Published October 2017, updated July 2019
Every company can leverage social media marketing to increase brand awareness, customer engagement, and sales.
When email marketing and social media team up, they create a marketing duo that helps brands maximize their reach in today’s digital age.
That’s because an estimated 2.9 billion people will use email by the end of 2019, according to The Radicati Group, and an estimated 2.77 billion people will use social sites by that time, according to Statista.
However, like any other marketing channel or tactic, you need a plan to be successful on social media. You can’t just post funny memes on Facebook and tweet a few stats each week and expect results.
Read on to learn how you can create an effective social media strategy.
What is a social media strategy?
A social media strategy summarizes how you plan to use social platforms to promote your brand and its products.
This strategic summary should be detailed so marketers and leadership at your company can reference it for direction.
A successful social media strategy may include these four components:
- Overview: An overview gives a summary of the strategic plan, as well as where the brand currently stands on social media.
- Goals: Be sure to include a list of specific goals that you want to achieve with metrics that you will measure as you go.
- Execution: A plan is nothing without execution, so be sure to plan how you will achieve your goals. Include specific timeframes, tools used, and who is in charge of each task.
- Analysis: You won’t know whether your actions lead to results unless you measure how you’re doing. Include a plan for analysis in your social media strategy.
Create a social media strategy in 7 steps
Now, let’s get down to business with a step-by-step social media strategy plan that will bring ROI for your brand:
Step 1. Audit your current social media approach
To formulate a social media strategy plan, you must first assess where you’re at right now. Which sites see the most engagement? Where are you getting results?
Make a list of each social media site your brand uses, and outline what’s working and what’s not working on each channel. Here are a few questions to answer as you go along:
- What social media site drives the most engagement for our brand?
- Is our following growing, declining or remaining the same?
- Are we able to populate each social media site we use with fresh content?
- Do customers use social media to get product support? If so, which channels?
- What types of content does the company post on each channel? How frequently?
- How much time is spent on each channel per day? How about per week?
- Where do we invest money on social media advertising? Are we getting results?
- How much traffic to our website does each channel drive. Does that traffic convert to signups, customers or another relevant metric?
For a detailed, step-by-step approach to making a social media audit, you can follow the structure outlined in this article from Australian social media agency Hello Social. They highlight the following steps and outline a selection of tools to compile and analyze your account data.
- Identify your marketing goals
A good audit requires clarity of your objectives. Define your goals and use this as a reference to assess the performance of your accounts.
- Compile the data from your social media profiles
Combining the analytics data from your social accounts will allow you to assess the performance of each channel and your content pillars as a whole. Particularly for small accounts you can learn more about your audience when your following is spread across multiple platforms.
- Analyze the data
Effective social media marketing analysis should be a combination of scientific data collection and more intuitive research. There are tools to help you achieve both of these, from analytics features to inspiring visualization tools.
- Identify top performers and weak points
Make your analysis actionable by highlighting your strengths and weaknesses. Draw clear conclusions from your data to identify your brand’s best and worst points.
Update your strategy
Take those insights and redefine your strategy. Create new content pillars, test different audiences, and try new content formats. Make sure you measure your results.
This is a time to figure out what’s working, but it’s also a time to assess whether it makes sense for you to continue on every social channel you have.
For example, if you don’t see any results on Instagram, it may make sense for you to double-down on another channel instead.
2. Research your customer base
To market effectively, you have to know your audience. That goes for any marketing, from email to social media, to pay-per-click (PPC) ads.
Marketers can and should collect data on a regular basis. When subscribers join your email list, you might consider adding an extra field to collect one or two pieces of information, such as their birthday, job title, or address. You can also collect data by conducting surveys, using behavioral information or using progressive profiling.
As you collect data, you should build customer profiles, so you have a clear understanding of your customer base.
Once your audience is defined, you can figure out which social platforms your customers use.
3. Understand which audiences are on which platforms
It’s important to understand which social media sites your audience uses. You want to pick social platforms that align with the demographics of your customer base. To help understand who’s using which platform, here’s a quick look at demographics for each social site:
Facebook: Users are of all ages, income, and education levels.
Instagram: Most popular with college-educated women, 18-29-year-olds.
Pinterest: Most popular with women age 18-49 with varied education and income.
Twitter: Most popular with college-educated 18-29-year-olds that make $75,000+.
LinkedIn: Most popular with highly-educated 18-49-year-olds making $75,000+.
It’s also worth noting that Facebook, while the oldest social media site, continues to be the favorite. Research shows nearly 8 in 10 Americans use Facebook, more than double the share that any other platform gets, according to Pew Research Center.
While demographics are helpful, you should also monitor your metrics to see which channels are working best. Sometimes, despite demographic information, a social channel might get better results than you think. Keep an eye on metrics like referral traffic to see where the majority of visitors come from.
4. Set measurable goals
Creating a social media strategy doesn’t mean much if there isn’t a way to measure your success.
As part of your social media marketing strategy, you should decide which metrics you’ll use to assess whether you’re meeting your goals. Sometimes called KPIs, or key performance indicators, these concrete numbers will show you how you’re performing on social media.
While KPIs vary depending on your business, here are some of the most common indicators that measure success:
- Conversion rates
- Number of followers
- Overall reach
- Brand mentions
- Total shares
- Comments and engagements
5. Give customers what they want
It’s time to start creating and sharing content that customers love, but where do you start? BuzzSumo analyzed social share data from 100 million articles over the course of eight months that can provide direction.
Here are a few tips:
- Infographics are one of the most highly shared pieces of content.
- Long form articles get more shares than shorter ones. Aim for 1,000-2,000 words per post.
- Content that evokes a happy emotion like joy or amusement fares better than content that generates anger or sadness.
- Include images in your posts to increase engagement and shares.
Make sure that you use a variety of content types, and don’t try to be overly promotional. Fans get turned off if the only content you’re sharing boasts about a sale or product.
Focus on content that’s relevant to your business and interesting to your readers.
6. Use tools to help scale
As you work on your social media strategy, it’s a good time to research tools that can help you achieve goals.
It’s important that tools complement your strategy, not the other way around. Many marketers rush to use the latest app and get so caught up in scheduling tweets and curating content that they forget that tools are meant to support the overall social media plan.
There are far too many tools out there to suggest, but consider looking for a social media management tool first that links all of your social channels to one dashboard where you can post, schedule, and track success.
Additional tools might include: a curation tool that generates a list of content from other sites that you can share; a calendar tool that can help you plan content for certain dates; a DIY infographic tool to help you build beautiful graphics without design skills; a tool to sync your email contacts to a social ad platform and send target ads to both followers and subscribers; and a photo editing tool to resize, crop, and adjust images as needed.
7. Monitor and adjust
Once content is live, start watching the metrics that mark your success. As you go, you’ll make adjustments. Some will work, others won’t. Just make sure that you’re learning lessons and sharing them with your team.
Remember, social media content isn’t created in a vacuum. Followers can suggest content too. Ask followers what they want to see via questions on social sites or email surveys for more insight.
Integrating an effective social media strategy with email marketing
Creating a social media strategy isn’t enough. Even implementing, monitoring, and updating it correctly isn’t enough. When you’ve gone as far as you think you can with this channel, what’s next? Start a new profile on a new platform? Raise your output on your existing accounts?
Luckily, you don’t have to do any of these things to be effective. The best part is you can get even greater returns from your social channels without expanding that presence directly. What’s the secret? It isn’t just about having an effective social media strategy. It’s about integrating it with other tools.
Let’s take email marketing, for example. The two have a lot in common. Email is about promoting yourself to a list of people waiting to hear what you have to say. The same could be said about your follower or subscriber list. They’re an audience you’ve built up and tailor to with your content.
The question about effective social media marketing alongside email marketing is exactly where the overlap should be. The best way to see the impact is to analyze those examples that utilize both email and social media marketing together.
Source: Really Good Emails
This email from Skillshare is linked to social media through one keyword that leads the text here—trending.
If you’re looking to combine your email and social channels, try referencing trending stories on your profiles then linking to any coverage of them in your emails. Does your team cover those trending stories with blogs, articles, or any other type of content?
An effective social media strategy will involve you tracking trending topics in your industry (or even outside of it, on occasion) and covering those for your audience. If you want to include email, provide more extensive coverage (or links to it) in your emails, then link to those on your social channels.
Source: Really Good Emails
How about taking targeted sales emails, and turning the products into high-performing hashtags?
Here we see the three products, each with an area of focus. In this case, those areas are travel, adventure, and sports. These are goldmines of potential keyword and hashtag activity on social media. Search those topics, find related keywords or related stories, and slip your product mentions in that way.
For example, say there’s a trending hashtag about travel destinations during a time of year when people are typically in transit, say like Memorial Day Weekend or the end-of-year holidays. Mention any associated hashtags or trending topics, then slip in a mention of the travel kit.
You could even go a bit further with it, choosing which products to list in sales emails based on how well they could be promoted across social media.
You can take many other approaches to promote your channels together, and combining their potential, such as:
- Celebrate social milestones in email or vice versa
- Track prospects on social channels for your newsletter
- Create entire campaigns, with emails and social posts, planned alongside one another
Every post, tweet, or pin should be published with your company’s social media strategy in mind. It’s easy to get caught up in daily posts or creating fun content, but if there isn’t a goal-oriented plan in place, you can’t tell if you’re succeeding or failing on social media.
And remember, once you have a strategy in place, it’s a good idea to review it from time to time so you can ensure you’re hitting or exceeding the benchmarks you set.
Looking for more social media tips? Check out more ideas on combining email and social platforms.