I am a strategist at heart. My background has been creating and implementing effective social media strategies for small businesses, as well as some heavy hitters. So, it astounds me at how many conversations I have had recently with marketing and social media pros about their lack of having a strategy. In fact, many argue that it’s impossible to stick to a social media strategy because of the fast-paced nature of social media. Let me tell you something; the face paced nature of social media is why you DO need a social media strategy. When you are running around like a chicken with their head cut off because of breaking news, you better hope to God that you have a strategy you can ground yourself in. Otherwise, you will find yourself speaking out on topics that are off-brand, or investing a ton of time in creating real-time social media for a topic that actually does not resonate with your brand or followers at all. Believe me; it happens, and, when it does, your brand looks utterly ridiculous and loses a bit of trust with its consumers. You would be surprised how many times I have asked a business what their goal is for their social media channels and they have answered, “Well, everyone else is on social, so we figured it was time we were.” WHAT?! That is not a goal, and if you are opening social media networks for a brand with the end-goal being conformity because ‘everyone else is doing it,’ you are going to find yourself in some very hot water. It is better to have no social media presence at all, than one that is off-brand and not maintained.
So, where do you start in the social media strategy world? You created your networks, now what?? Here are ten elements of a social media strategy that your brand needs:
It does not matter if you have the best-written strategy in the world, if you do not have the guardrails of governance in place, it will fail. You need to think about community guidelines, an employee social media policy, what HR’s relationship with social media should be. You need to assign owners to LinkedIn (HR or social media team?), YouTube (Marketing, video team or social media team?) and customer service (customer service team, multiple teams, or social media team?). Governance can, and will, be a blog post of its own. It is crucial to have an infrastructure for social media in place before enforcing a strategy. You need to know what players you are playing with.
Target Audience (Research, Research, Research!)
Before you write a strategy, you need to know who you are talking to out there on social media. Who is your target audience? What is their age, income, gender, likes/dislikes, education level, etc.? All of these demographics will influence where you find your audience and how you speak to them via social media.
Brand values are an essential part of a social media strategy because they act as a sounding board when you are deciding what to say and how to say it. Decide what your brand stands for, chances are these values already exist somewhere, and then use them to shape your goals and content pillars. As you create new goals and content pillars, revisit your brand values and make sure they align with at least one, if not all, of the values.
Sometimes, this part is already done for you by the marketing team. It’s important to include how your brand should sound on social media. Are you going to be a casual voice? An informative voice? Will you use contractions? Having an established brand voice will help you sound like one brand across all social media and is invaluable to managing your brand.
Similar to brand voice, the brand style might also be created for you already by your art department. You need to think about where the logo will always appear on social media images. Will the logo always be on social media images? Will social media images always have a border? What color(s) will the borders on social media images always be? Having a consistent brand look on social media imagery helps immensely with tying the brand together on social media.
Goals & Measurement
This is one of the most important pieces of your social media strategy. If you do not have this piece, then you do not have a social media strategy. What are you hoping to achieve by being on social media? Do you want to influence followers to purchase? Do you want to educate your audience? Do you want to encourage your followers to take action and advocate for a cause? Maybe it’s a combination of all three!
Once you figure out WHY your brand is on social media, you need to think about how you will measure your goals. How many followers do you want to influence to purchase? How many shares do you need on your educational materials before you feel you have met your goal? What does measuring advocacy look like for you on social? Is it shares, number of signatures on an electronic petition?
Once you have solid goals and ways to measure them, you are golden to start digging deeper into your social media strategy.
Okay, so you have your goals, now what kind of content are you going to publish on social media to reach them? If you are going the educational content route, Education is automatically one of your pillars. Perhaps you also want to advocate for the audience you are educating, so Advocacy could be a second content pillar. Then expand on these pillars by explaining what types of content would fit under each one. Maybe you want to use video and infographics for your educational content, and electronic petitions and influencer stories for your advocacy pillar. These pillars are helpful when you are diversifying content and strategically thinking about what you want the main themes of your content to be across social media.
Hashtags only work when you consistently use the same ones to create community or use trending hashtags to tap into a popular conversation. For the former, it’s important to document which hashtags your brand will be apart of, so you do not end up using every and any hashtag you can think of. Create an excel sheet with the brand hashtags, how/why to use each one, and examples as to when you would need each one. This is a convenient traveling document to have as you gain new team members, or if you are working with multiple branches of your brand and need them to have these hashtags on file.
While it’s important to have overall goals and strategies for your social media presence, it’s also important to dive deeper and create strategies for each social media channel your brand plans on having a presence on. Think of these as ‘mini’ social media strategies. Define the target audience of each network, how it plays into the target audience for your brand, which content pillars and types of content will be on each network and how you will measure performance on each network. Keep in mind that each social media network has a unique audience and function in the social media world. This is also deserving of its own blog post, which will be coming soon!
Customer Service Strategy & Response Grid
It’s helpful to think of customer service when you are completing your social media strategy. Hopefully, the ownership of customer service is decided through the governance step of writing your strategy. If it is decided your customer service team owns this part, work with them to create guidelines for how soon a customer should be responded to (usually within 24 hours) and how it will be noted within a workflow that the customer was responded to. You also need to think through how social media questions will be documented (this is where a social media tool comes in handy). If the social media team is owning customer service, it’s helpful to create a response grid with commonly asked questions and approved answers. Chatbots are also a useful tool to look into, especially if you are under-resourced!
Keep in mind; this is not a deep dive into social media strategy. These are just ten elements you want to start with when creating a social media strategy. Don’t be on social just to be on social → know why you are there and prove your worth through solid goals and an effective way to measure them. Social media is not just for fun; it has a real business value if you write an effective strategy.
– Marji J. Sherman