“Rodney, I run a traditional brick-and-mortar business. Do I really have to be active on social media?”
I get this question a lot. And my answer, invariably, is a resounding YES.
Once upon a time in the dawn of Facebook, investing in a winning social media strategy might have been optional — but it no longer is. Today, having an active social media presence is a must for all businesses, not just e-commerce websites or digital service providers.
The numbers speak for themselves. According to DataReportal, an online reference library, there were a whopping 4.62 billion active social media users as of January 2022.
Let’s put this into perspective, shall we?
Those 4.62 billion social media users account for over half of the world’s population — 58.4%, to be precise — and almost all of the 4.95 billion internet users.
So, what does that mean for you?
Simply that your customers, both existing and prospective, are on social media. If you want people to discover and engage with your business, you must go where they are. That’s true even for more traditional businesses like law firms, dental practices, and HVAC contractors.
“But, Rodney, I’m really bad at maintaining my personal social channels, let alone doing this for work!” I hear you say.
Don’t worry. The good news is that using social media for business purposes isn’t rocket science. You just need to stay on top of the latest social media marketing trends and post consistently.
This article is a great place to start. Let me walk you through my top five tips for creating a winning social media strategy.
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Step 1: Define Your Social Media Goals
Step one is all about setting goals. Like with any other business strategy, you want to start by getting really clear about what it is that you want.
Do you want to expand your reach and increase brand awareness?
Are you looking to boost your sales?
Or perhaps your goal is to encourage customer loyalty and retention?
It doesn’t matter what your goal is. What matters is that you pick one and focus on it exclusively, at least initially. The best social media strategies are those that hone in on one overarching goal and stick to it.
Otherwise, you risk spreading both your resources and your message too thin. You’ll end up reaching fewer people and confusing the ones you do reach — which will dramatically reduce the overall impact of your social media efforts.
Later on, when your team expands or becomes more confident at leveraging social media, you could try pursuing other goals as well.
But, for now, let’s focus on your most critical business objective.
Business Goals vs. Marketing Goals
As you think about what you want out of your social media strategy, it’s important to keep in mind that business goals and marketing goals are two very different, albeit related, things.
(Don’t worry; I used to get these mixed up too.)
Business goals are high-level objectives, the ultimate results your company aspires to achieve. Here are some examples of business goals:
- More sales
- More service calls
- Increased revenue
- Greater brand awareness
Marketing goals are lower-level, short- and mid-term measurable objectives that support your overarching business objectives. In other words, your marketing goals are subordinate to your business goals. Examples include:
- More leads/prospects
- More website visits
- Increased social media engagement
When thinking about your social media strategy goals, you must first think about your bigger business objectives. These will inform your daily social media tactics and marketing efforts, as well as the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) you will be tracking to gauge your progress. (I’ll expound on this point later.)
Step 2: Define Your Audience
Once you’ve identified your goals, it’s time to define your audience. The two most important questions at the center of every winning social media strategy are:
“Who is it that I’m trying to reach?”
“What do they really want to see?”
Don’t guess it — use market research and hard data to get to know the people on the other side of the screen. You can do this by conducting online surveys or customer interviews or setting up a focus group.
Another way to learn more about your audience is through social listening.
Social listening is the process of monitoring social networks for customer feedback and reviews, direct mentions of your business, or discussions around specific topics, industries, or keywords.
There are many social listening tools out there that can help you scour the internet, such as BuzzSumo and Followerwonk.
Ideally, you should leverage a mix of different market research tools and tactics to capture as much information about your current and prospective customers as possible.
Here are some questions you might want to explore:
- How old are they?
- Where do they live?
- How big are their households?
- What are their monthly and annual budgets?
- How often do they buy services or products like yours?
- What is their online behavior like?
- What content do they like to engage with the most?
- Are there any other brands they are loyal to? What do they love about them?
- What are their values in life?
- What challenges are they currently struggling with?
Use these demographic and psychological insights to understand what your customers want and what their pain points are. That will enable you to create your buyer personas — a combination of your buyer profiles and buyer insights — and paint a picture of your ideal customer.
Then, focus on crafting highly personalized content and messaging that speak to the needs and desires of this ideal customer.
Note that you can have multiple buyer personas for different demographics and pain points. It all depends on the diversity of your (prospective) customer base.
Step 3: Pick the Right Platforms
Step three to creating a winning social media strategy is choosing the right social media platforms.
“But isn’t everyone on TikTok these days?” I hear you ask.
Not necessarily. Not all platforms are right for all users — and not all users use all platforms. Different demographics prefer some channels more than others.
That’s why it’s so crucial to find out which online places your customers call home and take your brand conversations there. Instead of trying to build an audience from scratch, locate channels where audiences are already talking about your brand or industry so you can boost your engagement.
As I like to say, work smarter, not harder.
Here are the main social media platforms you should look into:
With a whopping 2.9 billion monthly active users globally, Facebook remained the biggest social network in 2022.
It’s also the oldest and most well-known one, making it a fantastic channel to reach a wide range of demographics — and especially the generations with the highest purchasing power. As many as 91% of Baby Boomers, 88% of Millennials, and 83% of Gen X-ers use the platform.
Facebook also supports various types of content, from photos and text to videos on Facebook Live.
Enter the Internet’s picture-perfect (pun intended!) platform to showcase your products and engaging visual content.
The platform is also a great medium if you want to collaborate with influencers to grow your customer base.
In addition to its stunning look, Instagram boasts the most advanced in-app selling tools of any social media platform. That’s a massive competitive edge: HubSpot reports that 80% of marketers believe consumers will soon be buying via social media apps more often than from brands’ websites.
In the same survey, marketers said Instagram generates the highest return on investment (ROI) and engagement compared to other social media platforms.
Demographics-wise, the platform has seen huge growth among younger users over the past few years. If that’s your target audience, be sure to invest a lot of time and effort in your Instagram channel.
Twitter is the fastest-paced social media platform. It thrives on real-time reactions and trending content.
That makes Twitter uniquely suited to serving as a customer service channel — the hashtags and quick replies make it easy for your audience to find your brand and start a conversation. Using hashtags effectively is both an art and a science, so take the time to learn how to use them.
TikTok is where the Gen Z-ers are. According to a 2022 Pew Research Center survey, the platform’s popularity among U.S. teens aged 13-17 has skyrocketed. Over half of the respondents (67%) said they use TikTok, with 16% saying they use it almost constantly.
The platform is the perfect medium for short-form, quirky videos. You can use it both to create traditional marketing content as well as to collaborate with influencers.
YouTube officially launched on February 14, 2005. The platform’s first-ever video was an 18-second clip of co-founder Jawed Karim visiting the zoo.
Since then, YouTube has surpassed two billion viewers (and counting). Nearly 43% of all internet users visit YouTube every month.
YouTube is ideal for creating informational as well as entertaining videos. If your brand creates a lot of long-form video content, such as how-to guides or tutorials, YouTube is the place to be.
LinkedIn is the platform for B2B companies, but it provides ample opportunities for B2C businesses as well.
While it’s smaller than giants like Facebook and Instagram, the platform still boasts more than 930 million users globally.
LinkedIn is also the world’s largest professional network. Thanks to its niche specialization, it’s able to generate leads 227% more effectively than either Facebook or Twitter.
You can leverage the platform to connect with other brands in the B2B space both organically and via paid ads. Content types that perform especially well on this platform include industry-related pieces like blogs, eBooks, and white papers.
“Rodney, I’m not going to advertise my business on a platform for mood boards.”
If you’re thinking this, you probably don’t quite know what Pinterest is.
This platform is all about discovery. People go there looking for inspirational and creative visual content.
If your products or services lend themselves well to visual media — whether you’re selling clothes or home décor or wedding cakes — Pinterest is the place where your brand can really stand out and be discovered by the right audience.
You can make sales, too: According to HubSpot, 90% of weekly Pinners make buying decisions on Pinterest.
Step 4: Create Engaging Content That Adds Value to Your Audience
There’s no way around it: You just can’t have a winning social media strategy without winning content. Here are my top tips for creating high-performing content:
Set the Tone
Start by setting the right tone for your socials. Your tone should be aligned with your overall brand and the nature of your business. It could be formal or more casual, strictly professional or with a dash of humor.
Getting your tone right and sticking to it consistently throughout your posts is essential for showcasing your brand’s personality.
Create Content Buckets
Content buckets — also known as content themes — are broad topics around which you can generate a wide range of content types: photos, videos, how-to blogs that you’ll link to in your socials, and so forth.
For instance, if you run a hair salon, you could build a content bucket around caring for chemically treated hair. Another bucket might be about bridal hair-dos or dealing with hair loss.
The only limit when it comes to content bucket idea generation is your creativity and your audience’s interests.
Have a Content Calendar
Great content won’t amount to much if you don’t post often and regularly. Social media algorithms love consistent posting. It also helps you stay top of mind with your target audience.
To ensure consistency, you should set up a content calendar — especially if you’ll be posting on multiple platforms. That will make it easier to not only plan ahead but also schedule your posts for the optimal days and times for each social network.
Try New Things
Be sure to try out new approaches to your content every now and then. While it’s important to craft the right message for your target customers, you don’t want to bore them with the same old posts.
Don’t be afraid to explore new angles for your content. Experiment with new formats like video or try a more conversational tone with some of your copy.
Do you know who your biggest competitor on social media is?
Nope, it’s not your direct business competitors.
It’s your customers’ family and friends. You’ll be competing for your audiences’ attention with the posts of their loved ones, so you really need to step up your game.
One way to do this is by ensuring that your brand has a “human” voice. Everything from your tone to your visuals should come together to build a coherent and engaging personality.
Step 5: Get Data Driven
How can you tell if you have a winning social media strategy if you can’t measure its success? Monitoring your content’s performance — both short and long term — will help you to track the progress of your social media campaigns.
Additionally, when you see what does and what doesn’t work, you can tweak your content accordingly. A different title, perhaps, or a brighter color scheme.
You can test content in advance through A/B split testing. Simply put, A/B testing involves trying out different versions of the same content to see which one resonates best with your audience.
Once you put the content out, you should monitor your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to make sure you’re on track and measure the ROI of your social media efforts.
Your KPIs are predefined performance metrics for each social media channel.
For instance, Facebook KPIs include impressions and engagement. For Instagram, look to discovery and interactions.
Other metrics you may want to track include your audience growth rate, virality rate, or amplification rate. Ultimately, the KPIs you’ll be focusing on will depend on what matters to your business.
Once you become comfortable with tracking and analyzing individual KPIs, you may begin tracking your customers through the whole sales funnel — from social media engagement all the way through to the final purchasing decision.
Don’t hyperfocus on any one metric, though. At the end of the day, there is no silver bullet for creating a high-ROI social media marketing strategy. It’s all about trial and error.
In addition, be sure to be on the lookout for vanity metrics such as view count, followers, shares, and more. Although these are good to have they aren’t actually metrics that can be acted upon or are actively driving conversions.
You do your research and planning. Then you craft the content and put it out there. After a while, you analyze it, draw your conclusions, do a few tweaks here and there, and maybe try something new.
Here’s my last piece of advice: A winning social media strategy doesn’t need to be complicated.
That’s all the more so if you run a small business or are making your first foray into social media marketing.
Start by drawing up a simple and easy-to-implement content plan with meaningful KPIs. Test it out and see how your strategy performs across different channels and demographics.
Then, use your insights to optimize your content. Rinse and repeat — and then do it again. More than anything else, consistency and continuous optimization are key to creating a winning social media strategy.