It’s time to cross social media mastery off your wish list and define your brand with this skill. For any business that wants to build an online presence and avoid missing out on opportunities, having a great social media marketing strategy is no longer negotiable — it’s a must.

Social marketing is easily one of the best ways to reach your target audience on the web. With 72% of all U.S. adults using at least one social media network, odds are, your potential customers are seeking out content online every week, if not several times per day. If your organic posts or paid ads successfully capture their attention, your brand awareness will grow and you can become the go-to company in your industry.

We’ll go over four elements you need to include in your social media marketing plan to curate feeds and develop ads that actually help you achieve your goals.

1. Social media marketing goals

To set the stage for the rest of your social media marketing strategy, you need to begin by writing out your overarching goals. Once your plan is fully implemented, what should be the outcome?

Your social media goals don’t have to be highly specific. Your strategy will become more actionable and measurable as you continue fleshing it out. Instead, your goals can be short phrases that simply set you off in the right direction. When you develop the content for your social channels, these goals will provide the framework you need to easily make decisions that actually drive your desired results.

Examples of simple but effective social media marketing goals may include:

  • To generate more leads
  • To increase brand recognition
  • To build stronger relationships with customers
  • To gain more traffic on our website
  • To improve our online reputation
  • To increase online sales

We recommend aligning your social media goals with your business goals, so all the effort you put into this marketing channel will fully contribute to the growth of your entire organization.

2. Social media metrics

The next step in building your strategy is figuring out what metrics can indicate your social media success.

When selecting the right metrics, a universal rule of thumb is to stay away from vanity metrics, which include likes and followers. Growing these metrics may make your social accounts look good, but in the long run, they don’t actually prove the effectiveness of your social media strategy at all. This is because they don’t always tell the full story—for example, an influencer driving 1,000 likes per post may sound impressive until you realize they have 600,000 followers—so they can easily be manipulated, even subconsciously by you.

The best social media metrics to track are the ones that directly indicate that you’re on track with your brand’s specific goals. Here are four of many metrics that companies find useful for tracking the effectiveness of their social media campaigns:

Engagement

Your engagement rate shows you how many comments, likes, shares, and more you receive in comparison to the amount of users who actually see your social media posts. This is a particularly useful metric for relationship-building goals, since it shows you how actively your following actually engages with your brand.

Sentiment

Sentiment is defined as how customers feel about a specific topic—usually your brand, product, or even a specific keyword or hashtag in the context of your social media plan. For example, this metric can tell you how your audience on any given social network is reacting to your posts on Facebook, or whether tweets mentioning your brand are positive, negative, or neutral.

While engagement can give you insight into the volume of users tuning into your posts, sentiment tells you how much of this engagement is actually helping you sell—or if your content is actually driving committed followers away. Sentiment is a must-track for brands that want to improve their reputation.

Clicks

If you want to drive more traffic to your site—especially if you’re taking advantage of paid ads—you absolutely need to track clicks on every post. The amount of clicks you receive will tell you how many people are actually taking action after reading through your content.

When you actively track clicks, you can figure out exactly what type of content captures your audience’s attention on each social media platform. Then, you can reshape your social media marketing strategy as needed to make it more effective.

Reach

While engagement already takes into account the amount of impressions (or the amount of views) you’re getting on your posts, reach specifically looks at the amount of unique users who have seen your post. Separately tracking this metric can give you insight into how many individual people you’re actually reaching on each of your social media channels.

When you want to grow your audience and brand recognition, tracking your reach is essential, as this will tell you if you’re actually getting eyes on your content through your marketing efforts. If not, you can re-evaluate your social strategy, including the hashtags you’re using to reach new users.

3. Target audience

There’s no such thing as content that’s suited for everyone. If you want to boost your return on investment (ROI), you need to create a social media marketing strategy with a specific audience in mind.

Choosing your target audience does require a bit of research. You’ll want to take a look at who your competitors are targeting, as well as who is already engaged with your brand. You’ll also want to research who is actively buying products like yours. Some audience characteristics you may want to define include:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Location
  • Education
  • Income
  • Hobbies
  • Religion
  • Ethnicity

In the end, your target audience should be specific, but still broad enough to drive growth for your business. For example, the audience for a high-end e-commerce purse brand may include 26- to 40-year old (millennial) women with disposable income who are in mid- to senior-level office jobs and interested in beauty and fashion.

The target market for your social media campaigns can be a specific segment of your company’s overall audience, or they can be exactly the same.

Once you have your target audience locked in to your social strategy, you can better narrow down the social media channels you’ll focus on. After all, you’ll spread yourself thin if you’re equally using your resources on every major social platform, especially since each platform similarly has its own target audience.

For example, if you’re targeting shoppers in Generation Z, you’ll likely need to invest more in platforms like Snapchat and TikTok. If you’re targeting business owners, you’ll get better results by focusing on LinkedIn.

4. Social media content strategy

To round out your social media marketing plan, you’ll need to create a strategy for exactly what you’ll share on each of your channels and how you’ll share it. We’ll go over some tips for doing so in this section.

As you’re fleshing out your content marketing guidelines, you may once again look toward your competitors to see what they’re doing well, as well as how you can differentiate yourself from them. You should also think about what content your target audience would be most interested in.

Types of content to share

The type of content you share will define your brand. It’ll tell users what to expect when they follow you, as well as what they’ll experience once they purchase from your brand.

First, you’ll want to consider how your brand identity—which includes your company’s look, feel, and personality—can fit into the content you share. Will you use more photos, graphics, or videos? Will you use live videos? Will you write short captions or long captions?

You may need to take your resources into account before you make your final decisions, since it may be difficult to produce a large volume of high-quality videos without an in-house video team or dedicated contractors.

You’ll also want to narrow down what topics you’ll actually post about. About four to six content categories is perfect for keeping your content calendar consistent, without getting repetitive. For example, a gym may alternate between posts about membership benefits, fitness education, smoothie bar giveaways, and more.

Reaching new customers

Once you’ve selected the content you want to share, the next step is figuring out how you want to share your posts. Start by selecting the frequency at which you’ll post, based on the resources you have. Figuring out the best dates and times to post may require a bit of experimentation as you start to implement your social media marketing strategy, but at least knowing how often you can share content will give you a starting point.

At this point, you may also want to note what scheduling tool you want to invest in, if you don’t already have one.

Then, think about what special techniques you may use to reach the audience beyond your own. This may include:

Create a strategy that works

Social media sites are booming as we continue using the internet and smartphones more and more. In order to captivate your audience on these growing platforms, you need a social media plan that gives your content a clear focus, so you can reach the right audience. Though your social strategy may change over time, defining your goals, audience, content strategy, and more can help you start off in the right direction so you can boost your ROI.

Once you have your social media marketing strategy locked in, you can start to look at other opportunities to reach your potential customers on the web. Here are our tips for building an online presence that your customers can’t ignore.

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