Social Media Strategy: A Guide For Marketers

A good social media strategy is so much more than just a few tweets from your business account. It used to be that simply having a presence on social media was enough to set you apart from your competitors, but that is no longer the case.

 

Your Guide to Strategising Social Media

As with all aspects of your marketing communications, you need a robust strategy, a credible and authentic tone of voice, and you need to have something interesting and valuable to say to your community. Take a quick look around your competitor’s feeds and you’ll see straight away who is getting it right and who is floundering.

Your brand is amplified on social media, perhaps more so than any other marketing channel. Getting it wrong does a huge disservice to you and your customers. Getting it right gives you an opportunity to build an engaged and loyal community and effectively promote your products and services. Plus you get real-time insights into what’s working and what isn’t.

This resource will guide you through the fundamentals for getting it right for your business. We’ll help you define your goals, understand the needs of your audience, find your tone of voice and identify a meaningful and effective content strategy.

In case you want to skip to a section ahead, here’s an overview of everything that will be covered in this guide:


Your Brand and What You're Trying to Achieve

As a business, it’s likely that you’ve already spent time considering who you are as a brand and how that translates into what you do. But does this filter into your social media strategy?

Your brand identity will include:

  • Your TOV - the tone of voice and language that you use in any written communication
  • Your USP - the unique selling point that sets you apart from the rest
  • Your SWOT - the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats faced by your business

Putting your industry and the services that you provide aside, these elements are the backbone of your business. Without considering who you are and what you’re trying to achieve, you’ll struggle to come up with any kind of business strategy, let alone a social media strategy. To give you a hand, we’ve even written some blogs for specific sectors that you may find useful:

While diving straight in with some social posts may feel like the best way to get started, dedicating time to a long-term strategy will give you a much clearer insight not only into your current plan, but will be really helpful when you come to analyse your performance at a later date. You’ll find you are more productive, efficient and have better results with some semblance of who you are and what you’re trying to achieve.

Setting goals

When we talk about “knowing what you want to achieve”, what we mean is - it’s time to set some SMART goals. These are the benchmarks that you’ll set to give you something to work towards with your social media strategy. SMART goals are:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Relevant
  • Time-based

The difference between setting a SMART goal and a (non-SMART?!) goal is that you go beyond simply just saying “I need to raise awareness for the business”. You’ll need to consider not only the goal but how you will measure it and how long you have to achieve it. What we often try to do is create yearly goals, which divide down to quarterly. These are reviewed monthly and thus gives you the weekly outcomes. Check out this blog for more information on how to set your SMART goals.

Engage any relevant stakeholders

Many of us will have worked in places where social media, and marketing as an overall concept, gets short shrift. But just like engaging future customers, overcoming and winning at this is a testament to your fabulous powers of persuasion.

Encourage your colleagues to contribute to, and feedback on, your SMART Goals. The broader company targets and KPIs are vital and you might find that there are particular efforts you can encourage on social media that will support what the company is trying to achieve. Your colleagues will also be able to provide you with schedules for new product launches, IT developments that might impact customers, price changes, legal updates… the list goes on. These are all discussion points which may impact what your goals need to be or become and what will need to go into the social schedule down the line.

Beyond their involvement at the goal setting stage, make sure the other departments are continuously involved. When your customer service team sees the benefits of quick query resolution via Twitter, or your sales exec get a toasty warm lead from a free guide you posted on Facebook, take a photo of their smiling faces and have it to hand for mitigating any future doubting comments.

Once you’ve decided what your SMART goals are, it’s important to take a step back and consider how much time you have to dedicate to social media. A common reason that clients come to Noisy Little Monkey to manage their social media is that they simply don’t have the time to do this alongside everything else - so make sure that your strategy is feasible, and sustainable, alongside your other commitments. If you’re the only person in the marketing department of the business but you’ve just created a strategy that is the work of three people, your life is about to get a whoooole lot more stressful.

Need someone to help you take charge? Get in touch.


Who Is Your Audience

Once you know what you’re trying to achieve, you need to define who you want, and need, to target. That’s where personas come in handy.

What are personas?

If you’re looking around the room trying to figure out if anyone else is confused by the mention of personas, don’t worry.  

A persona is a fictionalised representation of your ideal (or worst!) customer. Once you know exactly who your audience is you can use them to guide what social media channels you should use and what content will appeal to them. You can even get down to the real nitty-gritty and think about when the kinds of people that you are targeting will be online, and when they’ll be more receptive to different types of content - allowing you to customise when your social posts are published.

Not quite sold on why you need personas? This blog will convince you.

How to create personas

To create your very own personas, you’ll need to put yourself in the shoes of the people you want to attract. What are their demographics? Their aspirations? How can your business help them? By understanding what exactly it is that they want from you, and when, you’ll be able to effectively tailor your social media messages to their needs.

We won’t go into all the juicy details about how to create personas right now, but you can use this guide to walk you through all the steps necessary to create buyer personas for your business.

Need help crafting your personas? Download this handy guide!

You’ve got your personas all fleshed out and ready to go, but what now? It’s time to use your new-found insight into the inner workings of your audience’s mind. Now that you have an idea of how your personas like to be communicated with and what they need, you can use this for your social media strategy.

Know that they spend a lot of time on Twitter? How about creating polls that will catch them right at the mid-afternoon slump when their attention is waning at work? Or are they fervent users of Instagram? Then you’ll need to make sure your imagery is inspiring and stops the scroll.


Find Out What Works

Before you begin posting content you should evaluate what you’ve got already. Do you have some killer content that performs really well on your website? Do you have a bank of images you can use? What has worked on social media previously. Think about what you’ve got and what you might need.

Conduct a thorough audit of the content you already have and identify any items that would be suitable to share on social media. Content comes in many forms; tweets, videos, podcasts, imagery, copy.... (If you’re in e-commerce, 90% of online shoppers believe product videos help them make a purchase decision - so it’s really important). Even if the pieces don’t work in their current format you might be able to re-purpose them for social media. It’s also worth identifying new content themes based on keyword research to get that juicy high-quality traffic to your site.

Need a hand auditing your marketing activity? Noisy Little Monkey can help!

Analyse your competitors

A great way to get a feel for what will work for your social media strategy is to take a look at your competitors. This is also a really useful thing to do if you’re starting on something completely brand new and don't have anything to audit.

Pick a few that are in direct competition with you; targeting the same search terms, similar buying cycles and barriers to sale, for example. Then pick a few that you aspire to be like. Perhaps they have access to marketing budgets that you can only dream of, but hey, that’s when your team’s resourcefulness comes in! Take an objective look at both groups’ messaging, scheduling (when they post and on which platforms), the imagery and types of media they use and, importantly, make a note of how much engagement they get - both negative and positive - and from who.

Top tip #1 - There are some fabulous tools out there such as Rival IQ or FanPage Karma, often with good free (albeit limited) versions that will show you how you measure up against your competitors and help you identify areas you can improve or capitalise on.

Decide on what content you want to share
To make sure you keep your community interested, your strategy should involve posting regularly and with a good balance of content. The rule of thirds is a nice, straightforward method for giving structure to your content schedule and ensuring you don’t come across like you’re *grimace* overly self-promoting or that you *shudder* don’t have a good grasp of what’s going on in your industry.

Decide on your content themes and make sure they reflect your audience’s needs. Set up Google Alerts to uncover new developments in your sector and where possible, comment or expand on these with your own take on events. It’s also a good idea to keep track of popular news themes from the past and check back for updates. There are tonnes of research tools out there for sourcing great social media content including Feedly and BuzzSumo. And if you need further inspiration you can also read our blog for 69 killer ideas for your social media content.*

It’s a good idea to capitalise on any seasonal themes that are relevant to your sector and audience, such as Black Friday, Valentines Day, Halloween and Christmas. Make sure you get a balance between celebrating and promoting these events and bombarding your community for weeks on end before - and after. They won’t thank you for it.

Top tip #2 - For businesses with more modest budgets, sourcing decent images that actually add something to the written content can be really tricky - and terrifyingly time-consuming. Cut back on those wasted hours with our blog on fantastic free image sites.

*We know you’re far savvier than this, but do be careful not to copy or overly emulate others. If your TOV is authentic, your content well-researched, useful and original - and if you’re genuinely focused on engaging and entertaining your community, you’re well on the road to success. There’s no harm in being inspired by what they’re doing - just make sure you’re doing it better!


Create A Plan For Your Social Media Strategy

Excuse us while we channel the great John ‘Hannibal’ Smith *brandishes cigar* but we love it when a plan comes together.

Now that you know what you’re trying to achieve, who you’re targeting and what kind of content your audience likes, it’s now time to nail down the specifics and create a content plan.

Create a content calendar or action plan

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when setting out a new social media strategy. How will you fit it all in? Who will do what and when? Luckily, there are some fabulous tools out there for helping you with the heavy lifting, and many of them have free versions - one less thing to be creeping pleadingly into Finance with.

Fundamentally, the more you give yourself a clear outline of what you’re going to do and how long it’s going to take, the simpler it will be.

Your content calendar should be segmented by platform (Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, etc.) and your messaging adapted to respond to the expectations of different platform users and to fit the limitations and restrictions each provider has, e.g. character count and opportunities for image presentation.

Consider the formats and messaging that will appeal to people at certain times of the day or on particular days of the week. Something motivational for the morning, perhaps, or a relaxing, soothing post on Sunday evening. Also have a think about how much time your followers will have to spend consuming your content at the point you intend to deliver it, and whether they’ll be on WiFi or not. For example, it might be better to post a lengthier video clip just before lunchtime rather than in the run-up to the commute home when people might be going offline or battling for signal.

As building a loyal community is likely to be one of your primary goals, it’s worth considering some regular ‘features’ in your feeds. Perhaps a blog round-up on Fridays or a special offer on the last day of every calendar month - #payday - to keep ‘em coming back for more.

It’s important to keep your posts fresh, new and current ‘though there’ll always be news that you need to post about more frequently to optimise engagement, and that’s fine. Try to vary the messaging, imagery or call to action, both within, and across, different platforms.

Remember that your calendar is a work in progress. Use your analytics, competitor activity and anecdotal insights to adapt your plan as you learn more about what works and what doesn’t. Also make sure you update your plan to reflect changes in your business and the industry you operate in.

Top tip #3 - When planning your social strategy, don’t forget to think about making your website easy to share on social media. Make sure your content has prompts to do so both above and below the fold of your blog pages alongside CTAs to follow and join in the conversation all over your website: on your contact page, meet the team and about us pages as well as on your footer. You can also get your IT or development team to check your open graph / social meta tags and structured social data.

Attribute responsibilities

As we all know, social media is a two-way conversation and folks out there are keen to get a quick response. There are all sorts of horror stories of customers waiting days for a relatively standard response from a mahoosive corporate giant on Twitter, with other wronged parties keen to jump on board the negative PR train. Take some simple, strategic steps and you needn’t fall into that trap.

Referring to the scheduling you’ve decided upon, assign responsibilities to your team (and if you’re working solo, assign them all to yourself, mop your brow and pour yourself a nice cup of tea). Decide on what you can schedule in advance (remembering this shouldn’t be posts that may be time-sensitive e.g a sale item or news that may become irrelevant or simply old) - and flag who does what and when. The same applies for ‘live’ posts. While you’re getting used to this, there’s no harm in asking a colleague to check your spelling, scheduling and consistency of TOV. Take a note of how long the whole process takes for the first few weeks - you may find it speeds up considerably, though if not and resources need to be reconsidered, that’s absolutely fine. It’s about quality and sustainability. Not quantity and insufferability (it’s a word, promise).

If you’re not able to monitor your feeds out of hours, or there’s likely to be a delay in response, try to mention this in your profile and on your website contact page and have auto responses set up.

Depending on your business profile, it might be worth considering managing some aspects of your customer support through social media channels like Facebook and Twitter. There’s an awful lot to think about in terms of best practice and logistics but, if it is something your considering, get in touch and we’ll happily talk you through it.

Need a hand managing your social media strategy? Get in touch today!
Be part of the conversation

One of the best aspects of social media is the ability to be part of a conversation with your customers, peers and the wider business world. You, and your feeds, are ambassadors for your brand so you need to keep it professional but it’s also important to be natural, entertaining, engaging and human.

If you’re starting from scratch, take a look at the people, companies and news accounts your competitors are following and start doing the same. Don’t fall into the trap of following every slightly-relevant account going. Be discerning and conduct regular audits to cull any accounts that are spammy, irrelevant or simply weird.

Depending on your industry it’s often worth trying to engage industry influencers and membership organisations relating to your sector. If you have some exciting news, or have seen an article that might be of interest to them, tag their account, though don’t go overboard and become a social media sycophant - #yuck.

Speaking of hashtags, these still have their place, though apply sparingly. Not sure which one to use? Take a look at sites like Hastagify.me or Ritetag.

In terms of responding to comments on social media, if it’s positive, reply and encourage further responses. If it’s opinion-based, then accept that people are entitled to their point of view and be wary about wading in. If it is a negative caused by your company, make efforts to resolve the issue as quickly as possible and try to take the conversation off social media to avoid it escalating further.

Always consider how things can ‘sound’, and be. misconstrued online. Even if you think you won’t need an escalation procedure, there’s no harm in putting one in place. Trolls come in all shapes and sizes and absolutely love attention. Decide on how you will manage any incidents. For example, perhaps you will limit discussions to three responses each way (including an invitation for the person to discuss offline) before you knock it on the head. Again, take a look at how others in your industry manage it and take your cues from them.

Back to your happy place - it’s about enjoying the conversation and wanting to be part of your community. Let that come across in all its authentic glory. Be fun where you can be, and serious when it’s required.

Create advocates

Building up a loyal following on social media is, in our humble opinion, one of the most rewarding aspects of working in marketing. The people who follow you, engage with your content and shout about how great you are, these people are your advocates.
Depending on your industry, your advocates might vary: they could be clients, customers or other brands.

Once you’ve identified who your future tribe are, start sending out the love. Say thank you when they comment favourably about you. Be forthcoming with sharing and liking their positive branded posts. Always encourage tagging, sharing photos and ask questions to get people involved in the conversation.

Not sure how to encourage your advocates? Of course it’s not always possible, or ethical, to offer financial incentives or gifts but perhaps there’s other ways of showing your appreciation for your advocate’s loyalty. Maybe you can put on some sort of engagement event - drinks and nibbles while showing off some new ranges . The idea is to make them feel special and included in your business. Still stuck for ideas? Ask ‘em what they would like from you!

Don’t forget that you also have a huge resource of advocates right on your doorstep - your colleagues. You mightn’t think that your potential customers will value the opinions of your team members but communications marketing firm, Endelman begs to differ, Their research found that 52% of consumers place trust in employee brand advocates so why not extend that reach and remind your team mates of why they love working for your company in one fell swoop. Don’t impose this on your colleagues, ‘though. It’s so easy to tell when marketing communications, especially social media, are done under duress. Always be authentic and credible and true to your brand’s personality.

Note: When you’re starting out, the most important thing to remember is that a loyal following won’t happen overnight; but if you get your strategy right and focus on engaging brand advocates in a mutually beneficial way, you’ll be reaping the rewards soon enough.

Engaging influencers

Influencer marketing on social media has become a hugely powerful tool in recent years. Research by Rakuten Marketing revealed that UK marketers are willing to pay influencers more than £75,000 for a single Facebook post mentioning their brand. While we’re not suggesting this is a good use of your budget, you could consider engaging influencers or experts in your industry to help promote trust of your products and services.

The way you’ll go about leveraging this lovely and highly credible form of promotion will depend on the kind of business you work for, and how your sector operates in the social media sphere. It’s likely to be a lot easier to tempt lifestyle bloggers to mention your line of giftware than it is to get folks to shout about your furniture storage facility, for example.

Referring to your goals and personas, do some research on influencers that might be appropriate for your brand and see where they have the most impact. Don’t be seduced by a huge follower count if what they’re saying isn’t meaningful or relevant to your brand message. If they promote other brands, how often are they sharing content and for who. You don’t want to be part of a saturated feed so make sure there’s a good balance between paid and organic. Their ‘schedule’ will also inform how often you can, and should, ask them to post.

Approach your influencer with a budget and offering in mind and show that you have done your research on who they are and what they mean to their followers. Remember they may have a lot of offers so you need to frame your request respectfully and never send out a one-size-fits-all message. They’ll see straight through it and will not be flattered!

Don’t forget that there are strict rules around this kind of marketing. Always refer to the ASA’s guidelines.


Monitoring, Measuring and Improving

Now to see how you’re getting on.

Monitor

If you’re using a platform for scheduling, such as Hootsuite, Buffer or Sprout Social (and we recommend you do) they are likely to have tools for social monitoring and social listening. Deciding on how much time you invest in these activities really depends on the amount of followers you have and how active your feeds are, but it’s certainly worth checking them at least three times a day (including before you head home), particularly if you’ve just posted some interesting news.

Check the kind of engagement your posts get and if it’s better at certain times, adapt your scheduling accordingly. If you’re hearing positive things from followers, say thanks. Look at the language people are using to discuss you and your sector and the sort of questions they are asking. This can give you hugely valuable insights into your content and the sorts of things you can be part of future discussions about. Share this info with your sales and customer service teams, too. Perhaps the former can use it to inform FAQs or the latter to start a conversation on LinkedIn?

Measure

As a busy marketer you’ll want to manage your data well and create coherent, easily explainable reports. Create some form of data set using this free social media reporting template and make sure you’re reviewing it regularly with an eye firmly trained on those SMART goals.

Don’t be discouraged if you get much more engagement with Facebook but you are really struggling on Instagram, for example. Some channels will naturally suit your brand better than others. Remember to refer and re-refer to your competitor analysis as your strategy develops, There may be blind spots you aren’t aware of, and opportunities you are missing. Don’t be tempted to simply eavesdrop on conversations, be brave and get involved. Stay true to your TOV and your values and you’ll be just fine.

Make your social referral traffic part of your regular checks on Google Analytics and see where people are going after they arrive at your site. Adapt and refresh your sales funnels to reflect this. Need some training in Google Analytics? We’ve got it covered. Take a look at this blog for an overview of measuring social media ROI.

In terms of ROI, it can be really tricky to attribute business successes to social media interaction and engagement and that’s where we head back to your goals. If your social media marketing efforts are helping you reach the right audience (and that needn’t be thousands) and building trust with your brand then you’re doing OK. If analysing your Twitter activity has revitalised your content calendar and helped you understand your audience pain-points better - fantastic. If you’re getting high-quality referral traffic, and even conversions, from your posts - kerrrr-ching. Bottom line isn’t everything. Loyalty, advocacy and adding personality to your business counts for a heck of a lot.

Improve

Whether social media is what you live, eat, breathe, devour and worship or you wedge it in wherever you can, a little best practice invigorator every now and then will keep you on track (there will always be something you forget or something which fades into the background - guaranteed). We’ve put together this handy (and free!) Lean in 15 guide to keep you focused, and it can be a really handy training tool for others in your business who might want to get involved.

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Alongside fickle and finicky search engine algorithms, trends and advice changes pretty damn frequently in the digital marketing world. Plus, of course, new tools and platforms are launched all the time. Keep up to date by signing up to some fantastic marketing blogs and consider popping along to an event or conference every now and then. Pick the right one for you and you should come away inspired, invigorated and with pockets full of complementary branded stress balls and retro sweets.


Ready To Review

One of the beauties of digital marketing (and one of the reasons we love it so much) is the opportunities available to learn from genuinely useful data insights, and apply these learnings to your tactics and strategy as you go. As long as you continue to pay attention to your engagement analytics, your competitor and market activity - plus, of course, what your community is saying, the capacity for enhancing and improving your social media provision is HUGE.

You’re unlikely to get it right first time, and there’ll probably be hiccups along the way but remember - you’re doing this for a good reason. Social media as a marketing channel is going to be around for a looooong time. The platforms, tools and culture will doubtless morph all over the place, but we’re willing to bet our last banana that it’ll remain a valuable and legitimate marketing tool long into the future.

So, once you’re rocking and rolling you need to see if you’ve actually hit the SMART goals you set. After a few months, check and see if the activity you are doing on social media has contributed in some way to these goals. If you’ve not hit your goals, try and work out why and what you’ll do differently next time. If you did, think about what you want to do next to challenge yourself.

If you’ve made your plan and have realised that you need some extra in-house support in the form of a Social Media Manager, this is what you should be looking for.


Feeling A Bit Stuck

When done well, social media can be pretty darn time consuming. No matter what your best intentions are, with a million things to do in the day, you might still get overwhelmed.

If you’re looking for a bit of extra support to get your social media strategy off the ground, Noisy Little Monkey can help - you can read more about what we do here.

We love to chat digital, especially with folks who are keen to get it right - for their business and their customers. Get in touch with us today to find out how we can help.

Need someone to help you take charge? Get in touch.