According to an article by Angie Scottmuller in Search Engine Watch, most businesses lack a social media strategy and plan that provides business focus and makes measuring return on social media clear and easy.
As a result, they often start in the wrong place, diving straight into tactics without first defining social media goals that align with business objectives. Or as Jay Baer of Convince and Convert puts it, companies they are focusing too much on how to DO social media and not enough on how to BE social.
Whilst having a social media tactical plan is essential to effective strategy implementation, starting there is putting the cart before the horse. In other words, you're not going to get very far.
So how do you map a social media strategy?
There's no right or wrong way to go about developing a social media strategy but what all successful approaches have in common is that they start with your business goals. Angie Schottmuller suggests a 7 step process for developing strategy which follows the social media marketing funnel:
Start by identifying your scope.
Is it company wide or does the strategy just relate to a specific department or business function - for example marketing, sales or customer service?
Define your business goals.
If you don't have clearly defined business goals revisit your business strategy and come back here when you've done this.
Define your social media mission - why are we doing this?
Here's an example social media mission statement from Elemental Pizza
Set your social media goals (4 to 8 is ideal)
What do we hope to get out of this? Reduced call waiting times? Lower costs? Improved customer loyalty and retention? Leads and sales? Most businesses either don't have specific goals or answer "all of the above" to this question with the result that their efforts lack focus and they spread themselves too thin. So in the first instance it's best to pick just one or two goals and run with them.
Set your key metrics ( 1 or 2 KPIs per goal)
How are we going to measure success or failure? For example, if we're using social channels to handle customer service enquiries how big an impact should this have on the number of calls we receive and call waiting times? How much can we reduce costs with leaner staffing in our call centre? And how do we expect this to affect customer satisfaction levels?
Choose tactics for each goal
How are we going to achieve the goal? What's our audience? How are we going to get them excited? How are we going to make our brand human? Which channels are we going to use to reach our audience - e.g. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn? What type of content are we going to publish and how often?
Define your metrics for each tactic
For example, Facebook fans and likes, retweets, people who have added us to Google+ circles, number of customer service enquiries responded to via Twitter or Facebook etc.
Your completed social media strategy will look something like this:
What's your content strategy?
A social media strategy is all very well but in order to be effective you also need strong, engaging content that's appropriate for your objectives and the channels you'll be focusing on. Start by listening to your audience. What are they interested in? What types of content do they engage with? What cultural references are relevant to them? What tone of voice do they respond to?
Two of my favourite tools for answering these questions are Reddit and Buzz Sumo. You can also get insights into what type of content your audience like to share by looking at what your competitors and key influencers in your industry or niche are doing.
A key step in developing your social media content strategy is to define your brand voice. Your brand voice is incredibly important in forging a human connection with your audience and adding personality and authenticity to your social media presence as well as dictating the type of content you are going to share. Check out this post from Marketing Land for 20 examples of great social media voices and then go deeper with this comprehensive guide from Buffer on how to develop your unique social media voice,
The final step in defining your strategy is deciding what type of social media content you are going to share. According to CoSchedule the 6 most valuable types of types of social media content are:
- interactive content such as quizzes
- content that evokes strong positive emotions (think cute cat pictures)
- content with images
- list posts
- newsworthy content
(I would also add video to the list).
However, don't take CoSchedule's word for it. Mix things up with a blend of branded and curated content and test out different content formats on your audience to find the perfect formula for your brand and your specific objectives.
You're still going to need a social media tactical plan...
Remember that a social media strategy is a living document which isn't set in stone so be sure to review, update and adjust yours as you go along. It also isn't going to do you much good if it just sits on a shelf quietly gathering dust. At the end of the day your aim should be effective and consistent implementation, so as well as a social media strategy you're also going to need a social media tactical plan which provides a basis for focused action.
A social media tactical plan is essentially a high level to-do list which provides the structure for your day to day social media activities. For example, if one of your goals is to connect with potential customers online your social media tactical plan will include things like:
- Setting up and optimising your social media profiles
- Building your fan base
- Connecting with influential bloggers and thought leaders
- Creating a content creation plan and editorial calendar
For each heading compile a list of specific activities such as adding like and share buttons on your blog, newsletters and emails, joining groups and forums where your ideal customers like to hang out, commenting on influential blogs, participating in LinkedIn discussions etc.
And finally you're going to need some tools...
Once you have a social media tactical plan that you're happy with, think about the tools you'll need to both execute your tactics and measure progress. There are some great tools out there that will help you make light work of implementing a social media strategy as well as providing a wealth of data. For example, HubSpot have a free social media calendar template you can download that helps you plan out your editorial calendar and stay organised plus easy to use social publishing and monitoring tools.