According to CoSchedule, marketers who document strategies are 538% more likely to report success, those who document processes are 466% more likely to be successful, and 88% of marketers who set goals actually achieve them. That is why you need a documented social media strategy. Creating a documented social media strategy focused on processes and goals will improve your results. Below, Julie Neidlinger, Aleh Barysevich, and Ian Heinig give you everything you need to plan your work and work your plan.

‘The Ultimate Guide to a Perfect Social Media Strategy’ Marketers who document strategies are 538%25 more likely to report success, those who document processes are 466%25 more likely to be successful, and 88%25 of marketers who set goals actually achieve them. That is why you need a documented social media strategy focused on processes and goals. It will improve your results. Here, you will find everything you need to plan your work and work your plan:

What is a social media strategy and what tools do you need?

Neidlinger uses the following definition: a social media strategy documents how a business or organization will plan, execute, and measure all social media marketing activities. She recommends using the following types of tools:

  • 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.
  • Curation tools. These make it easy to curate content and fill gaps on your calendar.
  • Google Analytics. You will 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.

That is all you need to put this blog post into practice. It is time to get started.

Social media strategy step 1: Choose your social networks

What networks should you be on? Should you have multiple social media accounts for certain networks? Here, you will find your answers.

1. Discover where your audience is

You should be on the same networks as your audience. Throwing content at channels where your audience is inactive is about as effective as shouting your message in a crowded room. Make a list of three to five networks that are clearly popular with your audience. Do not put more on your list. Remember, you are going to have to maintain content on these.

To boost your audience understanding, you need to conduct research and the more data you have the better. You can use focus groups, surveys, and other tools, but the beautiful thing about social media is that you have a rich survey database right at the tip of your fingers.

2. Research your competitors’ social networks to find their largest followings

You and your competitors are after the same audience on social media. Choose five to ten competitors and search for them on all the major social networks. Write down their number of followers on each network to understand on which social networks your own audience may be most active.

3. Analyze what works for your competition

The next step is to monitor your competitor’s social engagement. Figure out which types of content appear to be working best. Look for posts that are grabbing the attention of your competitor’s fans. That could mean:

  • Types of media
    Do videos or images appear to do well?
  • Voice and tone
    What types of messages appear to perform best?
  • Types of messages
    Do questions seem to be working? What about jokes? Branded slogans? Motivational quotes?

Social media listening can come in handy here. If you create an alert with your competitors’ brand name, you will be able to see their activity as well as what people are saying about them as it happens.

4. Experiment with paid promotion to target your audience on all networks

Another way to find your audience is to experiment with paid promotion. All of the major social networks offer advanced targeting in exchange for payment. As a test, you could set up social profiles for every network and use their native paid promotion capabilities to find your audience. Review the results of each networks’ analytics and continue using the channels with the biggest results.

5. Analyze your social media demographics on each channel

Different social networks may attract different demographics who are still part of your target audience. It is important to identify those differences so you can adjust your content based on what your target audience wants to see on each channel.

Find your own preferred networks

Once you know where your audience is, hold those networks up against a list of qualifications to see how high they should be in your list of networks to focus on. For instance, you should find a network that connects with scheduling tools. Isolated networks are only going to add to your workload because you cannot consolidate your efforts with tools. Find at least a few key social networks that connect with the tools you are already using to help reduce workload.

Social media strategy step 2: Plan the content you will share

You do your best to capitalize on your strengths when it comes to setting up your blogging methodology. You should do the same for your social media strategy.

1. What are your topics of expertise?

If you have done your homework right, your content marketing is highly focused on the topics your audience cares about, and the social activity from your own content will reflect that.

Curation of outside content is where some of us go off the rails with on-topic social content. It is easy to forget that your own personal interests outside of your audience niche may not be really relevant for your branded social media properties unless you are a celebrity of some sort.

Write down, in one sentence, what your brand is about. Make it general and then, break it down into sub-topics. This list should look very much like the categories you use on your blog, and all curated content should be held up against this list to see if it fits. If you find content you want to share that does not fit, then put it over on a personal profile.

2. Understand why people follow you on social media

It is important to know why people choose to follow you. Create a survey link and ask your audience why they follow your social media channels. This could be through an email or you could include the link in a social media post. Your social media content should target the intersection of your brand or blog’s purpose and what your audience cares about.

3. Plan your curated content

This is more ongoing than the previous two. You will regularly be sharing outside content and so you need to actively plan where and when you will publish that. Remember to stick to your topic. If you use an RSS reader, consciously collect feeds that fit your categories. Then, plan a content curation schedule.

Social media strategy step 3: Plan the content you will create

1. Find your content creation strengths

If you do not have the equipment for making great videos, YouTube is probably not the place for you. Ask yourself questions that help you discover what you are best at creating. The idea here is to find your natural strengths, both in talent and resources, when it comes to the content you can create for social media.

  • What apps and software do you have access to for creating content?
  • Are you a better writer or designer? Or could you try your hand at recording video instead?
  • Do you have other team members who can help you out with your weak spots, or are you flying solo?
  • What social media do you enjoy yourself? Do you find yourself mimicking it easily?
  • Do you have a sense of humor? Are you more about being helpful?

2. Establish your writing voice and tone

Think of brand voice as your personality and tone as your emotion.

Consumers want to follow a brand that is authentic and cool. Use storytelling to forge an emotional connection with followers and develop a value-driven relationship. Find a branded voice that resonates with your audience. The challenge is to align your brand’s personality with each platform. To create a seamless cross-channel experience, develop a theme for your content and tweak your tone.

3. Plan your imagery

Social networks are heavily image-driven, so you will need to plan to include some. If you have determined that creating imagery is not your strength or you do not have the expensive tools or access to a professional designer, you can create great images using tools like Canva.

4. Plan your campaigns

Social media, particularly if planned on an editorial calendar with other content, will have campaigns. They might be centered around events, holidays, promotions, Twitter chats or a random whim but you will have campaigns.

Social media strategy step 4: Define your goals

What is it you want to accomplish with social media? Generate leads? Grow sales? Provide customer service? Improve brand awareness? Enhance customer loyalty and retention? Not everyone wants the exact same results from social media and knowing this beforehand matters. Write down what you want in general and then specifically.

This is what you will use to actually measure whether or not you are hitting that big picture goal, and it is also what you will adjust and use for A/B testing, increasing the measurable goal, and so on.

Until you define your goals, you do not have any. Until you understand your ultimate destination, you will end up anywhere. And until you get a specific measurement to use, you will not know what adjustments to make along the way.

Do not focus on vanity metrics though. You may want to reach a thousand followers in two months and get around eighty likes on average. However, for your brand, the most important metric is engagement. The number of people leaving comments or clicking on your links is much more important than the number of likes you receive.

All three steps (defining a goal, painting the big picture, listing the specifics) are necessary.

· Identifying business objectives

The first step in your goal setting process should be to determine your business objectives. These are overarching benefits to your business that social media marketing can help achieve.

· Determine your social media goals

Now that you know what your business objectives are, you need to figure out how the social media goals you are going to set will help affect your business objectives.

· Set KPIs and goals for every social media channel

Social Media KPIs are the most important social media metrics that are closest to your business objectives and Social Media Goals are the specific numbers you want to hit for each KPI.

Social media strategy step 5: Make your social media schedule and promotion plan

Now that you know what networks you will be on and the ways you will be using them, it is time to make the plan. Use an editorial calendar for planning your social media. It is the best way to make sure everything happens when and how you want them to.

· Plan how often you will share every day

As you get started, it is good to understand your commitment and how you will post consistently to grow your following. This data will help you know exactly how often to post to each of your networks:

  • Facebook: one post a day, curate one every other day
  • Twitter: fifteen tweets a day, curate seven tweets per day
  • LinkedIn: one post a day, curate one every other day
  • Pinterest: eleven Pins a day, Repin at least five Pins per day
  • Google+: two posts a day, curate one every other day
  • Tumblr: two posts a day, reblog one every other day
  • Instagram: one or two posts a day, curate one a day

· Outline your content sharing plan

Set up a social media publishing plan to help you share a specific piece of content the best way possible, taking into account social network norms for sharing the same piece more than once. Publishing more than once is the best approach, particularly for a network like Twitter. Some news feeds cycle quickly (like Facebook and Twitter), while other networks (like Pinterest) function less like a flowing river and more like a bulletin board where people bring old things to the top again on their own.

· Plan your budget

Successful (and serious) social media strategy must include a budget to promote your posts on social networks. However, going into any expenditure without knowing where the budget line is drawn is a super bad idea.

You might be new to paying for social content and have no real idea what it will cost. That is fine! Simply start with an amount you are able to absorb into your content marketing budget and begin learning. As you figure out what works on each network, you will use your budget better than you do at the start. First, you have to start, though, and set a limit. Once you hit the limit, evaluate. Check what has happened against the goals you set earlier.

Content inspiration

You want to plan digital content efficiently but it is not always an easy task and it can be a very time-consuming process. After all, you want to present your audience with high-quality content on a regular basis. How can you best do this? In How to Plan Digital Content Like a Professional, you will find several steps and tools that can help you.

Finding inspiration for your content creation can be a little tricky and writing may sometimes feel like an obligation. If you are hitting the wall with your content schedule, do not worry too much. Even if you feel uninspired, there are easy ways to get inspired again. How to Find Inspiration for Content Creation When You Are Tired shows you how.