So you need to create a social media marketing plan. No easy task, right? Many of us struggle to iron out exactly what that is, let alone how to build one from scratch.
Put simply, every action you take on social networks should be a part of a larger social media marketing strategy. That means every post, reply, like, and comment should all be guided by a plan that’s driving toward business goals. It might sound complicated, but if you take the time to create a comprehensive social media strategy, the rest of your social efforts should follow naturally. Everyone can do this if they approach it correctly.
Learn what a social media marketing plan should include, and follow our six-step plan for creating your own.
What is a social media marketing plan?
A social media marketing plan is the summary of everything you plan to do and hope to achieve for your business using social networks. This plan should comprise an audit of where your accounts are today, goals for where you want them to be in the near future, and all the tools you want to use to get there.
In general, the more specific you can get with your plan, the more effective you’ll be in its implementation. Try to keep it concise. Don’t make your social media marketing strategy so lofty and broad that it’s unattainable. The plan will guide your actions, but it will also be a measure by which you determine whether you’re succeeding or failing. You don’t want to set yourself up for failure from the outset.
Step 1: Create social media objectives and goals
The first step to any social media marketing strategy is to establish the objectives and goals that you hope to achieve. Having these objectives also allows you to quickly react when social media campaigns are not meeting your expectations. Without goals, you have no means of gauging success or proving your social media return on investment (ROI).
These goals should be aligned with your broader marketing strategy, so that your social media efforts drive toward your business objectives. If your social media marketing strategy is shown to support business goals, you’re more likely to get executive buy-in and investment.
Go beyond vanity metrics such as Retweets and Likes. Focus on advanced metrics such as leads generated, web referrals, and conversion rate. For more on this, check out our post 7 Social Media Metrics that Really Matter—and How to Track Them.
You should also use the SMART framework when setting your goals. This means that each objective should be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound.
SMART goal example:
“For Instagram we will share photos that communicate our company culture. We will do this by posting three photos a week. The target for each is at least 30 likes and 5 comments.”
A simple way to start your social media marketing plan is by writing down at least three social media goals. Make sure to ask yourself what the goal will look like when completed, and use that to determine how you will track it.
Step 2: Conduct a social media audit
Prior to creating your social media marketing plan, you need to assess your current social media use and how it’s working. This means figuring out who is currently connecting with you via social, which social media sites your target market uses, and how your social media presence compares to your competitors’.
We’ve created a social media audit template that you can follow for each step of the process:
Once you’ve conducted your audit you should have a clear picture of every social account representing your business, who runs or controls them, and what purpose they serve. This inventory should be maintained regularly, especially as you scale your business.
It should also be evident which accounts need to be updated and which need to be deleted altogether. If your audit uncovers fraudulent accounts—a fake branded Twitter profile, for example—report them. Reporting fraudulent accounts will help ensure that people searching for you online only connect with the accounts you manage.
As part of your social media audit you’ll also want to create mission statements for each network. These one-sentence declarations will help you focus on a very specific goal for Instagram, Facebook, or any other social network. They will guide your actions and help steer you back on track if your efforts begin to lag.
Take the time you need to determine the purpose of every social profile you have. If you can’t figure out its purpose, you should probably delete that profile.
Mission statement example:
“We will use Snapchat to share the lighter side of our company and connect with younger prospect customers.”
Before you can determine which social media networks are right for your business, you first need to know who your audience is and what they want. We’ve created a guide to help you learn which social networks your audience lives on, which tools to use to gather demographic and behavioral data, and how to target the customers you want.
Bonus: Download a free guide that reveals how to increase social media engagement with better audience research, sharper customer targeting, and Hootsuite’s easy-to-use social media software.
Step 3: Create or improve your social accounts
Once you’ve finished with your social media audit, it’s time to hone your online presence. Choose which networks best meet your social media goals. If you don’t already have social media profiles on each network you focus on, build them from the ground up with your broader goals and audience in mind. If you do have existing accounts, it’s time to update and refine them to get the best possible results.
We’ve created a guide on How to Set-up Facebook, Twitter, and Every Other Major Social Network to walk you through that process. Each social network has a unique audience and should be treated differently.
Optimizing profiles for SEO can help generate more web traffic to your online properties. Cross-promoting social accounts can extend the reach of content. In general, social media profiles should be filled out completely, and images and text should be optimized for the social network in question.
Step 4: Get social media inspiration from industry leaders, competitors, clients
Not sure what kinds of content and information will get you the most engagement? For inspiration, look to what others in your industry are sharing and use social media listening to see how you can distinguish yourself from competitors and appeal to prospects they might be missing.
Consumers can also offer social media inspiration, not only through the content that they share but in the way that they phrase their messages. See how your target audience writes Tweets, and strive to mimic that style. Also learn their habits—when they share and why—and use that as a basis for your social media marketing plan.
A final source of social media inspiration is industry leaders. There are giants who do an incredible job of social media marketing, from Red Bull and Taco Bell to KLM Airlines and Tangerine Bank. Companies in every industry imaginable have managed to distinguish themselves through advanced social media strategies. Follow them and learn everything you can. See if they’ve shared any social media advice or insight elsewhere on the web.
Here are a few suggested sources of inspiration in different areas of social media marketing:
- Content marketing: Unbounce, Virgin
- Social media customer service: Tangerine, Warby Parker
- Social media advertising: AirBnB, the American Red Cross
- Facebook strategy: Coca-Cola, Walmart
- Google+ strategy: Cadbury, National Geographic
- Twitter strategy: Charmin, Oreo
- Instagram strategy: Herschel Supply Co., General Electric
Step 5: Create a content plan and editorial calendar
Having great content to share will be essential to succeeding at social media. Your social media marketing plan should include a content marketing plan, comprised of strategies for content creation and content curation, as well as an editorial calendar.
Your content marketing plan should answer the following questions:
- What types of content you intend to post and promote on social media
- How often you will post content
- Target audience for each type of content
- Who will create the content
- How you will promote the content
Your editorial calendar lists the dates and times you intend to publish blogs, Instagram and Facebook posts, Tweets, and other content you plan to use during your social media campaigns.
Create the calendar and then schedule your messaging in advance rather than updating constantly throughout the day. This gives you the opportunity to work hard on the language and format of these messages rather than writing them on the fly whenever you have time. Be spontaneous with your engagement and customer service rather than your content.
Make sure your calendar reflects the mission statement you’ve assigned to each social profile. If the purpose of your LinkedIn account is to generate leads, make sure you are sharing enough lead generation content. You can establish a content matrix that defines what share of your profile is allocated to different types of posts. For example:
- 50 percent of content will drive back to your blog
- 25 percent of content will be curated from other sources
- 20 percent of content will support enterprise goals (selling, lead generation, etc.)
- five percent of content will be about HR and culture
If you’re unsure of how to allocate your resources, a safe bet is to follow the Social Media Rule of Thirds:
- One-third of your social content promotes your business, converts readers, and generates profit
- One-third of your social content should share ideas and stories from thought leaders in your industry or like-minded businesses
- One-third of your social content should be personal interactions with your audience
Step 6: Test, evaluate and adjust your social media marketing plan
To find out what adjustments need to be made to your social media marketing strategy, you should constantly be testing. Build testing capabilities into every action you take on social networks. For example, you could:
- Track the number of clicks your links get on a particular platform using URL shorteners and UTM codes
- Use Hootsuite’s social media analytics to track the success and reach of social campaigns
- Track page visits driven by social media with Google Analytics
Record and analyze your successes and failures, and then adjust your social media marketing plan in response.
Surveys are also a great way to gauge success—online and offline. Ask your social media followers, email list, and website visitors how you’re doing on social media. This direct approach is often very effective. Then ask your offline customers if social media had a role in their purchasing. This insight might prove invaluable when you look for areas to improve. Learn more about how to measure social media ROI for your business.
The most important thing to understand about your social media marketing plan is that it should be constantly changing. As new networks emerge, you may want to add them to your plan. As you attain goals, you will need to set new targets. Unexpected challenges will arise that you need to address. As you scale your business, you might need to add new roles or grow your social presence for different branches or regions.
Rewrite your social media strategy to reflect your latest insights, and make sure your team is aware of what has been updated.
For practical tactics and examples, watch our webinar:
In this 60-minute webinar, we cover simple steps for getting your social media marketing plan together—from setting objectives and goals, to creating a realistic content calendar.
You’ll hear from social media professionals at Vega and the Canadian Medical Association, and learn how to:
- Set achievable and impactful social media goals
- Create a content strategy and social media templates for content
- Track, evaluate, and refine your social media marketing plan for better results
This is an updated version of a post originally published in October 2014. With files from Michael Aynsley.