How to Create a Killer Social Media Strategy
I’m going to be completely honest with you guys. Social Media can be hard and confusing. I mean, there are different rules for every social media network out there — what to post, when to post, how often to post, what image size you need, how this algorithm changed YET AGAIN.
It’s enough to make your head spin and make you want to scream into your pillow then sob quietly, and just fumble along as you have been doing so far.
And the reason this happens?
Tell me if this sounds familiar. You write an awesome blog post and create your social media images because you’ve been told time and again status updates with images get more shares, more likes, more everything. You found an awesome hack to automatically send your post out when it’s published. You schedule the shares with varying messages throughout the next few days and you even managed to find some curated content to share. And then you eagerly await for more clicks, more shares, more somethings…
In most cases, you got a couple of new followers, and perhaps a few shares. But your blog stats aren’t increasing and your sales certainly aren’t going through the roof.
So what gives?
I don’t think any of us set out to fail with our social media strategy. But in all honesty, you probably want to be so damn good at social media that you devour and follow every single advice you can, and in doing so, you achieve the opposite.
Now, before you start despairing, I want you to stop.
Take a moment, breathe in, breathe out, and pause. Before we start talking social media strategy, I want you to keep in mind three things: (it might seem counter-intuitive but it will be worth it. Trust me mmkay?)
Forget everything and anything you ever read about growing your social media, your followers, and getting more likes.
Remember that numbers aren’t the end-all-be-all.
Social media strategy is more than scheduling status updates about your new post/product/service/what did your cat do today (although cats are super cute, I’ll give you that) and throwing in other people’s content.
All done? Good. Now, break out your favorite writing/planning tool, and let’s create a social media strategy that works.
Setting the stage
Someone wise once said that failing to plan is planning to fail, and that’s not what we’re here for. Before actually developing your awesome social media strategy, cranking out content, and seeing the results, you need to set the stage.
And the best place to start?
Taking inventory of all your social media accounts.
1. Make a list of all your social media accounts and take a long, hard look at them. Write down the number of people following you as well as the number of people you are following.
2. Next, take a look at what you posted so far. Be brutally honest here, this is no time to go easy on yourself. What did you share? How often did you post on a particular network? If I were to look at your social media feed, would I be able to tell which posts are yours and which are from someone else? Does the post contain only a title and a link with no comment? Did you engage with those who followed you or tried to start a conversation with you?
3. Finally, take a look at your analytics and see which posts led visitors back to your site and from which network. Which social media network stands out? Which one didn’t lead to anyone back to your blog?
Okay, so now what? Now, my friend, you have a clear picture of your social media accounts which means now comes the actual fun part.
Define your social media strategy goals
Before you all start screaming at me, I will kindly refer you to re-read the number 3 from the three things to keep in mind bit of the post. Yeah… that one.
Now, where were we?
Ahem… Goals. Yes, unfortunately, almost everything in life requires goals, social media included. SOOOO… before doing anything with your social media, take a few minutes and think about what are you trying to get out of social media.
What do you hope to gain? Fame and fortune jokes aside, are you looking to get more readers for your blog? More clients? More buyers? Land an awesome job opportunity? Build customer loyalty and increase retention? All of the above? None of the above?
I can’t give you the answer to that question, but I can tell you that it’s perfectly okay if you want more than one result. Perhaps you want more readers for your blog who will eventually become your clients or your buyers. Or maybe you just want to get noticed so you can establish your authority in your field which will lead to a better job.
These goals aren’t mutually exclusive but bear in mind that if you spread yourself too thin, you’re not going to accomplish anything.
Whatever the case may be, getting clear on what is it exactly that you are trying to achieve makes things a lot easier.
Simply saying I want more followers is not enough. Why do you want those followers? What do you want them to do? Drill down until you figure out the WHY.
Now that you know what the goal is, you need to be S.M.A.R.T. about them. In other words, make sure your goals are:
Specific – which they should be if you’ve listened to me and defined your why.
Measurable – so that you can track and evaluate your progress.
Attainable – be realistic here and start with small steps. Setting a goal of gaining 1000 new followers in a week will only lead to unnecessary pressure. Can it be done? Yes, it most certainly can but are you trying to lose your mind or create a kick-ass social media strategy?
Relevant – in case you haven’t figured it out, your social media strategy needs to align with your blogging/business goals. Otherwise, we definitely are NOT on the same page and this post just might be a giant waste of your time. In which case, here’s a cookie for you and let’s still be friends, okay?
Time-oriented – what better way to kick your butt into gear, than to set a timeframe for your goal? Seriously, guys, do not skip this one and procrastinate. Put it on your calendar, to-do list, sticky note, write it on a mirror with a lipstick (for all the guys out there – do make sure it’s not your wife’s favorite lipstick), whatever, but SET A DATE AND WRITE IT DOWN!
Here’s an example of a SMART goal: I want to grow my Instagram follower base to drive more traffic to my website. I want to gain 500 new followers by August 31.
So, now that I’ve drilled into your head to set SMART goals, let’s move onto the phase two.
Smart Social Media Strategy Needs An Audience - Who are you talking to?
Hopefully, if you’ve been at this for a while, you have an ideal reader or client in mind. If you do, cool beans, you definitely deserve a cookie.
If not, then you really do need to define who are you talking to. After all, having a website or a blog is all fine, cool, and dandy, but word of mouth will only get you so far. And the best way to drive people to your website? Yep, social media.
Now, tell me, who are you talking to? Who do you want to help? Why that particular group? How do you want to help them? If you can answer those questions, you will know exactly their gender, their age, and their struggles. And knowing that will make it a lot easier to come up with the right kind of content to create and share on social media.
Once you’ve nailed down your target audience, you need to optimize your social media platform. No matter which one you choose, make sure your profile reflects your brand.
In a nutshell:
Decide whether you will use your logo or your photo for the profile photo. If you are building a business brand, it might be beneficial to use your logo for brand recognition. However, if you are building a personal brand, it makes more sense to use a pro headshot. Another point in favor for your own photo – it gives your brand that human touch which can go a long way.
Use a cover photo that represents your brand or at least sprinkle a dash of your brand’s personality into it – be it with your motto, your tagline, or your brand’s color.
Fill out all the profile details – your bio, your website, your contact details. Bonus points if you include a call to action that will direct your followers back to your own site.
Find your voice and tone and use it whenever you post a status update. Oh, and just so you don’t say I didn’t warn you – refrain from being a Debbie Downer. There might be times where you feel frustrated or depressed and it’s okay to admit that because it makes you human. But don’t let that rule your feed. Also – please don’t pretend to be something you’re not. People will figure it out and run for the hills.
Choose Your Social Media Platform
Okay! Now you’ve got goals and you know who you are trying to attract. Let’s pick our poiso…err, I mean social media networks. Remember that social media audit you did at the beginning? There is a method to my madness.
I’m not going to tell you that you need to be active on every social media out there. In fact, I want you to pick just two social media accounts. Now, don’t look at me in that tone of voice. Here’s the thing. Growing your social media following takes time, effort, and energy.
I don’t know about you but I’d rather have 30 engaged followers on Instagram than 500 followers on Twitter that never even see my Tweets.
Oh you too? Good.
Then do me a favor and pinky promise me that for the next 30 days, you will focus on two of your favorite social media platforms.
Ideally, your favorite platforms are also the ones that gave you the best results from your audit, but if they are not, don’t get all desperate on me now. You can create an effective social media strategy even if your numbers for that particular social media network aren’t all that impressive.
I opted for favorite here because I do think everything is easier when you enjoy it. If you have the largest amount of followers on Twitter and Twitter was your biggest referrer but you absolutely hate engaging on Twitter, then don’t choose Twitter this time round.
At best, anything you do will come off as awkward, at worst, your dislike will come across and that will send people running in the opposite direction.
Pick Your Posting Strategy
Now that your profile is in tip-top shape and you know which social media you’ll focus on, let’s discuss your posting strategy. The most important part of a successful social media strategy is consistency.
You can’t just show up on Mondays and Tuesdays in July and then disappear until Halloween rolls around. I mean, you can… but that’s not being very smart. So let’s repeat this one more time: If you want results from social media you need to show up regularly. Ideally, every day.
When you do, you will see an increase in traffic and a better relationship with your followers.
The second most important part of a successful social media strategy is delivering value. It’s really simple – the more value you deliver, the faster you grow your presence.
The easiest way to deliver value to your followers is to build up a content bank with content that your audience will love. It could be any of the following:
To make this somewhat easier, consider creating an account with Pocket to save anything you might want to share with your target audience or create a note in Evernote and either clip the article or simply copy and paste the link to it.
Bonus Points: Sign up for bit.ly and use it to create short links so you can track the engagement and see which links generate the most clicks. In the long run, this will help you refine the content you share, as well as help you zero in on what kind of your own content you should focus on creating.
Remember the golden rule here, and always try to share someone else’s content more than your own. Otherwise, you’ll look like an attention whore and something tells me they’re not well-liked.
It might seem counter-intuitive to do this – after all, you’re sending your followers to someone else’s site or a blog. But you have to realize that by sharing content that’s relevant to your audience, even if it’s someone else’s, you KNOW where to find good information and that, my friend, proves you know what you’re talking about.
As far as how often you should post, that depends on the social network you chose to focus on. Even though you might notice a boost in the engagement rate if you post more often, you have to be careful here. It’s easy to fall into the trap of over-posting because you think that will bring more engagement which can totally backfire on you.
As a general rule of thumb here’s the recommended number of updates:
Twitter – Twitter moves so fast that it seems impossible for your followers to catch your message. Because of that, posting more than once is definitely fine, in fact, you should aim for at least 10 tweets/day.
Facebook – Aim for at least two posts/day on Facebook – even though for small business owners and their Facebook pages it’s getting increasingly harder to be seen without investing in Facebook ads. Because of that, I don’t really recommend Facebook pages anymore, but rather try focusing on groups. While groups usually have a strict no-promo policy, there are ways to get people back to your site and even get clients from Facebook groups. ( a topic for another post)
Pinterest – Ah, Pinterest. My favorite procrastination excuse. Personally, I’m a big fan of Pinterest, because it can bring some serious traffic to your blog. The more you pin, the better for you – however, don’t go on a massive pinning spree all at once. Spread it out over the course of the day. Aim for at least 50 pins/day.
Google+ – Google+ follows pretty much the same logic as Facebook and posting once or twice per day is sufficient.
LinkedIn – LinkedIn pretty much took out the guesswork for us in their own marketing guide and revealed that the ideal frequency to post is about 20 times per month, or once per day.
Instagram – Another one of my favorites, and oddly enough, even though it’s visual like Pinterest, here it’s actually better if you stick to one or two status updates per day.
Finally, bear in mind to stay on brand and stay consistent. Take the suggestions above as a general guideline and a starting point and test and tweak to get the optimal posting frequency for your social media strategy.
How much of your content should you share, you ask. Good question. I like to apply the 80/20 rule, or in other words, if I’m posting on Twitter 10 times a day, two of those updates will be my own content, whether it’s a blog post or a promo update; while the other 8 will be from others in my industry.
Automate and Engage
And now for the grand finale. Once you’ve got a nice rhythm going and you’re posting and sharing, there are two more things to do to make your life easier.
First, you need to analyze which times work best for you. Depending on your social media platform check your analytics to see which status updates brought the most engagement and then stick to those times.
Naturally, if the best time for you to post is Wednesdays at 3:45 AM, nobody expects you to stay up and post the tweet yourself. Which brings us to the thing number 2:
There’s a vast majority of tools out there that can help you do this. Most of them even offer a free plan which is a great way to test them out and more than enough if your focus is just two platforms.
My personal favorites include SmarterQueue and AgoraPulse. Both tools allow you to schedule social media for the big players like Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin — and they come with the option to requeue your content for repeat sharing.
If Pinterest is your network of choice, you can opt for Tailwind which is a paid option starting at $15/month with a free trial available which allows you to schedule the first 100 pins for free. Another thing Tailwind has going for it is that it’s the official Pinterest partner.
When it comes to Instagram, Tailwind is a great choice if you opted for Pinterest as well. Otherwise, you can use Later or Planoly. Later is the pricier of the two but comes with the link in bio feature. I’m a big fan of Planoly because you can easily preview your scheduled posts so you can see how cohesive your Instagram feed will be.
Finally, no matter which app you use, it’s easy to sit down once a week and schedule your updates for the week ahead. It’s definitely a time saver rather than having to sit down every day, find content, share it, and engage on top of it.
Speaking of engagement, another big part of showing up every day, is actually engaging with your followers. Take time each day to show up on your social media platform of choice and reply to any questions you might have gotten, check out what your followers are doing and reciprocate in turn. However, be warned that it’s all too easy to lose track of time once you log in to any of the social platforms. If self-control is not your strong suit, I highly recommend setting a timer and actually closing the browser tab once you hear the timer go off. After all, you have a business to run, content to discover, products to create…
WHEW! That was a lot to take in. Creating a social media strategy that works can feel equal to running a marathon in Sahara on the hottest day of the year without your favorite bottle of water; but the thing is, once you block out some time to do it, it starts feeling like a leisurely stroll down the beach. So tell me – how will you tackle your social media strategy?
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