How To Create A Social Media Strategy (With Three Steps And A Template)

Getting things on paper (or at least, a digital document) is such an obvious but important step toward meeting a goal.

Most of the time, we sort of tumble into an activity instead of planning out what we want and how we’ll get there.

A serious content marketer will want a social media strategy template, something they can refer to and adjust as they forge ahead toward desired goals. Here is that template.

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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 specifically now to get your free:

  • PDF template to help you take scratch notes as you learn how to develop a winning strategy for your business.
  • Social media strategy template Word document you can edit immediately to polish your scratch notes into a final draft strategy to share with your coworkers.
  • Bonus content types infographic to inspire awesome content to share.

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.

Discover Where Your Audience Is

You should be on the same networks as your audience, of course. And there’s the dreaded statement: Know your audience.

We have some great resources on how to know who your audience is:

Make a list of three to five networks that are clearly popular with your audience. Don’t get too big a list; remember, you are going to have to maintain content on these. If you can only handle one or two, that’s perfectly fine.

There are several ways to find your audience on social media:

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 with their niche peers.

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 the biggest results.

social media strategy traffic Google Analytics Custom Report

The Google Analytics Custom Report shows traffic by social network. In this example, the audience is most active on Facebook.

2. Research Your Competitors’ Social Networks To Find Their Largest Followings

Your competitors likely have a similar audience that you’d like to attract to your brand through social media. Simply 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 own audience may be most active.

Research Your Competitors' Followings To Find Your Own Audience

3. Experiment With Paid Promotion To Target Your Audience On All Networks

Yet another way to find your audience is to experiment initially with paid promotion. All of the major social networks offer advanced targeting to help you strategically share your social media messages with the right audience in exchange for payment.

As a test, you could set up social profiles for every network and use their native paid promotion capabilities to find your audience. Review the results in each networks’ analytics, and continue using the channels with the biggest results.

Find Your Own Preferred Networks

Once you know where your audience is, hold those networks up against a list of qualifications to see how high they should be in your “triage” list of networks to focus on.

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For example:

  1. Find a network that connects with tools. Isolated networks are only going to add to your workload because you can’t consolidate your efforts with tools. Find at least a few key social networks that connect with the tools you are already using to help reduce workload. Historically, these networks include Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Google+, and Tumblr.
  2. Find networks that have a good return. This is both a good return historically for you, and a good return broadly, for the general marketing populace (example: Facebook). Find networks that have a good return.

Order your audience-preferred networks against a list of qualifications like these. This way, you know which networks you absolutely must focus on (and perhaps spend money for promoted posts).

How To Choose The Right Social Networks For Your Business

Decide On How Many Social Profiles You’ll Have

Decide if you’ll need more than one social profile on a single network. This might be because:

1. You Have A Broad Audience With Several Niches Inside That Audience

For example, CoSchedule has a Content Hackers Twitter account that focuses solely on the content found in our popular Content Marketing Update.

We also have a Twitter account just for the content and discussion found on the CoSchedule Blog.

Then, of course, there is the CoSchedule twitter account, which has some of the same content, but is also used by customers with tech support and product updates.

2. You Have A Branded Social Presence, But Also A Personal One

How you’ve created your brand—whether it’s product-based or your own name—will determine whether or not your audience only wants on-topic content or whether they appreciate your vacation updates.

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If you have more than one social profile, be sure that you have the tools to manage each profile, and that you aren’t breaking the terms of service at the network that might govern that behavior:

2. Plan The Content You’ll Share

In the same way, that I advocate that you do best to capitalize on your strengths when it comes to setting up your blogging methodology, I’d say the same for your social media strategy.

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 from your own content will reflect that.

Curation of outside content is where some of us go off the rails with on-topic social content.

Strategically Plan The Content You Share

It’s easy to forget that your own personal interests outside of your audience niche may not be really relevant for your branded social media properties unless you’re a celebrity of some sort.

Going off topic when you’ve clearly established a niche is dangerous.

I’ll use myself as an example.

On my personal Twitter account (not the one “branded” with my real name), I follow a wide variety of profiles based on all the things I’m interested in, while on my branded profile, I tend to follow profiles related to art and writing, my profession.

One profile is my professional account, while the other one is where I talk to siblings and friends and share things they might enjoy.

I’m a private pilot, so several of the Twitter profiles I follow with my personal profile have to do with aviation. One such profile specialized in “aviation updates” until I noticed that they began to publish the same link over and over, sometimes four or more times a day, that had nothing to do with aviation.

I unfollowed them.

I was tired of seeing that update in my news feed, and I was even more annoyed because this was clearly a niche profile that had decided to curate something completely off topic.

It is vitally important to understand what your niche topics will be, and have it written down ahead of time.

Otherwise, you run the risk of losing focus and curating content that your audience doesn’t want. It’s too easy for them to unfollow you.

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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).

This list should look very much like the categories you use on your blog, and all curated content should be held up against this list to see if it fits. If you find content you want to share that doesn’t fit, then put it over on a personal profile.

Plan Your Social Media Curation Topics To Stay Organized

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.

What Can You Create?

If you don’t have the equipment or the chops for making great videos, YouTube is probably not the place for you. Ask yourself questions that help you discover what you’re best at creating:

  • What apps and software do you have access to for creating content?
  • Are you a better writer or designer? Or could you try your hand at recording video instead?
  • Do you have other team members who can help you out with your weak spots, or are you flying solo?
  • What social media do you enjoy yourself? Do you find yourself mimicking it easily?
  • Do you have a sense of humor? Are you more about being helpful?

The idea here is to find your natural strengths, both in talent and resources, when it comes to the content you can create for social media.

Think of more questions, if you can, and as always: Write it down.

Find Your Content Sharing Strength For Social Media

I like to write down a plan for how I will create the content I’ve decided I need to create. Some of the things I jot down on my calendar and in my notes include the following:

1. Plan Your Imagery

Social networks are pushing imagery, so you will need to plan to include some.

If you’ve determined that creating imagery is not your strength or you don’t have the expensive tools or access to a professional designer, you can create great imagery using tools like Canva.

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 a random whim, but you will have campaigns.

3. Plan Your Curated Content

This is more ongoing than the previous two (which I generally revisit periodically throughout the year). You’ll regularly be sharing outside 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, consciously collect feeds that fit your categories.

Here are five ways to get inspired with different content types to mix into your social media sharing strategy:

5 different content types for your social media sharing strategy

How Do You Communicate?

Are you a great conversationalist? Do you love chatting with followers? Are you johnny-on-the-spot whenever someone mentions you on Twitter?

I’m not any of those, to be truthful, and so my social media approach isn’t heavy on the conversation. I take multi-day absences from social media (and the internet in general) because I need that break.

That means I don’t answer immediately on social media.

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You may be like me, or you may really dig talking to people.

If you don’t like talking to people constantly, perhaps your social messages shouldn’t be prompting heavy conversations, such as asking questions of your audience or veering regularly into sharply controversial topics that prompt heavy discourse.

Pro Tip: Social media messages that tend to perform well across multiple networks include varying headlines, controversy, questions, benefits, humor, and quotes.

It’s probably sacrilegious to suggest you don’t have to be heavily into conversation to be on social media. But there are plenty of introverted folks like myself who are quickly drained by it.

While we can create great content, we can only handle a minimal amount of interaction surrounding it.

Be honest if that’s you.

Don’t set yourself up for communication failure. Work in your strengths, and create content that you can communicate around reliably to the best of your ability.

Pro Tip: You can apply an idea from Tim Ferriss’ book, The 4-Hour Workweek, that was originally meant to make checking email more efficient. Dedicate time twice a day—at noon and 4 p.m.—to monitoring your accounts so you don’t accidentally spend too much time getting sucked into the void.

The point is this: Set aside dedicated time for engagement on your calendar, complete with notifications to help you begin and end your listening efficiently.

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.

Get your plan on paper and assign a date.

Define Your Goals

What is it you want to accomplish with social media? More traffic to your blog? To grow social followersMore email subscribersTo increase sales?

How to define goals and plan a social media strategy template

We don’t all want the exact 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.

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You will revisit the second part each month—writing down a specific goal. This is what you will use to actually 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.

This data will help you know exactly how often to post to each of your networks (this is a sneak peek from a study that CoSchedule will release really soon!):

  • Facebook: 1 post a day, curate one every other day
  • Twitter: 15 tweets a day, curate seven tweets per day
  • LinkedIn: 1 post a day, curate one every other day
  • Pinterest: 11 Pins a day, Repin at least five Pins per day
  • Google+: 2 posts a day, curate one every other day
  • Tumblr: 2 posts a day, reblog one every other day
  • Instagram: 1–2 posts a day, curate one a day

Outline Your Content Sharing Plan

Set up a social media publishing plan to help you share a specific piece of content the best way possible, taking into account social network norms for sharing the same piece more than once.

We’ve talked a lot about how to approach when you ought to publish social media, and it’s even built into CoSchedule.

Example of a Social Media Sharing Timeline

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.

Plan Your Budget

Successful (and serious) social media strategy must include a budget to promote your posts on social networks. However, going into any expenditure without knowing where the budget line is drawn is a super bad idea.

You might be new to paying for social content, and have no real idea what it will cost. That’s fine!

Simply start with an amount you are able to absorb into your content marketing budget and begin learning.

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As you figure out what works on each network, you’ll use your budgeted dollars better than you do at the start. But you first have to start, and you have to set a limit.

Once you hit the limit, evaluate. Check what’s happened against the goals you set earlier.

How Will You Plan Your Social Media Strategy?

We all 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.

Plan it out.

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This post has been edited from its original version for comprehensiveness.