How To Create A Social Media Strategy (With 3 Steps And A Template)
Getting things on paper (or rather, a digital document) is an obvious but essential step toward meeting a goal.
But, sometimes marketers tumble into projects instead of planning out what we want to achieve and how we’ll get there.
Social media is no exception.
Your team needs a documented social media strategy because:
- Marketers who document strategies are 538% more likely to report success.
- Those who document processes are 466% more likely to be successful, too.
- 88% of marketers who set goals actually achieve them.
The takeaway is clear: creating a documented strategy focused on processes and goals will improve your results.
And with this post + template, you’ll have everything you need to plan your work and work your plan.
Start With Your Social Media Strategy Template
Plan your strategy as you read this post to make the most efficient use of your time. Download the kit that complements this post now to get your free:
- Social Media Strategy Template you can use to quickly and easily document your entire strategy.
- Google Analytics Custom Reports. In just a few clicks, build custom reports in Google Analytics to track incoming social media referral traffic.
- Bonus Content Types Infographic to inspire awesome content to share.
- Social Media Content Calendar. Keep track of when your content is publishing and help your team work ahead.
Get ’em all now, and then let’s move on.
What is a Social Media Strategy?
For the purposes of this post, we’ll work with the following definition:
A social media strategy documents how a business or organization will plan, execute, and measure all social media marketing activities.
Throughout this post, we’ll elaborate and expand upon what exactly this means.
What Tools Will I Need to Plan and Execute My Strategy?
Before we jump into planning, let’s make sure your toolbox is complete. We recommend using the following types of tools:
- Social media calendar. Planning and executing your strategy on one central calendar makes it easy to see all your social media posts alongside your other content and projects. You can use a spreadsheet-based calendar template or an app like CoSchedule.
- Curation tools. These make it easy to curate content and fill gaps on your calendar. If you’re a CoSchedule user, our Chrome extension makes this easy.
- Google Analytics. You’ll use this to gather data on your social media referral traffic to find where your audience is most active.
- In-app analytics. Each of the top social media networks features robust analytics full of useful audience and performance data. CoSchedule also includes automated analytics and reporting tools you can use as well.
That’s all you need to put this post into practice. Now, let’s get started!
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.
Find Your Target Audience
The first step in planning a social media strategy involves discovering who your target audience is.
By knowing your target audience, you will be able to create content that connects with their interests and improves your performance.
You should also be on the same networks as your audience. But, how do you figure out which ones those are?
Let’s start with a few reliable tactics to find where those folks are hanging out.
1. Use This Free Google Analytics Custom Report To Find Your Highest-Trafficked Social Networks
If you have a website or blog, there’s a strong possibility that your audience is already sharing your content.
You can track the traffic they direct back to your website through the free Google Analytics Custom Report in the kit that complements this blog post. You’ll see exactly which networks give you the most traffic to help you focus your efforts on the social media that are already naturally generating results.
2. Research Your Competitors’ Social Networks To Find Their Largest Followings
You and your competitors are after the same audience on social media. Choose 5–10 competitors, then search for them on all the major social networks (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Google+, Tumblr, YouTube, Instagram, and Snapchat).
Write down their number of followers on each network to understand on which social networks your audience may be most active.
3. Choose Your Social Media Channels
You know where your audience is most active. You also have an idea where your competitors are seeing the most success, too.
Now, let’s bring those two data sets together to prioritize your social media channels.
Start by making a list of your social networks and rank them in order from the most to least active.
Then, take a look at data from your competitor research do the same for them.
See how your competitors top channels and your top channels compare.
If their Facebook network is ranked number one and your Facebook network is ranked number two, consider adjusting your strategy to put more emphasis on Facebook.
Make your final list of networks starting with your highest-priority platforms in your strategy document.
2. Plan The Content You’ll Share
Before your team dives into creating and sharing content, strategically plan what you want to share first.
What Are Your Topics Of Expertise?
If you’ve done your homework right, your content marketing is highly focused on the topics your audience cares about, and the social activity of your content will reflect that.
Write down, in one sentence, what your brand is about. Make it general (e.g., shoes). Then, break it down into the sub-topics (e.g., running shoes, jogging tips, healthy recipes, budget).
All curated content should be held up against this list to see if it fits. If you find content that doesn’t fit, don’t share it.
An exercise that works well for this is to write down the top three topics you’d like to cover in a horizontal line.
Draw circles around each topic, with some overlap between circles to create a type of Venn diagram among all of the topics. Brainstorm a subtopic for each of the intersecting areas, then use these words as your foundation for curating content that your followers—and your brand—will love.
Find Content to Curate
Now that you have topics that you want to cover, how to do you curate the right content?
There are three things to keep in mind when you’re looking for content to share:
- Does this provide value to my audience?
- Is this being published from a reputable source?
- Is the content timely?
Once you’re in, click + Content and enter the topic or keyword you want to curate content around:
Choose sources you want to follow and add them to your feed:
Now, you’re ready to read your feed and pick out content you think your audience would enjoy:
Plan Your Execution
The next phase involved planning images, campaign themes, and establishing a content curation strategy.
1. Plan Your Imagery
Social networks are pushing imagery, so you will need to plan to include some.
2. 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 brand messages, but you will have campaigns.
Then, when you’re ready to create and publish your campaign content, use a tool like CoSchedule. With our Social Campaigns feature, it’s easy to plan and schedule cohesive campaigns on your social media calendar.
To start go your calendar and select Social Campaign:
Title your campaign and use a Social Template to add your post content:
Label each of your text helpers and add a helper to your post by selecting the name of the associated helper from the drop-down menu:
It’s not just text that you can use helpers for. Instead of adding each photo or video to your messages one at a time, you can use the image and video helpers to add content automatically. To use this feature go back to your helper’s menu and select + Image/Video Helper:
Title your image or video helpers the same way you did your text helpers. However, to add them to your posts you need to switch your message type to Image or Video and select the helper from the drop-down menu:
Once your empty helpers are added to your social template, you can save it and apply it to your campaign. Suddenly scheduling 20 messages doesn’t seem so intimidating:
3. Plan Your Curated Content
This is more ongoing than the previous two (which I revisit periodically throughout the year). You’ll regularly be sharing 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, curate feeds that fit topical categories relevant to your brand.
CoSchedule also has a Google Chrome extension that makes it easy to add curated content at the click of a button.
To start, download the extension and browse the web as you normally do.
Once you find a post that you think your audience will enjoy, click the CoSchedule icon in your Chrome browser bar:
If you have multiple calendars, select which calendar you’d like to publish on:
Select your social channel and edit your message:
Schedule the date and time you want your post to publish on:
3. Make Your Social Media Promotion Plan
Now that you know what networks you’ll be on—and the ways 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.
Define Your Goals
What is it you want to accomplish with social media? Some common goals include:
- Increasing your blog traffic. You spend a lot of time creating content. So, why not promote it on social media and get more pageviews?
- Growing your audience. Growing your followers = more people who might buy your product.
- Getting more email subscribers. Email drives close to 4,000% ROI. Social media can help increase your list size.
- Drive more sales. That’s the ultimate goals, right?
Your strategy should align with your goals to ensure you reach them.
We don’t all want the 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.
You will revisit the second part each month—writing down a specific goal. This is what you will use to measure whether or not you’re hitting that big picture goal, and it’s 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 How Often You Will Share Every Day
As you get started, it’s good to understand your commitment and how you’ll post consistently to grow your following.
So, how often should you post on social media? Follow this visual guide:
Here’s what a hypothetical content sharing schedule for one piece of content might look like:
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.
Determine Your Best Social Media Posting Times
In addition to knowing how often to post, you should determine when to post, too. Start with this visual guide:
Plan Your Promoted Post Budget
Successful social media strategy must include a budget to promote your posts on social networks.
You might be new to paying for social content and have no real idea what it will cost. That’s fine!
Let’s clarify something before we dig further into promoted posts. Promoted posts and social media ads are not the same, although they are very similar.
- Promoted Posts: These are organic posts you’ve paid to boost.
- Ads: These are what they sound like (purely paid advertising content).
- Budget limit. How much are you willing to spend per day?
- Audience targeting. Who would you like to reach?
- Location of your audience members. Are you targeting customers within a certain location or geographic area?
- And more. Social media advertising is an art and a science, but for planning purposes, we’ll just cover the basics here.
Once you decide how to promote your content, there are three steps to record these in your strategy template.
1. Decide What Your End Goal Is
The first thing your team needs to decide is what you want your promoted post to accomplish. What does promoting your post do for the goals you set out earlier?
In your strategy document, there is a table where you can layout each post you plan to boost. First, fill in what the end goal of boosting your post is:
2. Set Your Target Audience
Once you have your end goal in place, you need to decide who you are going to target with your promoted content. Targeting the right audience involves determining who needs to see your message and what qualifications you want your ad manager to target.
For example, if you write an e-book about the best way to take a family vacation at Walt Disney World it would make sense to target people who have kids listed in their about section, or that follow Disney vacation pages.
In your strategy document list the different attributes of the audience you want your boosted post to target:
3. Set Your Budget
The final step in your process should be determining a budget for your promoted post. Set the maximum amount you want to spend for the campaign overall, just remember for most advertising platforms the more people you want to reach the more you are going to have to pay.
Record your daily budget in your document:
After your post has run its course, evaluate your results and compare them to the goals you set in your plan. Did boosting your post contribute to those results in a positive way? If they did consider your team could consider running the promoting the content again. If not, you may want to reconfigure your audience and try again.
Record your results in the final column of your table:
How Will You Plan Your Social Media Strategy?
All businesses 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.
For some insight into why this is important, we’ll leave you with this excellent video from Gary Vaynerchuk himself:
This post has been edited from its original version for comprehensiveness. It was originally written by Julie Neidlinger and was most recently updated by Breonna Bergstrom.