For many businesses, the thought of starting on Social Media can be overwhelming. After all, there are so many networks available, and all of these networks are always adding new features. New features, that you’ve got to learn about and integrate into your plans.
As a startup or small business, you don’t have a full-time team or even a person available for you to do all this work. Therefore, the success of you and your company on Social Media depends on you creating a straightforward and actionable strategy that fits with the people you’ve got available and with your goals.
Table of Contents
- #1: Identify Business Goals
- #2: Set Marketing Objectives
- #3: Identify Your Target Audience
- #4: Research Your Competition
- #5 Choose your social networks
- #6 Fill out your profiles completely
- #7 Find your tone of voice
- #8 Identify your topics
- #9 Pick your posting strategy
- #10 Analyse and test
- #11 Automate and sit back engage
- Your Turn
#1: Identify Business Goals
Just like everything related to your business, you can’t learn anything and move your business forward if you don’t know what it is you want to achieve.
One of the three core principles of the lean startup talks about a feedback loop, which helps you validate which business activities in the marketplace are the right activities. They call this the Build – Measure – Learn loop.
Most people will see this and will start to build straight away, however before you can start making anything you first need to identify what it is that you want to learn.
The reason for this is that learning can only happen from measurable outcomes. Starting with the desired results also makes it easier to understand how you got there and what to do about it as a next step.
Why is it that your company exists? What problem are you trying to solve for your customers? In the end, Content Marketing and Social Media Marketing is just a different way of solving your customer’s problems. Instead of using your product, you use content, but the end goal is the same. If you have a close look at your company’s need, how do you think social media will help to achieve those goals?
When setting up your social media objectives and goals, go beyond the vanity metrics such as Retweets and Likes. Instead focus on more advanced metrics such as leads generated, web referrals and conversion rates for your business.
You can probably come up with some very personal goals for you and your company, however, next to these specific goals there are a couple that all businesses most of the time include in their social media strategy:
- Increase exposure
- Increase traffic
- Increase engagement
- Collect marketplace insights
- Develop brand ambassadors
- Generate leads
- Grow business partnerships
- Improve sales
For starters, it’s good to choose two primary goals from your personalised list and two secondary goals from the general list mentioned above. Having too many goals straight from the start will create a distraction for yourself, and you might end up achieving none of them.
#2: Set Marketing Objectives
Once you’ve identified your marketing objectives, it’s time to develop the related goals that will enable you to be successful. Try setting your goals the S.M.A.R.T. way. Make them Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-Based.
The trouble with not having a goal is that you can spend your life running up and down the field and never score.
– Bill Copeland.
Now we know what we want to learn from our social media efforts, it’s time to start thinking about how we can measure to see if we’re on the right track. After all, if you’re setting goals without any specific parameters to measure if you’re achieving your goals, you will never know if you’re moving the needle in the right direction.
For example, if you set generating leads and sales as one of your objectives, how many leads or sales do you need to make via social media before you can call it a success? Is it one lead per week, or ten leads per week?
Looking at our previous used goals, let’s see how we can measure them:
- Increase exposure – Metrics: Reach, Impression, View
- Increase traffic – Metrics: Page views, Unique Visitor, length of visits
- Increase engagement – Metrics: Likes, Shares, Comments, Pins, +1, Retweets, Favourites
- Collect marketplace insights – Metrics: Survey Entries, Comments
- Develop brand ambassadors – Metrics: Fans, Followers, Engagement on posts
- Generate leads – Metrics: Hard lead, Soft Lead
- Grow business partnerships – Metrics: Contacts
- Improve sales – Metrics: Orders, New Customer, Sales Revenue
If you’re setting a goal for you and your company that can never be achieved is a recipe for disaster. At one point you will lose motivation, and you will never get there. If you’re just starting your social media marketing and you set yourself an objective to increase your sales from 1 per month to 1000 per month, it’s doubtful you will meet it.
This step is about making sure that the goal matters to you and your business and that it aligns with potential other targets you’ve got within your organisation.
By making sure that the objectives are relevant to your company’s overall vision, you’re making sure that you’re spending your marketing budget wisely.
Choose objectives you can achieve, given the people and the resources you have.
When do you want to achieve your goals? Is it next week, one month from now, at the end of the year? By adding a clear end-date to your test, you make it easier to make decisions on the successful or unsuccessful outcome of your experiments.
Your objective of improving your sales by 25% may be specific, measurable, attainable and relevant, but if you don’t set a deadline for achieving this goal, all your efforts, resources and attention may be pulled in different directions over time.
#3: Identify Your Target Audience
Most of the times when your business is suffering from low engagement on their social profiles, it’s usually because they are creating content for people who are not their ideal target customers.
By setting up buyer personas for your organisation, you can help to get the right tone of voice, the right most relevant type of messages at the right time towards your most preferred target audience.
It makes a big difference if you’re trying to create a post for someone above 50 or a millennial. Knowing the age, work, income level, interest, pains, problems, habits, likes, dislikes, motivations, etc.,etc. of your customer makes it easier and cheaper (when boosting your content) to target them on social or any other media.
The more specific you can be, the more focused you can create your content, the more conversions you will get out of all the channels that you will become active in.
#4: Research Your Competition
Every start is difficult. And this is the same when starting your marketing on social media. When building your visual brand as part of your branding essentials, you already did a competitor research. Not only will this give you insights into visual trends for your industry, but it can in this case by looking at what you’re competitors are doing on social media it could already give you an idea of what’s working and what’s not working so you can integrate those ideas successfully into your efforts.
If you’ve not done so already, start by compiling a list of at least three to five of your primary competitors. Try to identify which social networks they are active on and analyse their content strategy. Things to look into are, their number of fans or followers, posting frequency and which time of which days, are they posting lots of visuals and what type of visuals, are they participating in popular hashtags like #MotivationMonday, etc. and how are their fans responding to their postings? How are they reacting to the engagement of their fans?
The most important activity you need to look into is engagement. Even though the real detailed statistics are only visible to admins of accounts, by doing some manual work you can get a pretty decent picture of what is happening.
Facebook makes your life even easier by offering the ability to watch the pages of your competitors on the insights of your page
Although this only gives you a week’s views, it is still pretty powerful. If you want to dig a bit deeper, just go to the pages and social accounts of your competitors yourself. By dividing the number of engagement activities (likes, comments, shares, retweet, favourites, etc.) by the total number of fans or followers, you can calculate how you are stacking up against them.
Picking a social network can be a difficult task. After all, you can’t be on all of them, right? Each network, however, is unique, with its own best practices, own style, and own audience.
So how do you choose which one to create a profile on? Just choose the social network that best fit your strategy and the goals you want to achieve on social media.
The number one rule to make a decision? You don’t have to be on them all—just the ones that matter to you and your audience.
Diving a bit deeper there are three things to help you consider which social network to try and also how many social networks you should try:
- Time – How much time are you able to spend on each social network? When you want to take the proper time to investigate a social network, build an audience and engage with your audience, you will need at least one hour per day (especially when building an audience). Are you able to spend enough time on it to make it worthwhile?
- Resources – What are your skills and the people working in your organisation? Visual social networks like Instagram or Pinterest require images and photos. YouTube needs video. Anchor requires audio content, etc., etc. Do you have the correct people and skills in your company to create the content you need to share on these networks?
- Audience – Where do your potential and current customers hang out? Last, but not least, which social network attracts the right audience for your business?
Try answering these questions before making the decision to create an account and start creating content!
#6 Fill out your profiles completely
There are already a lot of websites out there telling you what the correct size and dimensions should be for your profile picture and the headers visuals you can add on your different social profiles. However, what we would like the focus on is the content.
Optimising your social media profile pages is one of the most overlooked aspects of social media marketing. However, for a lot of people, a profile page is the first contact with a company, and it can make or break your marketing efforts. If you’re active on social media with your business, at one point people will see a post passing by of you that looks interesting. They will click on the profile link and end up on your profile page. You need to make sure that you’re leading them down a path of taking the desired action with every part of your profile page possible.
Your profile picture or avatar
A profile picture or avatar is a little image that you upload to your profile and from then on in will sit with you throughout your period at the network. It is necessary because it is the quickest way where new and existing followers will recognise you. Even though you only supply the barest the least details when registering and creating your profile, make sure you upload an avatar.
Depending on whether you’re building your social media profile for your company or your brand, you will either go with your logo or a personal picture.
Once you’ve selected what your profile picture or avatar will be, be sure to keep it consistent across all social networks, that way people will easily recognise you across all social networks.
Oh and be sure to name your avatar file correctly before uploading it. If you name your profile picture something like yourname.jpg or yourbusinessname.jpg, instead of IMG01234.jpg, it will help in SEO value as search engines can now put a picture to a name.
Your cover photo
Your cover photo is THE biggest piece of real estate on your profile page. It is the first eye-catching piece anyone will notice when they will visit your profile page for the first, so be sure to use it correctly. There are lots of companies that let this opportunity go to waste, by posting something generic as their cover picture.
Social media is a fast moving world; people are not going to spend hours watching your page if you don’t make it interesting people are gone before you know it. Think of your cover photo as the billboard standing next to the highway. People are passing by with 60 miles per hour and before you know it they are gone, and so is their attention. Make this short attention span count!
Use this valuable real estate to it’s fullest with an eye-catching visual. Use a visual that gives your visitors a sense of what your products or services are all about, use text overlays next to the visual to communicate make it even clearer for people what you and your profile are all about.
Some great examples:
If you look at the above examples from the Dollar Shave Club on Facebook and Animoto on Twitter, they both have a good Unique Value Proposition available on their header visual. The Dollar Shave Club is offering a great overview of their products and Animoto is showcasing how easy it is in the background to create professional videos. Both great examples of header visuals.
So you got people already interested enough to stay a bit longer on your profile page and look beyond the cover photo. The next item they will look for is mostly your bio. Not only does your bio serve as an introduction to new viewers, but it is one of the steps that will determine whether or not someone will follow you, or take another action such as clicking on the link to your website.
So what does it take to create an effective bio? A good bio will:
- Accurately explain who you are and what your company does. Think about your Unique Value Proposition, how do you set yourself apart from your competitor
- Personify your brand. A lot of social networks are more lighthearted than their official company website counterparts. Don’t worry too much about writing a formal biography; this is the place to show off the fun side of your brand by maybe even including emoji or special formatting
- Target your ideal customers. Try using specific words that your ideal customer would use to describe themselves. Although keywords on most social networks are not directly searchable, viewers will immediately know that you are a relevant account for them to follow or like.
The most difficult part of it all? There is only a limited space for writing your bio. Twitter for example only allows 160 characters and Instagram even only 150.
One other thing to remember here as well is that consistency can go a long way in helping people recognise your brand on different social media channels. Of course, not all networks have the same amount of available characters, so you won’t have to make it fully identical. However, you should include enough of the same phrases, keywords and try to use the same tone of voice so that your name and your profile will be familiar across multiple platforms.
Your pinned post
This is the fourth and final most important item of any profile page. The item where the magic happens, the item where you can successfully and consistently get people to take action. As soon as people see a first interaction appearing in their newsfeed that triggered them to arrive on your profile page, they scanned your profile, they are almost always going to check out what kind of content you’re posting.
Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn company pages, for example, offer the ability to pin a post or a Tweet to the top of your profile. This should be the post or Tweet that showcases who you are and what your content is all about. The money shot after you post it to pin it to the top and let it be the final way to convince people to follow you!
#7 Find your tone of voice
At this point, you might be tempted to start posting immediately. After all, you’ve created your social media account. They’ve got the correct avatars and header images, and without content, they are looking a bit sad, right?
However, there are two more steps needed to take before you can start to create any post on any social network. This step is about creating your tone of voice, and the next one will be about the different types of content you should be posting. Without these your posts will not be focused enough, so hold your horses for just a little bit longer.
When you’ve identified your target audience in step 3, and even earlier your Unique Value Proposition you were already setting the basis for your tone of voice. To get started though with finding your correct tone of voice, ask yourself:
- If your brand was a person, what kind of personality would it have?
- If your brand was a person, what’s their relationship to your ideal customer? Would it be a mentor, a friend, a family member, etc.?
- Describe using your Brand Personality Adjectives, what your company’s personality is and is not;
- Are there businesses that have the same type of personality as yours? What makes them similar?
- What feeling do you want to leave with your customers when they read your posts?
Using the Brand Personality Adjectives list and the answers to the above questions you should end up with a list describing the tone of voice of your marketing. To make it even more concrete for yourself, ask yourself the following question:
If there was no logo, or no company name next to your posts on social media. Do you sound different, unique—like yourself? Or do you sound like everyone else… including your competitors?
Or in short:
Your tone of voice isn’t about what you say, but, rather, how you say it. It is that impression your brand leaves on your (would-be) customers or prospects.
#8 Identify your topics
Now that you’ve identified which social networks to post to, you’ve filled out your profiles for your accounts and you’ve found your tone of voice on how you will communicate, there is only one last hurdle to overtake before starting to post: it’s time to start thinking of the types of content you’re going to post.
While with content marketing you should develop content which aligns with your business objectives. Developing content that solves the problems your customers are facing and your product, for example, is already addressing. Developing content around the common challenges faced by your target audience. On social media, we can easily go a little bit deeper and wider.
Everybody wants engagement, virality, retweets, likes, shares and followers, but getting it is easier said than done. So the question is, what kind of social media content gets that kind of love? More importantly, what kind of content gives you and your audience the most value and gets the biggest engagement?
Here at Inbound Rocket, we’ve identified ten different content types that are useful for each organisation. You don’t need to use all, but try to get a good mix of the different topics:
- Added-value Content – Inspirational, useful information for the reader . For example whitepapers, studies, instructional videos, tutorials, studies, expert explanation, sector-evolution verticals, …
- Stories – Human side of the organisation . For example inside information, interviews, heritage, origin raw materials, old marketing material, client stories, …
- Special Dates – Events . For example: launch new product/service, events that are sponsored by your brand, special dates related to your brand (new location, …), …
- Promo – Special actions to drive sales. For example coupons, limited time deals, limited quantity deals, …
- Fun – Not business related . For example contests, top topicals, cartoons, …
- Company information – Messages about the company . For example product / service related info, contact details, infographics, upcoming products / services / news, acquisitions, case studies, …
- Sector information – Messages about the sector. For example trends & predictions, infographics, future analysis, new technologies, sector news, …
- Participation & collaboration – Client-brand related actions. For example co-creation on new services, co-creation on new packaging, challenges, fan-photos, fan-assignments, feedback-calls, …
- Surprise & delight – Special surprises for the fans, feel-good actions. For example limited giveaways, birthday wishes, viral videos, …
- Social awareness – Support to good causes . For example articles about the good cause, call for support, ..
#9 Pick your posting strategy
What should you be posting? Is it just text-updates, or video, or static pictures, or animated gif? How often should you be posting on your networks? Is it once every other day, is it twice per day? And at what times should you be posting?
The answer to all of these questions is:
As explained earlier, different type of things are good for various organisations. What works for you does not have to work for me and visa-verse. That being said, let’s try to formulate some general answers to these questions and help you get going.
What should you be posting?
There’s no secret formula to successfully engaging with your audience on social media. However, applying the 80/20 rule should always be a big part of your social media strategy. Use 20% of your content to promote your brand and use the other 80% to content that really interests your target audience and help them engage in conversations.
Of course, social media is a very important part of any marketing mix, but people use social media to be social. They are not on Facebook or Twitter or any other network to be subjected continuously to your online sales pitch. Social media is about building relationships with your audience not forcing them to watch the same message over and over again.
This does not mean however that you could not use your own branding on the other 80%, on the contrary. But only 20% of your content should have a Call-T0-Action:
When creating content that first in the 20% part of your content, also include information that benefits your readers. Include a discount, a special offer, provide useful statistics, etc. Make sure you’re integrating a persuasive Call-To-Action that inspires your audience to learn more about your company and your offering. Call-To-Actions that possibly lead to conversions in the future.
For the other 80%, you want to share compelling content from influencers with whose ideas and insights you agree. It supports your thinking, the way you take care of your business or items about your industry that is in line with the content you’re creating. You could easily think about retweets, sharing of inspirational quotes, links to industry news, questions, etc.
How often should you be posting?
The frequency of how often you should be posting depends on a lot of different factors, however, for us the most important one is resources. It’s no good trying to post seven times or more per week on your different social channels when it creates you so much work that you can’t take care of the rest of your business anymore. Creating content is not something done easily; you want the good quality to help it stand out from the rest.
Of course, there are excellent companies doing research about how often you should be posting. But it’s all dependable on what is sustainable for you and your organisation. It’s always better to slowly move up to posting more often, then having a “burnout” and not posting for weeks at a time because it is not sustainable.
If you do however got the time just remember: If people love your updates, you can typically always get away with posting more.
When should you be posting?
This one is an easy one. The best times to post on social media are when the people you want to see the content are on the network.
Each social network has their own sets of time on which users are more active, though. These times roughly seem to be the same throughout the globe, like checking in on Facebook is between 1–4 p.m. late into the week and on weekends. Coschedule has an overview of 16 studies done on the matter, don’t forget to factor in these times to the time zones in which your target audience is active, though!
#10 Analyse and test
Every brand is different; every business is different, and all social networks are different. What is working for one business on one network does not have to work for your business on that same network.
If you look at your statistics, you will probably notice that same thing.
The more you post, however, the more you will discover which type of content, which timing and which frequency works best for you and your business.
If you can’t invest in a paid all-in-one social media dashboard, remember that most major social networks have basic analytics built into their platform.
Remember that Build – Measure – Learn loop from the beginning of this article? You will use that same loop to analyse and track your progress.
But before you start, first set yourself a benchmark. Look at your postings from the last couple of weeks or month. Try to identify the average number of clicks, shares, likes, retweets, comments or any other form of engagement your posts are having. These will be the benchmark to start measuring your tests against.
Updates these numbers before you run any new test, to make sure that it takes into account the growing of your accounts.
- Ideas – when you’ve set a benchmark for your company you can start testing new things, maybe you read somewhere about some successes someone is having on their account? Let’s see how it would work out for you, maybe certain types of content might be interesting for you to test out. All in all finding things to test is only limited by your imagination!
- Create – You’ve identified different things to test? Time to start creating the content needed for your tests!
- Data or learn if it worked yes or no – How did your tests go? Check the statistics from your test versus the statistics in your benchmark. If your tests did well, you could start implementing them on a more regular basis into your usual strategy. And of course, even if a test was successful or not when the test is over it’s time to start testing something new!
#11 Automate and
sit back engage
YES! The moment is there! You created your company’s social media strategy; you created your first sets of posts, you start testing and analysing, you see what’s working well and what isn’t working well.
The final piece here though is trying to automate (parts of) your posting. By not having to worry about when a post needs to be posted online you can’t forget about it and make sure your engaging content reaches your eager audience.
Tools like Buffer (our favourite) allows you to schedule all the content and updates you want, all at once, at one place. You can place your content into a queue to be sent out according to the schedule that fits best to you and your customers. By automating the posting part of your social media strategy, you can save yourself a lot of time and headaches.
Automating your posting is not the end goal, though, social media requires engagement. When people react, you react back to them. Try to set aside time every day to follow-up with these conversations happening on your social media. Surprise and delight your fans by maybe posting a quick video response to their reaction.
All these people engaging with your content are potential customers after all. They’re too important to ignore. Try to set up smart notifications to get alerts when people react to your content and remember people use social media to be social. Have fun, experiment, and by being social yourself everything will turn out all right in the end.
No social media strategy is ever written down in stone. Networks and people change every day. As you move forward, you might discover certain tactics or particular content types that are working better for you than other kinds of content. Always try to learn and adapt quickly. Run a small experiment to see if your assumptions are the correct ones and if they are, introduce some changes to your overall strategy.
What do you think? Do you’ve got a clear social media strategy at your company? What tools are you using that empowers you and your team on a daily basis? We would love to hear your thoughts, questions or comments on the process. Please leave them in the comment section below!