According to a 2022 industry report by Social Media Examiner, 85% of all marketers indicated that their social media efforts generated more business exposure, and 75% reported increased site traffic. Perhaps most importantly, more than half of marketers using social media for over two years said it helped them improve sales.
So, it’s no surprise that, except for a brief, pandemic-induced spike, the proportion of marketing budgets devoted to social media activity has risen steadily since 2015.
But with greater spending power comes greater responsibility, placing social media marketers under more pressure to prove ROI, stay ahead of the competition, and strategically align their efforts with business goals.
Given these realities, it is more important than ever to assess your social media strategy and make sure it’s working for you. Below, you will find 15 critical components of a successful social media strategy.
1. Perform an Audit of Your Current Social Media Practices
A social media audit is a detailed look at current social media practices. Digging into the numbers will provide a clear look at what’s working, what’s failing, and what to improve. This lays the groundwork for identifying your goals and the steps required to reach them. It’s also an important way to identify opportunities and challenges.
According to Hootsuite, only 36% of marketers feel “extremely confident” that their social media activity delivers a positive return on investment when it comes to marketing and engaging with their audiences, while one in five feel “somewhat” or “not at all” confident.
But how can you get the most out of your social media program if you don’t know what’s working?
Your audit should include the following:
- A list of all owned platforms with handles and login information
- A list of your most engaged followers
- Calculation of your engagement rate
- Content performance recorded by asking the following questions:
- What type of content performs best (and worst)?
- What time or day do you see the most engagement?
- What is your current post frequency?
Performing your first audit can be overwhelming, so consider downloading a free template to help you get started. Here are some of our favorites:
- Hootsuite’s Social Media Audit Template
- Sprout Social’s Social Media Audit Template
- Asana’s Social Media Audit Template
- Backlinko’s Social Media Audit Template for Word, Google Docs, and PDF
2. Perform a Competitive Analysis
Once you’ve reviewed your own practices on social media, it’s time to look at competitors. This is an excellent way to see how you compare and can also help identify industry standards, trends, and threats. The first step is to determine which competitors you want to research. Pick up to five competitors and ask yourself the following questions:
- How are your competitors using social media? Include a list of all platforms they are on, how active they are, and what content they share.
- How many followers do they have compared to you? And what is their engagement rate?
- How is their content performing? Which types of content perform the best?
- How do they engage with their followers?
It is often difficult to see everything competitors do. Here are a couple of tools to help with your research:
3. Identify Your Goals and Objectives
The cornerstone of any strategy is understanding what you are trying to achieve with your social media marketing. Without this, it’s easy to get caught up in the daily activities of content creation and posting while forgetting why you are doing all of this work in the first place.
The best goals are written and posted, where you will see them every day. They should guide your campaigns, content creation, and community management activities.
To identify your social media goals, start by asking yourself the following questions:
- What are my overall business objectives?
- How can I use social media to align with these objectives?
- What does my audience expect from me?
- What do I want from my social media efforts?
- Are my goals measurable?
Sprout’s Social Metrics Map chart is a helpful tool to use in aligning your business goals with specific social media activities:
For example, you should set goals and KPIs related to impressions, likes, audience size, and more to reach new customers.
Now that you’ve identified these metrics, you can create SMART Goals for each buyer stage.
4. Use Audience Personas To Target the Right Customers
A whopping 308 million Americans use social media, but that doesn’t mean you want to speak to all those people.
Furthermore, almost three-fifths of consumers say they’re more likely to become repeat buyers after a personalized shopping experience. Personas enable brands to deliver those experiences by identifying authentic and customized opportunities to reach customers through social media.
That’s why you need to create one or more audience personas — research-backed profiles of your ideal customer.
Use research and data from your social platforms, Google Analytics, and your internal sales tools or CRM to learn more about your customers. While you are digging, ask yourself these questions:
- What are the customer demographics?
- What are this person’s challenges, goals, values, and fears?
- How do they interact with social media?
- What social activities (platforms, hashtags, accounts) should we use to reach them?
- What is your persona’s name?
- What is the visual representation of this person?
Here are a couple of resources to get started building your audience personas:
5. Define Your Brand Voice and Visuals On Social Media
Showing up consistently on social media is an important tactic to increase trust and brand awareness among your audience. According to Lucidpress, a consistent brand presentation can increase revenue by up to 20%.
Your social media strategy should outline the look and sound of your brand across different platforms by identifying and recording the following items:
- Brand Voice. What does your brand sound like? What words would you use to describe your brand’s voice? Is it silly, fun, professional, or thoughtful?
- Grammar and terminology. How does your brand follow grammar and punctuation guidelines? What words or phrases do you embrace, and which ones do you avoid?
- Post formatting. What do your posts look like? Do you break lines often or write in one paragraph? Do you write long-form posts or keep it short? Do you use emojis?
- Hashtag usage. How are you using hashtags, and what do they look like within a post?
- Visual guidelines. What type of photos do you share? Is there a particular filter that you use? How should social graphics look?
Here are some helpful resources to identify your brand guidelines for social media:
- Our guide to creating branded graphic templates
- Canva’s directory of brand style guides
- Pitch’s Brand Guidelines and Template
6. Leverage the Right Social Media Platforms
According to Demandsage, the average American has 7.1 social media accounts, with Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, and Pinterest named the most popular platforms.
However, consumers use different social networks in different ways. For instance, imagine you’re planning to redecorate your bedroom. You might:
- Search for top-level interior design trends and inspiration on Pinterest
- Find specific products that match your style preferences on Instagram
- Look for reviews of those products on TikTok or Reddit
Given that you likely have limited resources and can’t afford to focus equally on every single social channel, your social media strategy should identify the most impactful platforms for your brand based on the goals you’re aiming to achieve.
Of course, you also need to consider your audience at this stage. By now, you’ve identified your audience persona(s). Now, figure out the platforms that would-be customers will most likely use.
Need help? Check out these resources to learn more about the different demographics of each social platform:
- Sprout Social: Social media demographics to inform your brand’s strategy in 2023
- Pew Research Center: Social Media Fact Sheet
- Sprinklr: Social Media Demographics Every Marketer Must Know
While dozens of social networks might be a good fit for your brand and audience, your best bet is to start small. Pick two or three channels to focus on at first; you can always expand to different platforms down the line when you’ve started to generate results.
7. Write a Mission Statement for Each Social Channel
Having identified the channels you plan to use in your social media strategy, it’s time to define how you plan to use each. Because as we’ve already pointed out, consumer behavior can vary significantly across different social platforms.
Therefore, your task at this stage is to write a short mission statement that sums up precisely what you plan to achieve with each channel.
This is an important step, but you don’t need to write a thesis for each platform. Instead, try to develop a single sentence to keep you focused on the specific goal you’re trying to achieve. Consider these examples:
- “We use Instagram to showcase our products, including customer reviews and user-generated content.”
- “We use LinkedIn to discuss our corporate social responsibility goals and progress.”
- “We use Facebook to build a brand community of existing customers by sharing ways to get more use from our products.”
Are you struggling to define your mission for a specific channel? That’s a good sign that it might not be the right fit for your brand and goals.
8. Set Up (Or Optimize) Your Social Media Accounts
Once you’ve honed in on which channels to leverage and figured out how to use them, your next step is to bring them to life. That means either:
- Creating new accounts on each relevant social media platform
- Identifying and optimizing existing accounts to align with your marketing goals
In theory, this should be a quick and straightforward process. But in reality, it takes time to create a high-quality profile — especially given that each channel has unique requirements. Just take a look at all the different elements you need to fill out on Facebook:
(Check out our Complete Guide to Creating a Social Media Strategy for platform-specific guidance on optimizing your social media profiles.)
Make sure you complete all relevant fields; they’re there for a reason, and they can help boost the visibility of your profile and steer users toward your website. For instance, you can add keywords to your user name and bio to make your profile more searchable.
Ensure the voice and visual guidelines you set out in step #5 remain front of mind throughout this process because you want your profiles to be an extension of your brand rather than a bunch of disconnected channels.
9. Plan Your Social Media Schedule
Having identified the social media channels you plan to focus on, the next step is to figure out how much content to post.
Your social media audit and competitor analysis should have established how often you and your biggest rivals post. But what’s the best approach for you going forward — and how should it vary by channel?
Rather than applying a blanket rule across your entire strategy, remember that each platform calls for a tailored approach. For instance, the median brand posts on Facebook almost six times per week but just 1.79 times per week on TikTok.
Plan your posting schedule across each channel, prioritizing the platforms most likely to deliver your desired marketing goals. Then, use your schedule to develop your content strategy.
10. Build a Content Strategy
With a strategy framework and posting schedule outlined, you can start to detail the tactics required to engage your ideal customer, reach your goals, stand out from the competition, and reinforce your brand. Your content plan is the primary way to achieve all of these things.
Social media content should be a mix of different types of content. One helpful guideline is the so-called Rule of Thirds, which states that:
- One-third of your content should be created by your brand
- One-third should be curated from other sources
- One-third should be conversations with customers, influencers, and thought leaders
Identify types of posts that fall into each category, then create a calendar to identify key dates and authentic opportunities to share content from each category. Pay close attention to ensure you aren’t overloading your feed with promotional content.
(Need help getting started? Check out our roundup of 29 of the best free content calendar templates.)
11. Integrate Your Social Media Strategy With Other Channels
According to McKinsey, omnichannel customers shop 1.7 times more than shoppers who use a single channel (and spend more in the process). So, it’s clear that an integrated approach is required to drive results.
Despite this evidence, marketers still struggle to integrate their channels.
Make a plan to cross-promote your social media content. Your strategy should outline how you will share and promote social content via email marketing, website, direct marketing, and any other channels you use.
12. Invest in Social Media Tools
Social media professionals are busy people. Indeed, Hootsuite’s 2023 Social Media Career Report revealed that:
- 66% of social media marketers say they have too many different responsibilities
- 51% say they don’t have enough time to do their job well
- 41% say their work hurts their mental health
(If that sounds familiar, you should read our article on how to avoid burnout as a social media manager.)
With so many tasks to accomplish and so little time to do them, you must build up your social media marketing tech stack. From scheduling posts to managing projects to creating content, these platforms can take care of repetitive tasks — freeing you up to concentrate on higher-value strategic work.
But with a Google search for “social media tools” bringing up more than 5.6 million results, it’s hard to identify the most valuable platforms.
Fortunately, we’ve used many of those tools ourselves, and we’re more than happy to share our recommendations across various use cases. Check out these guides to help you hone in on the right tools for your team:
- 11 Time-Saving Tools for Small Social Media Teams
- Top 24 AI Tools That Every Marketer Should Be Using
- Top 19 Social Media Listening Tools for Your Best Audience Insights
13. Start Creating High-Quality Content
This step sounds simple: anyone can write a quick tweet or share a nice picture on Instagram, right?
In reality, it’s more complex than that. The whole purpose of building a social media strategy is to ensure that every post you share contributes to your overarching marketing goals, so your content must align with the mission statements you defined in step #7.
Need some tips on coming up with social-friendly content ideas? Here are some guides to help you out:
- 22 Best Places for Finding Content to Share on Social Media
- The “Creative Desert”: Brainstorming Social Content Ideas During Slow Days
At this stage, it’s also worth building up a bank of best practice examples by identifying one or two posts per platform that absolutely nail your approach.
Not only will this help new team members understand how you post, but you can also share it with other internal stakeholders to show them the types of content you do and don’t share. That way, if someone complains because you haven’t promoted their new webinar on TikTok, you can explain why it’s not a good fit for your TikTok strategy.
14. Identify the Budget and Tactics To Achieve Your Goals
Almost all marketers report to someone, and that someone will want to know how much your strategy will cost.
Although expenditure differs across companies and industries, the average brand currently dedicates approximately one-sixth of its marketing budget to social media activities, which is expected to reach one-fifth in 2024.
Aside from your team (either internal or external), a social media budget should include resources for:
- Creating content
- Paid social promotions
- Influencer campaigns
- Social media management tools
- Community engagement efforts
- Analytics tools
If you’ve never created a marketing budget before, here are a couple tools to help:
15. Create a Reporting Plan
The last step of your social media strategy is to set up a way to track results.
Companies are investing increasingly in social media programs, but many still struggle to improve the channel’s impact. Indeed, research from Sprout Social reveals that proving ROI has long been a struggle for social media teams:
Create a template that records the KPIs identified when you set your goals. A good report will show progress (or lack thereof) over time. Reviewing reports on a quarterly or monthly basis can inform changes in strategy, new opportunities, and areas for improvement.
Are you new to social media reporting or eager to improve your existing reports? Check out these free templates:
- HootSuite’s Social Media Report Template
- AgencyAnalytics’ Social Media Report Template
- HubSpot’s Social Media Report for Word, PDF, PowerPoint, Google Docs, and Google Slides
Are you interested in learning more strategies for social media success? Sign up for one of our upcoming social media conferences.
Featured image by Freepik.