Forget your preconceptions, your traditional marketing strategy, and get ready to enter a new world: social media marketing.
Social media presents a great opportunity to build a community - to truly understand what the audience thinks of your brand and sector, and what it’s most interested in.
To make the most of social media, marketers must create a robust yet flexible strategy.
While social media is incredibly accessible, it’s also very easy to misstep or misfire. Your approach must align with business goals and the wider marketing strategy, but be tuned into the unique environment that is social media.
In this guide, we’ll walk you through the basics of creating a social media strategy - what you need to do first, what’s important to pay attention to, and the questions you’ll need to answer before you can dive in.
Our experts are always happy to answer those questions 1:1, too, so don’t hesitate to contact us if you’re still nervous about this brave new world.
- What Is Social Media Marketing
- The Benefits Of Social Media Marketing
- What Is Your Social Media Maturity
- Creating Your Social Media Strategy
- The Next Steps
WHAT IS SOCIAL MEDIA MARKETING?
In simple terms, social media marketing is the action of creating content for social media platforms to connect with your audience.
It’s a way to build your brand, increase sales and drive website traffic by publishing engaging, useful and educational content in the form of posts, graphics and videos on your social media profiles, and by advertising on the platforms.
But it’s also more than that.
Perhaps more than any other type of marketing, social media marketing is about truly listening to and engaging with your audience.
Social media may have started as a broadcast channel, but it quickly matured beyond that.
Today, businesses use social media in lots of different ways of which we will go into more depth throughout this article.
THE BENEFITS OF SOCIAL MEDIA MARKETING
Social media marketing is about meeting your audience where they are, and encouraging them to interact with your brand.
It can reap huge rewards for those brands that invest time and resource into building their social profiles.
INCREASE BRAND AWARENESS
Just by taking part in conversations, your brand gets noticed.
However, by having a dedicated social media marketing strategy you can elevate that awareness to the next level.
Social media provides a cost-efficient digital marketing platform through which you can syndicate content and increase visibility.
It’s seen as more efficient than traditional media as you can get your brand in front of more people, more quickly and easily, with no demographic or geographic limits.
INCREASED TRAFFIC, LEADS AND CONVERSIONS
Social media should never be used as a brand’s only digital presence; think of it more like an interactive shop window that can be used to send your target audience wherever you want, be it to a landing page, an ecommerce store or your company website.
Sharing content with links can not only help to drive that traffic to your site, but can also have an indirect impact on search engine optimisation (SEO).
Adding calls to action to your posts can help to drive conversions and generate leads.
There’s even a whole discipline around social selling that can create strong qualified leads, especially in B2B.
DIRECT ACCESS TO CONSUMERS
Some of the best social media-savvy brands out there know how to use the platforms to speak directly with their customers.
That could be in the form of using social media for customer service, or it could be as simple as responding to compliments.
Social customer service is quick and to the point; there’s no need to sit on hold or wait for an email response.
It’s a great channel to gather customer feedback on new products or campaigns, and can provide the sort of real-time response that lets you tweak strategies before it becomes too late.
BUILD A COMMUNITY AND FOSTER NEW RELATIONSHIPS
Given this direct access to consumers, social media marketing provides ample opportunity to foster relationships and build a community around your brand.
This works particularly well in B2C, where, for example, beauty brands create their own hashtags for Instagram or fashion brands can get in on the #ootd (outfit of the day) action.
When the audience sees the brand communicating on the same level, with the same tone as they use, it helps to build trust and credibility with the target audience.
One of the most overlooked benefits to social media marketing is the ability to listen to the market, and to uncover industry trends in real time.
The nature of social media gives us the ability to see unfiltered, real-time conversations between consumers and between brands and their customers - but it also lets you see what competitors are doing and how the world is reacting to that.
Tap into the hashtags your target audience uses, or better yet set up some social listening searches to spy on competitors, and gain the sort of insights we used to only dream about.
WHAT IS YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA MATURITY
Sounds great, right? You might have already delved into the world of social media marketing but are having limited success, or you might have been too nervous so far to take the plunge.
With social media marketing campaigns now expected to contribute to overall business performance, it’s important to understand where you sit in terms of social media maturity so you know how to pitch your strategy creation.
We’ve developed a five-stage social media maturity model to help both newcomers and experienced social media marketing teams.
It provides not just a benchmark for existing maturity levels, but also gives valuable recommendations for how you can improve current strategies and investments.
Take the Qurate Social Media Maturity Survey and create a benchmark for you to review your program and strategy as you continue to grow your social media marketing programme.
CREATING YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA STRATEGY
Now that you’ve established your social media maturity, it’s time to start thinking about how you’ll move forward with social media marketing.
As with other marketing techniques, it’s important to have a clear, written strategy before you start to test the waters with social media.
A social media strategy will enable you to make the most of the opportunities by helping you to understand what you want to achieve, who you’re talking to, where it’s best to spend your time, and how to analyze the results.
The step by step process you can follow is outlined below.
- DEFINE YOUR BUSINESS GOALS
- PERFORM COMPETITOR ANALYSIS
- CREATE YOUR BUYER PERSONAS
- CHOOSE THE RIGHT SOCIAL MEDIA PLATFORMS
- SOCIAL MEDIA AUDIT
- PLAN, SCHEDULE, CURATE SOCIAL MEDIA CONTENT
- REPORT & ANALYZE RESULTS
- SET KEY SOCIAL MEDIA TEAM ROLES
- THE RIGHT TOOLS
DEFINE YOUR BUSINESS GOALS
What is it you want to actually achieve by using social media for your business?
Let’s say your business goal is to increase traffic to your website by 50% over the next six months.
It’s important to know the goals you want to reach before starting to think about the tactics to lead you there.
You would likely use a combination of tactics, from advertising to search engine marketing to direct mail, and social media marketing can be a strong channel with which to push your message and edge closer to that goal.
Once you have those business goals set, consider how social media could help you to get there.
You want to make your objectives SMART - specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound - to make sure the goal is realistic, and then decide which meaningful metrics to use to track your progress.
As we said earlier, one of the biggest benefits of social media is the ability it gives to listen to the market.
Social media listening should be an early part of your strategy as it can help you to answer the questions around which platforms to focus on and what your audience is talking about.
First though, a quick point of order.
You may have seen the terms “social listening” and “social monitoring” and assumed they were interchangeable. Well, not quite.
We define the difference like this:
Is “the what”; it’s about collecting data across social media platforms and reporting on specific actions, such as likes, mentions and engagement rates.
Is “the why”; it adds context and intelligence to the raw data, and helps you to understand the bigger picture around conversations and mentions.
Your social listening will not only help you to understand where your target personas are, it will help you to see your competitor’s activity – or lack thereof.
If your target audience is very active on, say, Instagram but your competitors are not, that presents an opportunity for you to own that space.
Or, perhaps your competitors are not talking about a particular industry trend that you’ve identified through social listening – again, that’s an opportunity for you to step in first.
Social listening is a key tool in competitor analysis exercise as it enables you to see not just what is being said, but also how it’s being received.
To understand more about social listening and how you can best use it to your benefit read our article on How To Get Started With Social Listening.
CREATE YOUR BUYER PERSONAS
It’s now time to think about your target audience, which you now understand more thanks to social listening.
It’s important to have your personas clear before you jump into the practical details - who you’re creating content for will inform the types of topics you cover and the formats that work best.
Creating buyer personas, or audience personas, is a way of better understanding the people you want to reach using social media and other content marketing, especially with the current drive towards more personalization in marketing.
A buyer persona is like a character sketch. You build up an idea of a person, sometimes assigning real names and jobs to them or sometimes labelling them with a more generic term like “the millennial runner”.
Create buyer personas by researching your customer base to understand things like:
- Their background
- Their goals and motivations
- Their frustrations
- Where they seek information
- What topics they’re interested in
- Any hobbies they might have
- The brands and influencers they follow
- Their personality and psychographic traits
And where do you find this information?
Dig into your social insights, and other marketing data such as your CRM, Google Analytics and on-site behaviours.
Or, ask your audience directly through interviews, surveys and focus groups.
It’s important to note there is a difference between buyer personas for B2B and B2C organizations.
Typically, B2B prospects will be part of a larger group or team working for the same company; B2C prospects are individuals who make their own decisions based on their own experiences.
This impacts how you should develop and approach your persona research.
It’s good practice to have at least two or three buyer personas for your social media strategy, but try not to have more than five or your strategy will become too unfocused.
Start small and build out as you gather more data and test how your content is working for your personas.
For more information check out our other blog post What is a Buyer Persona and Why is it Important.
CHOOSE THE RIGHT SOCIAL MEDIA PLATFORMS
“Social media” is such a wide-ranging term that it’s important to narrow your focus.
If you try to be everywhere, your resources will be stretched thin; by focusing, you can target your efforts and reap more rewards.
The platforms you focus your time on will be dictated by your buyer personas, and your social listening exercise should look across all platforms to help you identify where your personas are most active.
It’s also important to see how your competitors are using social media.
You want to make sure you’re on each platform where they are active – this will help to ensure you’re part of the ongoing conversation – but social listening may also highlight a platform where they are absent but you have a lot of target customers.
And where is your audience hanging out? It’s likely to be one of the following.
With 2.2 billion users worldwide, Facebook is the biggest and best-known social media platform. It’s best used for brand awareness and targeted advertising, especially if you’re targeting the 40+ market as a B2C business.
You need to have great-looking photos to be successful on Instagram and tap into its one billion primarily millennial users, and brands have the most traction when sharing authentic, natural-looking shots (not cheesy stock photography!). It can be a good opportunity to give a peek behind the scenes or to harness user-generated content.
Less prevalent than Facebook or Instagram (there are “just” 335 million users) Twitter is best for real-time conversations. It can also be a great public relations and customer service tool. Its use crosses the B2C/B2B divide, but it moves at great speed - the average lifespan of a tweet is only 18 minutes so timing is crucial, as is standing out from the crowd.
One of the few social media platforms tailored to the B2B audience, LinkedIn has 645 million users worldwide, though it does skew towards the US, Western Europe and Asia. It’s a great platform if you’re trying to reach a professional audience, especially for talent or business development purposes.
The world’s second-biggest search engine, YouTube has been the internet’s home for video for 15 years. While its regular user base is largely Millennials, brands can create a loyal following by sharing entertaining stories or educational how-to videos.
- PINTEREST (250 million users) continues to grow as a platform, and has its biggest impact in inspirational B2C content.
- SNAPCHAT (300 million users) is still strong with the Generation Z audience, though brands are less prevalent now than a few years ago.
- TIKTOK (500 million users) is the platform Generation Z is fast turning to; the brand opportunity right now is limited.
- Community messaging apps, or “dark social”, such as WhatsApp, WeChat, Facebook Messenger, Slack and Telegram are also growing in interest for social media marketing, though we are focusing here on open platforms.
SOCIAL MEDIA AUDIT
The final piece of preparation is something that should be repeated on a regular basis: an audit of your brand’s social media work to date.
A social media audit is the process of reviewing what’s working, what’s not working, and what can be improved upon in your brand’s use of social media channels.
It should look at the metrics for each channel and analyze success or otherwise.
Questions you should seek to answer include:
- Does your presence on this platform bring in new customers?
- Does your presence on this platform help drive customer loyalty?
- Does your presence on this platform increase brand engagement or awareness?
- Is there a platform that is under-utilized, either by you or your audience? And is there an opportunity to kickstart engagement, or should you move away?
- Is each profile optimized for the channel? For example, are all bio fields filled in correctly and pointing your audience to the right places? Are your header images up to date? Are you using every opportunity to tell your brand story?
- What are your best (and worst) performing posts? Why might these posts have achieved this engagement?
In addition, do some additional research to see if there are any new platform features you should be using. For example, Facebook is pushing its groups functionality – is there a relevant opportunity for you to use this?
Finally, use social listening tools to check there are no unauthorized profiles pretending to be an official outlet for your brand.
If you identify any, take steps to contact the platform and have these removed or flagged as unofficial.
Your initial social media audit will provide a benchmark for your activity.
Subsequent audits should check progress against your initial business goals, and indicate any adjustments you should consider making to your strategy.
Schedule an audit at least once a year, though the more you do it, the more targeted you can make your strategy.
PLAN, SCHEDULE, CURATE SOCIAL MEDIA CONTENT
Now that you’ve got your goals, you know who you’re trying to reach, and you know where they’re hanging out, it’s finally time to get creating.
And just like it’s best to document your strategy, it’s important to have a plan for when and what you will post.
Given all the research you’ve done to date, you should have a pretty good idea of the topics your audience cares about, and will know how your brand’s product or service fits in.
Try giving your social media content a mission or theme in a single sentence - such as “showcasing a sustainable lifestyle for millennial travellers” - and then brainstorm a list of topics - in this case, that might be ecotravel, environmentally-friendly fashion, and the thoughts of Greta Thunberg.
All content you either create or curate (that is, share from elsewhere) should fall under this theme and one of these topics.
It can be very tempting to just share sales messaging about how great your brand is - resist that temptation.
There’s an “80/20” rule for content marketing that should be followed, which says that 80% of content should be useful, entertaining and/or informative and only 20% should be about your brand.
You’ll find it easier to keep track of your social media content if you create a schedule - whether that’s in a spreadsheet or using technology - and keep it under regular review.
Social media is by its definition social, and scheduling a month’s worth of content and then not touching social again until next month will not win you any friends.
HOW OFTEN SHOULD YOU POST ON SOCIAL MEDIA
The big question, of course, is how often you should post to individual social media platforms.
There’s no magic formula to follow.
But try this rule of thumb when starting out:
- Facebook: 1-2 times per day
- Twitter: 5-10 times per day
- Instagram: 1-2 times per day
- LinkedIn: About once per business day
- Pinterest: At least 5 pins per day
It’s important, though, to keep it manageable.
It’s better to post less frequently but consistently than it is to be spamming once a month.
REPORT & ANALYZE RESULTS
One of the great things about social media is its quick pace.
This means you can test what works, adjust, and try again much more quickly than with more traditional marketing programmes.
It’s easy to get lost in the wave of comments and critiques that will come your way during social listening and monitoring exercises, but you’ll quickly learn what’s important to take note of and what you can let wash away.
Some of the more important metrics to keep track of include:
The clicks, comments, likes and replies on your posts across all platforms on which you’re active. Make sure you look not just at the general engagement but also the platform-specific actions, like “pinned” posts on Pinterest or “saved” posts on Instagram.
The number of people who have seen your content on a particular platform.
The number of people who have clicked “follow” on your profile and see your content in their feeds.
The number of times your post is seen, whether or not there is an interaction like a click or a like. It may just be that it’s appeared in the feed while the user is scrolling through.
The number of times someone has mentioned your profile in their own posts.
The number of times someone has added your profile or your hashtag to their post, for example by using the @.
- Shares & Reposts
The number of times an audience member has taken your post and shared it with their own network.
You might also want to track actions like video views, profile visits and group interactions - just make sure you keep the measurement process manageable.
There is a lot you could chase after, but there will be a few metrics that are key to your strategy and to reaching your goals. These are the most important ones to track.
If you want to discover more on this we cover more details in our article The Social Media Metrics That You Should Be Tracking.
It’s important not to get bogged down in details when creating reports. Before you dive into data, ask yourself:
- Who are you creating these reports for?
- What do you want them to know?
- What do they want to know? What matters to them?
Make sure you have your initial social media strategy goals to hand, too, as you’ll need to interrogate the data to see how well you’re hitting those SMART objectives.
To learn from the data, look at the top performing posts - what was shared the most, liked the most - and your worst-performing ones, too.
Be sure to track:
- Brand protection - look at crisis management or share of voice
- Brand performance - look at brand health or comparing across social networks
- Brand promotion - look at the brand’s reputation and influencer performance
You’ll soon see a pattern of what your audience is most interested in, and you’ll be able to tweak your social media strategy to optimise your content production efforts and reap more social media rewards.
Our Social Media Crisis Management Playbook will give you a more indepth review into how to monitor your brand performance and be prepared for any potential social media crisis that should occur.
SET KEY SOCIAL MEDIA TEAM ROLES
So who’s going to do all of this work?
Resource may be an issue initially, but once you gather more social data and start to prove your business case, you can start to grow your team.
Whether it’s one person or many, the roles and responsibilities you’ll need to consider include:
- Content creation, from the written word to the moving image
- Community management, or dealing directly with the audience to encourage engagement
- Social media marketing and advertising, to get more eyes on your content
- Customer service, if you’re going to deal with this via social media
- And, of course, social media strategy
You’ll also need to make sure this team doesn’t work in a silo, and is closely aligned with not just the rest of the digital team, but the wider marketing and sales ecosystem, too.
THE RIGHT TOOLS
Luckily you don’t have to do all of this manually. Technology can support your social media strategy by:
- Monitoring social media activity
- Listening to the audience
- Performing competitor and market analysis
- Making social engagement easier
- Scheduling and posting to multiple channels from one system
- Tracking performance and measuring success
- Developing a social media advertising program
When choosing the right tools for social media management, know what you’re trying to achieve.
Also make sure you know exactly what you’re getting out of the box and what might need some adjustments.
THE NEXT STEPS
Feeling ready to go?
It’s time to invest in your social tech stack, especially your social listening platform, and to start creating content that your buyer personas will love.
Remember, social media moves quickly and it’s important to keep up.
It’s not something you can dip in and out of; you need to set aside regular time to keep stoking the social media fires.
But that also means it’s a great place to test out new content and new ways of talking about your business.
Consider social media both a place to build your community and to ask them what they think of new developments or new ideas.
With the right level of care and attention, you’ll have a hugely valuable resource at your fingertips, one that’s ready to engage with and help you to grow your brand.
So what’s next? Get in there and get posting!
Click here to learn more about Qurate Social, a powerful social media management tool giving you all the insights and analytics you need to be successful on social media.
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