Whether you’re just starting out with social media or have been using it for a while, taking time to create or review your strategy is always a good idea. Here’s how to go about it.

What’s a social media strategy?

Put simply, a social media strategy is the difference between “being on facebook” (/Twitter / a Blog / YouTube / etc.) and knowing WHY you’re logging on to Facebook each time you do, and what you’re working towards.

Your strategy doesn’t need to be complicated, although some are, if they involve multiple social media sites and varied objectives. But either way, getting something down in black and white will significantly increase your chances of getting results from the time or money you invest.

Your strategy should be able to tell you what specific business objectives you believe social media can help with, what tasks are involved in making that happen, and how you’ll know if things are going in the right direction.

Be your own social media consultant

So, where should you start with developing a strategy? In the same place you would with any marketing or other project: outline your objectives.

Is your key concern increasing awareness of your brand within your market, or do you want to build a communication channel with your existing customers? Are you getting involved with social media because your industry demands innovation and creativity, or because you want to capitalise on your customers’ huge enthusiasm for your product or service?

If your answer is “all of these“, then try to prioritise the objectives, at least in the initial stages. Trying to use Twitter simultaneously to reach new stockists AND build a customer service channel risks becoming confusing for all concerned.

Starting to plan: which sites, what tasks?

Your high level objectives for social media will also help define which sites you should be active on. Some social media websites are much better than others for certain activities: for example, Twitter isn’t a great place for showing off lots of visual creativity, whereas Tumblr.com is. If you’ve got lots to talk about around your product or service, or want to demonstrate your expertise in depth, a blog might be the best place to start.

Thinking about this properly, alongside the functions that each website offers, is crucial. If you get it wrong, you’re on a losing bet from the start. That’s why we see so many Accountants’ facebook pages joining the social media graveyard!

Your objectives will also highlight which areas of your business need to be involved most closely with your social media presence: sales, product development, customer services?  You may also need to introduce new processes to ensure that customer expectations are met, and / or arrange social media training for some of your staff.

Once you’ve decided what your objectives are and which sites will work best, you can begin to write a task-based project plan. Some useful questions to consider are below:

Who are you aiming to engage with (geographical location / age / interests), and how will you find them?

What type of content will interest them?

Will you source your outbound content from elsewhere on the web, or create it yourself?

How frequently will you need to check for inbound communications?

Turn the answer to each question into a work task, and you’ve got the start of a daily campaign plan.

Social media metrics: measure, rinse and repeat

The final step is to make sure that you regularly check at least one or two metrics which will indicate whether you are achieving anything of value. Again, which measurements are important will depend on your objectives.  If you’re selling online, getting thousands of twitter followers is irrelevant if your website traffic isn’t increasing.

Some measurements to consider are:
-level of traffic coming to your website;
number of followers / Likers / connections – this should never be used in isolation, but if that number is falling then you may need to rethink your strategy
-engagement metrics such as number of @mentions or retweets on Twitter, or impressions / shares on Facebook
– other objective-based measures such as a drop in customer service phone calls, average time taken to respond to a customer query, or evidence of reaching a new demographic.

A short example

Sound complicated? It really isn’t. Let’s look at a quick example: a hypothetical  music venue using Twitter, hoping that it will help them sell more tickets.

Their strategy might be:

Objective: increase ticket sales

How: Ensure that potential customers are aware of upcoming acts that might interest them, and encourage them to share with their fan peer group.

Tasks might include: Identify fans of upcoming acts (or their music genre) and engage with them. Provide content they’ll be excited to share, such as backstage photos or great articles they may not have seen. Encourage them to spread the word through relevant contests or giveaways.

Relevant metrics might be:

Number of followers coming from plausible geographies (ie, based near enough to the venue to be realistic prospective ticket buyers);

Number of responses (good) and retweets (better);

Level of traffic to a particular event’s page on the venue’s website;

Level of ticket sales!

Of course, this is very high level – a full strategy would usually be a few sides of A4, and include detailed daily tasks as well as multiple social media sites, usually with differing objectives. Any degree of strategy is better than none though, even if only to ensure that you’ve thought everything through.

If you know what you want to achieve, but aren’t confident working out the details of which social media sites will work best or what your work plan should look like, we can help with social media strategy support.

What do you think? Which aspects of your social media strategy do you find the most challenging?