How to Create a Social Media Strategy in 8 Easy Steps (Free Template)

A social media strategy is a summary of everything you want to plan and achieve on social media. It guides your actions and shows you whether you are successful or not.

The more specific your plan, the more effective it will be. Keep it short. Don't make it so tall and wide that it's out of reach or impossible to measure.

In this post, we'll walk you through an eight-step plan to create your own successful social media marketing strategy.

Bonus: Get a free social media strategy template to plan your own strategy quickly and easily. Also use it to track results and present the plan to your boss, teammates and clients.

What is social media marketing?

Social media marketing is the practice of using social media channels to sell or promote a brand, product or service.

Social media marketing helps companies:

What is a social media strategy?

A social media strategy is a document that describes your social media goals, the tactics you use to achieve them, and the metrics you use to measure your progress.

Your social media marketing strategy should also list all of your existing and planned social media accounts along with goals specific to each platform you are active on.

Finally, a good social media plan should define the roles and responsibilities on your team and outline your reporting frequency.

How to Create a Social Media Marketing Strategy

Step 1. Select social media marketing goals that align with the business goals

Make S.M.A.R.T. Gates

The first step in creating a successful strategy is to set your goals and objectives. Without goals, you have no way of measuring success and return on investment (ROI).

Each of your goals should be:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Reachable
  • Relevant
  • Time bound

This is the S.M.A.R.T. Target frame. It will guide your actions and ensure that they lead to real business results.

Here is an example of a S.M.A.R.T. Goal:

"We'll be using Twitter for customer support and we're going to cut our average response rate to under two hours by the end of the quarter."

Track meaningful metrics

Vanity metrics like number of followers and likes are easy to track, but difficult to prove their real worth. Instead, focus on things like engagement, click rates, and conversion rates.

For inspiration, check out these 19 essential social media metrics.

You may want to have different goals for different networks, or even different uses for each network.

For example, if you use LinkedIn to drive traffic to your website, measure click-through rates. If Instagram is for brand awareness, then you can track the number of Instagram story views. And when you're advertising on Facebook, cost-per-click (CPC) is a common success metric.

Social media goals should align with your overall marketing goals. This makes it easier to show the value of your work and secure buy-in from your boss.

Start developing your social media marketing plan by writing down at least three goals for social media.

Step 2. Learn all about your audience

Create audience characters

Knowing who your audience is and what they want to see on social media is important. That way, you can create, comment, and share content they like. This is also important if you want to turn social media followers into customers for your business.

When it comes to your target customer, here are some things you should know:

  • Age
  • place
  • average income
  • Typical job title or industry
  • Interests
  • etc.

Here is a simple guide and template for creating personas for audiences / buyers.

Get to know your fans, followers and customers as real people with real wants and needs and you will know how to address and engage them on social media.

collect data

Don't make assumptions. Do you think Facebook is a better network for reaching baby boomers than millennials? Well, the numbers show that millennials are still more boomers on the platform.

Graphic with the Facebook users by generationSource: PEW Research Center

Social media analytics can also provide a ton of valuable information about who your followers are, where they live, and how they interact with your brand on social media. With these insights you can refine your strategy and better address your target audience.

Jugnoo, an Uber-like service for auto rickshaws in India, used Facebook Analytics to learn that 90% of users who recommended other customers were between 18 and 34 years old, and 65% of that group were using Android. They used this information to target their ads, resulting in a 40% lower cost per referral.

Check out our guide on using social media analytics and the tools you need to keep track of it.

Step 3. Know your competition

Your competitors are probably already using social media. That means you can learn from what they are doing.

Conduct a competitive analysis

A competitive analysis can help you understand who the competition is and what they're doing well (and not so well). It will give you a good idea of ​​what is expected in your industry so you can set your own social media goals.

It will also help you spot opportunities.

Perhaps one of your competitors is dominating Facebook, for example, but has made little effort on Twitter or Instagram. You may want to focus on the networks where your audience is underserved rather than trying to keep fans away from a dominant player.

Use social media listening

Social listening is another way to keep track of your competitors.

Search on social media for the company name, account managers, and other relevant competition keywords. Find out what they share and what others are saying about them.

Pro tip: Use a social media management tool like Hootsuite to set up listening streams and monitor relevant keywords and accounts in real time.

As you track, you may notice shifts in the way channels are used. Or you discover a certain post or a certain campaign that hits the bull's eye – or bombs.

Use this type of information to educate your own social media marketing strategy.

Step 4. Perform a social media audit

If you already use social media, take stock of your efforts to date. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What works and what doesn't?
  • Who is dealing with you?
  • Which networks does your target group use?
  • How does your social media presence compare to the competition?

Once you have this information, you can start thinking about ways to improve it.

We've created a clear guide and template for social media testing to walk you through each step of the process.

Screenshot of a social media audit spreadsheet for building an effective social media strategy

Your audit should give you a clear picture of the purpose of each of your social accounts. If the purpose of an account is not clear, consider whether it is worth keeping.

To make up your mind, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Is my audience here?
  2. If so, how do you use this platform?
  3. Can I use this account to achieve my goals?

When you ask these tough questions, your strategy will stay focused.

Look for scammer accounts

During the audit, you can discover fake accounts based on your company name or the names of your products.

These scammers can be harmful to your brand – whether you're getting followers who should be yours.

Report them.

You might want to have your Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts checked out to make sure your fans know they are dealing with the real you.

Step 5. Set up accounts and improve profiles

Decide which networks to use

When deciding which social networks to use, you also need to define your strategy for each network.

Angela Purcaro, Social Media Manager at Benefit Cosmetics, told eMarketer: "Our makeup tutorials are all about Snapchat and Instagram Stories. Twitter, on the other hand, is for customer service."

For reference, here's how other small and medium-sized businesses are using social tools to communicate with customers. Note that Facebook and Instagram are even superior to email for this purpose.

Hart shows how small businesses use social media to communicate with customersSource: eMarketer

Pro tip: Write down a mission statement for each network. A one-sentence explanation that helps you focus on a specific goal.

For example, "We'll be using Twitter for customer support to keep email and phone calls down."

One more thing: "We will use LinkedIn to promote and share our corporate culture, to help recruit and advocate employees."

If you can't create a solid mission statement for a particular social media channel, you might want to wonder if it's worth it.

Set up your profiles

Once you've decided on a network, it's time to create your profiles. Or upgrade existing ones to align with your strategy.

Pro tip: Use high quality images that are within the recommended dimensions for each network. Check out our always-up-to-date image size cheat sheet on social media for a quick reference.

We also have step-by-step guides for each network to walk you through the process:

Don't let this list overwhelm you. Remember, it is better to make good use of fewer channels than to thin yourself out and try to stay present on every network.

Step 6. Find inspiration

While it is important that your brand is unique, you can still take inspiration from other companies that are great for social networking.

Social media success stories

You can usually find these in the business section of the social network's website. (Here's Facebook, for example.)

Case studies provide valuable insights that you can apply to your own social media plan.

Award-winning accounts and campaigns

You can also check out the Facebook Awards or Shorty Awards winners for examples of brands at the forefront of their social media game.

Check out Fridge-Worthy, Hootsuite's bi-weekly awards show that highlights brands doing smart and clever things on social media.

Your favorite brands on social media

Who do you enjoy following on social media? What are they doing to force people to engage with their content and share it?

National Geographic, for example, is one of the best on Instagram, combining stunning graphics with compelling subtitles.

Then there is Shopify. The e-commerce brand uses Facebook to sell itself by presenting customer stories and case studies.

Ukeleleria | # Shopify1Million

🇲🇽Cancun 🇲🇽Say it louder for the people in the background, Ceci: "You should never be afraid of failure." That motivated her to start Ukuleleria and it kept all doubts away through all the ups and downs. Let's show Ceci some love with 💚 in the comments.

Posted by Shopify on Monday January 27th, 2020

And Glossier is a great example of superior customer service on Twitter. They use their 280 characters to answer questions and solve problems quickly.

DM us your order number and we can help!

– Glossier (@glossier) May 5, 2020

Note that each of these accounts has a uniform voice, tone, and style. This is key to letting people know what to expect from your feed. That is, why should they follow you? What do you get out of it?

Consistency also helps keep your content on brand, even if you have multiple people on your social media team.

For more information, check out our guide to Building a Compelling Brand Voice on Social Media.

Ask your followers

Consumers can also take inspiration from social media.

What are your target customers talking about online? What can you learn about their wants and needs?

If you already have social channels, you can also ask your followers what they want from you. Just make sure you follow and deliver what they ask for.

Step 7. Create a social media content calendar

Sharing great content is essential, of course, but it's just as important to have a plan for when to share content to get the maximum impact.

Your social media content calendar also needs to take into account the amount of time you spend interacting with the audience (although you need to consider impromptu engagement as well).

Set your booking plan

Your social media content calendar lists the dates and times that you post types of content on each channel. It's the perfect place to plan all of your social media activities – from pictures and link sharing to blog posts and videos. It includes both your daily posts and content for social media campaigns.

Your calendar also ensures that your posts are distributed appropriately and posted at the most convenient time for publication.

Determine the right mix of content

Make sure your content strategy and calendar reflect the mission statement you've assigned to each social profile so that whatever you post supports your business goals.

You could decide that:

  • 50% of the content will direct the traffic back to your website
  • 25% of the content is curated from other sources
  • 20% of the content supports the goals of lead generation (newsletter registrations, e-book downloads, etc.)
  • 5% of the content relates to your corporate culture

Placing these different post types on your content calendar will ensure that you maintain the right mix.

If you're starting from scratch and aren't sure what types of content to post, try the 80-20 rule:

  • 80% of your posts should educate, educate, or entertain your audience
  • 20% can promote your brand directly.

You can also try Third Party Social Media Content Marketing Rule:

  • A third of your content will drive your business, convert readers, and generate profit.
  • A third of your content shares ideas and stories from thought leaders in your industry or like-minded companies.
  • One third of your content is in-person interactions with your audience

Pro tip: Once you've set your calendar, use a scheduling tool to prepare messages in advance instead of constantly updating them throughout the day.

We may be biased, but we think Hootsuite is the best social media planner out there. You can schedule posts on any network and the intuitive calendar view gives you a complete picture of all your social activities every week.

Here's a quick video breakdown of how scheduling works in the Hootsuite post-composing tool.

Step 8. Evaluate and adjust your strategy

Your social media strategy is an extremely important document to your business and you cannot assume that you will get it right the first time. As you start implementing your plan and tracking your results, you may find that some strategies don't work as well as you expected, while others work even better than expected.

Take a look at the performance metrics

In addition to doing the analytics on each social network (see step 2), you can use UTM parameters to track social visitors as they move through your website so you can see exactly which social posts are driving the most traffic to your website .

Evaluate, test and repeat everything all over again

Once this data comes in, use it to periodically reevaluate your strategy. You can also use this information to test different posts, campaigns, and strategies against one another. Constant testing can help you understand what works and what doesn't, so you can refine your strategy in real time.

Surveys can also be a great way to find out how well your strategy is working. Ask your followers, email list, and website visitors if you meet their needs and expectations, and what they'd like to see more of. Then make sure you deliver what they tell you.

Social media moves fast. New networks are emerging, others are going through demographic change.

Your company will also go through phases of change.

All of this means that your social media marketing strategy should be a living document that you review and adjust as needed. Read often to stay on track, but don't be afraid to make changes to better reflect new goals, tools, or plans.

When you update your social strategy, make sure to let everyone on your team know. That way everyone can work together to help your business get the most out of your accounts.

Social media strategy template

Bonus: Get a free social media strategy template to plan your own strategy quickly and easily. Also use it to track results and present the plan to your boss, teammates and clients.

What's next? When you're ready to make your plan a reality, we're here to help …

Save time managing your social media strategy with Hootsuite. From a single dashboard, you can easily:

  • Schedule, create and schedule posts on any network
  • Track relevant keywords, topics, and accounts
  • Stay up to date with a universal inbox
  • Get easy-to-understand performance reports and improve your strategy as needed

Try Hootsuite for free

Easily manage all of your social media in one place and Save time with Hootsuite.

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