterest would be better if a business is involved with retail or fashion. Some of these channels are obvious when you look at your buyer profiles and competitors but see if any other social media channels could pay dividends like Blogger, Scoop.it, Tumblr, Plurk, and Instagram.
As part of this exercise you should identify social influencers, these are the people who can help reach your target audience. Social influencers and respected bloggers have high levels of trust in their followers or readers and can be indispensable in creating social chat buzz around your brand.
7th Step; Build a content writing and sharing plan
The last but critical step is you need to develop a strong content writing plan based on your target keywords, you need to write and share (not just your own) engaging material. The content needs to align with your overall marketing messaging as in step 5 and be relevant to the social channels you will use. Content marketing is more than promotional blogs or product information; it has to add real value in the buyer’s journey to create awareness and consideration for your business within the audiences. Also if possible try not just stick to one type of media or theme, mixing videos, helpful guides, research papers, images, info graphics, news and other formats will engage your potential customers far more effectively.
A golden rule to go with your seven step social media strategy is “Content marketing has to be constant” meaning a constant presence with great content across your chosen social media channels. Heed this note, every social media strategy can only be successful if you have an ongoing presence on social media networks, and that entails sharing fresh engaging content on a regular basis.