Getting Started with Social Media: The Basics of Defining your Strategy
Social media has become a key business tool to many brands, and has proven to be very efficient, in some industries, for brand awareness, customer acquisition and retention. Whether you have a personal blog, an emerging business, or a well-established company, you can benefit from different platforms to boost your online presence and drive conversions. Here are the basic steps towards defining a successful social media strategy. These include:
- Setting your objectives and KPIs
- Defining your personas
- Picking your channels
- Defining your content strategy
- Executing your social media strategy
- Monitor, Adjust and Repeat
1. Setting your objectives and KPIs
The first thing you need to do when building your social media strategy is to set your objectives. You need to be clear on what you’re trying to achieve in order to be able to assess whether your efforts are paying off or not. Objectives can be related to: Awareness (wanting people to know who you are), Engagement (wanting people to interact with you) or Action (wanting people to take particular actions). Each could mean different things depending on your type of business, which stage you’re in, and where your audience is in their user journey. This is where KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) come in. You need to link your objectives to KPIs and define specific goals as this will help you track their performance. A common technique to define goals is the SMART approach. SMART is an acronym for:
- Specific (simple, sensible, significant)
- Measurable (meaningful, motivating)
- Achievable (agreed, attainable)
- Relevant (reasonable, realistic and resourced, results-based)
- Time bound (time-based, time limited, timely, time-sensitive)
Basically, your goals will need to be concrete, realistic and measurable. For example, if you are a new blogger, your primary goal would be related to Awareness. You will use social media to get your name out there and reach the highest number of eyeballs. Instead of setting up a generic goal like “Increase number of followers on Facebook”, your SMART objective would be “Reach 5,000 likes on Facebook in 3 months”. In addition to Follower Count, other measurable KPIs related to Awareness include Total Reach and Impressions. Whereas if your objective is to increase Engagement, you will be looking at: Number of Mentions, Number of Shares, Engagement Rate, etc. And finally KPIs related to Action depend on what you want your followers to do like Number of clicks generated by a post, Click-Through-Rate, Number of newsletter subscriptions to name a few.
Before locking your objectives, it is important to examine bloggers and businesses from your industry. This will allow you to quantify your goals according to industry standards.
2. Defining your personas
The purpose of this step is to define the audience you’re talking to. Creating personas will help you understand your users’ interests, behaviors, needs, and thus help you find out what content they’re interested in, what channels they’re active on and how to target them better. This will come in handy when it’s time for you to choose your platforms and plan your content strategy. More on that below.
So what is a persona? A persona is a fictional representation of your ideal “user”. In order to define your persona, you will need to answer the following questions:
In regards to demographics:
- How old are they?
- Are they mostly men or women?
- Where do they live?
- What is their job? And what is their average income?
- Are they single, married, or divorced? Do they have children?
- Did they go to college? Do they have a masters degree?
In regards to psychographics:
- What are their likes and dislikes?
- What are their values?
- What kind of lifestyle do they lead?
- How does your product or service fit into their lifestyle?
- What social media channels are they active on? Do they check them on Desktop or on Mobile?
Depending on the industry you’re in, it is important to hone in on your user’s interests to get a better idea of who they are. Don’t be afraid to ask yourself more detailed questions like:
- What type of television shows do they watch?
- What magazines or website might they read?
- What type of restaurants do they go to?
- Where do they shop for clothing?
- What subscription services did they sign up for?
The more questions you ask yourself, the more detailed your persona profile will be, and the better you will be able to target your audience when it comes time to advertise to them. If you already have active social media accounts or a website, looking at insights and analytics will help you understand who are the people that are already interacting with you. You can define as many personas as you find relevant.
Check out this example based on famed Superman character Lois Lane:
3. Pick your channels
The number of social channels out there is constantly growing. But guess what? You don’t have to be on every single one of them. Your choice of channels should be based on the first two steps of your strategy:
- Your objectives. For example, if your main objective is to drive traffic to your blog, Instagram might not not be where you will invest most of your efforts since you cannot attach links to your posts.
- According to your persona profiles. Now that you have defined your audience, you can list the channels where they spend most of their time. Don’t be afraid to ask your audience about their preferences, or to rely on statistics. If you audience is mostly male, Pinterest might not be the channel for you, as it is more popular with women (41% of whom say they use the site) than with men (16%). Moreover you should understand their behavior on each channel and when they’re most active. Some channels, like Facebook nowadays, are primarily used to consume content, others to interact and converse, like Whatsapp, and some to share pictures, like Instagram.
Make sure that you refer to the general best practices of each channel to ensure that you’re using it to its highest potential.
4. Define your content strategy
Before jumping right in, defining a content strategy is essential, as this will help you plan for content creation needs for every channel in advance, ensuring a continuous flow of conversation with your audience. It’s important for this calendar to span over a period of three months, giving you enough time to thoroughly test things out, and pivot accordingly at the end of this timeframe. Keep an eye out for which content formats are performing the best, as you will probably need to produce more of them. On a final note, make sure to document your strategy in a content calendar table, in which you can track what you post, when and where.
Here are the steps to follow to define your social media content strategy:
- Build an inventory of all the generic messages and information you need to communicate to your audience. For example: introducing them to your blog’s mission, announcing that you’re part of an affiliate program, listing your latest recipes etc.
- Make a list of the topics that interest each persona, for example if you’re a food blogger and one of your personas is working moms, you can post content related to 10-minute quick recipes that can help them save time.
- Match the content types you have listed with formats you can produce (articles, videos, photos, infographics, live coverage, etc.). For instance, the 10 minute quick recipes can be shared through short videos or photo recipes, while in depth restaurant reviews might be better in an editorial format.
- Match each type of content with the channels you have picked. You need to take into consideration that some topics/formats are more suitable for specific channels. So if you’re going with short video recipes, these would go better on Facebook and Instagram. Also note that not every piece of content should be published on all channels.
- Now that you have listed everything, you can define the outline of your content calendar by answering the following question: for each content type, how many posts are you able to produce every week? For example, if you are only able to produce one video recipe per week, you will have to make the most out of it on all of your social channels.
- Based on this outline, you can easily develop your weekly or monthly content calendar. For example, per week you will have on Facebook: 1 photo recipe, 2 restaurant reviews, 1 video recipe. On Instagram: the same video recipe and 3 images of meals you’re having. Don’t forget to look at when is the best time to post on each channel. This will depend on your audience. For example, it would be good to share meal images on Instagram a couple of hours before lunch time.
- While preparing your captions, make sure to use a tone of voice that reflects your brand’s personality. This tone might slightly change depending on the channel you use. For instance, a more professional tone works well on Facebook, whereas a lighter funner tone is more suitable for Instagram.
5. Execute your social media strategy
Now that you’ve laid down your content strategy, you need to ask yourself if you’ve got all the resources and skills to both produce and share your posts. This includes designing the post, writing its caption, and posting it. Don’t forget, you will also need to design the main images of your profiles, including the profile pictures, cover photos, etc, as well as fill out the biography sections for each. Note that you should aim for consistency in all your communication. A cohesive branding shows that you’re serious about your brand and helps your followers feel right at home.
If you’re a growing or established business, you’ll need to form a team that will manage your social media activity. Skills needed are: graphic design, community management, content creation, copywriting, advertising, and analysis. You could find people who have several skills and thus reduce the size of your team. In fact, there’s no ideal team size, but the average is three people: with one person to produce the content, one to post and monitor the content, and one to advertise and analyze the content’s reach and success . Once the team is formed, you will need to define a process that specifies the role of each person, the workflow, and the approval cycle.
If you are just starting out your blog on your own, you will have to be a master of trades. Make sure to plan everything in advance which will help you stay one step ahead of the curve.
At this stage, you should have all your accounts completed and setup.
6. Monitor, Adjust and Repeat
After you’ve listed the KPIs, you will need to find tools that tell you whether you’ve reached your goal or not to start analyzing the performance.
- Capturing the data: Most social media channels provide some form of analytics in relation to the content you’re posting (total reach, engagement, clicks, etc.). You can make sense of these numbers by looking at metrics that correspond to your objectives. On the other hand, if you are running a website, you need to have Google Analytics configured and extract the data related to social channels like the incoming traffic from each channel, number of conversions linked to each channel, etc. in order to see how many people are coming to your website from these social channels.
- Documenting the data: In order to properly analyze and compare your numbers over a period of time, you will need to document your data by creating a weekly or a monthly report. This will give you a better idea on your performance, and help you adjust your strategy accordingly. You can consider including benchmarks or other contextual information in order to quickly understand what all the numbers mean. Including visualizations of your data and graphs can help you grasp your results more clearly.
Monitoring the performance of each channel gives you the ability to re-evaluate and adapt your strategy. You can check your analytics every week, or month, or every 3-6 months or even every year. Since social channels are in constant development and new features are being made available every now and then, we advise that the cycle be no longer than 6 months.
This brings us to our last piece of advice: always stay up to date with the latest practices and trends related to social media. This will help you adapt to new rules, or even be the first adopter of new features. In order to make the most out of social media channels, you will need to fully grasp what is happening in the ever changing digital ecosystem. Useful websites and blogs include the Social Media Examiner or HubSpot Marketing feed.
If you’re part of an affiliate program, social media can play a major role in helping you generate more clicks on your affiliate links. To find out more on how you can make the most out of your affiliate program check out our article: Affiliate Marketing for Beginners: 4 Tips to Earn More Money.