Do you want to create a social media plan for your business but lack the right tools? If YES, here are 17 hot tips on how to develop a social media strategy.

Developing a solid social media strategy that will help you achieve your aims and objectives can seem like a real hassle, however, if you know the right things to do, you will find out that developing a concrete social media strategy does not have to be difficult.

What is a Social Media Strategy?

A social media strategy documents how a business or organization will plan, execute and measure all social media marketing activities.

Without an iota of doubt, social media is one of the most powerful tools for customer engagement that is presently available. In the hands of the right person, social media can be a tool that creates a strong personal connection with your prospective clients. However, it is not uncommon for a marketer to dive into social media without any form of plan.

This usually results in a waste of time and resources or in some cases a PR disaster. In order to harness the power of social media, you need to have a clearly defined strategy that takes into account what you’re trying to achieve, who your customers are and what your competition is doing. Before we jump into planning your strategy, here are a few tools that will help you to plan and execute them.

4 Awesome Tools That Makes Social Media Strategy Planning and Execution a Breeze

  • 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.
  • Curation tools: These make it easy to curate content and fill gaps on your calendar.
  • 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.

Here are some tips that you can take in order to develop a social media strategy:

17 Hot Tips on How to Develop a Social Media Strategy and Plan

1. Build an Ark: firstly, you should bear in mind that the social media strategy of your organization should not be owned by a particular individual. Social media impacts all corners of the company, and as such should not be up to an individual. Thus, you have to create a cross-functional team to help conceive and operate the rest of the strategy.

2. Listen and Compare: listening is always a virtue that should be emulated if you intend to build a concrete social media strategy. The truth is that your customers (and competitors) will give you a good guide to where and how you should be active in social media, if you broaden your social listening beyond your brand name.

3. Be focused: granted, social media can be used to accomplish a wide variety of objectives, but the best social media strategies are those that focus on a more narrow objective. What do you primarily want to use social for? Do you want to create or raise awareness of your brand?

Are you looking to increase sales, or website traffic, or both? Is your goal to build customer loyalty and increase retention? These goals aren’t mutually exclusive, but you should focus on one or two because, if you spread yourself too thin, you will end up not accomplishing much.

4. Have a Success Metric: you should be able to know if the strategy you are employing is actually making a difference in your business. In this light, you have to know the key metrics that you will use to evaluate your social media strategy effectiveness. How will you transcend (hopefully) likes and engagement? Will you measure ROI?

5. Analyze Your Audiences: who are your target audience for your strategy? What are the demographic and psychographic characteristics of your current or prospective customers? How does that impact what you can and should attempt in social media?

6. Determine your One Thing: the key to effective social media marketing is passion. Irrespective of who you are or what you are selling, your product features and benefits aren’t enough to create a passion-worthy stir and as such, you will need to determine how your organization appeals to the heart of your audience, rather than the head. For instance, Apple is much more than just technology, it’s about innovation. So what is your business about?

7. Have measurable objectives: you have to set clearly defined goals. Make sure that any goal you choose to set is specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time based. For instance, if you’re a B2B marketer looking to increase sales, you might decide that you want to generate an additional 100 online leads a month.

On the other hand, if your goal is brand awareness, then you might want to increase the number of times your brand is mentioned on social media by 50 percent. In all cases, these objectives should be directly tied to your business goals, and they should be achievable.

Otherwise, they are just wishful thinking. Also, make sure your objectives are time limited. For instance, you need to achieve that 50 percent growth in brand awareness within 3 months, not at some undefined time in the future.

When you set your gal, don’t just stop there, make sure that you measure them from time to time. Find the right tools to track and analyze each one, so that you can quantify your progress. Not only will this let you know when you have arrived, it will also help you to spot problems early and adjust your course if you need to.

8. Characterize your customers: the success of a social media strategy lies in targeting the right people with the right type of message. In order to masterfully do this, you will need to have a good understanding of who your audience are. For example, there’s no point in targeting everyone in the 17 to 35 age group if you really want to get to upwardly mobile young professionals who are technology enthusiasts.

One of the best ways to do this is to create buyer personas. Sit down and create a detailed profile of your ideal customer. Start by giving them a name. How old are they? What is their income? Do they have children? What do they like or dislike? What motivates them? And so on. If you have more than one ideal customer, create a persona for each.

9. Study your competition: in social media marketing, your competitors can tell you a lot about what works best and what is not worth venturing into. After all, they’re targeting the same customers you are. The success and mistakes of your competitors is a fountain of knowledge that you should use to your advantage.

To research your competitors, start by picking three or four of the top ones. Find out which social networks they’re active on, and study their content. Is it funny or serious? What kind of cultural references do they use? Do they talk about their product primarily, or do they focus on other things?

For instance, if you sell dirt bikes, do your competitors talk about how their dirt bikes perform, or do they post amazing biking videos that just happen to include their products? Then, see how well each competitor is doing (e.g. how much engagement- comments, shares, likes -they get on their Facebook updates.) This will let you determine which strategies work and which ones don’t.

10. Develop your messages: you should have an idea of who your ideal customer is and what your competitors are doing to get and engage their customers; you have to build your message. This isn’t detailed content; rather it’s the top level set of key messages that you think will resonate with your customers based on the personas you have created. You should choose two or three messages, then break each one down another level creating a simple messaging hierarchy.

You can adopt some your competitor’s successful messaging ideas, but always remember to be original and improve on what they had already done- this will help you to create a unique brand voice. Don’t be afraid to get creative as your social media presence should be exciting, not boring.

11. Choose your channels: all social media platforms are unique and different in their own right and as such, you need to choose the right ones for the products or services you’re selling. For instance, LinkedIn is a good platform to target for business-to-business sales while Pinterest may be better if you’re in the fashion business.

Some of these channels will become obvious when you look at your competitors. However, you should not totally rely on the judgment of your competitors. Carry out your own research to find out if there is any relevant channel that has been overlooked by your competitors.

12. Find Influencers and Communities: Go over the results you got from listening to the conversations and find who are talking about your brand. Who is having a following that might include your clients or prospects? Are there advocates who are really into your brand? Select the ones that you feel are the best match for your business and start monitoring them. Having a conversation with your influencers is a big part of the social media strategy.

Set up a Google Alert for your brand names and industry terms. Scan Facebook and Twitter to find who are actively talking about your brand and industry. Find out if there are any smaller social networks specializing in related topics. Measuring influence seems easy, but all the information might not be available. These are the numbers that are usually easier to get to:

  • Number of comments should give pretty good understanding how engaged the readers are. Comments per post is a good indicator.
  • Blogs usually show the number of RSS subscribers, use it as a gauge to measure influence.
  • Similar metrics to RSS subscribers are friends and followers on social networking sites.
  • Alexa traffic rank and other statistics are a rough measure of a sites importance. It will also give you general audience demographics.
  • Find out from your analytics how much traffic they send to your site.
  • Check the footprint: size of the site (enter site: yourtarget.com into Google search) and how long has the domain been around.
  • Inbound links are a good predictor of a site’s importance but you have to check if the links are from topically related sites otherwise it might just be spam.
  • Mentions in other sites: Twitter, social bookmarking and news sites.

13. Style is important: when engaging with your customer and fans, you should write and talk as you would with a friend. Don’t try to make yourself important by using big words. Just relax and act normally. Put some passion into it. Get excited but don’t hype.

For search engine visibility you need keyword research. Ask yourself, what are the search queries that your site has an answer for. Use keywords in your articles. In some cases, keyword or phrase may trigger an article idea. Make sure you think about SEO when creating your social media strategy.

14. Channels, Tools and Distribution: Now you have to find the ways to get your content to your audience. The result of this step is to get a list of tools and channels you can start using in your social media strategy. You know what channels your audience uses. You know what type of content makes your audience act – create and distribute.

15. Conversations: The main goal of your social media strategy should be for people to start talking and engaging with you and each other. You want to open two-way communication and form communities around your brand. The content you are creating should make it easy to start and maintain conversations.

You should participate in conversations about your field of activity. Ask question and when questions are thrown your way, be quick to proffer a satisfactory answer. In order to engage and boost the conversations, you should be personal and identifiable.

Social media is for people, and people don’t want to talk to faceless brands. Don’t participate just as a “support person” or “sales representative,” Jack and Jill work a lot better. Be transparent! Don’t use fake names. Spread openness throughout the organization, let more people talk to the world. Smaller companies have an advantage here as they are more personal to begin with.

Put social media activities on your calendar and decide how much time you are going to spend listening, posting and replying. If you don’t know how long it will take, make a guess, and you can adjust the estimates later. Answer quickly, set a standard of how fast it will take to answer an update in a conversation.

You can exceed the time you have allocated but always make note how much time you spend on social media, this is part of your ROI calculation.

When engaging with your fans, you should not censor criticism! Answer all critical comments openly and honestly. Friendly voice. Neutral position. We understand you, and we want to help you with that. Concentrate on the problem, not people or communications. Being open about negative aspects of the social media builds trust and makes you more believable.

Open negative feedback establishes authenticity. Act on negative feedback and make your organization better. Show off the improvements initiated by criticism on social media.

16. Build a content plan: last but not least, you need to develop a strong content plan that will deliver engaging material. The contents you post should be in line with the overall messaging and be appropriate for the channels you’re using.

This is more than just product information – think about how you can deliver real value to your audience. Don’t just stick to one type of media – a mix of videos, guides, infographics and other styles will engage your potential customers more effectively. Also, don’t think of content as something you post once. You need to have an ongoing presence on social media, and that includes delivering fresh content on a regular basis.

Make sure you have the time for those activities. Don’t forget that you are trying to start conversations so plan some time for answering comments and feedback. Creating good content takes time, so get help from others from your organization. You may need to think about creating a content marketing strategy team.