A social networking strategy or social media plan is a document that defines how an organization will use social platforms to communicate with its audience and achieve its goals.
The social media plan is part of the marketing plan and is an essential tool for working social networks professionally.
The steps to create a strategy for social networks are as follows:
1. Sets goals
The first step that is the basis of your social network strategy are the goals. Do you want to increase brand awareness, increase sales or get more engagement? No matter what the objective is, define it intelligently so that it is specific, realistic and measurable. So you can see if your actions add value to the brand. You can even set different goals for each platform you use, as long as they agree with the main objective of the strategy.
Don't set too general goals. For example, instead of "increasing the number of followers" define that each week you will reach 50 new followers in Instagram. Instead of "increase engagement" define that in the next two months you want to get at least 10 comments and 80 likes in each photo on Facebook. If your goal is to increase traffic on the website, decide that this quarter you will increase by 5% the percentage of clicks from social networks. For specific purposes it will be easier to measure the results.
Prepare the short-term planning always taking into account the main objective. It is essential that you are willing to introduce changes over time, depending on the results you are getting.
2. Study the competition
Your competition is probably using social networks. Analyze what they do well, find out what's wrong with them, be inspired by what's good and find spaces where your brand could succeed. Do it before you start creating content. You have to establish an approach that differentiates your brand's profiles from the competition.
Discover competitors with Google keyword search. See what social platforms they're using, what content they upload, how many times a week they post. It is advisable to use tools that will facilitate the process of preparing a competitive analysis, such as SproutSocial, BuzzSumo or Social Insider. You will be able to discover new trends, prepare reports and compare your actions with the results of competitors' content without spending hours spying on their profiles.
3. Analyzes the audience
You can't create your social network strategy based on assumptions. You have to study the audience before planning the platforms and actions you are going to include.
You have to know who you are selling to and who you want to capture with your messages. In order to reach your target audience you have to be present where they are already spending their time. Different demographic groups have different communication needs, so the tone of the messages and the content you are going to publish will depend on the type of audience you want to attract.
Create a person buyer: a figure of the ideal consumer, built on demographic data, their purchase motives, emotional needs, online behavior and relationship with your brand. By developing this archetype, you will get to know your target audience better, where you can find them and what content they might be interested in. When creating a person buyer you must include several details to make it as real as possible and avoid the most common mistakes. A summarized example of the potential client could be:
Cristina García: 33-year-old freelance journalist, single, has an adopted dog and lives in the centre of Madrid. An adventurous spirit, she likes to run and practice yoga, travels by finger, earns 2000 euros a month. Her objectives and goals are: to enjoy time with her friends, to always get better, to lead a life full of exciting experiences. When it comes to shopping, she looks for good value for money and sustainability. Every day she spends an average of two hours on social networks: she uses Facebook to keep in touch with her friends, Instagram to share photos of her travels, Twitter to inform herself and Pinterest to look for inspirations.
To get real data, not assumptions, use analytical tools such as Analytics, SproutSocial or SoTrender. They will help you collect real-world data, such as who the followers are and how they interact with your brand on each platform, which will let you optimize your strategy.
4. Study your social profiles
If you start from zero, go straight to the next point. If your brand already has different profiles in several social networks, you have to analyze them before creating a strategy. Evaluate everything that worked until now and everything that failed. Having an idea of the results brought by the previous content you will have to evaluate everything you have to change and how you will have to do it.
Evaluate if there are any social networks you could add to the strategy - the ones your target audience or competitors use and the ones that have a lot of potential. Decide if there are platforms you could delete from the plan - because the audience is not there or because they don't work for your goals. No brand has to be present on every social network that exists on the Internet: it optimizes its quantity and use. Once you have all your own audit done, you will have a good starting point to create a good strategy.
5. Create a SWOT analysis and a social media canvas
A social network planning process should begin with a SWOT analysis that describes the brand situation at the time of departure and reviews the internal and external factors that may influence the success of the strategy. Start by analyzing internal Strengths and Weaknesses to get a clear picture of the brand's strengths and weaknesses. Know the external factors: take advantage of the possible Opportunities without losing sight of the Threats, so you will know what risks to face if necessary.
A SWOT analysis will help you evaluate all the actions you plan from a different point of view.
Prepare the social media canvas that summarizes all the fundamentals of the strategy. It should be a page that includes the returns that specify the main objectives, the activities that you are going to carry out, the channels that you want to include and the KPIs for each platform, a brief description of the objective audience, the format and tone of the content that you are going to publish and the strategies that you want to implement to reach the objectives.
6. Determine the platforms where you want to be present
When you have your audience analyzed and you have chosen the best ways to reach the public, evaluate the social networks and decide which ones you want to focus on. Determine how you want to use each platform and create a goal for each one. For example, you can use Facebook and its paid ads to acquire new clients and Instagram to create and consolidate relationships with the audience.
Reconsider the goals you set for each social network. Delete the accounts for which you cannot set a solid goal and keep the ones that serve to fulfill the goals of your strategy. It is better to use fewer platforms correctly than to die in an attempt to maintain a presence on every network that exists.
7. Define the themes of your content
Nowadays people search social networks for quality content, entertainment or information. You must limit the amount of content that directly promotes your brand and focus on producing something that the audience will enjoy and share. The balance between entertaining content and promotions is the key to good social network planning.
When defining topics, think about how to unite the idea of the brand, the objectives and the interests of the audience. To find ways to build relationships and interact with the public think of the principles of attraction marketing. Avoid invasive practices, offer inspirational and emotional content to attract more people who are loyal to your brand. If you want customers to feel identified and attracted by what you represent, the content you publish must provide some value to them. Be prepared to add relevant publications as well - real-time marketing can't be planned far in advance, but it has a lot of potential.
Video is king of content. It is the format that most people see and share on different social networks. It is easy to consume, generates more interactions than other formats, favors engagement - use it!
Focus on the aesthetic quality of the profiles. In an era of image saturation, visual harmony, high quality and originality are the key to attracting attention. Think of a brand's feeds as its business cards. Take advantage of the possibilities and prepare coherent, balanced and creative content. Stay up to date with all the features, even the less obvious ones, offered by different applications.
8. Create an editorial calendar
When you have the aesthetic and entertaining content ready, it's time to organize your calendar! With good planning it's easier to manage its distribution and configuration to achieve maximum impact.
Create a publication schedule. Don't upload the same content at the same time on each platform. Define the best publishing times to achieve maximum audience engagement - analytical tools will help. It's relatively safe to publish on weekdays between noon and 5:00 p.m., but universal truths may not apply to your target audience. Adapt your planning to your peak schedule, keeping in mind that each social network may have different traffic.
Accurate response times for user interactions - your brand will gain respect from its audiences if it communicates and creates relationships with them. Customer service should be your priority when taking care of profiles.
Prepare a calendar of events and important milestones for your brand. This way you will never forget important dates. Effectiveness will improve when you are ready to publish relevant content without leaving room for surprises.
9. Define the tools
Learn how to save time and optimize work through the use of tools. Choose the ones that fit your needs and budget.
The best solution is to choose applications that let you control all the channels and analyze all the results. If you can manage the content of the same site you will avoid chaos and disorganization. Use the analytical options they offer: measure and analyze the parameters that let you control whether the results bring you closer to your goal. Observe in real time the trends and keywords that appear on your platforms and throughout the industry. As you know, you have to be prepared to make changes at any time.
10. Create a crisis plan
Everything on the Internet has the potential to viralize quickly. Social media crises explode without warning and a good crisis plan is your best option to save them.
You have to identify all the possible risks that can appear in your social networks and prepare answers for each one. Establish a process of approval of the messages that will be published in your profiles and of action in the case of erroneous publications. Prepare an outline of the first communiqué of the brand that can be readapted in the event of a crisis.
You should create a crisis management team. It is clear that its size will depend on the size of your company, but there must be people prepared to identify a crisis, manage it and know what measures need to be taken to solve it. Everyone needs to know their role and the responsibilities they have.
Don't be silent, communicate. People will look for information - it's better to get it from your brand than from other sources. Decide how to handle negative comments - leave the audience free to express their opinion, as long as they don't express it with insults or threats. If you want to manage the crisis well, try to resolve critical consumer comments. Remember that everything leaves its mark on the Internet.
11. Create graphic and tone guidelines
To create a coherent brand image on social networks prepare guidelines that will serve to unify the image and tone. No matter how many people manage the profiles, with social media guidelines a brand will have its own personality, it will be easier to avoid mistakes and the result will remain consistent.
What elements should you include in the guidelines? Start with all existing social network profiles and point out guidelines for creating and naming profiles on new platforms. Define the tone of the brand that reflects its character. Brand voice is one of the characteristics that sets you apart from the competition.
It establishes the visual guidelines: the style of the creativities, size of photographs for each platform, type of videos, aesthetics, theme. Most social networks are based on visual content. As you know, aesthetic quality is the key. When creating a theme do not forget to establish the typographies, the colors of your brand and the combinations of tones. Include your guidelines the frequency of publications in each platform, the length of the copys in each social network and the number and style of hashtags.
12. Define the statistical reports
In order to assess whether your actions bring you closer to your goal, you need to track progress and measure results. Define which metrics you want to include in the report - they will depend on the goals you set at the beginning of creating the strategy. With good data measurement you will know whether you should continue with what you are doing or whether you need to make changes.
Taking into account the context in which your brand finds itself, define whether you need daily, weekly, monthly or quarterly information, the metrics that interest you and the format of the report. A daily dashboard will allow you to monitor the flow of activities and quickly detect any changes. A weekly report of the KPIs you established will allow you to evaluate if your actions are still on the right track. Monthly reports are best used to assess long-term effects and compare data from different periods. Quarterly reports will serve more to gain insights, reflect on decisions made and plan better for the future.
13. Include all of the above in the social media plan
Create a document that collects all of the above points.
And finally, don't forget to keep it alive, adding new objectives and/or modifying the existing ones.