How To Develop A Winning Social Media Content Strategy

Social media is like a sport.

It’s competitive. It takes consistent effort. At its best, it’s a team effort.

Like with any sport, social media success also requires strategy. You need the right pieces, in the right place, at the right time. In other words, you need a game plan to guide your success.

But, how do you build a social media content strategy? Do you actually need one (spoiler alert: yes)? What should the end product look like?

These are all questions you’ll solve in this post. First, you’ll learn how to build a cross-platform social strategy, then download your social media content strategy template. When you’re done, you’ll have a documented strategy to guide your efforts to success.

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Why Do You Need A Social Media Content Strategy?

We’ll keep this brief before getting down to business.

Here are the primary reasons everything you’re about to learn is worthwhile:

  1. A strategy helps save time by knowing what you’ll do before you start.
  2. It will also help you understand why your social media marketing is working (or not working).
  3. It supports your overall social media management efforts.

Why You Need A Social Media Content Strategy

Sound good? Let’s move on.

Start With A Social Media Content Audit

Are you headed for a championship season? Or, do you feel like you’re entering a rebuilding year? Analyzing your current situation will help expose gaps and highlight strengths.

This will give you a clear picture of what to stop, start, and continue.

Which Social Media Channels Are You On?

This seems like an obvious question. It’s still worth asking, though. Your brand may have abandoned social media accounts you’ve forgotten about.

Follow these steps:

  • Inventory all your channels. Note which ones are active and any that are stagnant.
  • Search for any that may have been abandoned.
  • Do you have multiple accounts on any channels? Merge them (or delete duplicates).

Are There Channels You Should Add Or Remove?

Sometimes less is more. However, you should be careful before removing a social media channel. The same goes for investing in new ones.

Thinking about deleting a social account? Ask these questions first:

  • Am I posting consistently on this channel? If not, it may be time to start.
  • Is weak performance possibly tied to poor execution? Be honest with yourself. It’s easy to blame poor performance on a channel “just not working for your business.” Sometimes that’s an accurate assessment. However, you may just need to change your approach.
  • Are my competitors successful on this channel? If so, they’re probably doing something you’re not. If no one else is succeeding, it could be your audience simply isn’t there.
  • Do I have time to spend on this platform? If you can’t make it a priority, it may be time to cut it loose.

Once you’ve answered these questions, you should have a clear idea of what you need to do.

Pro Tip: Avoid the temptation to join every new social network as soon as they arrive. Properly investing in a few channels is better than chasing distractions or spreading yourself too thin.

Tips For Selecting Social Media Channels

Understanding each channel’s strengths can help you understand if they’re right for you.

Tips for Selecting Social Media Channels

Pro Tip: Not every social network may be right for your brand.

What Types Of Content Will You Create And Share On Each Channel?

Here’s a simple overview of which types of content you can create across the social media spectrum:

Diagram Of Social Media Content Types

After reviewing the content types for each network, ask these questions:

  • Which of these types of content am I currently creating?
  • Which types is my strategy missing?
  • Do I need additional resources to do any of these well? (eg: design software, video equipment, etc.)

Who Will Be Creating Content For Your Company?

You need a good team to win. Build yours by determining the following:

  • Who will write social media content?
  • If I don’t have a designer, how will I create graphics?
  • Do we have the capability to shoot video?

Social Media Competitive Analysis

Pro athletes spend a lot of time researching their competition. They review game tape. They analyze their strategy and tactics. Then, they prepare accordingly. Don’t let your competition outplay you. Do your homework.

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You’re probably aware of who your competition is. Well, at least some of your competition. There could be an upstart you’ve never heard of. Or, an existing business might be expanding onto your turf. In any case, social media can be a great way to find out who these interlopers are.

Search Each Channel For Keywords Related To Your Niche

For example, if you sell “marketing software,” a search on Facebook should yield a list of marketing software companies. See if you can find some competition you didn’t know about following this exercise:

Search a keyword on Facebook related to your industry.

Enter a keyword in the Facebook search bar

Click the Pages tab and see who shows up.

Search results in the Facebook search bar

Repeat this process on Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, and any other network where you have an active presence. This will likely return a mix of companies you know and some that aren’t relevant. However, you’ll likely turn up a few that are new to you.

Search Google

Sometimes obvious tactics are easy to overlook.

Search result for Content Marketing Agencies

Set Up Google Alerts

Make a list of keywords related to your brand and industry.

Set up a Google Alert for each keyword. This will send you an email when each term is mentioned on the web:

Screenshot of Google Alerts

This can help you know when new competitors pop up.

Analyze Your Competition’s Social Media Presence

You can tell a lot about a business by looking at its social profiles. Take note of the following:

  • Friend / Follower Counts
  • Engagement (Comments, Shares, Etc.)
  • Post Frequency
  • Which Social Channels Are They On
  • Where Are They Most / Least Successful

Adjust Your Approach Accordingly

Follow this three-pronged approach to put this intelligence to use.

1. What Can I Replicate?

See a competitor succeeding with a tactic or type of content you’re not currently using? Swipe it and do it your own way.

2. What Can I Do Better?

Notice someone doing something moderately well (or even poorly)? Think what you would improve. Then, do it. This could include:

4 Tips For Creating Better Social Media Content Than Your Competition

Of course, this will depend on what gaps and deficiencies you see out there. The idea is to simply be aware of where you can improve.

3. What Can I Do Differently?

Stand out from the crowd. Figure out how you can put a unique spin on what others are doing. This can be as simple as expressing an opinion contrary to what’s popular on a given topic. It could also mean putting a fresh spin on an old tactic.

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Social Media Messaging And Branding Strategy

Your social media content reinforces your brand image. Make sure you’re making a good impression.

How To Build A Simple Persona

Developing a persona can be a complex process. Let’s break it down into a simple process using social media insights and Google Analytics.

Check Your Facebook Insights Tab

Facebook provides brand pages with tons of useful demographic information.

Go to your Facebook Page and click Insights. Then, find the People tab in the left hand navigation. Here, you’ll find valuable information about your audience demographics.

Where to find the People tab in Facebook insights

Check Google Analytics

Google Analytics is an excellent resource for learning more about your audience. Start by logging into your account. Then, head down to the Demographics tab:

Demographics tab in Google Analytics

Here, you can find basic information about your audience’s age and gender breakdowns.

Let’s check out the Interests area next. First, click on Interests. Then, head down to Affinity Categories:

Here's where to find the Interests tab in Google Analytics

This will tell you which topical categories your audience is interested in. This is useful information to have when crafting content (both on social media and elsewhere).

Next, click on In-Market Segments. This section tells you which other markets and industries your audience researches.

Where to find In-Market Segments in Google Analytics

How To Establish Your Brand Voice

Establishing brand voice is important for maintaining a consistent tone and messaging across social channels. How do you make your voice suit best practices on each network while staying consistent? That’s the problem we’re about to solve.

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Monitor Discussions On Social Media

What kind of language do folks in your industry use on social media? Listen to your audience. Try to keep your tone and word choice within a relatable context for them.

Choose Three Words Or Phrases To Summarize Your Brand

These can be related to:

  • Product benefits
  • Brand personality
  • Your purpose or mission

Think About How Your Audience Views Your Brand

Why do your customers choose your product? Why do your readers follow your blog? This is important stuff to know when crafting social media content.

For example, people who visit a hardware store are probably working on home projects. It makes sense, then, that they’d expect to see stuff about DIY home repair on that business’s social channels.

Apply a similar concept to your own efforts.

Compare Your Tone To Your Competitors

You don’t want to sound like your competition. Making your brand voice unique will help you stand out.

  1. Review the social accounts of ten competitors
  2. Pay attention to their tone and personality
  3. Determine how you can A) be yourself and B) be different from the pack

4 Brands Who Have Nailed Their Brand Voice

1. Newcastle

Most major beer brands project confidence with bold marketing. Newcastle, on the other hand, is dry, irreverent, and endearingly self-deprecating.

They stand out by having established a unique identity and going against the grain.

National Beer Day tweet from Newcastle

2. New Balance

This Instagram post from New Balance illustrates the brand’s mission to stand out. Rather than using creative monikers, they use numbers to name their shoes. This has helped make their brand iconic and unique (in a market with no shortage of iconic brands).

Instagram post from New Balance

3. Taco Bell

If Taco Bell can make $1.29 quesadillas sound interesting, then anyone in any industry can nail an effective brand voice.

Facebook GIF from Taco Bell

4. General Electric

GE has built a brilliant social hub page aggregating all their social content in one place. What’s one of the coolest things about this? It shows how consistent their voice is across channels.

They embrace the technical nature of their products while focusing on content that talks about inspiring innovation. For a brand that’s over 100 years old, it’s tough to find a brand doing social media better.

Screenshot of General Electric's Social Hub page

How To Develop Social Media Brand Standards

Consistency counts on social media. One way to enforce consistency is to create brand standards. These don’t have to be complex.

Start by defining the following:

  • Acceptable spelling variations for your brand name and product names
  • Acceptable usages for your logo
  • Acceptable color schemes for graphics

Brand standards can be much more complex than these items. They also can extend far beyond what you share on social media.

If you want to take this to the next level, many brands and organizations make their brand standards public.
Here are some examples:

How To Write And Design For Social Media

There is an art and craft to writing and designing for social media. It’s not just a matter of throwing up any old image with some ill-thought copy. It takes careful thought and planning to get this right. However, keep in mind that these suggested best practices are just suggestions.

Start with these guidelines, then adjust based on what you find works best for you.

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How Long Should Social Media Copy Be On Each Channel?

How Long Should Social Media Posts Be?

What Sizes Should Social Media Images Be?

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Which Types Of Images to Create

Infographics

The key here is to create infographics that are specifically optimized for social media. That means they need to be the correct size to be easily readable on each platform.

Image Quotes

People love looking for inspiration on social media. It’s no wonder we see so many motivational quote images across the social media spectrum.

If you want to stand out, consider creating images with original quotes, along with a link to a relevant blog post.

Photos

Everyone in your office has a smartphone capable of taking decent photos. If you’re fortunate, you might have access to a DSLR too.

Keep the following photo ops in mind:

  • At events
  • Around your office
  • Customers using your products or services

Don’t forget that Facebook allows multiple images to be posted into galleries. This can be an awesome way to tell a more complete story than using single images alone.

Pro Tip: Consider running a contest that requires participants to submit photos. This can be a great way to obtain a high number of user-generated images you can use on social media.

Social Media Video Best Practices (By Channel)

Video is increasing in importance across social media. Follow these tips and guidelines to make the most of your video content.

Social Media Video Best Practices, Per Channel

What Kinds Of Videos Should I Create?

This depends on what’s appropriate for your company or blog.

Here are some ideas to get started:

  • How-to videos
  • Behind-the-scenes company videos
  • Product videos
  • Event coverage
  • Recruiting videos to attract employees
  • Videos that answer common customer service complaints

Social Media Content Calendar Management

Build A Social Media Calendar (If You Haven’t Already)

Your social media calendar is a key piece in your overall content strategy. You have two options:

  1. Use a calendar spreadsheet.
  2. Use an app.

While spreadsheets are free, apps add useful collaboration and automation features. What’s most important is that you keep your content calendar organized to assure your strategy’s success.

Read our post on building an effective social media editorial calendar to get started with this task.

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5 Content Calendar Strategy Tips

1. Vary the types of content you share throughout each week. This means switching up videos, GIFs, infographics, images, surveys, links to blog and website content, plain text posts, and whatever else you have in your content arsenal.

2. Determine who will own your calendar. Collaboration is key for calendar success. However, it’s helpful to have one person who has ultimate editorial control over when posts are scheduled.

3. Color coding is your friend. Select specific colors to represent certain channels or content types.

4. Plan social media content at least two weeks in advance. This will make sure your content flow doesn’t stagnate. You can also assume you’ll have more content to share that will come up in between scheduled posts.

5. Test. A social media calendar makes it easy to see what content you shared and when. Pay attention to what content does well. Then, share more similar content. This is how you double down on success.

 

Set Your Posting Schedule

How many times should you post a day? Which times and days of the week are best? These are common questions without definitive answers. However, we’ve crunched the data from tons of studies, and here’s what it shows:

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How To Measure The Success Of Your Social Media Content Strategy

This is the part where you impress your CEO. Business owners and executives often don’t care about “likes” or “engagement rates.” They care about their bottom line. That means conversions and revenue.

Show your value by showing how you’re making them money.

Which Metrics To Pay Attention To

Which metrics you use should be determined by your business objectives. Here are some simple metrics to consider for each network:

Which Social Media Metrics To Monitor, Per Channel

3 Ways To Track Social Media Marketing Performance

1. Use Google Analytics

Google Analytics is an invaluable (and free) tool for measuring social media success.

Log into your account. Click Acquisition. Then, click Social.

Where to find social media acquisition data in Google Analytics

You’ll see several useful tabs here.

  • Network Referrals: This tells you which networks are sending traffic to your site.
  • Landing Pages: The specific pages social media is directing traffic toward.
  • Conversions: Which social media networks are driving the most conversions.

These are the three easiest places to start analyzing your social media marketing in Google Analytics. We also recommend referring to Google’s official Social Analytics documentation to learn how to get started.

Afton Negrea also put together an excellent video on measuring social media performance in Google Analytics:

Need further assistance? We cover Google Analytics in more depth here.

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2. Consider Using Cyfe

Another third party option to consider, however, is Cyfe. It’s a freemium tool that allows you to build custom dashboards to track the metrics most important to you:

Start by creating a new dashboard. Then, select Add Widget.

Add a widget in Cyfe

Then, click on Social Media and add each of your social media channels.

Social media options in Cyfe

Continue building out your dashboard.

Widget builder in Cyfe

The end result will look something like this.

Screenshot of a Cyfe social media dashboard

Source: Cyfe.com

3. Use Each Platform’s Built-In Analytics

Some social media networks provide useful analytics tools for marketers. While we don’t have the time or space to cover each in-depth, we recommend familiarizing yourself with each network’s official support documentation:

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You Need More Than Just A Social Media Content Strategy

So far, we’ve laid out a solid game plan for your social media content. Next comes the hard part: putting your strategy to use.

1. Download your Social Media Content Strategy Template available in this post.

2. Read these posts to nail the tactical execution of your social media strategy:

This will be easier said than done. However, you’re in this game for the long haul, right? If you’re in it to win it, you’ll succeed.

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