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8 easy steps to a social media marketing strategy (including a free template)

It doesn't work without a social media marketing strategy. Companies that want to position themselves with customers and target groups on social media should know where their social media journey is leading.

A social media marketing strategy is the summary of all your plans and goals for and on social media. It guides your activities and informs you about successes and failures.

The more specific your planning, the more effective the implementation. Therefore, keep your strategy brief and compact. Ambitious and wide-ranging plans are difficult to implement and can hardly be measured.

In this article, you will learn in eight steps how to develop your own successful social media marketing strategy.

Bonus: Get the Free Social Media Strategy Templatewith which you can plan your own strategy quickly and easily. You can also use this template to track results and present your planning to superiors, team colleagues and customers.

How to Develop a Social Media Strategy

Step 1. Set social media goals that align with business goals

Set S.M.A.R.T. goals

Developing a convincing strategy begins with setting goals and objectives. Without goals, you can't really measure your success or return on investment (ROI).

Each of your goals should be aligned with the S.M.A.R.T.frame:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable (realizable)
  • Relevant
  • Time based (terminated)

These S.M.A.R.T. goal parameters determine your activities and ensure that real business goals are achieved.

Here is an example of a S.M.A.R.T. goal:

We'll use Twitter for customer support and reduce our average response time to under two hours by the end of the quarter.

Track meaningful metrics

While vanity metrics like retweets and likes are easy to track, their exact value to the company is not easy to prove. Instead, focus on metrics like engagement, click-through, and conversion rate.

Get inspired by these 19 really powerful social media metrics.

You may want to have different goals for different channels - or even use individual channels in more than one way.

Three examples: If you're using LinkedIn to drive traffic to your website, measuring your click-through rate is a good idea. If Instagram is your choice for promoting brand awareness, tracking the number of Instagram story views is a good idea. And when you're advertising on Facebook, cost-per-click (CPC) is a common success metric.

Make sure that your social media goals align with the goals of your overall marketing strategy. This makes it easier for you to prove the value of your work and to convince superiors - also of investing in social media.

Start your social media marketing plan by writing down at least three social media goals.

Step 2. Thoroughly research target audiences

Develop target group personas

In order to create compelling content, you have to know who the target group - and the ideal customer - is and what they like, comment on and share on social media. This knowledge is also essential if you want to convert followers into customers of your company.

When it comes to your target customer, information like this counts:

  • Age
  • Location
  • Average income
  • Typical job description or industry
  • Interests
  • etc.

These understandable guidelines provide guidance on how to develop target groups / target customer personas.

Get to know your friends, followers and customers as real people with real wants and needs - then you will know how to address them and interact with them.

Collect real data

Don't make any guesses. Do you think Facebook is better suited to reach baby boomers than millennials? However, the figures show that millennials are still more represented on this platform than baby boomers.

Social media analytics can provide you with tons of valuable information about your followers: where they live and how they interact with your brand on social media. With this knowledge you can refine your strategy and better reach your target audience.

Jugnoo, an Indian auto rickshaw service similar to Uber, learned through Facebook Analytics that 90 percent of customers recommended by other customers were between the ages of 18 and 34, and 60 percent of that group were using Android. They use this information for more targeted ads. The result: 40 percent lower costs per recommendation.

Check out our guide to social media analytics and the right tracking tools.

Step 3. Competitive research

It is quite possible that your competition is already active on social media - that is, you can learn from their activities.

Conduct a competitive analysis

Using a competitive analysis, you can determine who your competitors are and what they are doing well (and not so well). This will give you a good feeling about the expectations in your industry. And that helps you set your own social media goals.

This analysis will also help you discover opportunities.

Perhaps a competitor has a strong Facebook presence, but little effort goes into Twitter or Instagram. You could focus on networks that are barely serving your audience, rather than trying to get fans from a dominant player.

Listen to

Social listening is another way to monitor competition.

Research your competitors, their accounts and other relevant industry keywords. Find out what is being shared and what other people are saying about them.

Pro tip: Use a social media management solution like Hootsuite to set up streams and monitor relevant keywords and accounts in real time.

While monitoring, you may notice strategic changes in the use of social media channels. Or you discover a post or a specific campaign that hits the nail on the head - or one that really rocks.

Keep track of this information and use it to evaluate your own goals and plans.

Bonus: Get the Free Social Media Strategy Templatewith which you can plan your own strategy quickly and easily. You can also use this template to track results and present your planning to superiors, team colleagues and customers.

Download the free template now!

Step 4. Perform a social media audit

If you're already on social media, take a step back and see what you've accomplished. Ask yourself the following:

  • What works? What does not work?
  • Who connects with you on social media?
  • Which social media networks does your target group use?
  • How does your social media presence compare to the competition?

Once you have all of this information in hand, you will be in a position to move towards improving your results.
We have developed a guide and template for a social media audit that will easily guide you step-by-step through the process.

Your audit should show you the value of each of your social media accounts. If the usefulness of a profile is not clear, consider whether it is worth keeping it.

To help you make a decision, answer the following questions:

  1. Is my target group there?
  2. If so, how does it use this platform?
  3. Can I use the account to achieve my goals?

These clear questions will keep your social media strategy focused and on track.

Be on the lookout for fraudulent profiles

While checking, you may come across fraudulent accounts that use your company name or product name.

These scammers can damage your brand (not to mention pulling off followers who should be your own).

Report this to the social networks.

It is also a good idea to have your Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts verified to give fans and followers the certainty that they are actually dealing with you.

Step 5. Set up accounts and optimize existing profiles

Determine which networks you want to use (and how)

With the decision for certain social media channels, you also need a strategy for each network.

Angela Purcaro, Social Media Manager at Benefit Cosmetics, explained in the eMarketer: “For our make-up courses… we rely entirely on Snapchat and Instagram stories. Twitter, on the other hand, is used for customer service. "

Here as a reference on how other small and medium-sized businesses are using social media tools to communicate with their customers. Note: Facebook and Instagram even outperform emails in this area.

Pro tip: develop a mission statement for each network. These one-sentence explanations will help you focus on a very specific goal.

An example: "We will use Twitter for customer support in order to keep the volume of emails and calls to a minimum.

Another one: "We will use LinkedIn to promote and communicate our corporate culture to support recruiting and promoting employees as corporate ambassadors.

If you can't formulate a solid mission statement for a particular social network, you should reconsider whether it's worth being active here.

Set up your accounts

Once you have decided on your networks, it is now a matter of setting up your profiles - or optimizing existing profiles so that they align with your strategic plan.

  • Fill out all fields in a profile.
  • Use keywords that are used to search for your business.
  • Use images that correspond to the size specifications of the respective networks.

Pro tip: Use good quality images that are in the formats recommended for each network. Our always up-to-date cheat sheet on image sizes in social networks gives you a quick overview.

Our step-by-step guides will also guide you through the process:

Don't let all the possibilities fool you. Always remember: it is better to make good use of a few channels than to strain your capacities because you are trying to be present everywhere.

Step 6. Find inspiration

Even if your brand should be distinctive and unique, you can be inspired by other companies with a convincing social media presence.

Success stories from social networks

You can usually find this in the corporate section of the network's website. (Take a look at the Facebook success stories, for example.)

These case studies provide valuable insights that can be used in your own social media plan.

Award-winning accounts and campaigns

Examples of brands that have mastered the social media game perfectly can be found at the winners of the Facebook Awards or the Shorty Awards.

To learn and smile, watch the awards show from Fridge-Worthy, Hootsuite's 14-day awards show. Every two weeks, brands that do smart and clever things on social media are honored here.

Your favorite brands on social media

Who are you passionate about following on social media? How do these brands act to get people to engage and share their content?

National Geographic, for example, shines on Instagram by combining strong image motifs with meaningful captions.

The ecommerce brand Shopify uses Facebook to put itself in the right light through customer stories and case studies.

Ukeleleria | # Shopify1Million

🇲🇽Cancun 🇲🇽Say it louder for the people in the back, Ceci: "You should never be afraid of failure" 👏Turning passion into purpose, Ceci is powered every day by a true love for what she does. It's what motivated her to start Ukuleleria, and it's what kept any doubts away through all the ups and downs. Let's show Ceci some love with 💚 in the comments.

Posted by Shopify on Monday, January 27, 2020

And Glossier is a great example of great customer service on Twitter. They use their 280 characters to answer questions and solve problems quickly.

DM us your order number and we can help!

- Glossier (@glossier) May 5, 2020

All of these profiles communicate consistently in voice, tone and style. Consistency is key to your target audience: it gives your followers an understanding of what to expect from your brand. You will learn why they should keep following you and how it will benefit them.

You also ensure uniform branding in larger social media teams.

You can find out more on this topic in our guide, How To Establish Your Social Media Brand Voice.

Ask your followers

Consumers are also a source of social media inspiration.

What are your target customers talking about online? What can you learn from their wants and needs?

If you're already on social media, you could ask your existing followers what they expect from you. But make sure that you deliver then.

Step 7. Develop a social media content calendar

Sharing great content is essential. But if you want to get the most out of a piece of content, you also need a plan.

Your social media content calendar should also include the time required to interact with your target group (and leave some leeway for spontaneous engagement).

Develop a schedule for your posts

Your social media content calendar lists all the dates and times when you post types of content on each of your channels. This document will help you plan all your social media activities perfectly - from sharing pictures and links to blog posts and videos. It should contain your daily posts as well as your content for social media campaigns.

Your calendar ensures that your posts are evenly distributed and published at the best possible times.

Plan your content mix

Make sure your calendar reflects the mission statement associated with each channel so that each of your posts contributes to your business goals.

For example, you could specify that:

  • 50 percent of your content drives traffic back to your website
  • 25 percent of the content is curated from other sources
  • 20 percent of the content supports lead generation goals (newsletter registrations, e-book downloads, etc.)
  • 5 percent of the content is about your corporate culture

By recording these different types of content in your content calendar, you make sure that you stick to the planned mix.

If you're starting from scratch and aren't entirely sure what types of content to post, try the 80-20 rule:

  • 80 percent of your posts should be informative, educational, or entertaining your audience
  • 20 percent can advertise your brand directly

You can also try the social media rule of thirds:

  • A third of your social media content is promoting your business, converting readers, and generating sales.
  • A third of your social media content shares ideas and stories from thought leaders in their industry or from like-minded companies.
  • A third of your social media content revolves around personal interaction with your target audience.

Pro tip: When your content calendar is up, use tools like multiple scheduling to plan your posts in advance instead of updating them throughout the day.

We're partial, of course, but we think Hootsuite is the best social media planner. You can use it to schedule posts for any network, and the intuitive calendar view gives you a complete picture of all your social media activities every week.

To see how planning works with Hootsuite's post-composer, watch this short video:

Step 8. Test, evaluate and adapt the strategy

Your social media strategy is an extremely important document for your company. However, you cannot assume that it is already in place with the first throw.

It is quite possible that as you implement your plan, based on the initial results, you will find that some strategies are not working as expected, while others are working better than expected.

Track your performance data

Use UTM parameters as a supplement to the analytics (see step 2) of the respective social networks. In this way, you can track visitor movements on your website and determine exactly which social media posts generate the highest traffic on your website.

Rethink, test, and start over

Use the generated data to regularly review your strategy. You can also use this information to test different posts, campaigns and strategies against each other. Continuous testing shows what works and what doesn't.This allows you to refine your strategy in real time.

Surveys are also a great way to review your strategy. Ask your social media followers, subscribers on your email lists, and website visitors if you are meeting their expectations on social media. You could also ask them what they would like to see more often. In this case, however, you should make sure that you deliver what you want.

Social media moves fast. New networks emerge. Others are experiencing major demographic changes.

Your company is also going through phases of change.

See your social media strategy as a living document that you regularly review for any necessary adjustments. Reference it frequently. But don't be afraid to make changes as needed that reflect new goals, tools, or plans.

Communicate updates to your social media strategy to your entire social media team so that your employees can pull together to get the most out of your social media accounts for your company.

Social media strategy template

Bonus: Get the Free Social Media Strategy Templatewith which you can plan your own strategy quickly and easily. You can also use this template to track results and present your planning to superiors, team colleagues and customers.

What's next? When you're ready to make your plan a reality, we're here to help ...

Save time and manage your social media strategy with Hootsuite. With a single, easy-to-use dashboard, you can:

  • Plan, create and schedule posts for each network
  • Track relevant keywords, topics and accounts
  • Have your engagement under control with a universal inbox
  • Get access to easy-to-understand performance reports and thus initiate improvements

Free test now

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By Christina Newberry

Christina Newberry is an award-winning writer and editor whose greatest passions include food, travel, urban gardening, and the Oxford comma — not necessarily in that order.