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Why a social media strategy is so important
Social media – it’s a major player in the overall marketing mix, and there’s no denying the sheer power it wields in reaching masses of potential leads for your business.
If you are already using social for your brand, you’ll be accustomed with how easy it is to start a conversation with your customers at the simple click of a button.
However, to truly unlock the potential that social media can provide, you will need more than just an adhoc approach. Instead, you will need a strategy that provides the ‘rhyme and reason’ for your social efforts, encompassing the what, when and where, and your objectives for doing so, and with a mechanism to monitor performance.
Heed a note of caution: while social media can be a great lead nurturing tool, its very open, instant and viral nature can also present many pitfalls – including the threat of negative commentary and feedback. Having a strategy in place will help your business to go some way towards preventing or indeed circumventing such situations by having a plan in place that allows you respond in a timely, and appropriate manner, consistent with your brand values.
The most successful marketing strategies put the needs of the target audience ahead of anything else and a social strategy is no exception. Aligning your product and services with your customer profile and their buyer journey will ensure that you are saying the right things on the right social channel and maximise the engagement and reach opportunity available.
In this guide, we take you through the importance of a social strategy, what it must include and how you can set up an effective one to achieve your business goals.
The benefits of a social media strategy
There are many advantages to having a strategy behind your social media efforts. An effective strategy should enable you to utilise the most appropriate platforms and deliver targeted content that not only captures your followers on these platforms, but inspires them to engage, act and, ultimately, build a healthy relationship with your brand.
A social strategy performs best when tied together with all the strands of your marketing activities, such as SEO, Email, Content, and PR, making sure that every post and platform work together to achieve your overarching social, marketing and business goals.
Part of your approach will include a schedule or calendar of what type of content you will post and when. In this sense, a strategy allows you to tailor your content to each platform, pinpoint how you will represent your brand via your posts and ensure you are regularly updating each channel. In doing so, you can create a consistent and reliable long-term social presence.
Adhering to this strategy over time will allow you to build brand engagement at a manageable pace and create expectations for your audience as to what value they can gain from your social channels and other brand touchpoints. Setting these expectations will encourage them to follow you if they feel that your brand resonates.
Having a customer service process built-into your strategy will also benefit your brand and help to build a positive reputation. A protocol should be in place for how you respond to positive and negatives comments, the timescales within which you respond to queries and comments and making sure that you use the right tone of voice.
Having a strategy in place also allows the ‘targeting’ for specific promotions or offers more focused to the right people, further increasing your chances of conversion and increasing followers.
Finally, having a concrete strategy in place gives you a reference point for your social efforts. It will permit you to create quality content that is aligned to both your business’s and your customer’s goals. It will also give you a benchmark to work towards, so you can see what elements of the plan work and amend the strategy accordingly to maximise efficiency.
What you should include in your social media strategy
The first step to your social strategy is deciding what channels it will include. There are now several platforms on the market, but it doesn’t mean that your business needs to be present on all of them.
To determine what platforms your business should use, utilise your customer personas to find out what channels your audience are on. Your customer personas are semi-fictional representations of your different members of your target audience, based on insight, data of your customers and informed reflection of what your customers may look like. Your business should always appear on the channels your customers use and engage with so that you can start conversations with them on ‘their terms’.
It’s worth considering what platforms work best for your specific offering. For example, if your business has a strong visual presence – and has a vast library of interesting product or service photos – it’s sensible to utilise a visual-focused platform like Instagram or Pinterest. If your company has a local presence, the capabilities of Facebook can help communities find you. If your business has a B2B emphasis, a professional network like LinkedIn might be best placed.
You should compare how the different channels ‘align’ with your target customers. For example, different channels have different tones of voice, which match different audiences, such as B2B or B2C. Facebook has an informal, playful voice, which makes it ideal for B2C and speaking to the general public. Twitter can be helpful, informative or humorous in its tone, which makes it ideal for both B2C and professional B2B audiences. LinkedIn’s tone of voice is fairly formal, which makes it ideal for targeting professionals and businesses.
By reflecting on the characteristics of the different social platforms as well as identifying those which your customers use, you can align your efforts and use those that are likely to be most effective for you. This reduces wasted time and effort on channels that won’t bring you results.
How your accounts will be set up
Once you have decided on the platforms you will use, it’s time to set up your accounts. As part of your strategy, you should determine how this will be done – particularly concerning branding.
Branding should be consistent across your website, all social channels and any other brand assets you have. However, any branding – like logos and header images – should be optimised to each platform. Each channel will have designated guidelines as to which sizes work best.
Make sure that your branding and associated imagery highlights your brand personality, represents your brand story and matches how you want to be regarded by your target audiences. Similarly, you should create a tone of voice document that represents who you are and how you want to communicate with your customers. Any staff posting to social platforms should have a copy of this to create a consistent voice across your content. As part of your branding, you should make sure each platform is fully equipped with accurate contact details and website information to help customers find out more when they want to.
As part of your branding, you may choose to optimise other branded elements such as hashtags. These are particularly useful on platforms like Instagram and Twitter and can make it easier for customers to join conversations with you. Set out the hashtags in advance and keep a list to regularly be incorporated into your posts. Incorporate these hashtags into your profile bios too to encourage customers to use them.
Other elements to consider when setting up is when each account will be monitored: if you are using the channels for customer service, make it clear what the working hours will be for each so customers know when to expect a reply. These can be set in your account settings, as well as assigning relevant team members to the accounts to handle any queries. Just make sure you have agreed the processes and protocols in advance so you can set it up appropriately.
One of the most vital parts of your strategy is what you will post on your accounts. This will largely depend on the platforms you are posting to and what products/services you offer, as well as the needs of your customers.
Spend time researching each social platform you’ll be using to find out what kind of content performs best. It is also worth examining your competitors to see what content works for them, and to help you to see what similar customer bases engage with. This type of research will be extremely useful and give you the type of context that you need to help determine your particular approach.
By researching the social channels and the type of content that is popular with its audiences, you can more closely align it to your customer personas and their buyer journey. This will result in the production of content that is infinitely better quality, more valuable and appropriate, which in turn will encourage higher engagement and action.
In the early stages of your strategy, experimentation is likely to take a significant role in determining what works best, so aim to try different types of content first, monitor the engagement levels and then refine it over time. Whilst we have largely focused on organic social media methods, you should also consider using the built-in ‘paid content’ tools, such as lead-generation adverts or offers. These can help increase your reach quickly – but it can be pretty expensive, and requires close monitoring.
During the strategic process, decide who will be creating the content – particularly if you intend to link to blog content or other brand touchpoints, or create imagery that may require additional work. The appointed individuals should have access to your social strategy, so they know what deadlines to meet, as well as how to align content to your goals.
How often you will post and when
As well as what you will post, your strategy needs to cover when you will post. One of the advantages of social media is that in can provide users with news and information in real-time – so you need to be posting regularly to prevent getting lost amongst a sea of content on each channel. However, posting too often can come across as robotic or spammy, especially if your posts aren’t well thought-out or targeted.
Aim to get the right balance between frequent posting and quality content. How often you post may also depend on:
- The platforms you use – posts on platforms like Twitter and Snapchat tend to be more short-lived, so require more frequent updates
- The content you are putting out – higher quality content will have a longer lifespan generally
- Your operational capacity and the time you can devote to social
Create a schedule that details when you will post, though bear in mind there may be times you need to deviate from this to react to a trending topic or emerging situation. This schedule should include the days and times you will post. You can find general guidance as to the most popular times for posting for different platforms to shape them, but be prepared to adapt this as it becomes more evident when your posts are receiving optimum engagement.
What are the rules of engagement
When you put your business on social media, you give a considerable audience that ability to engage with you. To keep the conversation going, you should be prepared to respond to that engagement – whether it’s good or bad. This gives you better control of your brand sentiment and allows you to deal with criticism or queries aptly.
Have rules in place about how you will respond to comments and messages from both customers and leads. Even if you do not intend to use social media as a customer service channel, the likelihood is that you will receive queries anyway; so you should have the resources in place to provide the information that is being asked for. Doing so can help you to meet expectations and give customers a further reason to engage with you on social media.
Unfortunately, and as mentioned earlier in this guide, social media can also put you at risk of negative interaction, whether it is through displeased customers or trolls. Negative comments should be addressed immediately to prevent harm to your reputation. Draft a process for handling complaints and negative comments quickly and efficiently. This keeps the focus on the value your brand can offer, rather than issues with service.
What KPIs you will track against
Finally, layout what you want your strategy to help you achieve and how you’ll track its progress. These should line up with your overall marketing goals.
It is crucial to make sure your KPIs are meaningful. For example, there is little point in setting a hefty target of 10,000 followers if none of those followers are engaging with you. Instead, look at engagement measurements such as comments and likes, direct messages, clicks on your posts and any conversions.
By tracking these KPIs over time, you can check if your social following is growing in the right direction (such as increased engagement and interest) and identify which elements of the strategy prove most useful.
Amend your strategy over time
The nature of social media means it is everchanging. As such, your strategy needs to evolve in line with new digital trends, changes in customer behaviour and adaptations to your business.
When starting a strategy, there is no definite way to know what will work for you. However, social media gives you a vast opportunity to experiment and learn what best captures the attention of your audience.
Monitor how your strategy and content perform and refine your strategy according to what works best. This will allow you to streamline your plan and enjoy the best results for your business.
Start your social strategy today
Having a clear strategy in place can massively improve your social media presence and brand authority. By following the tips given in this blog, you can truly optimise and align your social efforts within your broader marketing goals.
The right strategy offers you the perks engaged audiences that are more likely to convert through appropriate targeting; improved customer service turnaround times; better control of your brand reputation; and, access to a diversity of leads, influencers and stakeholders to converse with. With these, your customers can enjoy increased value to their experiences, and you can enjoy improved return-on-investment using low-cost social media platforms.