To reach as many potential customers as possible, many business owners are directing their marketing efforts toward the world of social media. But what are the elements of a successful social media marketing plan?
Let’s look at how your business can leverage modern social networks to achieve your business goals.
What is a social media marketing plan?
A social media marketing plan is a document that outlines your specific social media strategy, along with the steps you'll take to achieve particular goals. Your social media strategy should also reflect the unique social media platforms your business will use.
Your social media marketing strategy should establish key performance indicators that you can use to measure success. If you're working with a team, you should also clearly identify who will engage with your social media followers on each platform.
This last point is essential since it will help your company maintain a consistent voice with the content you share online. This means that your social presence can better reflect the character of your company as a whole.
Why social media presence is good for your business
Today, 97% of Fortune 500 companies are on social media. Having the right social media marketing strategy is increasingly important if you want to maintain a competitive edge. But social media marketing is excellent for a variety of reasons, including:
Social media is free
While some sites charge money to help you promote select social media posts, it costs nothing to maintain a Facebook page or another kind of social media account. And when your followers "like" and "share" your content, you'll get free advertising from your online community.
It increases brand awareness
Social media allows you to build your brand. When your Facebook fans and followers share your content, you'll be able to build brand awareness across a much broader audience than ever before.
While older marketing plans tended to be localized to specific markets (putting an ad in a local newspaper, for example), social media marketing allows you to share your brand voice around the world.
A social media plan doesn't have to be complicated. You can easily maintain your account with your phone or mobile device during your downtime. You can even assign an employee to maintain your account or field social media messages on your behalf.
How to create a social media marketing strategy template
So what's the most effective strategy for marketing your business? There's no real one-size-fits-all social media marketing plan, but you can use the following steps to craft your own social media strategy template.
How to create a social media marketing strategy
- Perform a social media audit
Chances are that your business already has some form of social media presence, maybe even on multiple social channels. But with so many companies competing for attention on the web, it's easy for your company's social media posts to get lost in the shuffle.
Before you craft a new social media strategy, you should perform an audit to assess whether your current efforts are bearing any fruit.
Questions to ask during an audit include:
What social networks am I currently using?
Which social network is used most by my target market?
How much engagement (likes, shares, etc.) are we receiving on our posts?
You may have to perform some "gap analysis" to determine how your current social media plan stacks up against your long-term business objectives.
For instance, if you exclusively use Facebook, but your target customers prefer Instagram, you may have to adjust your social strategy to reach your audience.
- Define your goals
One of the mistakes businesses often make is to create one or two social accounts and simply share content at random. But a good social media strategy is organized around a specific purpose, which should reflect your broader business objectives.
As a starting point, ask yourself: What do I want to happen as a result of our social media campaign? How will my social media plan align with my mission statement?
Business experts have crafted a clever acronym to help companies create and articulate their goals. Your social media marketing goals should be "SMART," which means that they are:
For example, if your goal is to build brand awareness, you might make this goal measurable by seeking to double your follower count within a year.
Alternatively, if your goal is to convert engagements into actual sales, you can measure your goal through website clicks, email signups, and your financial reporting.
- Get to know your target audience
Which social networks are your target customers on the most? How do your potential customers tend to use this particular social network?
It's essential to understand the behavior of your target audience to engage with them appropriately. For instance, research shows that teens are gradually abandoning Facebook for other social channels. If your company sells skateboards, you may have to consider moving to a new social media channel to engage with your community.
This will also help you to formulate a content strategy. Consider which types of content your social media followers are most likely to engage with. For example, if you want to reach Generation Z, you're more likely to generate leads with video content than a blog post.
- Study the competition
While every brand is unique, you can learn a great deal from a little competitive analysis. Find companies that operate within your industry and have a similar (if not identical) target audience. Check out their social media channels and see how they're achieving social media success.
Look for things like:
- What social networks are they using?
- How many followers do they have?
- How frequently do they post?
- What kind of content do they post?
- How do they interact with their followers?
- Are there any relevant keywords that you should be using?
Some social media marketers also recommend the art of "social listening," which means you'll put your competitors' names, account handles, and other relevant keywords in the search bar of the top social media platforms. This will provide insight into what other people are saying and posting about that competitor while also giving you a glimpse into how well they're engaging their core demographic.
- Choose your social media platform(s)
Once you've learned all you can about your target audience, it's time to choose which social media channels you want to join. At a minimum, you'll want to start with a Facebook page, which continues to have the highest number of daily active users at 1.93 billion.
But beyond that, you'll have a wide variety of other channels to choose from. A YouTube account can be good for uploading and sharing video content.
Today's most popular social networks include:
Because each social media platform is unique, you won't be able to duplicate content across multiple channels. If you intend to maintain multiple social media accounts, you might ask a few employees to serve as a social media team to help you operate pages and engage followers.
- Create a social media content calendar
As you're scoping out the competition, you may discover a few companies whose social media pages left a lot to be desired. When a company goes dormant, they lose all ability to engage with their customer base, creating the impression that they're out of touch with their online community.
If you don't want to lose your momentum, your social media marketing plan should involve a lot of great content and regular engagement. The best way to do this is to create a content calendar.
A content calendar is a social media posting schedule, which can help you plan what sort of content you'll share, where it will go live, and on what dates.
For instance, did you know that the time of day matters when posting content online? According to Buffer, you'll receive more engagement from content posted between 1:00 to 3:00 PM on Thursdays and Fridays.
Therefore, you can create a social media content strategy to maximize engagement among your followers. For example, social campaigns promoting a product or service might rely on scheduled posts for maximum visibility leading up to a launch.
- Share compelling content
Once you've created your social media content calendar, you'll want to fill it with great, compelling content. You might already have a few content ideas from studying your competition. If not, there are two broad ways of sharing content online.
Curated content refers to shared content that you did not personally create. You can easily share news stories, blog posts, viral videos, and other content on your social media channels, and you can offer your commentary on the information contained within.
The advantage of curated content is that it's easy to find and takes less time than creating content on your own. The drawback, however, is that you don't get to share your unique voice with your customers. You can't showcase your products or services, either.
Therefore, you’ll need to create content as part of your social media marketing plan. But precisely what kind of content is the most popular among social media users?
Earlier, we hinted that younger generations prefer video to the written word. However, companies may find that a blog post is the best way to share important data for the finance community, while a static picture might be best for a fashion company.
Social posts with images generate 47% more clicks than text-only ones. Your blogging platform may already have some functionality that attaches images to your posts. These images will typically be shared online when you post a link to that web page.
When you share a link online, it's known as a "link post." Link posts create a large, clickable area for customers to engage with. When combined with images, this approach can help your followers click on and engage with your content more easily.
- Track your performance and adjust your strategy
The best social media strategies are cyclical. You'll want to regularly evaluate the strength of your social media marketing efforts to determine whether you're accomplishing the social media goals you outlined in Step 2.
To do this, you might set up an account with Google Analytics (or another analytics provider). You can use this service to evaluate your web content, but it can also be a valuable social media management tool. With Google Analytics, you can analyze how well your posts perform and review valuable insights into your referral traffic (how well your posts are driving visitors back to your website).
Don't be discouraged if your current social media marketing plan needs adjustment. Technology constantly changes, as does user behavior. In fact, it's only when your social media strategy doesn't change that there's a problem!
You'll likely find yourself adjusting your social media plan over time and creating new social media campaigns based on what you've learned from past success.
How often should you post online?
Small business owners often have to serve as their own marketing team. Maintaining a library of compelling, user-generated content can be a challenge. Your social media content strategy should include regular releases of content. Recommended scheduling times for each platform are as follows:
- Facebook: 1-2 times per day
- Twitter: 1-5 times per day
- Instagram: 2-7 times per week
- Instagram (feed): 3-7 times per week
- LinkedIn: 1-4 times per day
Don't let this overwhelm you. Your social media marketing plan can include sharing the same content more than once. In fact, intentionally repeating content can help you to maximize visibility on individual posts.
Drive traffic and increase sales
Your human resources team might already have a social media plan in place as part of your company's broader marketing strategy. But solo entrepreneurs and small business owners often find themselves with limited resources. That's where Invoice2go a Bill.com company can help with straightforward tools to help you simplify invoicing, payments, and cash flow management.