The “key” to social media strategy, if there is one, is having a solid plan. In part 1 of this series, we talked about analyzing your existing content and social media profiles, learning about your audience, and doing research around what is or is not working in your space. Once you’ve conducted your investigation, and have compiled all that juicy data somewhere, it’s time to put it to work for you.

Step 2: Plan

At this point, we have an idea of what has, or has not, worked and our channels are ready to receive fresh content. We also know the answers to our key questions: who is my audience, where are they, what do they want, what do I want from them, and how do I want my organization to be perceived? Now, we are ready to plan.

Approach what follows like you would a yoga class. Make modifications based on your comfort level, resources, and budget. You can dive deeper in some areas, and gloss over others, depending on your needs.

Setting Goals

Like with any good plan, we need to start with our goals. These goals will act as guidelines for the decisions we make moving forward. We need to be SMART about setting our social media goals — specific measurable, attainable realistic and time-bound.

Overly broad, or excessively vague, goals are not only not helpful, they are also impossible to reach. Setting goals that are clearly identified, realistic given the information we already have, attainable by the team that is doing the work, and bound by time and easily measured is important. Without each of these elements, we will almost always fall short of success.

Here’s an example of what not to do

We need to do better on social media. We need a million new followers and we need to make a lot more sales.

This “goal” speaks to the need, but definitely not the strategy. “Doing better” on social media isn’t something easily measured, and while a million new followers may be technically possible, it won’t happen quickly. Also, how many sales is a lot more? Let’s try something else –

Build up our following on Twitter before August (when the next sales cycle begins) by increasing engagement rate by 15%.

This is better. This is actionable, and something we can measure and report back on. It clearly supports the broader goal (sales are important), but it is also specific and realistic.

Make a note, while your company has its own benchmarks and milestones and sales goals, and these are important, they cannot be the goals of your social media strategy. Social media goals should explicitly support company (or team) goals while utilizing tactics specific to social media. I suggest you narrow down how your social media channels can contribute to the broader company goals and go from there. And lastly, make sure your goals are measurable and that you track and report on your success.

Brainstorm

With goals in hand (seriously, print these out and keep them in front of you while you move forward with your planning), it’s time to pull together a team. I recommend a minimum of 2 people but try not to let the initial team get too large. It can be easy to get overwhelmed, or carried away, in your brainstorming. Try limiting yourself by setting aside two mornings to get started. You may likely need more time to polish and revise, but this will get you started.

Put everything you know in front of you – a calendar, audience data, goals and objectives, that list of existing content (and how it has performed), inspiration from aspirational or competitors’ social, a list of social platforms to focus on, etc.

Begin by matching what you know to what you need:

  • Goals Types of content
    • Goals Audience
    • Audience Types of content
    • Types of content Platform(s)

Then, start throwing out ideas and write it all down. Write down the ridiculous ideas. Write down the “how would we even pull that off” ideas too. Compile a list of all the possible types and varieties of content you can post, themes, polls, surveys, questions to ask, content you can curate from other (reputable) sources, and so on.

What you’re looking for at the end of this brainstorming session is a body of ideas that you can pull from. They don’t have to be perfect, or polished, or final just yet. They just need to be ready and waiting for you.

Understand your organization’s voice

If you have more than one person handling social media for an organization, you must be careful not to sound like it. You want your organization to sound like itself. Content and posts should be consistent in tone and personality to the company, not that of the individual posting the content or replying to others.

I suggest maintaining an easily accessible pool of phrases, responses, messaging for coordinators to pull from quickly while writing content or responding to followers. Remember that posts, and voice/tone may need to change somewhat depending on the platform. Snapchat tends to be casual, Twitter is brief, LinkedIn more professional. But always be consistent with your brand.

Leverage your efforts

Content is not a once-and-done resource. Yes, you can, and should, repeat things and even repost them just as they are. It may seem a bit redundant, but it’s also important on channels that move so quickly (e.g. Twitter).

Some suggestions:

  • Break long-form content up into multiple posts (like a multi-part series such as this)
  • Edit longer videos into short snippets
  • Pull assets from marketing materials
  • Repost high performing content every once in a while, (maybe quarterly or monthly depending on audience growth) so new followers see the best content and older followers are reminded

Identify opportunities

Sometimes, ideas just present themselves. Pay attention to the news and trending hashtags on the social media channels you are active on and see if you can’t find a way to take part that is true to your organization.

Keep an eye (and ear) out for events, holidays, national and international movements or awareness campaigns, online trends (think ‘Ice Bucket Challenge’), seasons, and so on. Each of these may present an opportunity for your brand to get involved and get noticed.

Also, take a good look around your company and really consider the team you have around you. Personal stories are the most valuable content on social media. Find out if a team member, boss, or board member has an interesting story to share that is in line with your social media objectives.

Develop your content calendar

As you begin to set your content, or editorial, calendar, you’ll want to have the following in front of you:

  • Master calendar
  • List of best performing content
  • Social media goals

You’ll want to create two versions of your calendar – monthly and weekly.

Your monthly calendar should identify all the posts that will be going out AND the timelines for producing those posts (e.g. writing, designing, editing, etc.) Good content will often take longer to create than you think – that’s where having the right tools makes a huge difference. Using Inkbench as an example, a platform that allows you to create reusable templates for posting to reduce design time and reduce the back-and-forth on approvals makes a huge difference in your timeline.

Your weekly calendar should be a detailed schedule of every post on every network, including the time it will be posted and who is responsible for posting it. I recommend color coding by platform to make it easier to read and more efficient.

Make a point of checking the context of your planned posts before they go out. Check hashtags and content in light of any events or trends that may have come up in the time since you originally setup your calendar.

You will need to decide when and how often to post. Do you post daily? Weekly? On Tuesdays? Before or after lunch? These decisions should fluctuate to account for your audience (morning people v afternoon) to make sure everyone has the best chance of seeing your content. Also, you don’t want to be a bother, but you don’t want to be forgotten. Your engagement metrics will guide what works better than others.

Lastly, leave room for (and expect) flexibility. Events will happen, news will break. Make your calendar, and your workflow, such that you can pivot.

Be realistic about timelines

Plan backward from the date a post is scheduled to go live to identify when you need to start writing, when it needs to be edited, when the final graphic is due, and when the last date to get approval is. Good content takes time.

Be realistic about what you and your team can accomplish in the time frames that you set. Make sure your tools are efficient and effective and help you get things done on time.

And remember, there is a fair bit of downtime as you wait for approvals and revisions. If you set your calendar up properly, you should be able to work efficiently through the steps in parallel.

Determining your budget

“A study of 25,000 consumers across 30 markets showed engagement increasing 61% over normal usage rates.”

When you are putting together your social media budget, keep this in mind. Now is the time to invest in social media and when social media strategy aligns with a company’s goals, the return on the investment is obvious.

Some important things to remember while you set out your budget:

  • Decide if you will be using any paid tactics, e.g. boosted posts or advertising
  • Plan for photography, graphics, fonts, video, and production costs
  • Be realistic about what your team can accomplish, and what may help support them
  • Expect the unexpected as best you can

Also, I recommend setting aside a portion of your budget for experimentation and emerging trends. Social media changes so quickly, having the ability to jump in and leverage a trend or advancement can have a big return.

Now what?

At the end of all this, you should have clearly identified your goals for your social media platforms. You have a solid calendar of content, and you know when it’s going live. You have the budget identified (and hopefully, approved).

A plan is only as good as the work you put into it. Once you know what you’re posting, it’s time to begin writing copy and building assets.

Next, we create.Want to take your social media strategy to the next level? Contact us for a demo to see how Inkbench can streamline your workflow an