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? (Sspoiler 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 media content 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.
Download Your Free Social Media Content Strategy Template
Apply the advice in this post with this free PowerPoint template. Once you have it downloaded, follow along with the rest of this post to complete each section.
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Want to read the book on social media strategy? Check out the latest project from CoSchedule that New York Times best-selling author, Jay Baer, calls "the tactical manual for successful social media programs." Get Your Book Now: How To Create A Social Media Strategy
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:
- A strategy helps save time by knowing what you'll do before you start.
- It will also help you understand why your social media marketing is working (or not working).
- It supports your overall social media management efforts.
Sound good? Let's move on.
Step 1: 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.
Tips For Selecting Social Media Channels
Understanding each channel's strengths can help you understand if they're right for you.
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:
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?
Step 2: Set Social Media Goals
Once you've audited your social media presence, it's time to set goals. We can break these down into two categories:
- Business Objectives: These are the overarching business goals you hope to advance through social media. For example, "increasing brand awareness" would be a business objective.
- Social Objectives: These are goals you'll set specifically for social media. For example, "increasing our Twitter follower count" would be a social objective.
Using your template, list your top business objectives and social objectives:
Then, establish clear and specific goals to reach these objectives:
Need insight into how to set goals and measure your progress toward them? We've got you covered in this deep dive into social media analytics.
Step 3: 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.
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.
Click the Pages tab and see who shows up.
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.
Sometimes obvious tactics are easy to overlook.
Set Up Google Alerts for Industry Keywords
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:
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:
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.
Now, Complete Step 3 In Your Template
Once you've scoured the competitive landscape, fill in the next section of your template. Start by listing your top ten competitors on social media:
Next, document their social follower counts:
Finally, determine what you can do better, and what you can do differently. Base your analysis on what you've observed on your competitor's social accounts:
Step 4: Establish Your Target Audience
Are you reaching the right people on social media? That's what we'll find out next.
Start By Building 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.
Use Google Analytics to Analyze Your Blog or Website's Demographic Data
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:
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:
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.
Now, Complete Step 4 In Your Template
Start building your persona by filling in the fields you see below:
Here are some tips for filling in each piece:
- Name. Feel free to get creative.
- Job Title: This can be a generalization.
- Age: This doesn't need to be too specific. Include a range based on what you find under your Facebook Insights tab, and in Google Analytics (go to Demographics, then click Age).
- Income Level: This can be an average based on salary data for your industry, or your audience's industries. Indeed.com's Salary Search is a useful quick-and-dirty solution for this:
- Location: This could be a specific city, state, or region. Or, you might break it down by rural vs. urban. Do what makes the most sense in your situation.
- Interests & Hobbies: You can find a lot of this information under Affinity Categories in Google Analytics.
Next, let's move onto the second slide:
If you're struggling to fill in each piece, consider surveying your audience. Set one up using a service like Survey Monkey or Polldaddy. Convince And Convert also put together this excellent guide on how to run an audience survey.
Step 5: Establish Your Brand Voice & Tone
Once you know who you're talking to, it's time to figure out how to speak with them. This means establishing your brand voice and tone for social media.
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.
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.
- Review the social accounts of ten competitors
- Pay attention to their tone and personality
- Determine how you can A) be yourself and B) be different from the pack
5 Examples of Brands Who Have Nailed Their Brand Voice
1. Old Spice
Old Spice maintains an irreverent and humorous vibe throughout all their marketing. Whether you're on their Facebook page, or reading the back of a bottle of their body wash, they create a consistent experience. They turn otherwise boring products into something interesting.
2. Bobcat Company
Think no one would be interested in construction and agricultural equipment on Facebook? Think again. Bobcat Company does an incredible job of engaging their audience across social media. They do this in part by maintaining a consistent brand voice and speaking to the needs and interests of people who use their machines.
No one digs deeper to speak to one specific audience than Arby's. Lots of people eat fast food, right? Well, when your audience is that broad, it's easy for your messaging to become so diluted that it effectively interests no one. So, Arby's targets their social media content at gamers, using the exact language and references their hardcore audience would appreciate. This example references an obscure video game called Flinthook, creating a joyously unexpected experience for fans.
— Arby's (@Arbys) April 18, 2017
4. Gary Vaynerchuk
Few motivational speakers in the marketing world are as, well, genuinely motivating as Gary Vaynerchuk. That's party because he says what he thinks with uncompromising honesty. That carries through with all of his social media content, too. He's serious, unfiltered, and consistent in his commitment to real authenticity everywhere he publishes.
A post shared by Gary Vay-Ner-Chuk (@garyvee) on
Now, Complete Step 5 In Your Template
This slide is simple enough. Here's what you've got to complete:
- Brand Voice Description: Consider this a short personality profile.
- Social Media Tag Line: These three adjectives should describe your social media brand.
- Social Media Mission Statement: Fill in the blanks to summarize who you're creating social media content for, and why.
Social Media Content Strategy: What Will You Create, and Why?
We're finally ready to establish the real meat of your social media content strategy. This means answering three main questions:
- What will you create?
- How will you create it?
- Why will you create it?
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:
What Purpose Will Your Content Serve?
How will your audience benefit from each piece of content you share on social media? That's what our next step is all about. Check off the following as appropriate using your template:
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.
How Long Should Social Media Copy Be On Each Channel?
What Sizes Should Social Media Images Be?
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.
Build a List of Content Curation Sources
No one wants to listen to someone who only talks about themselves. So, we recommend incorporating content curation into your social media strategy. Use the Content Curation Source List to compile a repository of trusted sources to share content from:
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.
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
Before you start creating content, you'll need something to keep it all organized. That's where your social media calendar comes into play.
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:
- Use a calendar spreadsheet.
- 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.
Next, complete the following slide in your template:
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:
Complete your preliminary posting schedule using the following slide in your template:
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:
3 Ways To Track Social Media Marketing Performance
Once your strategy has been up and running for a while, you'll want to measure your performance. Here's how using Google Analytics, Cyfe, and each network's built-in analytics capabilities.
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.
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.
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.
Then, click on Social Media and add each of your social media channels.
Continue building out your dashboard.
The end result will look something like this.
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:
- Facebook Insights
- LinkedIn Analytics for Company Pages
- Google+ Insights
- Twitter Audience Insights
- Instagram Business Tools for Brands
- Pinterest Analytics
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.
This post was originally published on June 8, 2016. It was updated and republished on May 8, 2017.