How to Create a Social Media Marketing Plan in 6 Steps

By 26/02/2018 December 2nd, 2019 Social Media
When you are starting out in social media

You need a social media marketing plan

What is a social media marketing plan?

A social media marketing plan is the summary of everything you plan to do and hope to achieve for your business using social networks. This plan should work as an audit of where your accounts are today, goals for where you want them to be in the near future, and all the tools you want to use to get there.

In general, the more specific you can get with your plan, the more effective you’ll be in its implementation-the more specific your goals are, the easier it will be to work towards achieving them. The key here, is being concise. Don’t make your social media marketing strategy so lofty and broad that it’s unattainable, for example: “I want to have thousands of followers.” Why? What is it about your message/service/company that needs to have followers?  This might be a goal you have in your head, but the plan here is to break that  lofty goal into achievable sections that can be measured in a set time frame.

The plan will guide your actions, but it will also be a measure by which you determine whether you’re succeeding or failing. You don’t want to set yourself up for failure from the outset. So as in our example, the goal might be to have thousands of followers, but that goal will rob you any success you experience during the rise from follower 1 to 999.

Step 1: Create your social media marketing objectives and goals

The first step to any social media marketing strategy is to establish the objectives and goals that you want to achieve. Having these objectives also allows you to quickly react when social media campaigns are not meeting your expectations. Without these goals, you have no means of gauging success or proving your social media return on investment (ROI). Think about this practically-if you don’t know what success looks like, how will you know when you get there? Equally, if you don’t know what success looks like, how will you know when to start cutting your losses and stop paying for marketing?

These goals should be aligned with your broader marketing strategy. This is so that your social media efforts drive toward your business objectives. If your social media marketing strategy is shown to support business goals, you’re more likely to get management buy-in and investment. If you are the manager (or business owner), then matching your social media goals to your overall marketing strategy will not increase on you workload-it will be part of your marketing activities and so effectively help meet two goals when hitting one target.

A key component of setting effective goals for your social media strategy is to decide what metrics you’ll use to measure their success. Move beyond the vanity metrics such as retweets and likes. Focus your attentions on things such as leads generated, web referrals, and conversion rate. This obviously depends on the aims of your organisation-if it is like mine – a website with an educational and training purpose, then you may be focusing on web traffic – how many people are visiting your website, or sharing a post with others. The goals of the organisation will be determine the goals of the marketing strategy.

As you write your goals, keep your audience and customers in mind. Try creating an audience or customer persona—archetypes that include details about demographics, interests, pain points, etc.—to test your goals. For example, if you’re trying to determine if a goal is properly fleshed out, ask yourself in what way it will help you reach your audience.

Consider using the S.M.A.R.T. framework when setting your goals. This means that each objective should be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound.

A quick example of a well-written S.M.A.R.T. goal might look like this:

“For Instagram we will share photos that communicate the culture of our company. We will do this by posting three photos a week. The target for each is at least 30 likes and five comments.”

The goal is specific: it specifies the media platform, what is to be communicated, how often and what results it is looking for.

  • The goals is measurable: it specifies the results expected.
  • The goals is attainable: it specifies how often posts are to be made per week
  • The goals is relevant: it specifies how the posts relate to the company
  • The goals is time-bound: Similarly to the attainable goal, it specifies the time frame of when these posts are being made.

So very quickly, a goal like this can move from a lofty ideal like: “publish pictures that show the culture of our company”, which, lets face it, is a fairly abstract idea and quite difficult to show in a picture (unless the culture is coffee-centric, in which case I think I could flood timelines showing coffee, the making of coffee, the drinking of coffee and enjoying life while drinking coffee). But when we move it into a S.M.A.R.T. framework, the once-lofty ideal becomes a manageable task over the course of a working week.

A simple way to get your social media marketing plan started is to write down at least three social media goals. Ask yourself what the goal will look like when completed, and use that to determine how you will track it.

Step 2: Conduct your social media audit

Before creating your social media marketing plan, you will need to assess your current social media use and how it’s working for you. This means working out who is currently connecting with you via social media, which social media sites your target audience use, and how your social media presence compares to your competitors. Seeing what your competitors can be a mixed bag, but try to look at the positives. If they have a well established social media following, then look at what they’re doing right and copy the process (don’t focus on how awesome you think they might be, they’re on further ahead of you in the process). If they aren’t doing very much on social media, then by moving through this process, you could be ahead of the curve and capture a market that hasn’t been exploited yet, which could be very advantageous to you as a, organisation.

Once you’ve conducted your audit you should have a clear picture of every social account representing your business, who runs or controls it, and what purpose they serve. This inventory should be maintained regularly, especially as you scale your business. By knowing what you are saying, and who is saying it, you can control and sculpt the message to fully exploit the platform but allow the staff working on the platforms to use their skills and expertise to best use also. If it’s just you operating a number of media platforms, then it will be you who will be able to exploit each platform, knowing what the message is as you have built it yourself.

It should also be evident which accounts need to be updated and which need to be deleted altogether. If your audit uncovers fraudulent accounts—a fake branded Twitter profile, for example—report them. Reporting fraudulent accounts will help ensure that people searching for you online only connect with the accounts you manage and more importantly, hear the correct message you want them to hear!

This is the perfect point in the process to assess which channels you want to continue using or potentially add to the mix.

Go back to your audience personas—those archetypes that represent your customers—these will help you determine which channels are most effective for your brand.

When trying to decide which social channels to move forward with, ask yourself two questions:

  1. Is my audience here?
  2. If so, how are they using this platform?

If you’re not sure who’s using which platforms and how, then look up these posts from Hootsuite that cover all the major networks:

Remember, it’s can be more favourable to use fewer channels well than to stretch yourself thin trying to maintain a large presence on every social network.

As part of your social media audit you’ll also want to create a mission statement for each media network you plan to use. These can be one-sentence declarations that will help you focus your attentions on a specific goal for Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat or any other social network. These will guide your actions and help steer you back on track if your efforts begin to lag.

Take the time you need to determine the purpose of every social profile you have. If you can’t figure out its purpose, you should probably delete that profile.

An example mission statement might look like this: “We will use Snapchat to share the lighter side of our company and connect with younger prospective customers.”

Once you’ve decided which channels you are going to use, you should also think about your brand’s voice, tone, and style. This includes things like what sort of language your social accounts will use, whether your brand will post GIFs, will your tone be informal and friendly or formal and more reserved?

Step 3: Create or improve your social media accounts

When you’ve finished your social media audit, it will be time to hone and perfect your online presence. Choose which networks best meet your social media goals. If you don’t already have social media profiles on each network you focus on, develop them in line with your broader goals and audience in mind. If you do have existing accounts, it’s time to update and refine them to get the best possible results.

Optimising profiles for SEO can help generate more web traffic to your online properties. Cross-promoting social accounts can extend the reach of content, as can actively asking your existing base to share the posts on. In general, social media profiles should be filled out completely, and images and text should be optimized for the social network in question. To ensure you optimise your pictures properly for every network, check out this complete guide to social media image sizes from Hootsuite.

As we’ve said, each social network has a unique audience and should be treated differently. For network-specific optimisation tips, check out the following blog posts:

Step 4: Gather social media marketing inspiration

If you’re not sure what kinds of content and information will get you the most engagement, then for inspiration, look at what others in your industry are sharing and use social media listening tools to see how you can distinguish yourself from competitors and appeal to potential fans, followers and customers they might be missing.

Consumers can also offer social media inspiration, not just through the content that they share but in the way that they phrase their messages. Watch how your target audience writes their tweets, and aim to mimic that style. Learn their habits—when they share and why—and use that as a basis for your social media marketing plan. By tapping in to what you see will work, you are getting closer to ‘guaranteeing’ your own success.

A final source of social media inspiration is industry leaders. There are industry giants who do an incredible job of social media marketing, from Red Bull and Taco Bell to KLM Airlines and Tangerine Bank. Companies in every industry imaginable have managed to distinguish themselves through advanced social media strategies. Follow them and learn everything you can. See if they’ve shared any social media advice or insight elsewhere on the web. Soak in what they have done and replicate their activities (where appropriate) to try to draw down some of their success into your campaigns.

Step 5: Create a content marketing plan and a social media content calendar

Having great content to share will be an essential part to succeeding in social media. Your social media marketing plan should include a content marketing plan, which is built up of strategies for content creation and content curation, as well as a content calendar.

Your content marketing plan should answer the following questions:

  • What types of content do you intend to post and promote on social media?
  • Who is your target audience for each type of content?
  • How often will you post content?
  • Who will create the content?
  • How will you promote the content?

Your social media content calendar will list the dates and times you intend to publish your specific social media posts, tweets, and other content. It’s the perfect place to plan all of your social media activities—from images and link sharing to blog posts and videos—encompassing both your day-to-day posting and content for social media campaigns.

Create the calendar and then schedule your messaging in advance rather than updating constantly throughout the day. This gives you the opportunity to work hard on the language and format of these messages rather than writing them on the go whenever you have time. Be spontaneous with your engagement and customer service rather than your content.

Make sure your calendar reflects the mission statement you’ve assigned to each social profile. If the purpose of your LinkedIn account is to generate leads, make sure you are sharing enough lead generation content. You can establish a content matrix that defines what share of your profile is allocated to different types of posts. For example:

  • 50% of content will drive back to your blog
  • 25% of content will be curated from other sources
  • 20% of content will support enterprise goals (selling, lead generation, etc.)
  • 5% of content will be about HR and culture

If you’re unsure of how to allocate your resources, you could follow the 80-20 rule—80 percent of your posts should inform, educate, or entertain your audience and the other 20 percent can directly promote your brand—or try the social media rule of thirds:

  • One-third of your social content promotes your business, converts readers, and generates profit
  • One-third of your social content should share ideas and stories from thought leaders in your industry or like-minded businesses
  • One-third of your social content should be personal interactions with your audience

Step 6: Test, evaluate, and adjust your social media marketing plan

To find out what adjustments need to be made to your social media marketing strategy, you should rely on a process of constant testing. This might sound a bit heavy and effort-driven, but you can build testing capabilities into every action you take on social networks. For example, you could:

  • Track the number of clicks your links get on a particular platform using URL shorteners and UTM parameters
  • Use a social media analytics programme to track the success and reach of social campaigns
  • Track page visits driven by social media with Google Analytics

Record and analyse your successes and failures, and then adjust your social media marketing plan in response. By doing this type of constant testing, you are tweaking and refining the practical part of your strategy to ensure the best return on your investment. Whether this is likes, shares, website traffic or sales, a constant (but small) tweaking to the system will eventually allow you to hit the ‘social media sweet spot’ of posting at the optimum times to ensure the best response.

Surveys are also a great way to gauge success—online and offline. Ask your social media followers, email list, and website visitors how you’re doing on social media. This direct approach can often be very effective. Ask your offline customers if social media had a role in their purchasing, I promise you, they will not have a problem telling you! This insight might prove invaluable when you look for areas to improve.

The most important thing to understand about your social media marketing plan is that it should be constantly changing. As new networks emerge, you may want to add them to your plan. Equally, there may be platforms that do not work for you as they maybe once did and will require you to think about removing them. As you achieve goals, you will need to set new targets. Unexpected challenges will arise that you will need to address. As you scale your business, you might need to add new roles or grow your social presence for different branches or regions. At some point, there may be a business case for hiring an employee who is solely responsible for social media.

Rewrite your social media strategy to reflect your latest insights, and make sure your team is aware of what has been updated. By keeping everyone on task and together, you can ensure that people within your organisation also work to help to meet the goals-maybe their sharing the organisation posts helps move towards new networks or opportunities. Take every opportunity to get your message out there!

Michael Johnston

About Michael Johnston

Michael Johnston is a Lecturer in Computing and the Foundation Degree Director in Computing for the Northern Regional College in Northern Ireland. Michael has research interests in the areas of technology enhanced learning, instructional learning design, blended learning and education. Michael currently specialises in the computing areas of web development technologies, cyber security, software development and IoT. Michael has worked in a range of different roles in IT-from teaching roles to running his own web design company, Michael is equally at home working with theory, as he is conducting research, or building a bespoke IT solution. Michael is currently studying a PhD in Cyberpsychology.

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