Social media has become a powerful tool when it comes to building brand awareness, creating an engaged audience and driving business growth.
In order to see real success, a solid social media strategy is essential. But if you’re starting from scratch as an entrepreneur, content creator or small business owner, then developing a strategy can seem overwhelming.
In this article, I’ll outline 5 key steps to help you build an effective strategy that will get you started with achieving your social media goals.
1. Define your goals
Before diving into the world of social media, it’s crucial to identify what you want to achieve. This is going to influence everything you do going forward.
Think about what it is that you hope to achieve. Are you looking to increase brand awareness, generate leads, drive sales, boost website traffic, enhance your brand’s reputation or increase customer engagement?
The first step in creating a social media strategy is clearly defining your objectives. While the above list is a good starting point, try to get more specific and come up with SMART goals. A SMART goal is one that is specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. For example, your goal might be to increase website traffic by 20% in the next 6 months by [due date] using social media.
Knowing your objectives first and foremost will guide the rest of your strategy, keep you on track and help you measure your return.
But remember that your goals AND overall strategy may change as you grow, you may find that you want to focus on a different area of business, that certain platforms work better than others or that your target audience shifts. That’s okay! Re-adjust your goals and strategy accordingly.
2. Know your target audience
Understanding your target audience is the cornerstone of any successful social media strategy. You can’t simply create content with the hope that it’s valuable enough to find the right people. You need to dig deep into who you are targeting, and who your ideal client or customer is.
Conduct thorough research to identify your ideal customers and create a detailed buyer persona. A buyer persona (also known as a customer, audience or marketing persona) is a fictional profile you create based on research which details your ideal audience, client or customer.
Start with identifying basic demographics like their age, gender and location, as well as details around their career, family life and lifestyle. Next, think about their pain points, needs, wants, interests and hobbies. What challenges do they face? How can your business help them? Finally, research their online behaviour. How do they spend their time online? What social media platforms do they use? What content do they engage with?
Get as detailed as possible when building out your buyer persona(s). Your target audience can’t and shouldn’t be everyone. Focus on the individuals who are most likely to be interesting in what you offer with your content, products and/or services.
This will be a valuable resource for you moving forward, so take your time with it and get to know your ideal audience as much as possible. This is something you will often refer back when creating content, and it will also be useful when creating products, services or other offers.
3. Choose the right platforms
When starting out on social media, you may feel like you need to be on every social media platform there is. While that can have its benefits, trying to be everywhere at once can be very overwhelming as a small business owner or entrepreneur, especially if you have limited time and resources.
As well as that, not every social media platform will be relevant or beneficial for your brand or business. Each platform has its unique advantages and user base. Keep in mind however, that there are a wide range of people on most platforms. You just have to find them. It was once the case that Gen Z ruled TikTok, but that is no longer the case.
The goal with social media platforms as a business owner or entrepreneur is that you are utilising these platforms to grow your business. Your goals are going to be different to content creators for this reason, therefore the metrics you track and strategy you use will also be different.
My recommendation is often to choose a platform for discovery and for community. For example, you may use YouTube for discovery as this can get you in front of new people. While Instagram, and specifically the use of Instagram Stories and Lives, can help you build relationships with your audience and foster that sense of community.
When choosing what social media platforms you want to utilise, consider your objectives and your buyer persona. That way, you can select platforms that are aligned to your business and are most likely to reach your ideal audience.
4. Content creation
Content creation is a fundamental step when it comes to social media marketing.
With your goals, audience and chosen platforms in mind, it’s time to think about the content that will capture the attention of your target audience.
While it may be tempting to dive straight into publishing, there are a few things to consider when it comes to content creation.
Create valuable content
Firstly, what even is good content? You’ll hear the phrase “content is king” everywhere you look, but trying to define good content can be tricky.
In my experience, good content is high-quality, engaging and delivers some kind of value to your audience. Think back to your Buyer Persona, what are your ideal audience struggling with and how can you help?
Different content formats
Content can be shared in numerous formats, each offering a unique way to engage with your audience.
For social media in particular, we rely heavily on videos and images with written captions. But there is still room for experimenting with a variety of formats, which can help to reach and engage a more diverse audience.
As well as this, individual platforms have a host of formats you can use. For example, Instagram offers posts, Reels, Stories, Guides and more. Platforms tend to “reward” users who take advantage of all formats available to them, you’ll also notice an increase in Reach when you adopt a newly launched format.
When deciding what format to use, consider your audience’s preferences, the message you’re sharing and your marketing goals. Try to have a mix of written, image and video formats to keep your audience engaged.
Develop 3-5 content pillars
To keep you on track with your strategy, it can be helpful to come up with a set of content pillars or buckets. These will provide consistency and structure to your content strategy. Content pillars are 3-5 broad topics, themes or categories that your content will revolve around.
When identifying your content pillars, think about what your audience is looking for, what issues you can address, what aspects of your brand needs to be highlighted and what sets you apart from your competitors.
Diversify your content types
Similarly to formats, you should include a variety of content types to keep your audience interested, engaged and connected with your brand.
The six most popular content types are: entertaining, inspirational, educational, conversational, connection and promotional content.
- Entertaining Content: This is light-hearted, fun content that is created with the intent to amuse your audience. It could take the form of funny memes, jokes, viral videos, engaging quizzes, or entertaining stories. The purpose is to provide a fun break and foster positive associations with your brand. People connect with people, and this is where social media really shines as it gives you the opportunity to showcase the people behind your brand.
- Inspiring Content: This type aims to motivate, encourage or touch the audience emotionally. Posts can include tales of overcoming obstacles, improvements, and triumphs. Inspirational quotes or stories could also fall under this category. The goal often is to evoke strong positive feelings that help forge a deeper connection between your audience and your brand.
- Educational Content: This content is designed to teach your audience something new or build their knowledge in a certain area. It can include how-to guides, tutorials, infographics, informative webinars, or insightful blog posts. The goal of educational content is to provide value, thus positioning your brand as an expert in your field.
- Conversational Content: This type is meant to inspire dialogue between you and your audience or between audience members themselves. It can be in the form of questions, surveys, open-ended statements, or opinion polls. The idea is to encourage audience participation and foster a sense of community around your brand.
- Connection Content: This content is designed to develop a deeper level of engagement with your audience. It could involve stories about your brand, employee spotlights, behind-the-scenes glimpses, or sharing user-generated content. The aim is to foster a more personal relationship with your audience by giving them a ‘peek’ into the more human side of your brand.
- Promotional Content: This is product- or service-centric content. It highlights the features and benefits of your products or services and often includes calls-to-action. It can be in the form of product demos, client testimonials, special promotions, sales, or new product announcements. While it’s essential to generate revenue, it’s crucial to balance promotional content with other types to avoid appearing too sales-oriented.
Create a content calendar
The other phrase you’ll hear often within content creation is “consistency is key”.
Don’t underestimate the power of consistency, but at the same time don’t get it confused with frequency. Showing up consistently means more than simple always being online. Be consistent in your branding, your tone of voice, your messaging, your value and so on. Yes, posting frequent content is important but being consistent will deliver better long-term results.
A great tool to use in order to stay consistent is a content calendar. It can be used to plan, organise and schedule social media activities ahead of time. You can include any details you think would be helpful, such as what type of content you’ll be posting, the format and design, when it will be posted, the platform it is for, the hashtags or keywords that should be used, copy for the caption or call-to-action, who is in charge of that content, and the status of that content.
Developing a content calendar will help you stay consistent with your posting frequency, and ensure you’re varying the content types and formats.
Use scheduling tools for your content
Another tool to use that will help you stay consistent and ensure you reach your target audience at the right times, is a social media management tool.
These tools allow you to schedule posts in advance, which can be especially useful when you have a lot going on. Check out my post on social media tools for scheduling recommendations.
5. Analyse your results
Finally, a successful social media strategy isn’t completely set in stone. It’s important to monitor your progress and make adjustments as needed.
Use social media analytics tools to track key performance indicators (KPIs) such as likes, shares, comments, engagement rate, follower growth, click-through rates, conversion rates, and social media reach.
As mentioned, the metrics you track will depend on the specific objectives you set so ensure that these are aligned. For example, if your goal is to increase engagement then you’ll want to keep track of metrics such as likes, comments, shares and so on.
Analysing this data can provide insights into what’s working and what can be improved. Use these metrics to continually refine and adjust your strategy.
Social media is always changing, it can be important to stay up-to-date with changes in algorithms, emerging trends, and shifts in user behaviour. Check out my ICYMI posts and Roundup newsletter for these updates!
Creating a social media strategy from scratch might seem like a daunting task but with these steps, you’ll be well on your way to success. Get to know as much as possible about your audience, choose the right platforms, create valuable content and continuously analyse your results.
Good luck on your social media journey!