Let’s be honest: Without a social media marketing strategy, you might not see your hard work on social media pay off. It’s easy to fall into the trap of posting content just for the sake of keeping your accounts “alive,” but that’s unlikely to generate real business results for your brand.
What goes into an effective social media strategy? Understanding your goals, knowing your audience and what they like, posting relevant content at the right time, and more.
The good news is, creating a smart social media strategy doesn’t have to be difficult if you have a good process in place. In this guide, we map out a 7-step plan to help you create an effective social media strategy for your brand — in no time.
What is a social media marketing strategy?
A social media marketing strategy is a document that outlines all your social media goals, the methods you’ll use to achieve those goals, and the metrics you’ll track to measure your progress.
In addition to that, your social media strategy should also outline the following:
- All your existing and planned social media accounts
- Marketing goals that are specific to each social media platform you use (these goals should fit in with your company’s larger digital marketing strategy)
- The roles and responsibilities of your team members
- Your reporting cadence
How to create a social media strategy in 7 simple steps
Below, we cover all the steps to creating a social media marketing strategy. If you’re in a rush (or you’re just not a big fan of reading), watch this video where Hootsuite’s Senior Manager of Social Media Marketing, Amanda, breaks down their free social media marketing strategy template:
1. Set social media marketing goals that fit in with your business objectives
Set S.M.A.R.T. goals
The first step to creating a social media strategy that works is to set your goals. Without goals, you won’t be able to measure your performance and return on investment (ROI).
However, to see the best results, your goals must be:
This is the S.M.A.R.T goal framework, and it will guide your marketing efforts and ensure that you get real results.
So instead of saying: “We want to drive traffic to our website through social media marketing.”
You say: “We will use LinkedIn to increase our website traffic from 10,000 pageviews to 20,000 page views by the end of this quarter.”
That’s a S.M.A.R.T. goal.
Track relevant metrics
Many brands get caught up in measuring metrics that don’t contribute to their marketing goals at all. Vanity metrics like the number of likes and followers are easy–exciting, even–to track, but they rarely have real value (except you’re trying to increase brand awareness).
Metrics like engagement, click-through rates (CTR) and conversion rates are much more relevant metrics to track as they contribute to your business objectives.
To get inspiration, check out these 18 important social media metrics.
You might want to track different metrics or have different uses for different social networks.
For example, if you use Twitter to increase your newsletter signups, you would measure click-through rate. If you use Instagram for brand awareness, you might want to measure the number of followers, impressions, post likes, Story views, shares, and comments you get. And if you advertise on TikTok, you should definitely track your cost-per-click (CPC).
2. Research your target audience
Create audience personas
Understanding who your audience is and what they like to engage with on social media will help you know what kind of content to create. This is especially important if you want to convert your social media followers into customers.
For example, if a beauty brand knows that its target audience loves to see posts about skincare tips and makeup product dupes, they could share content about those things on their social media accounts.
There are many ways to build audience personas, but here’s my favorite:
- Who are they? (i.e. age range, job title, salary, location, etc.)
- What are they interested in? (i.e. educational content, information about new products, entertaining posts, etc.)
- When do they look for this content? (i.e. during their commute, during lunch breaks, in the evenings after work, weekends, etc.)
- Where do they look for this content? (i.e. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.)
- Why do they consume this content? (i.e. to save money, to become more organized, to get better at a skill, etc.)
- How do they consume this content? (i.e. read social media posts, watch short videos, read blog posts, etc.)
To learn more about this, check out this simple guide the team at Hootsuite made about creating audience/buyer personas.
There’s some talk going around right now that Facebook is dead. That couldn’t be farther from the truth.
While its popularity has certainly reduced in recent years, Facebook still had 2.93 billion monthly active users in the first quarter of this year. You can’t tell me that your target audience isn’t a part of these ~nearly 3 billion people.
When it comes to the power of social media platforms, don’t make assumptions. Instead, check your social media analytics to get information about who your followers are, where they’re located, and how they engage with your brand on social media. These insights will help you adjust your strategy and target your audience better.
To learn more about gathering data, check out this Hootsuite guide to using social media analytics and the tools you need to get this data.
3. Know your competition
If you’re using social media platforms to promote your brand, chances are your competitors are doing the same. Don’t panic. This is a good thing because it means you can spy on them!
Conduct a social media competitor analysis
A social media competitive analysis helps you understand who your competitors are, what they’re doing right, what they’re doing wrong, and what they’re not doing at all.
There’s a chance your competitors are targeting the same audience as you. So spying on your competitors’ social media activity can help you understand what your audience is looking for and opportunities for growth.
For instance, a competitor is active on Twitter, but doesn’t use Facebook or Instagram a lot. If you’ve established that your audience uses Facebook or Instagram, you might want to focus on them, instead of trying to get fans from your competitor’s Twitter audience.
Use social media listening
Social listening is another excellent way to spy on your competitors.
Perform searches of your competitors’ brand names, account handles, and relevant keywords on social networks. Go through their content and what people are saying about them.
It’s difficult to find these things out manually, so tools like Hootsuite are great for helping you collect this data. Hootsuite Streams can help you monitor relevant keywords and social accounts in real-time. What’s more, it’s completely free!
As you listen, you may notice some shifts in how your competitors and industry leaders use social media. You might find some new trends. Or you might stumble upon a certain post or campaign that’s producing great results—or zero results.
Use all this information to guide your own social media marketing strategy.
4. Do a social media audit
After using social media for marketing purposes for some time, step back and analyze your efforts so far. Ask yourself these questions:
- What is working? What isn’t?
- Are people engaging with your content? Who are they?
- Which social networks does your target audience use?
- Are you doing better on social media than your competitors?
When you have that information, you can start thinking of how to improve. We have created a step-by-step guide on how to do a social media audit (with a free template) to help you with this process.
Your social audit should clearly show you the purpose of each of your accounts. If the purpose of an account isn’t very clear, reconsider if you should keep using it.
To help you make a decision, ask yourself:
- Is my target audience here?
- If so, how do they use this platform and what do they use it for?
- Can this platform help me achieve my goals?
Asking—and answering—these questions will keep your social media strategy focused.
Fish out impostor accounts
During your social media audit, you may find fake accounts that use your brand name or product name(s). These impostors can harm your brand, as well as capture followers that should be yours.
What to do?
Report them immediately.
You should also try to get your accounts verified to make sure that your followers know that they’re engaging with the real you.
Here’s how to get verified on:
5. Set up social media accounts and optimize existing profiles
Decide which social networks to use
When you decide which social media networks you’ll use, you need to define what you’ll use each of them for.
Angela Purcaro, the social media manager at Benefit Cosmetics, said to eMarketer: “For our makeup tutorials … we’re all about Snapchat and Instagram Stories. Twitter, on the other hand, is designated for customer service.”
Even the social team down at Hootsuite uses different formats within networks for different purposes. For example, Hootsuite uses feed posts on Instagram to share educational infographics and product announcements. And they use Stories to post live events or brief social media updates.
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A great way to define the purpose of social media platforms in your marketing strategy is to write a mission statement for each network. This mission statement is a single sentence that helps you focus on a specific goal.
Example: “We will use LinkedIn to connect with industry leaders and get inbound leads.” or “We will use Quora to answer any questions people might have about our brand.”
If you’re finding it difficult to create a mission statement for a specific social network, ask yourself if using it is worth it.
Set up your profiles
After deciding which networks to use and writing a mission statement for each one, you can start creating your profiles. You can also tweak existing accounts to align with your marketing strategy.
Here are some tips to help you set up your profiles:
- Fill out all the profile fields
- Include keywords that people use to find your business
- Use consistent branding (logos, images, color palettes, etc.) across all networks so that users can easily recognize your brand.
Pro-tip: Use high-resolution images that align with the recommended dimensions for each network. Check out our up-to-date social media image sizes cheat sheet if you’re not sure of the right dimensions.
The team at Hootsuite also made comprehensive guides for each network to help you with the process:
- Create a Facebook business page
- Create a Twitter business account
- Create an Instagram business account
- Create a LinkedIn Company Page
- Create a YouTube channel
- Create a Pinterest business account
- Create a Snapchat account
- Create a TikTok account
Don’t be overwhelmed by this list. It’s better to use fewer networks very well than to stress yourself out trying to grow a following on every network.
6. Create a social media content calendar
It’s important to share great content, but if you don’t have a plan that clearly states when you’ll share the content, you won’t get the results you need.
A social media content calendar helps you map out what content you’ll post, which platform you’ll post them to, and when they’ll go live, among other things. The calendar also accounts for the time you spend engaging with your audience.
Set your posting schedule
Your social media content calendar should list the dates and times you’ll publish your content on each network. In the calendar, you can plan all your social media activities—image creation, link sharing, sharing user-generated content (UGC), etc. It includes your daily posting, as well as content for social media campaigns.
A social media calendar also ensures that your posts are spaced out properly and published at the best time to post.
Pro-tip: Hootsuite can help you plan your entire content calendar and recommend the optimal times to post on each network based on your past impressions, engagement rate, and click-through rates.
Create the right content mix
Ensure that your social media content strategy and calendar reflect the mission statement you’ve created for each social network. This will ensure that all your posts support your larger business goals.
You can decide that:
- 40% of content will drive traffic back to your website
- 30% of content will be for lead generation (newsletter signups, freebie downloads, etc.)
- 20% of content will be gotten from other sources
- 10% of content will be about your company culture
Including these different post types in your calendar will ensure that you post the right mix of content.
However, if you’re just starting from scratch and you’re not sure what kinds of content to post, try the 80-20 rule. 80% of your posts should inform, educate, and/or entertain your audience, and 20% should directly promote your brand.
Or you could try the rule of thirds:
One-third of your content promotes your business, converts followers to customers, and drives revenue. One-third of your content shares stories and ideas from industry experts and/or like-minded businesses. One-third of your content is direct engagement with your audience.
Balance your posting frequency
If you’re just starting out with social media marketing, you might not know how often to post to get maximum engagement yet.
It’s a thin line to walk, really. If you post too frequently, you risk annoying your audience. But if you post too little, your audience might not notice you.
To make things easier, start with these posting frequencies:
- Facebook: 1-2 times per day
- Instagram (in-feed posts): 3-7 times per week
- Twitter: 1-5 times per day
- LinkedIn: 1-5 times per day.
Pro-tip: Once you’ve planned out your social media content calendar, use a scheduling tool to organize posts in advance, instead of posting on the fly throughout the day.
Hootsuite is a great choice for social media scheduling. With Hootsuite, you can schedule posts to every major social media network (Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, LinkedIn, Twitter, and more), and your calendar view will give you a full picture of your social activity each week.
Here’s a quick video that shows how scheduling works in Hootsuite Composer.
7. Track performance and tweak your social media strategy accordingly
Whether you just started with social media marketing or you’ve been doing it for a few years, you should always revisit your strategy from time to time.
As you track your results, you may realize that some tactics you used didn’t yield tangible results, while others are working really well.
To get better results, scrap the unfavorable techniques from your social media marketing strategy and focus more on the tactics that are working well. If you spot any new opportunities, try them out.
Track performance metrics
In addition to the built-in social analytics in each social network, you can use UTM parameters to track social media visitors as they navigate your website. This way, you’ll be able to see which social media posts drive the most traffic to your site.
Run tests and refine your strategy
Once you start collecting data, use it to refine your strategy regularly. You can use this info to test different posts, marketing campaigns, and strategies against one another.
Testing helps you understand what works and what doesn’t so that you can tweak your social media marketing strategy accordingly.
You’ll also need to check how your social channels are performing at least once a week and know the basics of social media reporting so that you can track your progress over time.
Pro-tip: If you use Hootsuite, you can see the performance of all your posts across all networks in one dashboard. Once you start to understand your analytics, you might decide to customize different reports to show certain metrics across different time periods.
You can also send surveys to find out how well your strategy is working. Ask your followers, website visitors, and email list if you’re meeting their expectations and what they’d like to see more of. Then give them what they ask for.
Social media strategy template
If you’re ready to start your social media marketing journey, this free template can make the job easier for you.
Use Hootsuite to manage your social media marketing strategy. With Hootsuite, you can easily plan and schedule social posts, track relevant keywords, engage with your audience, and measure your performance from a single dashboard.
Nice post. Social media is an important platform by which we can get huge business growth. Setting up the campaign always has a strong strategy.
Adam Rees says
That’s one informative post. Yes, without a defined audience it is quite hard to gain relevant traffic on your ad sets.
Santhosh Muralidhar says
Actually those are very crucial steps to build an effective social media marketing strategy. I agree that it is essential to set the goals properly, target the audience, define the KPI’s and create unique content regularly for getting better results from social media marketing.
SwiftChat Live Chat App says
Any social media strategy can benefit from SMART goals and objectives.