How to Create a Social Media Strategy That Actually Works
Updated: Jun 21
Creating a social media strategy has two effects on marketers, it either sends chills of fear down their spine or bores them so much that they consider moving on to their 5th cup of coffee before 11 am.
But regardless of the effect that creating a social media strategy has on you, the simple fact is that you need one. Without one your marketing will be scattergun at best and likely end in substantial amounts of effort moving the needle of success no further to the right.
By creating a social media strategy you will outline exactly what you are aiming to achieve and how you propose you will get there. This acts as a road map which can be followed much more easily and strategically than attempting to take a reactive approach. It also ensures that all effort is focused on achieving a final goal.
What is a social media strategy?
Let’s kick this off with the basics. But not too basic…if you need a social media marketing definition, I suggest you read up before reading this blog.
We will, however, explain what we mean when we say ‘social media strategy‘. To understand this we must first understand what we mean by strategy in a business context:
“A strategy is a framework for making decisions about how you will play the game of business. These decisions, which occur daily throughout the organization, include everything from capital investments to operational priorities to marketing to hiring to sales approaches to branding efforts to how each individual shuffles his To-Do list every single morning. Without a strategic framework to guide these decisions, the organization will run in too many different directions, accomplish little, squander profits, and suffer enormous confusion and discord.”
Ann Latham. Forbes.com.
A social media strategy then is a set of rules, guidelines and plans which can be followed when using social media as a tool for achieving business success.
Benefits of social media strategy
So, let’s put this into context. We can see that creating a social media strategy can help us move our business towards success. Our strategy protects us from getting sidetracked with activities which do not serve us in achieving our ultimate goal. Although creating a social media strategy may seem like a needless time investment it will save you and your business considerable time in the long run.
Creating a social media strategy also ensures you do not get trapped ‘chasing’ your competitors. Many businesses social media activities are made up solely of ‘what I think will work’ or ‘what our competitors are doing’. Sure, your competitors may be doing things because they work, or they might just be guessing. Either way, this approach will see you always competing and never beating those in your industry.
Business and marketings legend of strategy Micheal Porter put it well when he described competitive strategy:
“It means deliberately choosing a different set of activities to deliver a unique mix of value”
We will excuse the blurry/shaky video in favour of the concise and to the point explanation Micheal Porter gives strategy and it’s benefits here:
A well planned and executed social media strategy will allow you to differentiate your business from others in the market, assisting you in grabbing a greater level of attention. Ultimately, an increase in market attention can be converted into leads and sales, making your business more profitable.
So why is creating a social media strategy important? Because it makes you more money, that’s why!
How to Create a Social Media Strategy
Consider the fundamentals DONE.
We know what a social media strategy is and why it is so important to your business. Now let’s get to the juicy bit, the bit you actually came here for. It’s time to outline exactly how you can create a social media strategy that works.
A quick search for ‘marketing strategy books’ on Amazon returns over 10,000 results…I didn’t even want to look at how many search results there are on Google! Needless to say, there is a lot of theory, debate and endless pages of content on how best to execute a great social media or marketing strategy.
Now, I’m not here to tell you that there is a hack or ‘quick fix’ for creating a social media strategy - because there certainly isn’t one. But I have read A LOT of those books and even more of those Google search results.
In addition, working in a social media marketing business, I have worked many businesses, developing social media strategies that work. I can tell you, that for all the theoretical fluff around the subject, there are 5 core steps to creating a successful social media strategy. So, I have gone ahead and outlined them below.
Each step is non-negotiable. Each feeds the next step and some feed back to previous steps, creating an everlasting cycle, increasing success and profit over time.
1. Business goals first
Do you have business goals? You would be surprised how many businesses don’t. In fact, I would say at least 40% of the businesses we deal with don’t have any idea of what they want to achieve beyond ‘making more profit’.
HINT: If you work within a business and you need to create a social media strategy proposal. Starting that proposal with established business goals is a BRILLIANT way to highlight the overarching business benefits to senior management.
If you do have specific, measurable and time-bound business goals you can go ahead and jump to step 2 (well done you). If you haven’t, here is the sad truth:
Businesses without a clear direction are at best destined to remain mediocre and at worst fail altogether. This feeds back to our points regarding the importance of business strategy.
Without strong and clear business goals, it is too easy to get lost amongst the weeds. This leads to wasting your time going not very far in many directions.
Setting goals can be a maze of analytics, stakeholder meetings and management guff. But setting business goals isn’t really all that difficult, or at least it doesn’t need to be. Don’t overcomplicate it, at least not when you're getting started. Just consider where you want to be in 12 months time and what that would look like in terms of metrics. A few examples may be:
Increase the average monthly profit by 50%
Grow the team by 5 members
Have 5 new clients on retainer
Have increased website blog visitors by 100% (positioning yourself as a thought leader)
2. Set social media objectives
Ok, so these are different from your business goals.
These objectives are specifically what you are going to achieve with reference to social media. These social media objectives have one very clear purpose – to help you achieve your business goals.
I cannot stress this enough. Aimlessly achieving ‘things’ in social media is going to be worthless or worth very little unless they help you achieve your business goals. Here are a few examples:
Building a huge Instagram following is pointless if you aren’t reaching the people who buy (or influence the people who buy) your product or service.
Getting 1 million views on your YouTube video is pointless if it’s a cute cat video and your business sells car parts.
Posting memes to up your engagement is going to damage your brand if you are a serious business in a serious industry.
The message I am trying to get across here is that high metrics don’t always equal success and success is only achieved when your social media objectives are tailored towards achieving your business goals.
Creating a social media strategy may not always help you achieve all of your business goals. For example, if one of your goals is to cut manufacturing costs, there is little scope for social media to help you with this. At this point, you need to be smart about how you pick which business goals social media can help you achieve.
Here are just a couple of examples:
Business Goal: To increase sales by 50%
Social Media Objective: To increase direct sales from social media channels by 70%
Business Goal: To position ourselves as thought leaders
Social Media Objective: To have our content shared on social media by leading industry bodies 5 times a month
3. Create a social media plan
Now we have our social media objectives all lined up we can start planning how we are going to achieve them. At this point, we need to start thinking in terms of tactics and tools. It may be easier for you to break these plans down into campaigns which highlight exactly every action you are going to take.
The more detailed these plans are, the easier they are going to be to follow and the more likely you are to achieve your objectives. Here is a VERY simple look at how your social media plans should feed into your social media strategy:
Social media objective: To increase traffic to our blog
Social marketing plan example:
Create 5 pieces of content a week that quote and push our blogs, with bespoke social media designs and links through to the relevant blogs
Search relevant hashtags and join in conversations around our area of expertise, naturally linking to our blog posts where relevant
Update our profile link on Instagram, directing traffic to our latest blog post
Here is a quick and simple diagram as a social media strategy example:
You would be surprised how many people write up brilliant business goals, social media objectives and clever, thorough plans but then don’t bother to execute on them. Frankly, if you do not have the time or motivation to execute on your social media strategy then the whole process if a waste of time.
It is only when you execute that you see the benefits of your strategy some to light. Make sure you can commit 100% to your plans when drawing them up. If you can’t, edit them to make them more realistic.
Here is a little wisdom on execution:
” Ideas are shit. Execution is the name of the game. Just. Make. It. Happen.” Gary Vaynerchuk.
5. Test, measure and tweak
Creating a social media strategy isn’t a one-time thing. You need to test it, measure results and tweak it overtime to ensure the greatest and consistent results. This is for two main reasons:
You won’t get it spot on the first time. In fact, there is ALWAYS room for improvement.
Things change. Your customers, the market and your competitors will always change. Therefore you will need to consistently update your strategy in order to see continued success.
Social media is a POWERFUL tool. But many businesses become disillusioned by its usefulness due to a lack of consistent and profitable results. Creating a social media strategy will put you in a strong position. Putting you ahead of your competitors and reaping the benefits which come with it.
If you need any help or advice on creating a social media strategy, get in touch without marketing agency partners MAKE IT MANA.