Guest post by Marvellous Aham-adi.
There are almost 3.8 billion social media users in the world. With so many people—from every country, every age, and every profession—marketing professionals have ramped up their use of social media marketing over the past decade.
When efficiently optimized, social media is a great way to grow traffic, generate leads, and drive sales to a new business. Yet too many marketers and brands go about social media marketing the wrong way. They assign it to junior employees, not understanding the brand impact. They run social media campaigns haphazardly, without any solid plan or strategy.
Fortunately, you don’t have to be one of “those” marketers, to make the same common mistakes that too many businesses still make while using social media.
Here’s a 10 step process to create a social media marketing plan that will produce measurable results.
What’s in this post:
Step 1: Determine and define your social media goals and objectives.
The first step when starting a new campaign is to define your goals and objectives. These will keep you focused on track when creating your social media marketing plan.
You need to first answer the “why.” What’s the purpose of this social media campaign? What specific goals are you are trying to meet? How will you track and measure those results?
These questions need to be answered so you don’t launch your campaign haphazardly. Without a solid strategy and, it’s difficult to grow your brand following, generate engagement, or accomplish other objectives on social media.
Obviously, there is tremendous competition for attention on social media platforms. Other marketers and businesses invest considerable time and effort trying to connect with the same customers you are trying to reach. 83% of B2B marketers say they use social media, making it one of the most common marketing tactics.
95% of online adults aged 18-34 follow at least one brand via social networking, as do 63% of Internet users overall. But no one joins a social network just to follow brands. Your campaign is competing not only with similar vendors but also with the friends, family, co-workers, peers, and favorite news outlets of your target prospects for their attention.
You are even competing against cat videos.
To help you get started with setting goals, these are some of the most common objectives brand have when starting a social media campaign:
- Connect with customers
- Increase brand awareness
- Drive traffic to your website
- Generate sales and leads
- Grow registrations for or booth traffic at live events
- Boost brand engagement
- Increase in-person sales
- Build a community
- To create an effective social media service
Starting a social media campaign with at least one of these objectives in mind gives your campaign direction. It also indicates which metrics to analyze to determine if your use of social media is successful or not.
Step 2: Understand your target audience.
Social media strategy and planning starts with identifying, as precisely as possible, the target audience for your campaign. Which social networks are they most likely to use? What’s their primary purpose when there? What problems are they trying to solve? What content topics and formats are most likely to grab their attention?
Understanding your target audience is essential to generating positive results with social media. For example, a brand that creates baby products will target an audience of pregnant women and mothers with children under three years old.
All campaign elements, from colors are artwork to topics even content length, need to reflect a deep understanding of the needs and concerns of those parents.
Mis-targeting or creating the wrong type of content for your audience would produces little or no engagement and can end up generating low-quality leads. Collecting low-quality leads is even worse than generating no leads at all, because you end up wasting not only marketing dollars but also sales resources chasing prospects who won’t or can’t buy your products or services.
These strategies can help you develop a better understanding of your target audience:
Develop your audience demographics: Your audience demographics are the key characteristics of individuals most likely to need your product or service. Consumer demographics include age, gender, location, ethnic background, education, occupation, lifestyle, and income level. B2B buyer demographics include title or role, business function, region, industry, and company size.
Survey your customers: When entering a new market or launching a new product, you may not have a clear picture of who your target audience is. You may not have understand them well enough for you to effectively build your social media marketing plan.
The best way to find out more about your target audience is by surveying your existing customers (who may be prospects) or a list of likely prospects. Questions to ask include:
- What social media platform do you spend the most time on?
- What kind of content (topic and format) do you find most interesting while scrolling through your feed?
- What kind of people and brands do you follow on social media?
You can use a Google Form or Type Form to easily run these surveys.
Research online behavior: If you don’t have a sufficient customer base you can survey to map out your target audience, try researching online behavior. Study the kind of individuals that can use your product. For example, MarketingCharts has a report that shows the top-performing social media platforms based on gender, age, location, education, etc.
Step 3: Determine the best social media platform(s) for your campaign.
There are many social media platforms available, but likely only a few suitable for the kind of product or service you sell. Depending on your industry, your target audience might be spending a majority of their time on a single particular social media platform.
Use this infographic to help determine the best platform(s) for you depending on your audience.
Your goals and objectives play a big role in determining the best platforms for your campaign. For example, if you are trying to generate B2B sales leads, the best platforms are likely Twitter and LinkedIn. LinkedIn offers advanced features and granular targeting that make it (sort of) easy for you to generate leads.
If you are trying to improve brand awareness for a consumer product, you may want to spend time on Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram. The huge user base on Facebook, 2.74 billion monthly active users currently, can give you widespread exposure. The visual nature of Pinterest and Instagram is great for creating brand awareness and improving audience engagement with your content.
Step 4: Boost your social media following.
Social media works with the compound effect formula. People are more likely to engage with a post when they see that other people are already engaging with it.
People on social media are more likely to trust your brand content if other people they trust already do so. That is why you need to build an initial following of influential individuals in your industry (which will likely include at least some of your customers and business partners).
The more your audience likes and engages with your content, the more it signals the social media algorithm that the content has value. The algorithm then pushes the content to the friends of your followers and the list continues. This is how social media posts go viral.
Try using these strategies to boost your social media following:
Social media ad promotions: When you are just starting out and have few followers, social media ads are the fastest way to grow. Invest some of your marketing budget into an optimized social media ad campaign to give you that initial traction and boost.
Run contests: Social media contests, surveys, and polls are great for increasing brand awareness and engagement. Depending upon your target audience, you may be able to offer a prize at the end of the contest to increase audience participation. Examples of effective social media contests are photo contests and Instagram hashtag contests.
Referral promotion: This is a form of incentivized sharing for consumer brands. You ask your audience to complete a particular task by sharing it with their friends and families. The user who can get the most people in their network to participate wins a prize. This exposes more people to your content with minimal effort on your part.
Step 5: Create a social media calendar.
If not properly planned, posting on social media can become very confusing and complex, especially when you are posting on multiple platforms. To make sure that you don’t forget any important task or miss any deadlines, create and maintain a social media calendar.
Your social media calendar is a detailed outline of all the content to be shared on different social media platforms and at what times.
It is easy to procrastinate when you don’t have deadlines. A calendar helps you hold yourself accountable and also saves time. A calendar keeps you organized and helps you get things done faster. Research from CoSchedule shows that marketers who are organized are 397% more likely to be successful.
Step 6: Invest in social media management tools.
To help execute your social media marketing plan efficiently, invest in tools that can help you automate manual processes and improve your productivity. With good social media planning tools, you can get more work done with less stress.
Social media management tools worth considering include:
- For straightforward social media scheduling, you can use a tool like Buffer.
- If you are looking for an all in one tool that allows you to monitor, schedule, and perform analytics, then you can try out Hootsuite.
- Planable is great for managing social media teams
- For lead generation, try out Sendible.
Step 7: Conduct a social media audit.
It’s vital to regularly analyze your social media performance to determine what’s working and what isn’t.
Having a rigorous audit of your process can help determine what you have accomplished and the next steps to take. It identifies which elements of your plan to optimize for better performance, and which to scrap entirely. Questions to ask during a social media audit include:
- What objectives have been achieved?
- Which of my strategies are working and which aren’t?
- Which networks are my target audience using and what type of updates generate the most engagement?
- Do my competitors get more engagement? Do they have a more significant social media presence? What are they doing better than our team?
- How can I automate my social media campaign to be more efficient?
- Are there new social media strategies I can implement to help me grow faster?
Answering all these questions can help you to improve your performance and see better results. The purpose of your audit is to help you maximize your impact across social media platforms.
During your social media audit, it is also important that you look out for impostor accounts. Impostors may post content that can be harmful to your brand. You can try to verify your Facebook and Twitter accounts so your users can know that they are dealing with the authentic brand.
Step 8: Identify the key influencers in your industry.
Working with social media influencers can generate massive exposure for your social media content. A single retweet or shoutout from an influencer with thousands of followers can give a significant boost to your brand.
The problem is that most people think that working with influencers is very expensive. You don’t need to work with influencers who have millions of followers to get started. Find the influences in your industry who have a few hundred to thousands of loyal followers who regularly engage with their content.
Step 9: Determine the best posting times.
Though there is a constant stream of content posted across the various social media platforms, the activity isn’t uniform; there are peaks and valleys in posting and engagement at different days and times. To make sure you get the highest number of eyeballs on your content, it’s vital to determine the best times to post on your social media platform(s) of choice.
To connect with your target audience, it’s best to post at the times when they are most active on the platform. Using research from 25,000 customers, Sprout Social reports the best social media posting times as:
- Best day to post is Wednesday at 11 a.m and 1 p.m
- Most consistent engagement: Weekdays from 9 a.m.–3 p.m.
- The day with the least amount of engagement is Sunday.
- Early morning before 7 a.m and late evenings after 5 p.m have the least engagement.
Pro Tip: It’s important that you also analyze your best posting times on your own. Your audience likely isn’t “average,” so what might work best for others may not be what works best for you. You can make use of the insights offered on the social media platforms to determine when your audience is most active.
Step 10: Create content that delivers value.
This is where most businesses miss the mark. Most brands create content that’s overly promotional and doesn’t deliver any value to the audience. To differentiate your brand, consistently create content that delivers valuable information and actionable tips your social media following.
It’s critical that you really understand your target audience in order to consistently create that valuable content. Understanding the needs of your prospects and answering their questions with your social media content helps improve engagement and increase trust in your brand. When your audience trusts you, they are far more likely to buy from you.
Creating a social media calendar, as noted above, also helps you create valuable content, by keeping you focused. Content is what fuels social media, so it’s essential you create high-quality content that draws the attention of your audience.
Some of the most popular content formats on social media are:
- Blog posts
- Interactive graphics
When social media is used effectively, it can be a great tool to generate leads, increase brand awareness, and build business relationships. Social media can help you to grow traffic and engage with your target audience. Creating your social media marketing plan is the first step. Use the strategies in this article to get started.