Sun Tzu, a Chinese military general who wrote “The Art of War” once said, “Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.”
And so it is with any social media campaign embarked upon without strategy or tactics.
No matter the situation — when the two aren’t paired — defeat and failure are imminent.
While Sun Tzu couldn’t possibly foresee the emergence of social media, his advice is as relevant as ever.
I recently had the honor to Keynote the NATO Experts Forum: Social Media for International Organizations where I shared 10 steps to strengthen a social media strategy.
In this article, I walk you through each step I outlined and how you can put it in place within your business.
Want to get started?
Read on — and don’t forget to grab the slides to my presentation at the end!
How to Strengthen Your Social Media Strategy Right Now
1. Review Your Use of Social Media
If you want to succeed at social media – once and for all – you need to begin by reviewing your use of social media.
Which social networks support your goals? Are they the same as when you started?
More than likely, the answer is no. Now is the time to clean house.
Take a look at which social networks are worth your time…
…And which ones are wasting more time than you have to give.
Here’s an easy way to get to the bottom of that.
Answer 5 Questions:
1. What social network(s) is your audience actively using?
Not you — your audience. This isn’t about where you prefer to spend your time.
Research to see what social networks your audience is most active on.
How can you do this?
- Create a poll in Google Forms.
- Email the link to your database.
- Offer a free give to encourage involvement.
- Post your poll on social media.
2. What platform(s) align with the type of content you share?
Not everyone consumes content in the same way. Likewise, not every platform is built to optimally allow your audience to consume your content.
Think about what type of content you share and pair that with the best social network.
- For video content – YouTube, Persicope, Facebook Live, Vimeo.
- For visuals – Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook.
- For business-focused content – LinkedIn, Quora, Medium.
3. What platform(s) are appropriate for your industry?
Not sure which platform is right for you? While there’s no one-size-fits-all answer, there is a simple way to determine what’s appropriate for you.
Just take a look at your business and the product or service. How can you bet position your company, make connections and demonstrate the value?
If you’re a health and fitness company, engaging your audience through video could be a powerful way to take them through your daily workout.
As a local bakery here in Los Angeles, La Brea knows sharing images of their latest creation speaks volumes to those looking for a tasty treat.
Your Next Steps
Find the networks best suited for you and your industry. Then go all in.
Stop dancing around and playing with 20 social channels.
Instead, choose the social media site(s) that will help tell your story in the most effective way possible.
4. Are your goals and channels aligned with your target audience?
When you speak to everyone, you connect with no one. Align your company goals with each social network.
Be specific in as much as what you’re trying to achieve as to who you’re looking to connect with.
Then clearly share your value in a way that resonates with that audience.
5. Do you understand your “buyers’ journey?”
The buyer’s journey has changed. How your customer arrives at your digital doorstep is more complicated than ever before.
Today it takes research, empathy, and a deep understanding of their struggles.
Here’s Where to Begin
- Understand the specific needs of your targeted group.
- Provide solutions tailored to meet their needs.
- Nurture them through the decision making process.
- Build trust and rapport through continuous touchpoints.
- Become an invaluable resource.
- Provide a solution based on the job your business performs.
2. Optimize Social Networks
If your social media message is one-size-fits-all — your audience will be listening, just not to you.
“If your message is one-size-fits all, your audience will be listening, just not to you.” ********************************* Speaking at the @nato #SocialMedia International Organizations about the importance of creating a customized experience — your message, content and strategy should directly align to your exact audience. #smioforum #strategy #business
Connect with a customized message.
Your first step is to identify the struggle (pain point) your audience is facing.
The second step is personalization. Segment your audience to create better conversations.
Listen across your social channels. What does your audience want from you?
Your third step is to optimize each social network to provide that custom experience. Begin by testing the content you share on each platform. Formulate a hypothesis to get actionable data.
You can do this in a variety of ways.
5 Ways to Test and Optimize Social Media Content
- Test Visuals – A/B test your visual content to find the outlier.
- Isolate Variables – Test one thing at a time, such as:
- Calls to action
- Length of content
- Test Content Frequency vs. Content-Length
- Test Types of Content
- Test Blog Post Titles (e.g. SEO vs a social optimized headline)
Here’s an example from Sprout Social. See how they’ve used two different versions of the same post?
This will allow them to gauge and track audience engagement.
— Sprout Social (@SproutSocial) November 16, 2016
— Sprout Social (@SproutSocial) November 2, 2016
Now take what you’ve learned and iterate and duplicate that champion. Continuous improvement is the key!
3. Identify Specific Goals
Have you outlined clear and measurable social media goals? Are you making a consistent effort to track each of them?
If you don’t know what metrics are most important to your business, how can you track success?
Here’s 3 steps to identifying your social media goals.
Step 1: Take a Look Back
Look back at the content you posted throughout the year.
How well did it perform? What changes can be made based on data?
Step 2: Clarify What You Want to Achieve
Get clear on current objectives and key results. This means internally organizing your goals and ensuring each team member supports those goals.
61% of Communication Directors say, “brand awareness” is their top goal.
But the team? Executive Directors say, “engaging the community” is most important and Development Directors – “Education and Training.”
Yikes! No wonder you’re not achieving all that you want to.
Determine what you want:
- Increased awareness.
- Engaging community.
- Thought leadership.
- Trust and rapport.
- Expanded reach.
Step 3: Stop Talking and Start Doing
Find yourself talking about goals, but not really defining them? It’s ok. Shake off that shame and get down to it.
Write down 5 goals and one big, bold, “blow your mind” type of goal.
The key is to chunk this down. By starting small, you eliminate the feeling of overwhelming. Then you unpack each high-level goal into actionable steps.
The SMART goals strategy will help you do this.
Want to set your 2017 social media goals? Get my Social Media Goals Worksheet and create yours today.
4. Design Your Content Strategy
In a world where your audience already has a massive amount of hoops to jump through, make your content easy to access.
Not only will content help build your brand, but it lets consumers connect with you
90% of consumers find custom content useful, and 78% believe that organizations providing custom content are interested in building good relationships with them.
Here’s three ways to design a great social media content strategy.
1. Curate Great Content
- Search BuzzSumo.
- Look up keywords in Pinterest.
- Look through “Featured” on Slideshare.
- Use Post Planner’s “Find” section.
2. Get Visual
Visual marketing is impacting every industry and niche. Think it hasn’t touched yours? Think again.
- 63% of all social media content includes an image.
- Content with an image receives over 94% more views.
- 60% of people interact with an organization whose images appear within search.
It’s time for your business to get visual.
3. Don’t Forget Video
There’s no doubt about it.
Creating several videos (produced and live) that support your social media strategy is a must.
Here’s where to begin:
- Take key points from evergreen content, break them down into a simple bulleted list.
- Show your audience how to do something, make something better, fix their problem.
- Usually, 2-3 video scripts are enough. And they do not have to be long and complicated.
Once you’ve created your scripts, it’s time to record your video or go live.
5. Put Your Social Media Plan in Place
The only way to build a solid social media following is to stay in the conversation.
Create a schedule to consistently share and engage on a daily basis.
Determine the what, how and where of your social media strategy.
- How will you share?
- What will you share?
- Where will you share?
Break this down into a content calendar with a separate column for Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest and Instagram with an example of which type of media you’ll share.
Here’s a free calendar I put together to make planning ahead a breeze.
Now add automation to the mix.
Automation can be a huge time saver. It can also be a reputation killer.
You never want to push so much out that you take the “social” out of social media marketing.
For me, it’s a way to stay engaged and involved in important things like building my community.
Rather than running around like a crazy person looking for content to post. Or trying to frantically keep up with a schedule — in real-time.
So stop the rat race and instead…
Use automation to:
- Share your best content.
- Schedule ahead on holidays and weekends.
- Listen to what’s being said about you and instantly interact and respond.
6. Empower Your Team
Does your marketing and sales team know why you’re using social media? Do they understand the end to end process?
Have you shared the how, when, and what of your daily strategy?
You can’t encourage team member buy-in when you haven’t shared the details.
Empower Your Team
- Communicate: Who you’re trying to reach.
- Educate: On what you’re trying to achieve.
- Build: A specialized team that focuses on daily processes.
The key to your success is a team committed to following the vision…
…Every single day without fail.
7. Promote, Engage, Interact
Hard to believe, but…
56% of organizations are flying by the seat of their pants with NO promotional plan in place.
Maybe it’s because promotion feels like a massive undertaking.
Or they (you) just don’t know where to start.
Well, here’s good news. Social media promotion doesn’t have to be hard.
Below is a simple way to get in and stay involved with your social media activities daily.
- Create your social media editorial calendar: As mentioned above – this is a non-negotiable if you want to remain consistent.
- Types of content: Choose the type of content you’ll share and which tools you’ll use to create that content.
- Schedule response time: Don’t just hop into social media whenever you feel like it – schedule it into your calendar like any other event. (twice per day is my recommendation)
- Outline a simple daily social media strategy: Not sure where to begin? Buffer put together a daily checklist anyone can follow.
8. Follow the Golden Rules
Social media might still feel like the wild wild west where anything goes.
But there are some golden rules you need to follow.
- Listen – Social media is an excellent listening tool. Pay attention to your fans and followers and offer solutions to their problems. You can listen through Google Alerts, keyword research and other online tools such as Social Mention.
- Tell Your Story – Share the magic that makes you, YOU.
- Stay Consistent – It’s not enough to hop on social media and push out content every once in a while. You need to post and write often and with purpose.
- Maintain Focus – It’s easy to get caught up in “shiny object syndrome” when it comes to the newest, latest and greatest social media tool or strategy. Just say no to the new and stay focused on what you’re building. Work your strategy with diligence.
- Create an Experience – It’s no longer just about the process. Today it’s about creating an integrated (and seamless) experience across all channels — and devices.
- Be Social – Do I need to explain this one? Get social, stay social, be social.
9. Mix it Up
There are many different ways to mix up your content. Everyone has their own idea of the perfect social media content ratio.
The best way to find yours? Test!
Here’s an example of a 5-3-2 rule Benjamin Carter-Riley uses.
The 5-3-2 rule is a guideline that makes sure he doesn’t share too much or too little of a certain type of content.
For example, if he wants to schedule 10 tweets, he would divide up the content like this:
- 5 tweets with other people’s content
- 3 tweets with his own content
- 2 personal tweets
The personal tweets might be a photo of his city or anything that lets his audience relate more on a personal basis.
The magic of this content ratio is that it takes the focus off you and puts it on your audience.
This goal is to build a reputation as someone who brings value to the community.
It will also prevent you from falling into the trap of only posting promotional content. (which is an easy mistake to make while you’re scheduling social media posts)
10. Track, Measure, Adjust
Measuring the impact of your social media efforts can help you:
- Set the right goals
- Determine what’s really working/ what needs adjustment
And stop measuring typical/vanity metrics, such as the number of likes, shares, and comments.
Identify the metrics that matter to you and track them daily. (e.g. traffic, shares, conversions)
Because as Chuck Palahniuk, Author of Fight Club says,
“If you don’t know what you want, you end up with a lot you don’t.”
We live in an online world where the landscape is constantly evolving.
What worked yesterday, no longer works today.
Creating a strategy ensures that no matter what’s happening in the market and the digital space, your brand is immune to the negative effects.