Social media is an expense every brand has to deal with. Whether you want to develop a strong social media strategy or just want to make sure that your brand has a presence in today’s social media landscape, there are steps for brands that can not only help you develop your social media strategy but also quell the overwhelming feeling you get whenever you open Instagram or Twitter.

What is social media strategy?

A social media strategy is a summary of everything you plan to do and hope to achieve on social media. It guides your actions and lets you know whether you’re succeeding or failing.

The more specific your plan is, the more effective it will be. Keep it concise. Don’t make it so lofty and broad that it’s unattainable or impossible to measure.

How to create a killer social media strategy?

The common question a few years ago, “why should our business use social media?”, is now being replaced with, “how can our business grow with social media marketing?”.

Yet, brands 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. So,

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.

Get to know your fans, followers, and customers as real people with real wants and needs, and you will know how to target and engage them on social media.

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. Gather data

Don’t make assumptions. Think Facebook is a better network for reaching Baby Boomers than Millennials? Well, the numbers show that Millennials still outnumber Boomers on the platform.

Social media analytics can also provide a ton of valuable information about who your followers are, where they live, and how they interact with your brand on social media. These insights allow you to refine your strategy and better target your audience.

Jugnoo, an Uber-like service for auto-rickshaws in India, used Facebook Analytics to learn that 90% of their users who referred other customers were between 18- and 34-years-old, and 65% of that group was using Android. They used that information to target their ads, resulting in a 40% lower cost per referral.

3. Start blogging

Fresh content is the linchpin of a successful social media 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.

4. Create educational content

Make downloadable content like ebooks, checklists, videos, and infographics that address your buyer’s pains a part of your social media strategy. If your content is truly helpful, people will likely share it on social media and extend your reach.

5. 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.

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.

6. 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. Manage and plan your social media content with our free handy calendar guide and template.

7. Measure your results

There are countless #thngs 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.

8. 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.

9. Track meaningful metrics

Vanity metrics like number of followers and likes are easy to track, but it’s hard to prove their real value. Instead, focus on things like engagement, click-through, and conversion rates.

You may want to track different goals for different networks, or even different uses for each network. For example, if you use LinkedIn to drive traffic to your website, you would measure click-throughs. If Instagram is for brand awareness, you might track the number of Instagram Story views. And if you advertise on Facebook, cost-per-click (CPC) is a common success metric.

Social media goals should align with your overall marketing objectives. This makes it easier to show the value of your work and secure buy-in from your boss.

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 social media strategy and generate more consistent results.

Time to get that social media strategy  live

Still feel like social media is overwhelming? That’s OK; I’m not sure that feeling ever fully fades. 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.