While social media as a personal hobby may not take much time or effort, for it to be used as a digital marketing tool, it can seem extremely daunting. Many businesses struggle with how to leverage and manage their social accounts as marketing tools once they're set up.
In short, a quality social media presence is created through thoughtful strategy, organized execution, and sustainable management. But where do you start? Here are four simple steps you can take to get your social media marketing off the ground and see results.
1. Define your brand's identity on social
You may already have standards in place for how your brand appears in visuals – colors, typography, illustration and photography styling, etc. During the first stage of your social media planning, define how that visual identity translates into social media. While your brand guidelines for traditional media can be a good starting point, you'll want to review and revise them with a social lens. Social media allows for much more authenticity and interaction than print media – use that to your advantage to make your brand's personality shine through.
You may also consider creating a collection of templates that are pre-formatted to the appropriate social media image requirements so you can quickly insert images or pull quotes to generate visual content without recreating the wheel every time.
Like your visual identity, your written identity may already exist. You should have guidelines for how you translate your tone of voice to social media. Your voice may be short and quippy, authoritative and thought-leading or friendly and empathetic. Whatever it is, define your tone of voice and share it with anyone who will be writing social content so your messaging stays consistent across all team members and platforms.
In addition to your voice, you should define what key topics and messages you want to consistently focus on. This collection should include things within your industry, but also other topics that your target market finds of interest.
For example, a boutique clothing store targeting women ages 25-45 should post about fashion and trends but can also consider adding in content in related areas, like skincare and beauty. An HR firm targeting small business owners may also promote content about small business pain points, like hiring best practices, growing a team, and cultivating a culture of innovation.
These areas may differ based on the outlet; for example, a LinkedIn strategy may include much more business-focused content, while Twitter conversation may be more casual. Regardless of the platform, when you share content that doesn't revolve around promoting your own business, you bolster your brand value by adding value to the lives of your target audience.
If you don't know what your customers are interested in, do some simple market research; visit their social media profiles to find what they're talking about, or complete customer interviews to understand what challenges they're facing.
2. Plan a content calendar
Consistency is key when building a social media presence. You should plan out well in advance what content you're going to post. Preparing a month at a time is much more efficient than writing social content every day without a plan. Content planning should be done in two phases:
• Annual: Create a broad content calendar for the year where you define how often you'll post to each outlet. This approach can also help you plan when to promote larger content initiatives – like in-depth white papers, case studies, or other long-form content – that you may only publish a few times a year.
• Monthly: A more detailed monthly calendar should include the actual content you'll post to each platform every week. This can be done a few weeks before the start of a new month.
When planning, consider how you'll modify the same content to fit each outlet. For example, a blog post can be promoted on Twitter and LinkedIn, but the message that accompanies the post will vary to fit the platform.
How frequently every business posts to social media is different, but it should be consistent. It's better to have two or three accounts that are well managed and provide value than six accounts that are inconsistently managed.
3. Schedule content
Social media management can be a full-time job – but for a small business, it doesn't have to be. Leverage social media scheduling tools like HootSuite or Buffer to schedule content in bulk. This will take less time than posting it daily, and will automate the process so you don't have another item on your to-do list.
Though content publishing will be automated, you should set up notifications and check in regularly to interact with followers who are commenting on and engaging with your content.
4. Analyze your results
Tracking the performance of your social activity will help you replicate success over time. See what content types, times of day, and days of the week receive the most interaction. You can leverage tools like Sprout to track a collection of platforms, or platform-specific tools like Snaplytics (for Snapchat) or Iconosquare (for Instagram).
As you're working to establish your social media footprint, remember that both thoughtful planning and reactive flexibility play a role in quality social media marketing. While you may have planned to use Twitter as your primary social focus, if you end up getting more traction on LinkedIn, it's okay to deviate from your plan. Leveraging analytics can help you react to real user insights and modify your approach to improve your social media ROI.