Back to Basics: 12 core elements of a winning social media strategy

Many of us use the New Year to start with a clean sheet or to commit to improving certain aspects of our lives and business. There has already been an overload of articles about planning for 2018 and predictions of what we can expect to see this year, as well as lots of learnings from 2017.

I’d like to take you back to basics, though, and look at understanding how social media fits into your marketing mix and how it can help your business grow in 2018.

1. Your business (purpose)

Before you jump into planning, creating or scheduling, stop for a moment and think. What’s your business vision and mission, what’s your purpose? What message do you want to get across and what pain point do you solve? Answering these questions first will make the rest much easier.

2. Your starting point (audit)

Once you have a better idea of what you want to achieve, it’s important to know what your starting point is. The main purpose of this activity is to collate all your digital assets (so you’re not setting up duplicate accounts etc.).

Create a list of all your social media accounts, their URLs/handles, check bios and other descriptions, contact information, profile and cover images, links to other channels. Are they all on brand? Is all information up to date? Are you using consistent imagery?
Part of your audit should be looking at numbers. How many followers/likes do you currently have, how much engagement are your posts receiving (if you’re active). It’s important to know where you start so you can measure if you’re heading in the right direction.

3. Your audience

Who’s your target market, audience and ideal customer? Without knowing who you’re trying to reach, you won’t know which channels to focus on. What content should you produce and how can you look to start conversations with them.

Understanding your audience, their pain points and preferences is probably the most important part of your marketing strategy. Without knowing who you want to talk with, your message will be too vague, too broad and won’t resonate with anyone.

Create customer personas/avatars with as many details as possible. You can also ask your current customers to get some data to start with. Be as specific as possible, because having a clearly defined niche will help you craft messages that will resonate.

4. Your platforms

Once you know who your ideal customers are, you can decide which platforms you’ll be using. There’s no point in trying to be everywhere. Instead, focus on 1-2 main platforms where the majority of your ideal customers are hanging out.

5. Your content

Now you know who you’re talking to and where you’ll find them. The next question is – what should you be talking about? Start with your customers’ challenges, pain points and their frequently asked questions. You can ask them directly what would they like to know or you can search online (Google, Quora etc) for their questions about your product/service/industry.

You should also think about the different forms of content that you should be creating/sharing. This decision will be heavily influenced by your audience, their preferences and the platforms you choose to use. Ideally, you should pick one main form of content (be it a photo, video, audio or simple text) and share about 80% of your content in this form. Again, consistency is the key.

6. Your frequency and timing

One of the most frequent questions I am asked is about frequency and timing: how often should I post and when is the best time to post? Unfortunately, I don’t have a simple answer for you. It depends! It depends on many different factors and the answer will be different for each of you.

Generally, the more time you can dedicate to creating and sharing valuable content and engaging with your audiences, the faster your presence will grow. You should always keep one rule in mind – quality over quantity!

In terms of timing, most platforms these days offer built-in analytics, where you can see when YOUR audience is the most active. Keep an eye on your data and adjust your schedule according to the unique preferences of your audience.

7. Your goals

Probably the most important point of this whole article! Without knowing what you’re trying to achieve, you won’t know if your efforts are working or not. You won’t know if you’re going into the right direction, if you’re slightly off course or if you’re completely lost.

Ideally, you would have 1-3 SMART goals set up for each campaign (could be a year, six months, a month). An example of a SMART goal is to have 5 meaningful conversations with prospective clients on Twitter each month, track all conversations and follow up these leads via email/phone call.

When deciding what goals you should set up, instead of focusing on vanity metrics like the number of followers or likes, or brand awareness, focus on meaningful metrics like engagement (relationships, customer service, etc.).

8. Your plan

Now, once you know your goals, it’s time to put all this into practice. Before you jump into creating accounts and posting, take the time to outline your social media plan. Ideally, you’ll have a look at the year ahead and plan all the biggest blocks and milestones first, then you create a more detailed plan for each quarter, month, week and day. Breaking things down into smaller blocks will make it less overwhelming and more achievable, but you still need to have the bigger picture in mind.

9. Your analytics

Once you’re up and running, it’s easy to get sucked into doing and forget about the overall plan. Don’t forget to measure, analyse and adjust regularly. Social media is a lot about experimentation and testing what works for you, but you have to monitor your results and learn from your data so you can improve!

10. Your story

Every business (and business owner) has a unique story and social media is the perfect place for you to showcase your personality and true self. In practice, you have two types of stories that you should be sharing with your audience.

The first is your core story, which is a narration of your purpose, mission, vision, biggest failures, learnings and achievements. The second is your everyday story – it’s a translation of your values, core principles and personality into bite-sized chunks which you can use every day to tell your story.

11. Your relationships

Great companies are built on loyalty, advocacy and strong relationships. It’s much easier to sell again to someone who already purchased from you before and had a great experience. The aim of your business should be creating a base of loyal customers who will repeatedly buy from you, who will get consistently great experience and will want to shout out loud how amazing you are.
Testimonials, word of mouth, referrals, reviews and recommendations are all a testament to how great you are. Try and actively encourage them wherever possible.

12. Your success

Similar to the first question about your purpose, your success is something that only you can define. If you know what success means to you, it will be much easier to define your goals and your strategy.

I like using the example of a roadmap to explain the importance and main stages in creating your social media strategy.

Hope you’ve enjoyed my 12 short tips on creating a kickass social media strategy. This blog post was written to support #MicroBizMatters Day and to help all micro-business owners and freelancers out there succeed by using social media the efficient way.