Whilst the term ‘social media strategy’ sounds like made-up digital agency jargon, it really does serve a purpose. Well, we like to think it does when we say it! The simplest way to explain its importance is that a strategy is what makes the difference between social media ‘activity’ and social media ‘productivity’. You’ve probably heard people say (if you haven’t said it yourself!) that they’re ‘on’ social media. But what does being ‘on’ social media really mean? We want purpose; we want results! Being ‘on’ means to ‘exist’, perhaps to ‘survive’; not to thrive.
Let’s look at how businesses thrive on social media using a well-crafted strategy.
Social media strategy
The vast majority of today’s businesses use social media in some capacity. Whether this is just having a basic presence, driving brand awareness, increasing web traffic or to generate leads, most businesses are investing in social media management (even if it’s just time and effort). No matter how much time you’re spending on it, this is time, effort and brain space that could be applied to something else. This means you need to be seeing results from your investment.
Let’s say your business is at point A and you need to get to point B. You’ve identified that social media marketing can help get you there. All you need to identify is exactly how. Knowing the role social media can play in your business plan takes a reasonable understanding of the scope of social media, itself, and the tactics one might employ to achieve those results (it’s all about the results!).
Here’s where we start:
Setting social media goals
Once you know what you need social media productivity(!) to achieve for your business, you can begin to form ideas around which goals to aim for. You can see why the old ‘get more Twitter followers at all costs’ goal is a little pointless if your goal is to find very specific people like buyers or stockists who are actually going to help you grow your business.
Increasing your ‘likes’ and ‘follows’ are NOT your goals – they are a means, not an end. This is definitively proven by the fact you can simply buy 10,000 followers for about £3.80 and we can guarantee they’re not going to buy anything from you. There is an obsession with the number of likes and followers a company has but they must represent a channel through which to achieve a greater goal.
Your social media goals should be around return on your investment of time and resources. If you’re hiring someone or a social media company to do it for you, what are you getting from them?
This is the important bit:
Think about your social media goals in real terms. How much traffic does your website get from social media referrals? What is this as a percentage of your web traffic? How many potential customers have you approached in one week over Twitter? How many enquiries has this generated? How many times have you been mentioned or interacted with (or ‘favourited’)? These are real communications by potential customers!
What about collaborators? How many have you found over LinkedIn? Have you created a Twitter list of potential collaborators? Perhaps you’re trying to get some news coverage and you’re trying some social media PR, can you contact some journalists who might get your story into a magazine with a 100,000 readership?
Use social media to learn new things. Stay up to date with developments in your industry in real-time, check out the main influencers in your sector and your competitors. Gaining some market or competitor intelligence might play a role in your social media strategy.
Make goals which are going to make a real difference to your business and get it to point B; prospects approached, email addresses collected, clicks through to your website, purchases made etc. Once, again, work out which social media goals will contribute towards achieving your business goals – it’s the only way to see a measurable, tangible return on investment (even if that investment is just your time).
Once you’ve identified your goals, it would be all too simple to start posting left right and centre, ensuring you have the appropriate call to action to achieve them. Planning these posts around a calendar of relevant events, themed content, scheduling in a Facebook competition or two is great, but these are what we call “tactics” and we’ll visit these later. In fact, if you’ve created goals and are being active on social media, but you’re not seeing great results; you’re probably failing to do one crucial thing.
Here’s the thing:
There’s one common trait amongst brands that have successfully grown by using social media:
They RESONATE with their audience
Put simply, if you’re failing to gain the exposure, engagement, and results you want, you’re probably failing to resonate with your audience. Here’s why resonating with your audience is so important for social media success:
Content that resonates with your audience will attract engagement. By engagement, we mean a ‘reaction’ on Facebook, a comment, a click, or a like or retweet on Twitter. All this engagement amounts to a serious increase in the reach of each post; the impressions of your brand on people’s screens. This works in two ways. The first is the direct reach; things like “your friend liked this post” on Facebook and a retweet showing up on lots of new audience members’ Twitter feeds. The second is indirect and algorithm-based. The more engagements a post receives on Facebook, the more relevance Facebook places on that post and it will be shown to more people in your audience.
Now your content is reaching new audiences, you need to influence them. You need to elicit an action – a click to your site, at email sign up, a purchase or simply more post engagement. The more your post and brand resonates with your audience the more likely you will influence your audience.
Resonating with one’s audience is an age old marketing ploy but too few brands are translating this principle to social media. It’s all too easy to just start sharing content on social media – you wouldn’t dream of storyboarding, directing, filming and producing your own TV ad, or doing the creative for a magazine ad you’re shelling out £10,000 for – so why regard social media as somewhere you can?
Often, brands end up sharing the messages they want to share, not posting content their audience will enjoy. The key to resonating and, therefore, social media success starts with your social strategy.
Creating a successful social media strategy
There’s a key distinction to draw between strategy and tactics. For example, holding Facebook competitions, doing a series of posts about the World Cup, posting links to your website and using a hashtag are not strategies – they’re tactics. Tactics you would implement to achieve various goals. Your strategy is something far more fundamental.
Your strategy is shaped by knowing who your audience is, where they hang out, what they’re interested in and who they listen to.
- What are your audience’s wants and needs?
- Who do they associate themselves with?
- What do they aspire to?
- What do they read? Listen to? Watch?
- Who or what influences them?
- What are their key characteristics?
- What is likely to interest them, entertain them, excite them?
Before embarking on any significant social media activity, these questions must be answered. If you’re working with a social media company, ensure they have a thorough understanding of each of these areas and feel free to ask them what their overall strategy is. Otherwise, you and third-party companies are at risk of simply creating content they think advertises the brand well – this will not resonate with the brand’s audience. It will fail to reach them, it will fail to influence them.
But this is the great news:
Once you know all this about your audience, creating a content and interaction strategy that will resonate with them is relatively straightforward.
The next stage is to create a brand, a voice and content that resonates with them. You can now share it in such a way, at such a time and on such a platform that maximises your initial reach amongst your audience. Your perfectly crafted content that resonates with your audience will achieve higher engagement and this will amplify the reach further still.
Essentially, your social media strategy should be more about identifying and understanding your audience – not just a series of ideas or tactics that will achieve your goals. The former will underpin and help craft the latter.
Social media tactics
Your social media actions will be dictated by the goals you’ve set and your overall strategy. These tactics are ways of achieving these goals by resonating with your audience. Having researched your audience and by answering some of the questions above, you should have an idea of the kind of tactics they will be receptive to.
A really simple example is if you want to increase web traffic by x%, you could begin posting links back to your site regularly with enticing posts. What an ‘enticing post’ looks like, of course, will depend on your audience.
If your goal is building relationships with local marketing managers, you’ll need to run searches on LinkedIn to find them and then approach them. Based on your goals and strategy, you should cycle through these tactics and review their success. You might employ a certain tactic for a week or even several months if it’s working or if it is part of a long-term ploy to achieve your goals.
Other effective tactics include:
Twitter interaction and lead generation using conversation drivers
Sponsored Facebook posts
Holding competitions or giveaways
Is your content portraying your brand the way you would like? Is it resonating with your audience? Are you getting retweeted, liked, and favourited? If so, that’s a great sign that you are.
These are all things that might occur which increase the reach and improve the perception of your brand but might not affect the number of fans and followers you have. The better your content and the more effective your interactions, the more followers and fans you’re likely to accrue over time but don’t get bogged down in the numbers!
Rather than a scattergun, ‘see-it-post-it’ or ‘think-it-post-it’ approach, have some themes running through your content. Do a series of posts about a certain topic, create some topical tweets about events relevant to your business and your audience, have a regular weekly piece of content that fans look forward to seeing.
So what’s the bottom line?
A clear and targeted social media strategy forms the cornerstone of your online endeavours and will help with brand consistency. It gives direction to your work and helps you avoid procrastinating and wasting time trying to get an extra 10 followers when you could be sealing a deal with someone who already follows you. Choose 2 or 3 core social media goals and try and use the full spectrum of platforms required to achieve them.