9 Steps to Master a Successful Social Media Strategy

Although there’s speculation to when the term “social media” was first officially coined, it’s safe to say it was in the 90s. While social media has changed the way marketers engage with customers, prospects, and colleagues, as well as how we live our personal lives, the basic tenets of executing a successful social media have existed well before anyone first coined the term “social media.”

I think one of the most successful ways to execute an effective social media strategy is to spend time reading Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People. Despite being first published in 1936, the book references techniques which are extremely relevant today – give honest and sincere appreciation, become genuinely interested in other people, win people to your way of thinking, and more. I believe that by reading this book (and then re-reading it regularly) and employing these principles in your business, marketing strategy, and social media strategy, you will experience success.

In addition to Carnegie, there are specific ways to master your social media strategy in an age when it feels like social media is constantly evolving by the day. Below are nine steps to follow that can help you focus your efforts when time feels more limited than ever before for the modern-day marketer.

  1. Define Your Goals. I’ve seen too many marketing departments operate in a haphazard fashion taking a “fire, aim, ready” approach to marketing. People are too quick to respond to market conditions, input from executives or other departments, or outside factors where marketing decisions take place without strategically thinking how it fits into the overall marketing mix. I’m not saying situations won’t arise where marketing will need to respond quickly, but when it comes to marketing you’ll have far more success if you follow Abraham Lincoln’s advice: “If I had six hours to chop down a tree, I’d spend the first four hours sharpening the axe.” Understand what marketing “owns” and spend time prioritizing what needs to get completed, how it supports the organization’s goals, and what marketing’s goals are.
  2. Document Your Content Strategy. According to B2B Content Marketing: 2017 Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends—North America from Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs, 61% of the most successful content marketing performers have a documented content strategy. If you don’t have a documented content strategy in place, don’t panic. Neil Patel, co-founder of Crazy Egg, Hello Bar, and KISSmetrics, has a detailed step-by-step process for developing a content strategy which is helpful in case you’re lacking one or would like to refine the existing strategy you have in place. 
  3. Understand Your Audience. We live in a crowded content world. In just one minute, Facebook users like posts 4,166,667 times, Instagram users like posts 2,430,555 times, and 347,222 tweets are sent. As these platforms grow, these numbers are only going to continue to increase. Think about yourself. Do you want to receive posts, email, mail, or whatever it may be that isn’t relevant? The answer is no. Get to know your audience. Create your buyer personas outlining their age, location, gender, interests, education level, job titles, buying motivations, and buying concerns. Talk to your sales or business development departments as they can assist you.
  4. Identify Your Channels. Just because big brands such as Coca-Cola and Starbucks are on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest, and Snapchat, that doesn’t mean your brand has to be on all of these channels. Think quality over quantity. Revisit the point above of understanding your audience and determine where your audience spends their time. Whether you’re first starting out and setting up your social media properties or already have them up and running, pick a few platforms and develop a strategy around those properties. You’ll thank me later. Less is more.
  5. Build Your Editorial Calendar. While this might seem like a daunting task, it doesn’t have to be. The difficult pieces have already been accomplished. You’ve developed your content strategy, understand your audience, and have identified your channels. Determine your publishing schedule and fill your slots in with appropriate, relevant topics. To get your program off the ground, start small as it’s far easier to grow your content efforts than taking a few steps back after you feel like you bit off more than you can chew. In doing so, select the content types, whether they be blog posts, webinars, eBooks, case studies, downloadable checklists, infographics, etc. and plan accordingly to support your content strategy.
  6. Don’t Just Share Your Own Content. As Jay Baer said, “Smart marketing is about helping, not selling.” Think about how you can provide your customers, prospects, and colleagues with valuable information that will help them. Examples include sharing articles, facts, or information from other industry sites or promoting events that would benefit your audience. Before you hit the “publish” button ask yourself “Is this helpful in some way?” as a litmus test. If it doesn’t pass, don’t publish it.
  7. Use Visuals. We’ve experienced a visual shift on social media with the advent of YouTube, Pinterest, Instagram, and Snapchat. Aristotle once said, “There can be no words without images.” Use tools such as Canva to create original content to support your social media efforts and size appropriately for each property. A few ways to use visuals in your social media strategy include quotes, checklists, and videos. The use of visual applies to the platforms listed earlier as well as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.
  8. Leverage Paid Media. If your marketing budget can support paid media efforts, I highly recommend it. This will help you achieve your goals, expand the reach on your content, and grow your audience. Start small and as you see results (and have justified the cost), you can expand your program(s). The paid media bucket includes a lot, such as PPC, display ads, retargeting, paid content promotion, and social media ads to name a few. Align your paid media strategy with your organic social media strategy so they support one another.
  9. Select Social Media Management Tools. There’s not a one size fits all solution. The tools you choose depend on how many people will be managing social media for your organization, pricing, social networks which are supported, product offering, and more. Many of these platforms offer free plans or trials, and I recommend trying one before buying. Here’s a helpful article worth reading in identifying your social media management tool.

Don’t forget: they call it social media for a reason. Ensure that you’re participating socially on these properties. If you follow these nine steps and put the time and effort in, your results will come. Although social media posts can have a relatively short shelf life due to the amount of content being shared, your social media strategy (and broader marketing strategy) only work if you put in the effort. Like a plant, it’s not going to grow if you don’t provide sunlight, water as needed, choose your soil and the time of year that you plant it – your social media strategy needs nurturing too.

As you develop and master your social media strategy, check out the American Marketing Association’s Social Media Essentials Toolkit for interactive tools, templates, and samples.