How to create a social media marketing strategy

7 min read
Will Stevens

Social media is a great way to reach new customers, but to make the most of any platform you'll need to put a social media marketing strategy in place.

In this guide we'll look at how to create your very first social media marketing strategy. Let's get started.

1. Work out who you want to reach with your social media marketing

Understanding your target audience is the foundation of any social media marketing strategy.

Hopefully you should already have a good understanding of who your business's target audience is. If you don't, this is an excellent time to build out some customer personas.

Customer personas are an idealized version of your customers, with each persona representing a different type of customers.

For example, if you're a freelance web designer you might have a customer persona representing small business clients, and a persona representing decision makers at larger companies.

Part of the process of building out personas includes understanding the ways in which your target audience want to consume information, their interests and even which social media platforms they're more likely to use.

As you can imagine, this is all crucial information when it comes to developing a social media marketing strategy.

You can learn how to develop personas in this guide.

2. Define what you want to achieve with your social media marketing

You need to understand what success will look like for a social media marketing strategy before you launch it.

Any social media marketing strategy should be strongly connected with your overall business and marketing goals.

That means avoiding intangible goals such as "going viral", and goals which are based on vanity metrics such as likes, or even pages views.

Although building brand awareness is a legitimate goal for social media marketing, you may find that if you have a small budget to spend it’s to your advantage to focus on campaigns aimed at directly boosting sales.

For example, our freelance web designer from before may have a business aim of growing the amount of work they get from large businesses. In this case, the overall aim of their marketing strategy would be to gather lead information from decision makers at large businesses by showing them that their services are a good match for their needs.

3. Settle on style and tone of voice

Good marketing requires consistency, so the looks and feel of your social media campaigns should be the same even if you're targeting different audiences.

If you're constantly chopping and changing your style and tone of voice you're probably just going to confuse people.

Of course the content of your social media campaigns may differ depending on which group of people you're trying to reach, but you shouldn't try drastically different things for different audiences.

For example, our freelance web designer who is trying to reach both small businesses and decision makers at large businesses shouldn't present their brand as wacky and fun to one group and super serious to the other. If nothing else, they'd have a hard time ensuring their website was able to present the right image to the right group of people.

Decide on the style and tone of voice you'll use in your social media marketing and only make minor tweaks. And make sure your style on social media ties in with your overall style.

4. Understand what your competitors are doing

How are your competitors using social media marketing? What lessons can you learn from them? How can you set yourself apart?

These are all important questions that should be answered in your social media marketing strategy.

For example, our freelance web designer may find that they're competing with a number of large agencies. They might then decide to emphasis their ability to bring the personal touch to projects as part of their social media marketing strategy.

One easy way to see what kinds of social media marketing campaigns your rivals are running is heading over to their Facebook pages and clicking the "see more" link next to where it says "page transparency". You'll then be able to see if that page is currently running ads, and if you      click "ads library" you'll be able to explore their ads past and present.

You can learn more about doing competitor research on social media in this guide.

5. Review your current social media activities

If you're already using social media, then as part of developing your strategy you should review the platforms you use and how you use them.

Look at which content works well for you, and what doesn't work so well - this will help you understand what sort of social content you should focus on.

You should also review the platforms you use and how you use them. Try writing a one or two sentence use case for each platform.

For example, our freelance web designer might write something like "I will use Facebook to post lead generation content targeted at decision makers in large companies, and to network with these individuals".

6. Determine your content mix

Although deciding on exactly what content you'll publish on which platforms forms part of your social media marketing plan (as opposed to your strategy), your strategy should still include an overview of what content mix you'll aim for.

The two broad categories of content in this case are posts that education and/or entertain your audience, and posts that promote your business.

The general rule of thumb is to aim for 80% education and information, and 20% promotional content.

Once you've got a better understanding of what works for your business, you may find that you tweak this mix.

7. Begin executing your social media marketing strategy through a series of plans

By now you should have a document that provides the basis of all your social media marketing activities, so it's time to translate that strategy into action.

While you'll only ever have one social media marketing strategy at any one time, you'll have a range of social media marketing plans.

These plans will likely fall into two broad categories:

  • Day-to-day social media marketing
  • Campaign social media marketing

Day-to-day social media marketing is the 80% of the 80/20 split we talked about before. (So it's educational and/or entertainment content).

This might be content you've created yourself or links to other people's content. Whatever you're sharing, it tends to be a good idea to plan it out in advance by creating a social media content calendar. You can learn how to do that in this guide.

Campaign social media marketing focuses on the 20% - the promotional content. You might have just one such promotional campaign running at any one time, or you might have several. It all depends on the kind of business you're running.

For example, our freelance web designer might have two broad promotional social marketing plans - one focusing on small businesses and the other on decision makers at larger businesses.

These could then be further divided into smaller plans focused on things like seasonal special offers, moving people into a lead funnel via blog content, or retargeting people who have already visited their website.

All of these plans will look different in the way they're executed, but they should all be based in the information contained in their overall social media marketing strategy.

8. Tweak your social media marketing strategy as you get new data

Social media marketing is about doing what works, so as you start to get data from your social campaigns you may find that you need to tweak your strategy.

For example, your social media marketing strategy might have put a fairly low priority on video content, but if you find that social videos are bringing in the most sales then clearly it makes sense to tweak your strategy to place more emphasis on video.

But make sure you're only making minor adjustments to your social media marketing strategy - making wholesale changes every few months will make it harder for you to succeed with social media marketing.