SME's DIY: How To Create A Social Media Strategy (With 3 Steps And A Template)SMEStudio
Getting things on paper (or at least, a digital document) is such an obvious but important step toward meeting a goal. Most of the time, we sort of tumble into an activity instead of planning out what we want and how we’ll get there.
A serious content marketer will want a social media strategy template, something they can refer to and adjust as they forge ahead toward desired goals. Here is that template.
1. Choose Your Social Networks
Which networks should you be on? Should you have multiple social media accounts for certain networks? Let’s take a look.
Discover where your audience is.
You should be on the same networks as your audience, of course. And there’s the dreaded statement: Know your audience. We have some great resources on how to know who your audience is:
Make a list of three to five networks that are clearly popular with your audience. Don’t get too big a list; remember, you are going to have to maintain content on these. If you can only handle one or two, that’s perfectly fine.
Find your own preferred networks.
Once you know where your audience is, hold those networks up against a list of qualifications to see how high they should be in your “triage” list of networks to focus on. For example:
- Find a network that connects with tools. Isolated networks are only going to add to your workload because you can’t consolidate your efforts with tools. Find at least a few key social networks that connect with the tools you are already using to help reduce workload.
- Find networks that have a good return. This is both a good return historically for you, and a good return broadly, for the general marketing populace (example: Facebook). Find networks that have a good return.
Order your audience-preferred networks against a list of qualifications like these. This way, you know which networks you absolutely must focus on (and perhaps spend money for promoted posts).
Decide on how many social profiles you’ll have.
Decide if you’ll need more than one social profile on a single network. This might be because:
You have a broad audience with several niches inside that audience.
For example, CoSchedule has a Content Hackers Twitter account that focuses solely on the content found in their popular Content Marketing Update. They also have a Twitter account just for the content and discussion found on the CoSchedule Blog. Then, of course, there is the CoSchedule twitter account, which has some of the same content, but is also used by customers with tech support and product updates.
You have a branded social presence, but also a personal one.
I’ll talk more about this in the next section, but the idea is that, depending on how you’ve created your brand, whether it’s product-based or your own name, will determine whether or not your audience only wants on-topic content or whether they appreciate your vacation updates.
If you have more than one social profile, be sure that you have the tools to manage each profile, and that you aren’t breaking the terms of service at the network that might govern that behavior.
2. Figure Out What You’re Best At
In the same way that I advocated that you do best to capitalize on your strengths when it came to setting up your blogging methodology, the same can be said for your social media.
What you can create.
If you don’t have the equipment or the chops for making great videos, YouTube is probably not the place for you. Ask yourself questions that help you discover what you are the best at creating:
- What apps and software do you have access to for creating content?
- Are you a better writer or designer?
- Do you have other team members who can help you out with your weak spots, or are you flying solo?
- What social media do you enjoy yourself? Do you find yourself mimicking it easily?
- Do you have a sense of humor? Are you more about being helpful?
The idea here is to find your natural strengths, both in talent and resources, when it comes to the content you can create for social media. Think of more questions, if you can, and as always: Write it down.
How you communicate.
Are you a great conversationalist? Do you love chatting with followers? Are you johnny-on-the-spot whenever someone mentions you on Twitter?
I’m not any of those, to be truthful, and so my social media approach isn’t heavy on the conversation. I take multi-day absences from social media (and the Internet in general) because I need that break. That means I don’t answer immediately on social media.
You may be like me, or you may really dig talking to people. If you don’t like talking to people constantly, perhaps your social messages shouldn’t be prompting heavy conversations, such as asking questions of your audience or veering regularly into sharply controversial topics that prompt heavy discourse.
It’s probably sacrilegious to suggest you don’t have to be heavily into conversation to be on social media, but there are plenty of introverted folks like myself who are quickly drained by it. While we can create great content, we can only handle a minimal amount of interaction surrounding it. Be honest if that’s you.
Don’t set yourself up for communication failure. Work in your strengths, and create content that you can communicate around reliably to the best of your ability.
Your topics of expertise.
If you’ve done your homework right, your blog should be highly focused on the topics your audience cares about, and your social activity that is based from your own blog content will reflect that. Curation of outside content is where some of us go off the rails with on-topic social content.
It’s easy to forget that for your branded social media properties, your own personal interests outside of that audience niche aren’t really relevant, unless your brand is one of your personality—but that is not as easy or as common as you might think, unless you’re a celebrity of some sort.
Going off topic when you’ve clearly established a niche is dangerous.
I’ll use myself as an example.
On my personal Twitter account (not the one “branded” with my real name), I follow a wide variety of profiles based on all the things I’m interested in, while on my branded profile, I tend to follow profiles related to art and writing, my profession.
One profile is my professional account, while the other one is where I talk to siblings and friends and share things they might enjoy.
I’m a private pilot, so several of the Twitter profiles I follow with my personal profile have to do with aviation. One such profile specialized in “aviation updates” until I noticed that they began to publish the same link over and over, sometimes four or more times a day, that had nothing to do with aviation.
I unfollowed them.
I was tired of seeing that update in my news feed, and I was even more annoyed because this was clearly a niche profile that had decided to curate something completely off topic.
It is vitally important to understand what your niche topics will be, and have it written down ahead of time, or you run the risk of losing focus and curating content that your audience doesn’t want. It’s too easy for them to unfollow you.
Write down, in one sentence, what your brand is about. Make it general (e.g. food). Then, break it down into the sub-topics (e.g. natural foods, healthy foods, recipes, shopping tips, budget).
This list should look very much like the categories you use on your blog, and all curated content should be held up against this list to see if it fits. If you find content you want to share that doesn’t fit, then put it over on a personal profile.
3. Make A Social Media Plan
Now that you know what networks you’ll be on, and the way you’ll be using them, it’s time to make the plan.
Use an editorial calendar for planning your social media. Even if you have to use a paper version. It’s the best way to make sure everything happens when and how you want them to. Get your plan on paper and assign a date.
Define your goals.
What is it you want to accomplish with social media? More traffic to your blog? To grow social followers? To increase sales? Get more people subscribed to your email list?
We don’t all want the exact same results from social media, and knowing this beforehand matters. Write down what you want in general (i.e. “more traffic”). Then, write down what you want in specific (i.e. 2,000 pageviews each month).
Why do both?
You start by writing down the big picture idea. This helps you get a general approach in mind. You will revisit this a few times a year, just to make sure that is what you still want.
The second part—writing down a specific goal—you will revisit each month. This is what you will use to actually measure whether or not you’re hitting that big picture goal, and it is also what you’ll adjust and use for A/B testing, increasing the measurable goal, and so on.
Until you define your goals, you don’t have any. Until you understand your ultimate destination, you’ll end up anywhere. And until you get a specific measurement to use, you won’t know what adjustments to make along the way. All three steps (defining a goal, painting the big picture, listing the specifics) are necessary.
Plan when you will publish.
Once in place, you can set up a social media publishing plan to fit your desired outcome. We’ve talked a lot about how to approach when you ought to publish social media, and it’s even built into CoSchedule.
The big takeaway here is that publishing more than once is the best approach, particularly for a network like Twitter. Some news feeds cycle quickly (Facebook, Twitter), while other networks (like Pinterest) function less like a flowing river and more like a bulletin board where people bring old things to the top again on their own.
Plan your budget.
Successful (and serious) social media strategy must include a budget to promote your posts on social networks. However, going into any expenditure without knowing where the budget line is drawn is a super bad idea.
You might be new to paying for social content, and have no real idea what it will cost. That’s fine! Simply start with an amount you are able to absorb into your content marketing budget and begin learning.
As you figure out what works on each network, you’ll use your budgeted dollars better than you do at the start. But you first have to start, and you have to set a limit. Once you hit the limit, evaluate. Check what’s happened against the goals you set earlier.
Plan what you will create.
These are the actual pieces of content. Visuals, videos, longer text posts on networks that allow for it?
I like to write down a plan for how I will create the content I’ve decided I need to create. Some of the things I jot down on my calendar and in my notes include the following:
Plan your imagery. Social networks are pushing imagery, and so you will need to plan to include some. If you’ve determined that creating imagery is not your strength or you don’t have the expensive tools or access to a professional designer, you can create great imagery using tools like Canva.
Plan your campaigns. Social media, particularly if planned on an editorial calendar with other content, will have campaigns. They might be centered around events, holidays, promotions, Twitter chats, or a random whim, but you will have campaigns.
Plan your curated content. This is more ongoing than the previous two (which I generally revisit periodically throughout the year). You’ll regularly be sharing outside content, and so you need to actively plan where and when you’ll publish. Remember, you must stick to your topic!
If you use an RSS reader like Feedly, consciously collect feeds that fit your categories. Or, trySwayy, a great tool that helps with curation. It finds the content that works best with your audience by discovering what they already like and engage with the most. Swayy will make content suggestions that you can share (or schedule to share later) easily in a few clicks. In that way, it takes a lot of guesswork out of curation for you, and makes it easy to find content they’ll like.
Here are 5 ways to get inspired with different content types to mix into your social media sharing strategy:
We all approach social media a bit differently, but the key point I hope you take from this is that you need to consciously ask a few questions about what you want, how you think you should get there, what success will look like and then…write it down. Plan it out.