How to create a successful social media strategy

October 31, 2011

For many companies it can be difficult to gain a clear view of the bigger strategic picture when it comes to social media. Businesses often make the mistake of trying to build their strategy around platforms instead of their own unique business objectives.

Yet there are fundamental questions that need to be answered before engaging in any form of social media activity: how does social media investment relate to business value? Is an acquisition or retention model the best strategy for your business? How does your social media strategy align with your business and other marketing strategies? And what are the real costs?

It’s vital to come up with clear answers to these questions in order to devise a comprehensive social media strategy that is integrated with your wider marketing approach. There is very little value in starting, for example, a Twitter account and a Facebook Page with no plan in place to measure success or understand what you want to achieve from it.

A social media strategy is the cornerstone of any successful social media campaign – it will help you understand how social media can best help you achieve your unique objectives and ensure you maximise ROI.

Here is our step by step guide to creating a comprehensive and successful strategy:

Set objectives and goals

It’s vital to establish from the outset exactly what your business wants to achieve from any social media activity; who the demographic audience are you are trying to reach and identify a clear way of quantifying your success. When setting your objectives you must always bear in mind that social media is a long-term commitment.

You need to think strategically about what your business and your audience want from social media and set goals accordingly. For instance, do you want to use social media for brand awareness or to help drive more leads? Try to connect social media goals with the wider goals of the organisation – how can social media help drive sales? How can it help you save money? How can it improve internal communication?

In many instances social media is uniquely positioned to help your business achieve these – but it takes careful planning, expertise and experience.

Whatever you want to achieve from social media – whether it’s improving customer service, increasing leads or growing brand awareness – it’s vital to attach KPIs to all activity you are running so that you have a clear understanding of its effectiveness. These can include but are not limited to:

  • Twitter followers
  • Facebook Likes
  • The % of females versus males within your community

By tracking these metrics over time the results can help you understand the true value of social media and the impact it has on your bottom line.

The social media audit

Once you have understood what you want to achieve from social media you must analyse the online space and your brand’s place within it. Use best of breed monitoring tools – together with expert human analysis – to carry out research and understand your brand’s online presence and share of voice.

This requires a social media audit. The audit is a complex and extensive process but it is essential in providing insights into your brand – the volume and sentiment of relevant conversations in social spaces and what action must be taken. This market analysis also allows you to benchmark yourselves against your competitors and understand how you are positioned in your industry.

Platforms must be analysed and conversations tracked in order to identify business relevant topics as well as potential crises and issues. The result will be that your brand is in a position to establish who your audience are, where they are online and define your objectives to maximise engagement with them.

Finding the most relevant platforms

The growth of social media means there are a wealth of social platforms available to your business, each providing different ways to engage with your audience. However, not every platform will be relevant to your brand. When setting out a strategy you must decide on which of them will be most valuable in helping you achieve your objectives.

You must develop an understanding of which social platforms provide the best way to engage with your audience.  Monitor these sites to see mentions of your brand name, your competitors and specific keywords in order to identify and understand which ones your target audience use and which offer the greatest opportunities for your business.

Of course this list will include sites such as Twitter and Facebook – however, there will also be specific blogs and forums which will be suited to your business as well as niche sites where passionate fans of your brand congregate.

The global nature of social media also means that you need to be aware of networks in particular territories. For example, in China you will be using Renren instead of Facebook.

Stakeholder buy in and resources

When identifying these platforms, the resources available – both in terms of finance and staff – must be at the front of your mind. Social media requires a lot of time in order to sustain meaningful relationships with your audience across multiple platforms.

You need to get buy in from staff throughout the organisation – from management through to the people who will be involved in the day-to-day implementation of your social media activity. This means demonstrating the impact of the strategy and the tangible ways it will benefit the entire organisation.

Develop a roadmap to social media success

With your priority platforms chosen you can then start to put in place a roadmap for defining and managing the customer experience. This includes clearly outlining how you will engage on each platform that has been selected, what content will be used to populate each site and how you will maximise engagement with your audience.

Central to this is the creation of a content plan. Your content plan will include a content calendar, tone of voice document, brand guidelines and social media guidelines which will encapsulate your brand narrative. This process requires time and resources but these strategies are crucial in helping to create relevant content that you can publish to bridge a connection between your business and ensures you will build an active and engaged community.

Having a comprehensive communication plan in place ensures that you can interact with your audience in a timely and relevant manner and means that you are ready to deal with any potential crises or challenges that occur. It also provides a clear strategy for future social media success.

Continuous optimisation

Having a strategy in place is a crucial foundation for a successful social media programme – but it is just that, a foundation. It is essential to continuously measure and evaluate your social media activity in order to maximise the success of the programme.

You will have already established metrics and baselines that are relevant to your business goals. By tracking the performance of your activity in relation to these KPIs you can gain insights which will be invaluable in fine tuning your social media programme.

The good news is that social media provides the tools to accurately track and monitor your programme – and you must use these findings to optimise the programme and ensure that your social media activity is performing as effectively as it possibly can. This not only leads to social media success but is also vital in contributing to the overall objectives of your business


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