This article was prepared to help you craft a strategic social media plan for business. It focuses on making the key initial decisions that will set you up for success. A well designed plan can move you consistently toward reaching your business goals. Conversely, jumping into social media without an informed approach can take up lots of time and resources without showing any progress.
At first glance, social media may seem outside of conventional sales & marketing. But at its heart social media marketing is all about building deep and profitable relationships with customers and prospects. Through a series of well thought out activities, you can further build your reputation, grow and strengthen connections, all while driving customer actions.
A Case for Strategic Social Media
Social media is so prevalent that companies feel obliged to ramp up a presence to keep up with competition and meet customer expectations. While it’s true that most companies and brands should be active, many fail to answer the most basic question: why are we doing it? To maximize your return, it’s essential to articulate your objectives up front. Without these goals, how will you know when you’ve arrived at success?
Examples of social media marketing goals are to build brand awareness, drive traffic to your website, increase leads and sales, provide additional avenues of customer support, spike engagement and more.
Now it’s your turn. What are your key goals?
Here are a few questions to help develop your objectives …
⇒ What are you key business priorities?
⇒ What is the current status of your social media efforts?
⇒ Given this status, what’s the most reasonable and impactful social media goal?
⇒ How will this advance your overall business goals?
Once you’ve considered your desired outcomes, you’ll need to work backwards to ensure your goals are met. This will give you a roadmap that leads to more sales, as well as support other key business priorities.
Keep in mind: social media requires a sustained effort to realize the remarkable returns that top players do. Here are a few steps to get you moving toward your social media marketing goals …
3 Keys to a Social Media Strategy Plan for Business
Step #1: Grow Your Community
To begin with, focus on growing your community numbers on various social media platforms. Of course you still have to deliver value to your network, but your key concern is whether the needle is moving on fans, followers, etc. Make use of your existing communication channels and lists to drive sign-ups. You can also run ads on social media networks to gain followers and engagement.
Step #2: Increase Engagement and Deepen Relationships
Once you have critical mass on community, keep building. However, at this point your main focus should shift toward increasing engagement (commenting, sharing, etc.) with your existing community and beyond. Find ways to drive involvement, be it with compelling content, interesting conversations, good timing or valuable invitations to connect.
Using social media for customer engagement includes involving people in a direct dialogue on your social networks, and measuring their response and activity in regards to your posts.
Step #3: Focus on Customer Development
As with any marketing effort, customer acquisition and retention are high priority. People typically use social media to see be entertained and interact with people — not to buy products or services. B2C brands that specialize in impulse buys will have the most success using social media as a direct sales channel. B2B brands with a long sales cycle should focus on brand awareness and lead generation on social networks.
Other Social Media Strategy Plan (for Business) Considerations
These days, we have lots of options for engaging people on social media. Platforms have varying demographics, serve different objectives and cater to specific content types. To be effective, you should start with 2-3 networks that best align with your situation and goals.
The best deciding factor for which networks to be on is where do your customers spend time? You might check out your competitors on various networks to see how they’re doing. Search topics relevant to you (by hashtag or keyword) to gauge the conversation volume and quality. You could also survey your customer base to see how they’re using different networks.
Branding and Thought Leadership
Getting recognized as an authority, as well as being liked, helps open doors with customers. People are more receptive to your offers and tune into what you’re saying more closely.
A social media strategy plan for business is all about building a reputation (brand) that brings additional benefits. Your shared content and interactions with people will affect how they perceive you. In order to develop an effective content and social media presence, you need to define your brand to ensure everything supports that intention.
What characteristics and strengths do you want to be known for? Do you want to be seen as a thought leader? Do you want to highlight a unique attribute or value or something equally beneficial?
⇒ How would you describe your company as you would a person (brand personality)?
⇒ What perceptions do you want to reinforce or develop over time?
⇒ What are your key messages?
⇒ Do you have company logo, colors, fonts, images? What content best reflects your brand?
⇒ How do you position against your competition?
Social media’s primary function is sharing content to lead into conversations. The more you can get your audience to engage with it and tune into you, the faster you can build a committed audience. What type of content does your audience consume and talk about? You can also use Google Alerts to see what’s trending.
Part of your content creation, both topic and format, will be driven by the network you’re on. Twitter limits tweets to 280 characters. LinkedIn has a more professional feel both in terms of topics and tone.
You can either adapt the same content to different channels’ standards or develop an entirely different editorial calendar for each channel. The latter option makes a good case for followers to join you on more than one network.
Content planning and scheduling is a critical activity we do with our clients because it sets the tone for each network.
In creating a mix of content, exercise the rule of thirds. Roughly one third should be informational about your industry. Another one third should be promotional, and one third should be about your company, personal and conversations with your network.
Whether you’re B2B or B2C, your social media strategy plan will revolve around driving traffic to either capture leads or sales.
Effective calls-to-action (CTAs) funnel your audience from social media sites to your website or other destinations.
1. What offers, calls to action or promotions have been most effective for you?
2. How can you apply these insights to social media?
Metrics and Measurement
Closely related to objectives are the metrics needed to gauge progress.
With our clients, we set quarterly goals that are tied to specific metrics. We also have an associated strategy to reach those goals. Establishing a quantitative measure provides the necessary feedback, and also determines the necessary steps, for reaching a goal of that magnitude.
The metrics tracked by each social media’s internal analytics should be sufficient. You can also connect Google Analytics to your website to monitor traffic from social media networks and see which ones most contribute to your goals.
Social media is an investment in growing relationships and increasing business. Over time it provides a great return on investment. Cost of customer acquisition reduces dramatically as you hit critical mass and your large, dedicated network starts promoting for you. It’s an investment similar to public relations except, with social media, you directly own the customer relationship.
When you’re starting, a fair amount of effort at the front end will allow you build the necessary momentum. The most extensive requirement is content creation and social media management. Whether you look internally or to a partner, resources and time must be accounted for. Additionally, advertising within different social networks is also available to gather new fans and increase engagement.
In the beginning, it can be hard to get the necessary momentum, without some preferred placement of your posts and advertising, to pull in new members.
Social media marketing is an important part of an online leads and sales funnel. However, it’s not enough to just show up. Businesses that focus on strategic goals, plus audience growth and engagement, will find the most success. Your business type — B2B or B2C — should guide your strategy. Meanwhile, content that’s primed to stir conversation will help you build and retain a loyal audience.