How to create a successful social media strategy
Social media is key to marketing in this digital age, helping businesses drive growth, engage with customers and clients, build trust and tell their brand stories.
“These days, every company should view themselves as a media company in addition to their primary business activity,” says BDC Senior Business Advisor Daniel Asfaha. “It doesn’t matter if you’re just starting out or well established, social media can help you achieve your business goals.”
But seeing results requires being strategic and intentional about what, how and when your business posts. This is where a social media marketing strategy can help
What is social media marketing?
User numbers on social media platforms have grown exponentially in recent years. Facebook reported having 196 million monthly active users in Canada and the U.S. in the third quarter of 2022. With numbers like those, it’s easy to understand why social media platforms are great for marketing. But it would be a mistake to see them as nothing more than tools to drive sales.
“Social media is an opportunity to tell your brand story and engage with customers—but you need to be authentic about it in order to build a real connection with them,” Asfaha says.
In fact, focusing solely on selling can have the opposite effect businesses want. “Today’s consumer is very savvy and sophisticated,” Asfaha says. “If you’re only posting promotional content, chances are they’ll see that as spam and unfollow you or disengage.”
Developing a social media marketing strategy can help you produce targeted content and engage with your audience in a way that resonates.
How to create a social media strategy?
To help develop an effective social media strategy, Asfaha recommends the following six steps.
Step 1: Define your goals
Social media can serve many purposes. Common goals for a social media strategy include:
- increasing brand awareness
- driving website traffic
- generating leads
- enhancing customer engagement
- improving customer satisfaction
- boosting sales and revenue
- conducting market research
Your goals and reasons to be on social media should be clear, measurable and in line with your overall business strategy. Once clearly defined, your goals can guide you in creating a social media marketing strategy that gets the results you’re looking for.
Step 2: Know your audience
For content to be effective, it must be targeted. You need to understand your audience, their interests and pain points to create posts they’ll want to engage with and can relate to. If your business has developed customer personas, refer to those. If not, consider taking steps to create personas as part of this exercise.
Once you know your audience, choose the social media platforms that will be most effective in reaching them. “There’s this notion that you should be on every platform,” Asfaha says. “But that’s not necessarily true.” Focus your efforts on where your customers are most likely to be. It’s better to be consistently active on one or two platforms than sporadically on all.
Also, consider the voice and tone your company will use on social media. This may be the same as your brand voice or a version of it—either way, it should resonate with your target audience and create an emotional response.
“Someone should be able to go on your social media pages and get a feel for who you are as a brand and what you do,” Asfaha says. “To achieve that, it's key to use your voice consistently across all your social channels.”
Step 3: Develop a content strategy
Determine what you want to achieve with your content strategy. Is it increasing brand awareness, driving engagement or generating leads?
As for social media platforms, focus on a few initially to ensure you can maintain quality content and engagement. Evaluate your existing content to identify what has performed well and what needs improvement.
You’ll also need to decide on the types of content you’ll create, such as articles, videos and infographics, as well as categories such as promotional, educational, inspirational and user generated.
Step 4: Create a content calendar
A content calendar can help you plan your posts and be more consistent in your messaging. To keep your feeds fresh and your audience engaged, cycle the different categories you identified as part of your content strategy.
“It’s best to publish on a regular schedule to avoid sending mixed messages to your audience,” Asfaha says.
To help you keep a record of your posts and allow you to plan for future publications, take advantage of BDC’s social media calendar template.
Step 5: Engage with your community
Be active and responsive to your customers on your social media channels and participate in conversations. Ask questions and encourage discussion, be personable and authentic, and answer direct messages in a timely manner. You may also want to run contests and have giveaways.
Step 6: Track and measure
Look critically at your posts. Are your followers interacting with your content? Are they commenting, sharing or clicking on your links? Are you generating sales or leads?
Tracking and measuring the performance of your posts is the first step to improving your content and understanding what resonates with your audience. Use tools like Google Analytics to track traffic and measure your ROI and
conversions. Measure reach and impressions and analyze click-through rates. Use UTM (Urchin Tracking Module) parameters to track traffic from social media to your website.
“You can’t improve what you don’t measure,” Asfaha says.
How do you manage social media marketing?
Getting results from social media requires time and resources to plan and organize your content. For most businesses, that means hiring a dedicated internal resource (e.g., a social media coordinator) or outsourcing your social media marketing to an agency.
Whoever oversees your social media accounts and marketing strategy must have strong written communication skills and be able to embody your brand’s voice and tone to engage with your customers. Creativity is also essential, including skills in graphic design and video editing, as are the analytical skills to evaluate and act on performance metrics.
While that’s a broad set of skills for one person to possess, there are many tools available that can support this role. That includes apps for automating and scheduling social media posts, and websites that make graphic design and video editing faster and more accessible.
Effective tactics for social media marketing
Social media is always evolving, and social media marketing must follow suit. But “there is one constant,” Asfaha says. “That is the importance of understanding who your customers are and finding unique ways to engage with them.”
Popular tactics to help grow your audience and drive engagement include:
Companies will often promote their products by partnering with social media users who have large audiences. To be effective, this requires building a relationship with an influencer who is authentically interested in and supportive of your brand. Otherwise, audiences may see their content as an empty sales pitch and tune it out.
By involving customers in your business and inviting them to share their experiences with your brand, you can get immediate feedback, build connections, and tap into their creativity and enthusiasm.
Video can captivate audiences more effectively than text or static images. This medium also gives your business a greater chance to express its creativity and to let your audience know what you stand for, which can lead to greater brand awareness.
Asfaha recommends companies be “bold and innovative in their approach to social media and try to get a conversation going rather than matching what your competition is doing.” But it’s equally important to be intentional, he says. “It’s one thing to be creative and bold, but don't forget your objectives and strategy.”
Despite your best efforts, sometimes your words may be misconstrued or seen as offensive. In that case, the right way forward is to stay true to your brand, be honest and take ownership, Asfaha says. “Don’t be afraid to say, ‘We got this one wrong.’ By not pointing fingers and admitting your mistake, you’ll gain the respect of the community.”
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