Many businesses find social media overwhelming — there are so many networks available, and they’re always adding new features for you to learn and integrate into your plan.
If you don’t have a full-time team of social media experts at your disposal, your success depends on creating a simple and sensible strategy that fits your resources and goals.
By the end of this guide, you'll know how to develop a social media strategy that'll not only drive traffic but will also quell that overwhelming feeling you get anytime you open Instagram or Twitter.
What is a social media strategy?
Your social media strategy is your master plan for how you create, post, and engage with your social media content.
It encompasses your social content guidelines, posting cadence, social media marketing campaigns, creative plans, and engagement strategy.
Why You Need a Social Media Strategy
The top three challenges that social media marketers face include reaching their audience, measuring ROI, and reaching business goals.
Crafting a social media strategy can help tackle these challenges and more. Social media strategies also equip you to set goals and guardrails, track their performance, and tweak your benchmarks over time. Without a starting point, you can't measure what's working and how to shift your activity to hit your goals.
A social media strategy also helps you set expectations for broader team involvement and get everyone aligned on what they should (and shouldn't) do on your social networks.
Let's unpack how to start building a social media strategy from scratch.
1. Define your target audience.
If you haven’t already identified and documented your buyer personas, start by defining the key demographics of the audience you’re trying to reach — age, gender, occupation, income, hobbies and interests, etc.
Consider their challenges and what problems they're solving daily. Focus on no more than four types of people that represent the majority of your buyers. Don’t get hung up on the exceptions or outliers, or you’ll never get started!
2. Start blogging.
Fresh content is the linchpin of a successful social strategy, so commit to creating new, quality content on a consistent basis. Compile a list of common questions from prospects and commit to addressing these questions with at least one new blog post per week.
3. Create educational content.
Create downloadable content like ebooks, checklists, videos, and infographics that address your buyer’s pains. If your content is truly helpful, people will likely share it on social media and extend your reach.
4. Focus on a few key social channels.
Most startups and small businesses don’t have the bandwidth to establish and sustain a quality social media presence on every single channel. It's also overwhelming to learn the rules of engagement on a bunch of different networks at one time.
Here's a video by HubSpot Academy explaining the social channels on which you can post content for your business.
So, start small. Research key networks to learn where your target audience is spending time and focus your effort on building, nurturing, and sustaining a community there before moving on to another channel.
5. Develop a recipe card to guide you.
Social media isn’t an exact science (and doesn't work the same for every business or industry). To see results for your business, establish a consistent posting and engagement schedule.
Develop a reasonable recipe card — one you can actually stick to and get your team to follow. Set goals for your posting and engagement frequency and hold yourself accountable to following your recipe.
6. Measure your results.
There are countless things to track on your social media channels. Start by looking at how much traffic your social accounts are driving to your website or blog.
Watch your posts to see what people are responding to, and look for trends related to particular topics or keywords that generate more interest than others. Once you get an idea of your average traffic and post performance, set goals for key metrics and keep a scorecard to measure your progress.
Be sure to choose metrics that are easy to gather - if it's too time-consuming to track, you'll fall off the wagon! Examples of simple metrics (to start with) include net new fans and followers, number of interactions, and visits to your website from social.
7. Adjust your tactics.
Social media won't start working overnight. It takes time to build a following, establish your brand, and start seeing results. Experiment a bit to find the right combination of channels, content, and messaging that works for your audience.
Over time, you’ll be able to adjust your recipe card, content, and personas based on the information you’re gathering — which will help you fine tune your strategy and generate more consistent results.
Social Media Marketing Strategy
Social media is a multipurpose business asset. It connects you with your audience, and it also promotes your products, services, and brand. Both functions are equally important.
Building a social media strategy for marketing is a bit different than the process we discussed above. How so? For example, your benchmarks and goals may be more specific to metrics you track for other marketing efforts.
When using social media to market your business, ensure the experience on your social networks is a positive, consistent one. All imagery and content on your social media accounts should be consistent with those on your website, blog, and other digital real estate.
Pay close attention to any questions or comments your audience posts, and be quick to address those (as that engagement could make or break a conversion or purchase).
Lastly, align the content you post and how you post it with marketing campaigns you're running on other channels (e.g., email or ads). This brings us to our next section ...
Social Media Content Strategy
Content is the crux of any social media strategy. Without content, you can't engage with your audience, promote your products, or measure performance.
The somewhat fleeting (and brief) nature of social media may lead you to believe that you don't have to plan its content as much as you do for, say, your emails or blogs. That's untrue. Social media content may not be as static as your landing pages or blog content, but it's still equally important for engaging your audience and representing your brand as a whole.
For that reason, you should also have a social media content strategy. This should include:
- Posting guidelines and specs for each network on which you're active (e.g., share GIFs on Twitter but avoid on Facebook)
- Target audience nuances per network (e.g., the younger segment of your audience is more active on Instagram than LinkedIn)
- Repurposing plans for long-form content from your blog, podcast, e-books, etc.
- Who on your team is allowed to post and who's responsible for engaging followers
- The companies, publications, and individuals you'll repost (and those who you won't/can't)
For more on creating a content strategy for social media, here's a helpful video by HubSpot's Aja Frost.
Social Media Strategy Templates
Social media is overwhelming; I get it. Starting your strategy from scratch is even more overwhelming, which is why we developed 10 free social media templates to help.
In the free download, you'll receive:
- Scheduling templates for every channel, since social media channels aren't one-size-fits-all
- Complete calendar of hashtag holidays, so you never forget to participate with new, fun content
- Social auditing template to track your followers, engagement rates, and more
- A social media content calendar to organize campaigns across every channel
- A social reporting template to track your monthly social successes
- A paid social template to help you manage and optimize your paid budget
Time to Get Social
Still feel like social media is overwhelming? That's OK; I'm not sure that feeling every fully fades. You can certainly diminish it, though, by leveraging the tips in this guide and the free templates above. Remember: Tackle one social network at a time, prioritize your audience, and focus the content that works. You'll see results and traffic in no time.