Essential steps to ensure a successful social strategy

Last month, here on our blog, we discussed the importance of a social media strategy for your business. You can read it here

So you want your marketing to enter the realms of social media. You realize the importance of a strategy to enable you to do so properly, but you don’t know where to start. Help is at hand. Here are our steps to follow when designing your social strategy:

 

Listen

Ideally, you already know your audience. How do they engage in social media and where are the conversations in your industry taking place?

Listening is a great starting point. It is vital that you learn from all these new found conversations and use them as input for your strategy. This way, you will decide the right online destination to become active and the best tone of voice to use.

If you want to communicate to a B2B audience and business professionals then LinkedIn with its 150 million members is a good place to listen. If you want to engage with the business leaders and executives then this is one of the first channels to to turn to.

A top tip is to follow conversations about your brand and products and also that of your key competitors. What do people think about you and your brand? Who are the key people who influence others and which ones should you engage with? What are they talking about?

Blogs are a great place to start looking and Technorati is a tool to help you search for blogs and posts that have content related to your niche. Twitter and the Twitter network is another great place to gain insight in to conversations that are happening in real time. Check out the advanced Twitter search tool.

Once you have identified where your audience is, then listen to what they are saying. What are their issues, opinions, and needs? How does this information fit with your value proposition? Understanding this information will help you determine how to best contribute to the conversation and how best to make a contribution.

Next, find out who's driving the conversation or those that have a strong influence. These people are called "influentials" because they possess authority, respect, or experience to shape people's opinions. Find people who influence your industry or niche and listen to what they are talking about. One source to get you started on finding these influencers is to look at WeFollow, which breaks down influentials by category and lists them by number of followers.

 

Define goals

When setting your strategy, your business objectives must be understood. Whether you want to increase your twitter followers by 5% or drive traffic to your blog, you must have these clear goals established when setting out to design your social strategy.

It is also important to think about the goals of your customers. What do they want to gain from being socially active? It is only when you know this that you can provide valuable content to your audience. There is no value in blatant self promotion on social media sites. History tells us you cannot achieve your goals this way and you will not attract or sustain relationships you are hoping to develop or make any influence or gain any trust from your market.


Define the place of the social strategy within your business

Depending on your goals there can be numerous departments involved in your social activities. Having more than one department responsible or on board with the value of such activities is important. To increase the likeliness of its success people in these departments must be familiar with the goals and potential it can bring. As discussed in a previous blog post, social media needs senior management support and buy in, and it must be a good fit with the companies existing culture. Strong leadership support ensures the entire business is on the same page in understanding the importance of such a strategy.

 

Allocate budget

Adopting a social strategy and managing activity isn’t a one off event but a continuous process. Therefore adequate resource and budget must be assigned to it to avoid any financial surprises later on.

 

Plan content

Developing a content plan which outlines your approach to delivering compelling content to your audience, within context will pay dividends. This is the linchpin which will feed into to your social media networks attracting and building your business community.

You need to know how to communicate cohesively, with the right tone, tailored for the social network and to attract your target audience. Planning your topics and themes carefully will establish your reputation with a consistent and relevant stream of information.

Planning for and building a healthy and varied range of content, by which to showcase the personality and tone of voice of your company, is the way you attract and sustain your online community.

It is also vital to be aware that content needs to be posted and distributed in the right places, at the right time, in the right way and to the right people. Fail at this and your content will not be effective to reach your goals.

It is now a good idea to develop a timeline of actions to identify events, promotions, or product launches that may be coming up. Once you have one, you can start to identify content you want to deliver in support of these. Timing when you will release specific content will ensure content is consistent and relevant to other events your business or customers participate in.

Now decide which social platforms you should use to deliver your content. You could develop a mini plan for each site and think about how you will consistently use each tool to accomplish your goals and objectives. Be careful not to go after too many sites too quickly. Ensure you start with one or two sites at a time and develop them so they are solid before moving on to another social media sites.


Develop content

Next, develop the content you have outlined from your timeline. This timeline will help you know in what order to start building your content. This is where you really need to understand your audience and your brand. You must be highly creative and much of what you say within social media channels should sound like your brand.

Optimize your content with your targeted keywords. Armed with solid keyword research with relative categories, you should be able to derive some great ideas for relevant content that will resonate with your audience. This content can come in various forms including guest bloggers, white papers, top 10 lists, how to’s and case studies.


Engage  (implement your plan)

Armed with smart objectives, a solid timeline, great content, and the right social media sites you are now ready to start engaging. Engage in the conversation and express your point of view. Remember to keep to your schedule and be consistent. Have the resources on hand to respond to comments and feedback so you can keep the conversation going. Remember, you have to stick at this to build any form of following and community.

 

Measuring Success

It is a good idea to set significant milestones so that you can track your progress. Think of some achievable goals and let these direct the path you follow.

The ability to measure the effectiveness of marketing activities is imperative to any marketing strategy and social media is no different. However, it isn’t always as easy to measure as other online channels. This is where defining your goals as per stop two in this post really comes into its own. Identifying clear goals and objectives gives you a head start.

Having a solid social media strategy can really help make a difference in the success of your campaigns. You will be recognised as more professional, polished, organized and viewed as being a key player in the social media space.

 

Does your business have a social media strategy in place? What tips do you have for someone putting a strategy together for the first time?