For better or worse, social media is intertwined with our daily lives. From major news like COVID-19 alerts and election results, to everyday details like business hours and weather updates, more people are turning to social media than traditional media for information. In fact, with people spending more time at home due to COVID-related closures, social media companies have seen record growth. In July 2020, Hootsuite reported more than half of the people on Earth now use social media.
So how to do you stand out on social media when 4 billion people are posting? Having a Social Media Strategy is the first step.
The tagline for our company is: “Speak from where your Audience is Listening”. Knowing your audience, where they are, and listening to them enables you to create a Social Media Strategy. Your strategy then informs your Social Media Content (which I will share in the next part of this series).
Below I reveal my 5 phases to create a winning social media strategy: Analyze, Identify, Listen, Engage, Act.
It’s hard to know where you’re going, if you don’t where you’ve been. Consequently, Phase 1 is to analyze your current social media strategy.
Do a S.W.O.T. Analysis
S.W.O.T. stands for Strengths, Weakness, Opportunities, Threats. What are yours in terms of social media? These can include: your current social media engagements (or lack thereof), current events, upcoming announcements or promotions, COVID-19, etc.
Now that you know where you have been, Phase 2 is to identify where you are going.
Identify your Social Media Goals
The next step is to understand your “Why”. Why do you want to be on social media? What do you hope to gain or influence? Dig deeper than “because everyone tells me I should”. Ask yourself: Do you want to generate leads or sales? Do you want to build sustaining donors for your nonprofit? Do you want to add transparency to your company? Do you want to educate or engage your audience about your specialty?
Next make it a S.M.A.R.T Goal. S.M.A.R.T stands for: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timely. “Having 1 million Instagram followers” might be a Specific and Measurable goal, but it may not be Achievable, Relevant, or Timely depending on what you’re currently doing on social media. It also ignores your “Why”. Why do you want 1 million Instagram followers?
Workshop a S.M.A.R.T. social media goal with your team to find something that fits your bandwidth, your budget, and your “Why”.
Identify your Platforms
It is easy to focus on the newest social media fad, but does that trend or platform fit your goal? Before you commit to certain platforms, review your S.W.O.T. Analysis. Identify platforms that are performing well for you and which aren’t. (If you think you can fix an underperforming account by adjusting your content, keep it in the mix for now.)
Another great way to identify your platforms is to understand their demographics. Do you have a Business-to-Business or Business-to-Consumer business model? Are Boomers, GenXers, or Millenials your target clients? Is your audience located in the US, Europe, Asia, or Africa? You can research which platforms are popular with each of these demographics online.
Identify your Target Audience
With your goals, your platforms, and their demographics identified, it is time to think about your Audience. With whom do you want to engage on social media? Get as specific as possible.
For example, “women and men between ages 18-65” is a great place to start, but that demographic includes billions of people around the world.
Targeting “middle-class women and men in the United States, between the ages of 18-65, who support women-owned businesses” is easier. You can refine this further based on age, religion, race or ethnicity, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, geography, educational level, professional level, parental status, marital status, preferred language, etc. to make your audience even easier to target.
Before you put your analysis and your goals to work, you need to listen to what already exists on social media. The term for this is “social listening” and you can implement it with two simple steps.
Follow Relevant Hashtags and Keywords
Now that you have targeted your audience, you need to get to know them. Start by learning the lingo. Are there certain abbreviations everyone uses? Learn them. Are there hashtags your audience uses? Follow them. Are there keywords or names that keep emerging? Save them to a list you can refer to later.
Pro Tip: A trick I have used for years is to create a daily digest of Google Alerts, so I receive timely news and content. This gives me a quick snapshot of the people, organizations, locations and news platforms that are discussing the keywords I’m interested in, as well as what they are saying about it. This also comes in handy when I’m ready to start drafting social media content, but first I will use this social listening technique to refine my strategy.
Follow Experts and Influencers
As you start to follow hashtags and keywords, you will likely see that experts, influencers, organizations, and other media keep emerging. Follow and/or subscribe to them to learn what they are doing well and how they interact with their followers. As a result you will start to glean their strategy, which can inform yours. Next, add the most popular names to your Google Daily Digest.
Pro Tip: When you add keywords to your Google Alerts, add your name, your organization’s name, and the title of your project or event. This alerts you to positive press (that you can Like and Share in your content) and negative reviews that may require your attention to fix.
To successfully engage your Target Audience, you also need to analyze your current followers on social media.
Know Your Current Followers and Subscribers
If you use a social media scheduler like Hootsuite, Sprout Social, or Buffer, you can view important analytics, such as weekly/monthly engagement numbers, popular posts, and audience demographics across all your platforms. Look for trends in terms of content (image, caption, hashtags), schedule (day of the week or time of day), and source (was it original content or something you reposted).
You can engage your audience further by asking for their feedback. Even a free survey option can provide valuable data about what type of content your audience enjoys, their ideas for future relevant content, plus when and how often they want hear from you.
Before to jump to the final phase, compare your Current Followers to the Target Audience you identified in Phase 2. Where do they overlap? Where do they diverge? Is it effective to speak to both of these audiences? Or do you need to prioritize one over the other?
Now that you have analyzed your current strategy, identified your goals and your audience, listened and engaged your audience, what do you want people to do when they engage with you on social media? This is known as your Call-to-Action and it is the final phase for determining your Social Media Strategy.
Know your Call-to-Action
Do you want people to buy something? Donate to a cause? Sign up for a virtual event? Ask questions and get answers? Download your book, podcast, or film? Sign up for your newsletter? Pre-order a product?
Likes, Comments, and Shares are great, but you will get closer to your S.M.A.R.T. Goal if you are very clear about the action you want your audience to take.
I hope you enjoyed learning about my proven social media strategy development method. Be sure to subscribe to our Newsletter so that you don’t miss my next insight article, How to Create a Social Media Calendar, where I share how to utilize your strategy to establish the voice, cadence, and calendar for your social media content.