What’s a social media marketing plan?

By Andrew Peters

Social Media And Content Sharing

Who else remembers when Facebook was just for college students, Myspace was king and you thought you had the coolest AOL email handle? Simpler times eh? Now there are upwards of 75 popular social media platforms!

Over the past 12 years or so social media has become a normal part of our everyday lives. I mean, Facebook has over 2.5 billion (with a buh-buh-buh-buh-bee) monthly users. That means 1/3 of the entire world uses it every month.

And if it’s become a part of our day to day, you can bet a focal point in the marketing strategy of most businesses. Those who tend to kill it on social media don’t just stumble into it. There’s a clear plan and strategy driving posts, ads and just about everything in between. Your social presence should create a clear picture of who you are, what you’re about and provide the simplest path to doing business with you possible.

A social media plan documents how your business plans, executes, and measures your social media efforts.

Let’s look at putting together a plan that makes sense for your business.

1. Evaluate your social media

It’s hard to know how to get to your destination if you don’t know where you’re starting from, so my question is ‘whatcha doing right now?’ What are some of the key areas we need to pay attention to?

  • Where are you right now? What social platforms are you on?
  • Are you posting regularly? Do you already plan any of your posts? What engagement are you getting?
  • Which platforms are bringing in the most value right now?
  • How does what you’re doing stack up against any competitors you have?

I know these sound like the ‘of course we need to know those things’ kind of points. But the nitty gritty of knowing those things might not be something we know how to go about. So, here’s a few links to get you started:

Facebook: How do I see demographics on the people that like my page?

Twitter: Learn about your Twitter followers?

Instagram: Get the lowdown on instagram analytics?

Pinterest: Find out who you reach on Pinterest.

Going through some of these things will help you choose the networks you’ll have the most impact with. I suggest focusing on 1 or 2 for most small businesses. That’s usually Facebook + one other depending on your target audience. Honestly, Facebook will probably always be in the ‘rotation’ because of the sheer number of users. Depending on your industry it may make more sense to go heavy in Insta or Pinterest, but at the end of the day, the analytics drive these choices.

2. Set clear goals for social media.

How many times have you ‘boosted a post’ thinking it was going to change your business only to not sell one thing from it? Pretty much everyone has been frustrated from moments like these! We throw marketing dollars out the window because we start an ad without clear structure and goals. Facebook (and most other platforms) make it easy to spend money on them after all. đŸ™‚

So, instead of throwing another ad into the social ether, let’s think about what we want to achieve. You’ve already researched who you’re reaching, and now it’s time to create the strategy to target them and people like them.

Ever heard of the SMART method of goal setting? It’s my fave.

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Relevant
  • Time Bound

When you don’t have goals around your social media you’ll get caught up in posting random stuff that isn’t really helping your business, but ‘feels’ right because at least you’re doing something. Let me get this outta the way. ‘Likes’ and ‘Hearts’ don’t matter ya’ll. A retweet feels good, sure, but it doesn’t tell you anything. We are conditioned to ‘keep scrolling’ so these vanity metrics don’t give any indication that they engaged your brand beyond the post.

Let’s take a closer look at what makes a goal SMART

Specific — the more specific you can be with writing down a goal, the easier it will be to clearly see what it is you are trying to achieve. Let’s take as an example a goal to grow your Instagram.

Measurable — how will you measure your success? For example — double the number of your existing Insta followers is measurable where grow your Instagram is not.

Attainable — is your goal achievable or are you setting yourself up for failure? Can you realistically double the number of your Insta followers or should you adjust it?

Relevant — a relevant goal is aligned closely to your business objectives. Does this goal support your business’s objectives, vision, or values? How is growing your follower base on this platform directly connected to your objectives?

Time Specific — give your goal a deadline. Double Insta follower numbers in three months.

3. Know your target audience

You may say ‘but I thought the first point was about evaluating our socials?’ And you’d be right, but there is usually a difference in who you are currently reaching versus reaching your ideal customer.

I mean, if you’re a new business with a new Facebook page and no marketing plan your likes are coming from your family and friends. Is your Uncle Jeff your ideal customer? Or is that like just for encouragement in your new venture?

We can waste SO MUCH TIME on creating/curating/planning content that doesn’t appeal to our target audience. Narrowing down your target audience helps to ensure your business attracts the right customers and doesn’t waste money on attracting the wrong ones. Most people think they’re narrowing down their audience too much and missing out on business when in reality there’s thousands of people seeing their ads that won’t pick up what they’re putting down.

For example, if our business sells amazing surfboard wax (yep, that’s a thing) why would we show content or ads to people that aren’t interested in surfing? Why would anyone that doesn’t surf buy that? *hint, they wouldn’t and we wasted time and possibly money*

We have to know who our customers are so we can create and share things are relevant to them. Let me let you in on a little secret. If your goal in every post is to sell stuff, you probably won’t. Your primary goal should be to add value to the lives of people consuming your content. Regular and relevant drives engagement. Engagement leads to interest. Interest leads to business. There is no magic post. There’s a customer journey, and we get to help steer that journey to make our business a good choice for our now engaged audience.

Generic posts will eventually lead to the demise of your socials. Without regularity and engagement the algorithm gods assume your audience isn’t into what your posting and will kill your organic reach.

Alrighty, so what do you need to know about your audience?

  • Their demographic info?
  • Any geographic information if relevant? (especially for regional businesses)
  • What are they into? (including pages they might be following)
  • What are their problems? (so you can position yourself as their solution)

If you run ads later, this stuff helps you to segment your audience for those ads, which means your ad dollars go further.

You can take the demographics a little further with some hands on surveys. It’s important to understand why people follow you (instead of just watching videos about cooking steak and or funny cat memes).

Create a survey link and ask your audience why they follow your social media channels. This could be through an email, or you could include the link in a social media post.

Some questions to add could be:

  • What brought you to [insert social media channel] page?
  • What do you like to see on our social media channel?
  • What would you like to see us post about more often?

I love MailerLite for this is you go the email route. They make surveys that are built directly into your campaigns super easy. You could also share a post that links to a Google Form or (even better) use a form option on your actual website (we love Fluent Forms and Gravity Forms, and both have great survey options).

4. Check out the competition

Your competitors are after the same audience on social media that you are.

Choose 3-4 competitors, then stalk them on the major social networks (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, etc). This is your chance to learn (NOT copy) so you can understand what works for them will probably work for you.

Write down their number of followers on each network to understand on which social networks your own audience may be most active. You can make a simple spreadsheet to get a feel for the data.

Here’s some tippy tips for after you have those base metrics:

How quickly are growing on social? Are they growing at all?

What kind of content are they posting that seems to be gaining traction?

Are people engaging beyond a few likes and retweets? Comments are “worth more” than likes when we are determining engagement because a comment takes a ton more effort and thought than clicking a heart.

What’s their schedule look like? How often are they posting? Is it consistent?

What do their ads look like? (Yes, you can spy on your competitors ads through FB transparency)

Do your competitors already have a social media presence? This is a good opportunity for you to learn, not so you can copy them, but so you understand what might work for you. After all, you will have similar user bases, right?

Here are a few tips for researching your competitors:

  • Find which social networks they are on. Look at the numbers on their pages – this can be an indication that the social platform is a good match for the target audience. (Not all platforms will be – you are much more likely to find a 22-year-old on Snapchat than Facebook, for example).
  • What is their social media engagement like?
  • How often do they post?
  • Types of media. What sort of content are they posting? Images or videos doing well?
  • Voice and tone. What types of messaging appear to do well?
  • Types of posts. Do questions work? Memes? What about jokes? Branded slogans? Fun stuff? Motivational content? How-to posts?

There’s a bunch o’ tools to ‘spy’ on the competition. Here’s one to check out socials and one to check out ads. Sprout Social has a great article (upsets to their stuff, but still good) on this as well.

5. Systematize err’thing on social

If you can’t tell, we are big on documenting everything and figuring out what works (and what doesn’t). Processes, SOPS, guides are nerdy bliss because it makes everything we do run smoother and helps see how these individual plans and strategies fit into the bigger picture. Social media is a piece of the marketing puzzle, and if it’s not documented you can’t see how it fits and can’t ‘work it.’

If you don’t know why something is working right now you won’t be able to fix it when it breaks.

Andy Stanley

Here’s some tips on documenting this stuff. We recommend setting up a Google Doc to give the guidelines and build in social media calendar into your project management software (we use ClickUp at The Reach Co.) or social media scheduling tool (we like Hootsuite, Buffer and Social Sprout).

This deeply establishes how thing work in your business, sets a consistent tone/voice for your social presence, and helps steer any rogue employees from posting whatever they want on your socials because they like it.

Here’s some things we would consider:

  • Describe the tone and voice of your posts and provide examples in your docs.
  • Posts that are encouraged and posts that are unacceptable.
  • Posting schedule expectations across social platforms (example: post twice daily on Facebook, 9am and 3pm)
  • Goals for your social media and the metrics you use. Hello S.M.A.R.T. goals. đŸ™‚
  • Canned responses for FAQ type questions.
  • Scripts for frequent scenarios (you can even build these into things like Facebook Messenger)
  • Rules of engagement (us vets tend to like terms that still sound army-ish). What can be escalated? What get’s said when things get hairy? When you get a bad review? When do you need to block someone? When should a response be made?

6. Create regular and meaningful content

So, this is what it all boils down to right? You can do the stuff, but if you’re not making content that engages your audiences, you’re just spinning your wheels and looking busy.

But you’ve prepared for it! You know where you currently are. You have set some SMART goals to help you grow and do better. You have checked out the competition and seen what works for them. And you’ve made some systems and procedure that you finally get to put into action.

Here’s where your best friend will come into play: a sustainable content schedule.

You made a base version in your systems. Now it’s time to take an hour or two and knock out the content for this month. Here’s the gist.

  • Use a tool like Canva to make your social media content (images/videos) for the whole week or month. Name each for the date and time that it should go out.
  • Ensure your content is varied and doesn’t seem super duper repetitive.
  • Schedule your content to go out suing a tool like Hootsuite or Buffer. Your first three months you need to vary the times they go out. You should also see from analyzing your target audience when they tend to be active.
  • Do this one month and analyze what worked great and what did not. What posts did the best? What times worked the best? Did videos outperform graphics? Did your how-to do better than your motivational stuff?
  • Go back to your systems and update them accordingly.
  • Wash and repeat for next month.

The beginning of this should and will be trial and error. You’re learning and growing and doing new things, and you’re going to get better! If you’re new to this stuff, your best guess is probably what you’ll be going off of, and that’s ok. Experiment away.

Another huge piece is the follow through. Your posts should hopefully create engagement automatically, but you need to be consistent with engaging them through comments, message responses, etc as they engage you.

Wrapping up.

The last thing you’ll want to do for now is optimize your profiles. How many times have you tried to find a business website or location only to find that field is empty. Go through your socials (and your Google My Business profile) and make sure that your address, website, social tags, everything matches across them all.

From here, you can have fun! Experiment away, try different ads, keep an eye on your engagement (and your competition) and try different things to reach your new goals using a strategy that is mapped out, makes sense and isn’t super difficult to navigate.

Posted in