How To Start Your Social Media Strategy

madewithOverMany businesses put a lot of time into developing long-term, comprehensive, social media strategies that define how social media will be used to grow their business and their revenue. While that sounds like a good idea, there’s a BIG problem that many people tend to forget about…

Social media changes constantly.

By the time you’re ready for ‘Phase 2′ of your big strategy, there’s probably going to be a new obstacle or opportunity that will force you to change your strategy. It could be something like big changes to the Facebook Newsfeed Algorithm  or it might be something like Twitter’s photo tagging that changes the way you’ve been approaching one of your primary channels. In reality (almost) every business has the end goal of “Driving significant revenue from social channel” but they don’t always understand what it takes to get there.  In a perfect world, from start to finish, the simple process would look like this:

  • Grow A Social Audience
  • Establish Trust and Influence
  • Leverage The Social Audience for Sales or Leads
  • Manage The Community and Maintain Relationships
  • Increase Audience Size and Incoming Revenue

As we all know, it’s not that simple. Even “Grow A Social Audience” is more complicated than it sounds. Which channels should you be growing this audience on? What personal traits should your audience members have? Is there a specific goal you need to hit before you’re going to be able to move on to the next objective? Is your spend actually optimized to achieve your initial goal? Are the platforms you’re focusing on actually paying off? The questions go on, and on… So instead of leaving your strategy to be interpreted freely by your team

Start With A Single, Specific, Objective.

Instead of theorizing what needs to be done and how it needs to be done for the next year, break down what it will take to accomplish a specific objective in the next one to three months. Instead of “Grow A Social Audience” try “Grow an engaged audience of potential customers on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest that can be leveraged to generate at least XXXX site visits  and XXX leads/sales monthly.” With that specific objective you know what platforms to focus on and what metrics actually matter. You also know that a million followers wouldn’t be considered a success if they weren’t generating the traffic and conversions goals you had established.

This approach also makes it easier for your team to come up with a clear plan on how to use their time and resources within each platform.   In this case, they’re going to be growing the audience on all three social networks so they might need to spend the majority of their time following and engaging targeted users on Twitter instead of promoting content from the blog and trying to start conversations with influencers.

Having a more specific objective also requires you and your team to focus on variables that may have been overlooked with a broader goal. Instead of looking at followers and engagement, your team will be looking at traffic driven from each of these channels and the behavior of the users coming from each channel. They can then identify which platform offers the highest ROI (or ROE) and know for sure if what they’re doing is actually working.

For Example: You might find out that Twitter users spend more time on the site, visit more pages, and are converting at a higher rate than Facebook fans in month one instead of month six.

This approach also requires your team to put more thought into which KPIs should be focused on and whether or not you’re set up to measure them properly. Do goals need to be set up in Google Analytics before you start driving traffic? Does the webmaster need to install a tracking pixel before any of your ads go live? All questions that are easily forgotten when specific metrics aren’t identified early on, and there’s (almost) nothing worse than missing crucial data you should have been collecting from the beginning.

Once you either hit your objective, or have implemented everything to hit it, your business will most likely have a new priority for you to focus on, and you can start all over again.

But what if we have multiple objectives?

Good! A smart business knows that their social media channels are assets so they always want them to be growing. They also know that engaging with current and potential customers is a great way to amplify word of mouth and customer loyalty. They’re also, hopefully, smart enough to know that there needs to be some ROI associated with the effort and cost to justify the further investment of resources moving forward. If you’re a business that is thinking about all of these things then go ahead and set a specific short-term objective for each of these goals and prioritize them for your social media team. They can then put the majority of their efforts into developing a fool-proof plan for hitting the main objective. From there, they can allocate the remaining resources appropriately and adjust as needed to maximize progress across the board.

I’m sure you’ve heard this before but it’s worth repeating, social media takes time. It takes time to build an audience. It takes time to figure out how to engage that audience. It takes time to develop trust and influence. It takes time to get the results you want and even more time to scale it. Each of these elements is a step towards long-term social media success, and, in my opinion, it’s best to take it one step at a time.

Mike Bal
Mike is the Director of Social Media and Content with Single Grain, one of the fastest growing digital marketing agencies in the country, where he leads strategy development and execution for both services. Connect with Mike on Twitter, Linkedin or Google+ Mike is also the creator and primary author of an in-the-works book project called Marketing Apocalypse: The Brand Survival Guide which features contributions from thought leaders and innovators like Blake Mycoskie (TOMS Shoes) and Guy Kawasaki. Outside of working in the digital space Mike is a husband and father of one, avid Batman fan, and a bit of a fitness nut.
Mike Bal

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