10 Actionable Steps To Build A Successful Social Media Plan
I have observed a ton of businesses throw a boatload of money and resources to various social media marketing efforts, and still come up short simply because they have little or no experience in building an ROI focused social media plan. These days, it is very easy to get lost in the bells and whistles of the social media buzzwords of our time, and not have a full grasp of exactly how to communicate, what to communicate, how to engage, and how to provoke action. This blog post was created for you to learn to design, launch and execute a successful social media plan for your business.
As a business owner, it can be quite tempting to dive fully into building Facebook fans, Twitter followers, Snapchat profiles, Instagram pages etc. If we throw some money around, something should stick. After all, these platforms are engineered to attract customers right?
‘To the man who doesn’t know where he is going, anywhere is the right direction.’ Lewis Carroll.
Firstly, it is very possible to build a solid, repeatable, scalable and predictable social media plan to build the audience and engagement that builds your business, okay? Very possible. However, for businesses to take real advantage of the social media space, it is important to understand that the key to success is to focus on one major keyword – Engagement.
Over the years, we have seen the maturation of Internet media, and we have had to adapt our strategies to better play in these eras. Engagement is the currency of social media. Not content, not promotion, not virality, not even some crazy, super interruptive campaign that generates a ton of clicks (even if it definitely helps)… Engagement.
What does engagement in your social media plan mean? it means establishing a series of attention grabbing, relevant (to the user), repeat frequency, insightful and consistent content that educates the user, and promotes thought leadership in the minds of your customers over a mid to long term period.
For businesses to succeed this year, here is a 10 step plan to build a social media plan that drives results:
10 Social Media Plan Steps
STEP 1: Project Definitions (The What):
1. What am I really trying to achieve?
This is the single biggest definition you have to make before building your social media plan for your business. If you don’t define that main goal, you wont know when you finally get there. It is important, however to note that not every single project goal has to be about conversion and sales. Customer loyalty, PR, customer feedback and industry education can also be nice objectives to have for your business.
When you have outlined your major objective for your social media plan, then it is time to move to the next stage.
2. How long do I have to get there?
Business building is a long-term game, and nothing says long term like a well designed social media plan. Before you can create a social media plan that works, you have to define the timeframe to achieve your goal. Social media marketing involves building friendships at scale. Always think of your social media plan as wooing a lady (or gentleman), and trying to get them to marry you eventually. Building relationships take time and effort. The longer you spend to build and nurture that relationship, the more engaged and loyal the customers tend to be, when they finally convert.
I usually recommend a 12-18 month period for your social media plan duration, as it gives you the ability to generate a lot of engagement, interest and communication touch points to keep the business top of mind, and drive action.
3. How much resources are at my disposal to make this happen?
Let’s face it; to build a sustained social media operation, you have to set aside considerable resources, based on your business objectives, as well as your financial limits, to build a social media budget that works for you. If you are investing man hours into this activity, you have to assign a monetary rate for time, human and other non- financial resources. Please note that the time spent on social media engagement activities, might have been spent on other business activities, so it is important to keep track and account for all resources at your disposal.
4. How will the success of this endeavour affect my overall goal for my business?
Every social media objective is essentially a combination of smaller milestones, but they all have to point back to the main objective. It is so easy to get caught in measuring KPIs that have little or no bearing on the business success currently, or in the foreseeable future. Upon defining your goals, it is important to draw up a series of smaller milestones that help you keep track of progress of your social media marketing plan.
For example, Tim runs a small consulting business, and is looking to build more relationships and scale operations. In his 12-month plan, he could define the following:
- Main Objective: Grow my business by 100 new clients over the next 12 months
- Milestone 1: Get my page to 10,000 Facebook fans
- Milestone 2: Build 1 post per day for the next 100 days
- Milestone 3: Get 1000 email subscribers from the fan page over the next 3 months, and so on.
5. How flexible am I to try out different approaches to make it happen?
Every single strategy, no matter how well thought out, is built on a set of assumptions, and there is a possibility that some of the assumptions are incorrect. Therefore it goes without saying that businesses have to build flexible, alternative routes to a particular business goal. This involves a focus on two major factors:
Analytics: It is important to invest some resources in tracking metrics and KPIs, to measure progress, as well as discover hidden opportunities to arrive at that goal.
Speed: While driving speed kills, but in measuring business activities, it is the key to saving the business. When changes need to be made, the faster these changes are effected, the less waste of resources are generated and your business will thank you for it.
STEP 2 – Target Market Profiling (The Who)
1. Target customer profile and persona development
When building your social media plan, creating a target market profile and persona is another great step to overall social media success. Creating a target market persona, and profile is a process that helps you identify and communicate with the prospects that offer the greatest chance of sales success. To help you understand better, lets differentiate between a buyer’s profile, and persona.
A target market profile is a concise, but very specific description of the type of prospect you want to sell to. This is usually determined by overall strategy, historical purchase information and business analytics.
Buyer personas are fictional, personalized representations of your ideal customers. Personas help us to internalize the ideal customer we’re trying to attract, and relate to our customers as real humans.
A sample guide for developing a target market profile & persona.
Name of the target customer persona: Mike wachowski
Key Company info (name, size, industry, etc.)
Age: 25 -35
Gender – Females
Salary / household income – $30,000 – $60,000 per year
Location – urban / suburban / rural
Education – College Educated
Family – Married, single, divorced,
2. Understanding customers motivation, needs and behaviour
This involves using the demographic information derived from your target customer profile and persona, to figure out the customer’s needs, fears, motivation and their habits. This will help you craft a communication strategy that addresses all the customer pain-points, and invokes the consumer to take action.
Buyer’s needs that your product/service can solve.
Buyers ideal expectations of an product attempting to solve that problem.
Buyer’s loyal brands.
Common objections during sales process.
Websites and online destinations visited by buyer.
STEP 3 – Social media strategy development (The how)
A lot of entrepreneurs tackle this issue by building a strategy before determining the goal and the target audience. This is wrong. You have to establish the ‘What’, and the ‘Who’, before you tackle the ‘How’.
Building a social media strategy involves 3 main steps:
1. Establish target buyer social footprints:
This involves finding out all the major social media destinations frequently visited by your target customer. By understanding this process, you can figure out the best way to reach them. For example, if my target customer is a frequent traveler, I would start by finding the top most followed travel brands like Trip advisor, or Expedia on Facebook, twitter, Instagram or LinkedIn, and then build out a social list using tools like Facebook audiences.
2. Identify the most effective communication channel within the specified timeframe:
Not all channels are created equal. Conduct some research on the most cost effective, valuable channels to engage your audience. It is important you use both external information (e.g. blog reviews,) and your in-house findings to identify which of these channels can give you the most bang for your buck. If this involves too much technical competence for you to drive in house, outsource your strategy to a social media agency, arming them with all the previous part of the strategy, so they can inform you about what is possible and you can make a more informed decision about the execution direction of the social media plan.
3. Allocate resources accordingly:
It is then time to allocate resources in relation to the deliverables, tools, personnel, and other things necessary to kick-start the social media plan. I usually recommend that you reserve 20% of your social media budget to test the strategy over a 3-month period, so you can gain considerable learnings about your plan, identifying the winners and scaling them, as well as weeding out your losers.
STEP 4 – Content/Conversational Calendar Development:
At this stage, you go to work crafting a series of pre approved, scheduled posts, aimed at engaging the customer. This is built taking into account the target profile, the nature of platform, as well as the communication strategy.
To build your conversational calendar into your social media plan, you need to establish 3 key points:
1. Conversational Themes:
What does your target customer love to talk about? This involves building a number of themes that you want to address in your content. We classify content into 3 major categories:
- Brand/Promotional content – These are the posts that promote your major call to actions, such as downloading a pdf, subscribing to a list, attending an event, buying a product etc.
- Conversational content – These posts are aimed at encouraging sustained engagement with the brand by liking, commenting or sharing the post. These posts, are usually not related to the brand, but rather are related to the interests of the target customer like music, movies, sport, news, current affairs etc.
- Activation Content – These are posts encouraging consumers to engage with the brand’s social activations. These activations could come in the form of games, contests, giveaways, trivia amongst other engaging activities.
2. Ratio of content :
At this stage, you establish the ratio of brand posts, conversational posts, and activation posts, so you can maintain a balance of conversion, engagement and top of mind awareness.
For example, you can build your social media plan to have:
30% Brand posts
25% Activation posts
45% Conversational posts
3. Volume of content:
Here, you establish how much of each post will be posted daily. For example:
Blogposts – 1 post per week
Facebook – 1 post per day
Twitter – 1 post per hour, 12 unique posts per day (repeated twice)
LinkedIn – 1 post per day
Instagram – 1 post per day
Remember, the goal is to ensure that you follow the social media rule of 1 unified brand message every day. That message is then natively story told across the various social media platforms.
STEP 5 – Brand Identity Development & Community Growth
At this stage, you begin creating the assets you need to get the project live. You don’t have to create everything, just create enough to go live and build as you progress. Examples of these creative assets include:
- About us content
- Call to action buttons
- Profile photos
- Milestone images
- Advertising visuals
- Lead Magnet content (We will talk about this later)
- Post content images amongst others.
I recommend that you launch your page growth campaign at this stage, to grow your followership to a specific target as outlined in your social media plan. Using ad products like Facebook like ads, LinkedIn page promotion ads, Twitter promoted accounts, you can scale your followership count, while ensuring that you are targeting the right customers for your business.
STEP 6 – Content Promotion
So you have created the first batch of content to engage your prospects and fans with. The next step is to create a system to spread the content to all of your followers and friends with every single post.
A simple way to do it on Facebook is to create and schedule a series of 24-hour Facebook promoted post campaigns to go live everyday, using the post for that day as an ad. You can make this happen using the Facebook power editor, or a third party tool like Adespresso to automate the ad creation process for you.
For example, I run an online fashion store, and I have 10,000 fans on Facebook. I have to ensure that every single post on Facebook is promoted to all 10,000 fans, to ensure they see the post at least once a day.
So, if you are working with a $5 CPM budget, on Facebook ads, you will need a daily budget of $50 to maintain engagement with your fans.
This strategy helps you accomplish 2 major objectives;
- It enables you maintain a sustained social media engagement with your target customer.
- It enables you to ensure that your conversational calendar is super engaging, because while building your content calendar, you have to ask yourself ‘Is this post worth paying for to ensure everyone sees it?’’
STEP 7 – Social Community Moderation/ Management:
Next step is to assign a dedicated community manager to your social media properties, aimed at ensuring seamless 2-way communication flow between brand and consumer. The major brand promise to be fulfilled by the team is to ensure that every action on any of the brand’s social pages by a consumer is re-engaged by the moderator in 10 minutes or less. Real-time reports can be generated and shared with management regularly, complete with recommendations.
The days of getting an intern to “oversee” your social media are over. When it comes to executing a successful social media plan, there are too many silos of specialized knowledge that have to be leveraged, integrated and analyzed in order to be truly effective.
This social media community manager is also responsible for project managing and spearheading the strategy and ideation of social media activation campaigns for the brand. Whether you decide to bring this competence in-house or outsource it is up to you, but I would advise that the manager be made to operate from the client premises in order to be as accessible as possible.
A couple of months ago, i worked with a leading pension fund administrator to launch their social media journey. In the first month, we were receiving over 300 complaint messages from fans and followers a day about the features and support of the service. Most businesses would have shut down their accounts at that point, but we choose to stay and fix every single complaint from every fan.
We encouraged them to message us as often as they liked, and we built a state of the art customer experience and support process, a 5 man team comprising of 2 strategists from our agency, and 3 customer experience managers from the client’s brand team. The complaints kept flowing and we kept tracking, escalating, and project managing the resolution process.
Three months in, we had solved over 10,000 complaints, and the complaints had trickled down to 1 or 2 a day. Our engagement shot up, about 2,500 business opportunities were generated, and over 800 corporate accounts were created.
Not too shabby eh?
STEP 8 – Social Listening & Analytics
For far too long, entrepreneurs look to social media as a tool for distribution of media. While social media is a great source of interested eyeballs, I believe it is just as important for listening. The wealth of information that can be derived from your social media communities is endless.
Social listening involves searching social web to see what’s being said about your company, your industry, your competitors and other topics of interest to you or your target customer. The real-time insights you gather about your customers, prospects, products and competitors with social listening can be valuable to refine your social media plan.
- Identify New Customer segments
- Identify Influencers and Advocates
- Get Feedback on Products
- Improve Customer Care
- Find Top talent
- Generate innovative ideas
- Manage brand reputation
STEP 9 – Social Activations
Earlier in this post, we established one key takeaway – Engagement is the currency in the world of social media. It follows without saying that you need to build a series of social media activations aimed at encouraging participation and incentivized virality.
Commonly used activation ideas include:
I would recommend that you build an activation calendar to run at least once every 3 months, and each activation should last for between 3 weeks to a month.
STEP 10 – Patience.
‘After you have done all you can… you just stand’ Donnie Mcclurkin.
You have thought it through, planned it through, and are ready for execution. You have all the processes set and the KPIs assigned to the right personnel or agency. The next thing is patience.
Remember: No matter how great the talent or efforts are, some things just take time: You can’t produce a baby in one month by getting nine women pregnant.
Building relationships take time, and should never be rushed. Just follow your plan, one step at a time.
This truly works.
Did I leave anything out? Please feel free to address them in the comments.
Hope this helps.