8 Steps To An Effective Social Media Strategy

Developing and executing a social media strategy is hard work. It can take hours and days just to get your first plan together.

But it’s important to take the time to do it properly. An effective social media strategy will drive more web traffic for you, help you build deeper customer relationships, and improve your customer satisfaction, retention and ultimately sales.

So what does a successful social media strategy look like? Here are 8 steps to help you create one:

Step 1: Understanding Your Audience

The foundation of a successful social media strategy is understanding who your target audience is and why they use social media. To do this, you need a combination of demographics and psychographics.

Demographics are statistics and descriptions of a group of people, such as their location, age, gender, income and education level, religion and ethnicity. Keep in mind that not all of these statistics and descriptions may be relevant for your business.

If you have your own website, there are several ways you can determine your audience’s demographics. For example, you can use Alexa or Google Adwords. If you don’t have a website yet, find a competitor or similar site and use that for your analysis.

Psychographics explain your audience’s lifestyles, values, opinions, interests and attitudes. You should try to answer these questions about your audience when doing your analysis:

  1. Why do they want to learn about your product or service?
  2. How important is your product or service to your audience? For example, is it part of their job or is it a personal interest?
  3. How do they like to learn and get their information from? Is it video, audio, text, etc., and on what device or channel?
  4. What questions do they typically have about your product or service?
  5. How knowledgeable are they about your industry and product or service?

Psychographics play an extremely important role in the success of your social media strategy, so as challenging this may be, you want to make sure you do this part really well before moving on to the next step.

While there’s no tool that can directly get you the psychographic information you want on your target audience, there are a few places you can go to do this, such as Subreddits, community forums, and comments from a popular blog that is related to your topic or product/service. Read through questions and responses people post, and record any observations you may find about your target audience.

Step 2: Targeting Your Channels

When starting out, you’re probably eager to get on every available channel out there. But it’s a good idea to start with one to three channels, and focus all your efforts on those than spreading yourself too thin trying to do everything. You will get quicker and better results if you focus your time and effort on your 1-3 key channels, then expand as your business and team grow.

So how do you determine which social networks you should start with?

You need to find out which networks your audience hangs out, then start narrowing down based on age. You want to start with the channels where your audience demographics match with the social network demographics.

Age doesn’t give you the full picture though, so you want to look at your competitors and see which top social networks you should focus on. You can try to do this with BuzzSumo or Ahref’s.

Step 3: Developing Your Content Strategy

Now that you have a better understanding of your target audience and the channels they use, it’s time to build out your content strategy. Think more than text and include blog posts, videos, infographics, quotes, quick tips, and pictures.

The right kinds of content will depend on your target audience and the channels you choose. It’s also important to share content produced by others as you don’t want to seem overly self-promotional. There’s no golden rule for how much non-promotional content you should share for every piece of promotional content you post, but you want to err on the side of being non-promotional when starting out.

What types of content should you share?

You can start by compiling a list of popular keywords for your topic or product/service. Use Adwords Keyword Planner as a starting point. Then go to BuzzSumo or Ahrefs and enter your keywords, and sort by the channel you’ve selected to focus on. This process will take some time, but it’ll be worth it at the end because you’ll have a list of proven topic ideas that your audience will be interested in.

Step 4: Growing Your Followers

The most effective way to get followers is by following as many individuals as you can. Don’t try to buy fake followers because this will not get the people you want to see, read and re-share your posts to actually engage with your content.

As the number of your followers grows, you can slow down on the number of people you follow. The exposure of the content you share will start to help you earn followers and traffic itself. Check out this post from Quicksprout for resources on how to get new followers for various social media channels.

Step 5: Getting The Most Out Of Your Content

Now that you’ve started growing your following and readership, you must be really excited about producing and sharing more content, right? You want to be careful with how much content you share though, since you don’t want your followers or readers to think you’re a spammer and stop following you.

Based on Buffer and SumAll’s research earlier this year, they found that the optimal frequency for social media posting was as follows:

  • Twitter: No more than 3 times a day. Engagement on average decreases slightly after the third tweet.
  • Facebook: No more than 2 times per day. The number of comments and likes drops significantly after the second post.
  • LinkedIn: 20 posts per month, which is about once per weekday. This will allow you to reach about 60% of your audience.
  • Google+: No more than 3 times a day.
  • Pinterest: 5 times a day, or more. Top brands on Pinterest who adopted a multiple-times-per-day posting strategy have experienced steady or rapid growth.
  • Instagram: 1-2 times a day, or more. Unlike Twitter and Facebook, Instagram does not experience a drop-off in engagement for posting more.
  • Blogs: At least 2 times a week. Companies who increased blogging from 3-5 times a month to 6-8 times a month have seen almost doubled growth in their leads.

You should always test the frequency of posting to see what works best for your audience. You may need to share more or less than these numbers, so do try testing it out to optimize for your strategy.

Step 6: Automating For Success

The key to social media success is consistency. But if you find that the best time for you to post is 5 a.m., it may not be feasible for you to consistently get up every day at 5 a.m. to post content. The easiest way for you to post consistently is to use tools. There are lots of free and paid tools out there to help you automate your posts, such as Hootsuite and Buffer.

Step 7: Maximizing Traffic

New content takes time and resources to create. To maximize the efforts you put into producing new content, you want to be sharing old posts as well as new content. This can help double and in some cases even triple your traffic.

You don’t want to be sharing the same post four times a day though. For example, on Twitter, you may wish to promote an old post 2-3 hours after your first tweet, then promote again the next day, next week, next month, and so on.

To maximize traffic, you should also use different descriptions when promoting old posts. If you use the same descriptions, your followers and readers will likely see these posts as spamming and will ignore them. You’ll also want to reach out to influencers in your network and encourage them to share the post with their audience. This will help you gain even more exposure for your content.

Step 8: Tracking Results

To see what’s working and isn’t working with your social media strategy, you need to monitor your efforts so you know what to improve on in the future.

You want to record all your social shares, such as impressions, shares and clicks, to see which content pieces and social media posts are getting the most clicks and engagement and are pushing traffic to your website, and which ones are not. Google Analytics, Buffer, and Hootsuite, for example, are great tools to help you collect these stats.

When you track these numbers regularly, you’ll learn what gets the most clicks and reads, and you can go back and revise your strategy to improve your results.

I hope you’ve found these 8 steps to a successful social media strategy helpful! If you have any questions or would like more information, contact me on one of my social channels below.

Please follow me on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook and Subscribe here for regular updates. (Photo Credit)

Michael Brenner

Michael Brenner  is a Top CMO, Content Marketing and Digital Marketing Influencer, an international keynote speaker, author of "Mean People Suck" and "The Content Formula" and he is the CEO and Founder of Marketing Insider Group, a leading Content Marketing Agency . He has worked in leadership positions in sales and marketing for global brands like SAP and Nielsen, as well as for thriving startups. Today, Michael helps build successful content marketing programs for leading brands and startups alike. Subscribe here for regular updates.