Social media occupies a unique space in marketing. Everyone knows they need to be on there but not many know how to approach it. It’s casual, chaotic appearance can make it seem a frivolous waste of time for a business desperate to generate an immediate return on their investment.
But social media can be managed strategically. It just takes a bit of process.
And too many businesses follow this haphazard approach themselves or do the classic ‘let the unpaid, untrained intern do it.’
To optimise your social media marketing you need to be methodical and business-minded with it. We’ve developed a 10 step process to help people do just that. It’s a process we teach to our Digital Mums-to-be (with some pretty handy results) and it’s the process anyone running a social media campaign needs to follow. Whether you’re a freelancer, a bootstrapping entrepreneur, an intern or ‘the social media guy’ (or girl!) at work, this is the process you need to follow to deliver results.
1. Understand what you want to achieve and who do you want to reach
The first thing to do before jumping head-first into tweeting about what you had for breakfast is to understand what your business wants to achieve. Sometimes a business just wants their channels kept active and don’t have any overarching goals beyond that. While others will have a very clear idea of what they want to achieve. If you’re a consultant or freelancer, it’s your job to try and be as strategic as possible and support your client to understand what objective is most relevant for them. Do they want to build brand awareness? Develop relationships with journalists or influencers? Drive traffic to their website? Or generate insights by talking to their customers?
Once establishing what you’re actually trying to achieve you need to understand in detail who you’re trying to target. Who’s the audience and what are their online habits. At this point, it’s useful to create some user personas to help you to get inside your audience’s head in order to understand them and their habits. In an ideal world you’ll have genuine data or market research to work with at this point. At the very least you should be talking to some of your current customers. If you’re a freelancer, however, this isn’t always possible so picking your client’s brains will be the next best thing.
2. Decide which platforms will best meet these objectives and reach your target audience
Yeah yeah, we’ve all heard how great Pinterest is for selling products. But if your audience isn’t there in the first place then there’s no point spending time building a presence there, however cool your ‘Office Chairs From Around The World’ board is.
Too often a business will decide what platforms they should be on before actually figuring out whether they are the optimum ones to reach their audience. Ok, it’s a pretty safe bet that some of your audience will be on Facebook, but when you have limited time and money, is it the best one to choose?
Use the research you’ve done on your audiences to help you understand which platforms your target audience is on. You also need to marry this with the type of business.. A B2B business will use different platforms to a B2C one. Some businesses will benefit from visual platforms such as Instagram and Pinterest while others will fail there as they don’t have sufficient visual content (don’t underestimate the time it takes to do this well).
If you’re a outsourced freelancer or not a decision maker in your company, you’ll find that businesses can be very prescriptive about which platforms they want you to manage. Sometimes you just have to fit in with their plans and their budget.
However, if you feel they would benefit more from using other social media platforms, it’s your job to educate them and advise them. The key is being tactful and providing evidence of why they should change.
3. Develop a strategy for using these platforms
Once you have decided which platforms will work best you can figure out how to use them to reach your target audience - by figuring out what will motivate them to pay attention.
This is what’s commonly called a ‘hook’. It’s not just what is great about the business or the benefits of a product it’s more than this - it’s about finding the killer hook that will motivate them to see you through the myriad of other voices on social media. A competition or an incentive is usually a safe bet. But piggy backing off a newsworthy topic or a developing a clever, catchy campaign can be more than enough if done right.
4. Develop clear, measurable metrics to ensure strategy is working
This is where many people have fallen down with social media in the past. And there’s really no excuse for this now since pretty much every platform has scarily deep analytics attached to them. It’s crucial to set up target figures to work towards from the get-go to give yourself some goals. The old marketing stalwart SMART goals (you know, Specific, Measurable, Achievable, and all that) are a good foundation for these and give you a clear way to measure how successful the campaign has been.
5. Set up your platforms
A pretty obvious one, but worth mentioning all the same. It’s important to set up any platforms being used for your campaign or make sure existing platforms look as good as they will need to, have the right messaging and are on brand. When your target audience arrive you want them to be impressed and reassured, rather than confused and antagonised.
6. Find key influencers to engage with
Finding key influencers that can reach your target audience is the key for the success of your social media strategy. There will be lots of individuals and brands out there that your audience already trusts and who can share your content to have maximum impact. You need to find out who they are, figure out how you can add value to them and how you can nurture and eventually leverage these relationships over time.
7. Optimise your platforms for your strategy
Are your logos on point? Do you have your sneaky Twitter lists good to go? It’s time to start segmenting your audiences, creating lists of influencers to make engaging them easy and getting stuck in with some handy social media tools to support your strategic objectives.
8. Develop a content strategy that will speak to your audience
Successful management of social media platforms relies on great content that speaks to your target audience. Whether it’s great industry articles for professionals or cute photographs of kittens, you need to find great content your audience will like and then get it in front of them.
Ideally you’ll even make your own to share that fits your campaign objectives and will motivate your audiences. You can also try to get your audience to produce content for you in the form of user generated content. But be wary - your incentives need to be right here. People won’t get involved just because you ask them too nicely. You have to tap into - but luckily you’ve already created an awesome hook that will motivate them to do this so no need to worry right?
9. Test, measure, reflect, refine
I’ve already written an in-depth article about this so I’ll be brief here. This is a easy model to improve your posting over time.
First, test your strategy across your platforms for a short amount of time rather than going gung-ho full steam ahead with it. You can never really know if something will work on social media until you try it. Then use their in-built analytics to measure what’s happened - you won’t know what’s working or what’s not working if you don’t look at the data.
Once you access the data there will be some interesting insights. Reflect on these and what they mean for your campaign. And then based on these insights you can improve things. There may be things that work well about it and some things that work not so well and you can build more on these.
Repeating this process on a daily, weekly or monthly basis will ensure you are always maximising your impact.
If you’re a freelancer this is how you prove your worth. If you’re an employee then clear reporting is a weapon to help you secure buy-in and prove you’re doing a good job. And even if you’re an entrepreneur, having a record you can measure over time is extremely useful to measure your results. Quick and dirty weekly progress reports with a spreadsheet for figures over time is more than enough. And once you’re finished, providing a final campaign report summarising the successes of the campaign is a useful exercise to have to measure your progress over the long-term.