by Donna Amos | Featured Contributor
Three-quarters of the world’s population is accessible through social media. Over 3 billion people are active users with profiles on one or more social media platforms. Such astounding numbers demand that businesses create and maintain a presence on social media. But simply being seen here or there on a social media platform is not enough. A business owner can truly grow their company to have a global impact through a sound social media strategy. Let’s explore how to set one up together.
Step 1: Create Social Media Objectives and Goals
The first step for any successful social media strategy is to establish the goals you hope to achieve. Having definite objectives allows you to measure your effectiveness and make necessary changes. Without goals, you have no way of gauging success or proving your social media return on investment (ROI).
As you set goals, keep your audience and customers in mind. Do your goals help reach your audience? Use the S.M.A.R.T. framework when setting goals. This means each objective should be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound. Here’s an example of a well-written S.M.A.R.T. goal: “For Twitter we will share descriptions and photos that showcase our most popular products. We will post three photos daily of differing products. The targeted response for each is at least 30 likes and five comments.” Write down three to five social media goals for each channel you use. Ask yourself what the goal will look like when completed, and use that to determine how you will track it.
Step 2: Choose your Social Networks
Social media is as unique from platform to platform as different carbonated beverages. Although they all fall under the umbrella term “social media,” Facebook and Twitter might as well be Mountain Dew and Dr. Pepper. Each network is singularly different, with its own style, audience, and best practices for success. Therefore, you should choose the social media platforms that best fit your strategy and goals. It isn’t really necessary to be on every platform – just the ones that matter most to reaching your desired audience.
Consider these factors when choosing your social media platforms:
- Audience– Where do your potential customers hang out?
- Time – How much time can you devote to a social network? Begin with an hour per day for each social network, at least at the beginning. After getting started, some automating tools can save time.
- Resources– What personnel and skills do you have to work with? Facebook emphasizes quality content. Visual platforms like Pinterest and Instagram use images and videos. Do you have the resources to create what you need?
Step 3: Fill out your Account Profiles Completely
Completing each social media profile is a signal of your professionalism. Using the same logos, photos, and text from platform to platform shows cohesive branding and makes for a more memorable presence across different networks. Social media profiles include text and visual elements. Use quality in both to reflect well on your business.
For text, the main area to customize is the biographical or information section. Use these key steps to create and maintain a professional bio for each social media platform:
- Show, don’t tell: experiences translate with your audience better than credentials
- Tailor your keywords to your audience
- Keep language fresh and avoid buzzwords
- Answer this question for your potential followers: “What’s in it for me?”
- Be both personal and personable
For visuals, aim for consistency and familiarity. Profile images should be consistent across all social media platforms. To create the correct images for each platform, consult this social media image size chart that shows the necessary dimensions for each photo on each network. Some image tools like Crello or Canva come with prebuilt templates of the proper size for each network.
Step 4: Pick your Posting Strategy
Getting social media right is about your individual audience and niche. What works for your business may not work for another. The only way to know is dive in and begin, then see what works best. However, there is some pretty good data available to help find a starting place. Follow these tips to get a running start.
What should you be posting? Start with the six basic types of updates: Links, videos, images, quotes, reshares, and plain-text messages. A good rule to follow when posting is called “the 4:1 ratio of sharing.” For every four “staple” updates (your most often type of update), publish one different type for variety. Consider composing each social media platform’s updates in a unique way to complement each network’s own best practices, culture, and communication style.
How often should you be posting? Theories and opinions abound and the best way to discover your own best times that match your niche and audience is test, test, test. If your updates are hugely popular you can get away with posting more often. However, the typical standard for posting on the major networks are as follows:
- Facebook – 1 or 2 times per day
- Instagram – 1 or 2 times per day
- Instagram Stories – 8 to 16 stories, 2 times per week
- Twitter – 3 to 10 times per day
- LinkedIn – 1 or 2 times per day
- Pinterest – 5 to 10 times per day
- Snapchat – 5 to 20 times per week
When should you be posting? Ideally, you need to be posting updates when the largest number of your audience is online and active. Again, your own testing will help you refine this for your own business niche and audience, but the following are some general guidelines.
- Twitter – 1-3 pm weekdays
- Facebook – 1-4 pm and 2-5 pm weekdays
- LinkedIn – 7-8:30 am and 5-6 pm Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday
- Tumblr – 7-10 pm weekdays and 4 pm on Fridays
- Instagram – 5-6 pm weekdays and 8 pm on Mondays (best time at 6 pm)
- Pinterest – 2-4 pm and 8-11 pm weekdays (weekends are best)
- Google+ – 9-11 am weekdays
Step 5: Analyze and Test
The more you post, the more you’ll discover which content, timing, and frequency is right for your business. The best way to test your posts and their effectiveness is with a social media analytics tool. The major social networks have basic analytics built into their platform; but it’s a much simpler process to use a single tool that shows all your social media channels on a single dashboard. These tools show a breakdown of how each post performed in the vital areas: views, clicks, shares, likes, and comments.
Follow these steps to analyze your social media update performance:
- Set a benchmark. After a few weeks of sharing, check your stats and find the average number of clicks, shares, likes, and comments per post. Use this as your benchmark for further testing.
- Test something new. Do Facebook Live videos get more views than non-live videos? Do colorful images garner more attention than black and white images? Did 4 PM get more responses than 10 AM?
- Did it work? Compare the numbers from your test to the numbers from your benchmark. If your test performed well, then you can implement the changes into your regular strategy. And once your test is over, test something else.
Remember, your social media strategy should be constantly changing. As new networks emerge, analyze them for a while and then test an account. As you reach your initial goals, you should set more ambitious ones. Challenges will arise that will cause you to make changes, test the results, and make still more changes. Your social media strategy should grow and develop with your business. Used effectively, social media can become the single most important tool in your marketing arsenal.