20 Step Social Media Marketing Strategy for Businesses in 2021
March 15, 2021
Article last updated March 15, 2021 on Influencer Marketing Hub's website.
1. Select Relevant and Realistic Social Media Marketing Goals
One of the most significant problems faced by many businesses engaged in social media is that they have never spent the time to set relevant and realistic social media marketing goals. They know they need to be on social media, but have no idea why they are there.
Of course, your social media marketing goals need to fit into your business planning as a whole. Ideally, you will have set strategic goals for how you want your business to progress. Your social media marketing goals should complement your overarching business goals.
Make Sure Your Goals Are SMART
All too often, people set woolly business goals that have little meaning if you scrutinize them. Remember, you're not creating goals merely for the sake of it. You are building them to help you devise the most suitable social media strategy for your business. Therefore, you will want to ensure that your goals are SMART:
The SMARTer your goals, the more likely you will be able to meet them – and just as importantly, know that you are meeting them.
While you want to challenge yourself, it is essential that you set attainable, realistic goals. You might love to have one million Facebook followers, but that is unlikely to be achievable within the next year for most businesses, even those that perform exceptionally well.
This is where it is prudent to set some limitations. Don’t attempt to succeed on every social network. There are too many, and you spread your resources too thinly. You just need to perform well on the same social networks your target market spends their time.
Suitable Social Media Goals Your Business Could Set
Your goals will be personal to your business and complement your overarching business goals. However, typical types of social media goals you could consider (couched in a suitable SMART-style) include:
- Increasing brand awareness
- Achieving a set higher quantity of sales
- Improving your ROI
- Driving people to increase in-store sales
- Grow your fan base
2. Determine Your Most Relevant Metrics
Too many businesses create a social presence and spend time and other resources on using their social accounts, without ever establishing whether they see any success or not.
Unfortunately, social analytics can be a gray area because they are not the same for every business. Once again, your most relevant social metrics will relate to the goals you have set yourself. The Influencer Marketing Hub has written a free e-book to help you here - How to Measure Influencer Marketing ROI.
Don’t be sucked in by easy-to-measure vanity metrics, such as the number of followers someone has. We have previously written about why buying Instagram followers is a really bad idea. The existence of fake followers on any social network means that follower numbers have little value as a metric.
Ideally, you should look at the marketing goals you set above, and determine which metrics will provide you with the answer as to whether you are meeting that goal. For example, if you have a goal that aims to increase your brand awareness, then Post Reach is a relevant statistic. It will tell you how far your content is spreading across social channels.
If your goals are more sales-based, or you want to drive people to take a particular action, then you should take notice of the number of Clicks. Tracking Clicks per campaign will give you a good indication of what drives people to buy or do what you ask of them.
You will often take most interest in the engagements on your posts. This shows how people interact with your content and whether it resounds with them.
3. Decide Who You Want as Your Social Media Audience
One of the most common mistakes made by firms on social media is to think that all followers will be good for them. There is a good reason why pundits deemphasize the metric Follower Numbers and call them vanity metrics. There is little point having somebody as a follower unless he is likely to take an interest in the content you share.
This is probably the biggest problem with buying fake followers. As we wrote in 8 Reasons You Shouldn’t Buy Instagram Followers, fake followers don’t engage with your account. Some aren’t real people at all, merely bots. They certainly won’t make future customers. These people, whether they are real or fake accounts, will not spend any money on your products. They will not refer people to you. They are of no value to you at all.
Look back at those goals you set in Step 1. There is little point having social media followers who can’t help you work towards meeting your goals. In most situations, you want your social media followers to be of a similar type to your intended customers.
For example, if you sell stairlifts to homeowners struggling to remain mobile in their homes, there is little point trying to attract a young social media audience of people who either rent or still live with their parents. Likewise, if you sell makeup and other beauty treatments, there is little point targeting football players and their fans.
This is particularly relevant if you sell products to a geographically distinct market. In that case, you will not want to have many followers from regions and countries where people cannot buy your products.
4. Understand Your Social Media Audience
Not all social media audiences are alike. Different types of people use social media in varying ways. If you’re going to meet your goals, you need to be using the same social media networks as your target audience. Similarly, if you intend to engage in influencer marketing, you need to ensure that you engage influencers whose audience matches your target market.
You might be a middle-aged executive who uses Facebook. However, if you personally don’t match the target market of your business, you can’t automatically assume that your customers will also be spending their time on Facebook. Sure, there may have been 2.27 billion monthly active Facebook users in Q3 2018, but if you target a young demographic, you are far more likely to reach them on Snapchat or Instagram. However, if your business targets people aged 25 to 34, they make 29.7% of Facebook users, and are their most common age demographic.
Look at your social media marketing goals you have previously set. Which social channels will best help you meet those goals?
To be successful at doing this, you need to have a solid understanding of your customer base. If you have ever established personas for your ideal customers, now is the time to dust them off. What do your customers look like, and how do they spend their time on the internet?
The better you can understand the demographics and psychographics of your target market, the better you will be at reaching them on your social channels.
5. Select the Right Social Media Networks for Your Audience
Some people worry about how they are going to find the time and energy to operate accounts on every social network. In most cases, you don’t need to. You simply need to find the right social networks for your business. You want to discover the social networks where your intended audience spends their time.
You may have to carry out some research first to discover where your intended audience hangs out. This shouldn't be too difficult, particularly if you know your customers. If you don’t already understand this, you could survey them, asking them for their preferred social accounts.
You could start with your audience's most preferred network and then widen to include others where a sufficiently large number operates active social accounts. You generally wouldn't need to go further than three to five social networks, however.
We are taking a reasonably broad definition of social networks here. Obviously, you include well-known ones like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter in your considerations. You could also look at video platforms like YouTube and TikTok if your target audience uses them in large numbers. In some cases, live streaming apps like Twitch might be suitable for your audience, too.
Pew Research has collected valuable data on the use of different online platforms by demographic groups (for US adults) that may be of value to you in deciding the best social media networks for your audience.
Don’t Waste Time on Social Networks Your Audience Don’t Use
If a sufficiently large proportion of your target audience spends time on a social network, you want to be there too. If they have little interest in a platform, you can give it a miss, and not waste your time and resources there.
There is another factor that you should consider to make your life easier. Many businesses find it easier to use some form of social media marketing platform to help them schedule posts in one place in bulk. Therefore you may prefer to align the social networks you use with those catered for by your preferred social media marketing platform. This is perhaps less relevant for the video-sharing platforms, such as YouTube, which don't use content feeds and work more on channels of content, and live-streaming platforms such as Twitch, where you effectively operate a live channel.
You might also consider whether you want a single company-wide account on a social network, or whether you want multiple accounts, each targeted at a niche audience. For example, you might have several Twitter accounts, each with a clear focus. If you have plenty of resources, you could also set up several YouTube channels, each with their own niche audience.
6. Investigate How Your Competitors Approach Social Media
Most firms don’t operate in isolation. You will usually have competitors who will also run a social strategy. You will definitely need to know what they are doing. What is their focus? Whom are they targeting? What key phrases are they trying to dominate?
You can quickly conduct a competitor analysis to help you better understand their strengths and weaknesses. This should give you a better understanding of what potential customers expect from businesses in your industry.
You might spot your competitors’ weak social areas and be able to exploit the gaps. For instance, one of your competitors might be influential on Twitter, but have a weak Facebook presence, despite your target market using that network. In that case, it may pay you to put more resources into Facebook rather than competing head to head on Twitter.
You could use a tool like Buzzsumo to spy on your competitors and discover their most successful social pieces of content. Once you know what types of content resound for them on which social networks, you can produce and share similar, but better, material.
7. Establish a Realistic Social Media Budget
Let's be realistic. No business should merely pay lip service to its social media accounts. Social media marketing is as viable a form of marketing as any other marketing type for most companies, and you should be prepared to allocate a budget accordingly. You can't expect social media success if you simply tag it onto the pre-existing list of duties your existing office staff performs.
On the other hand, you shouldn't spend more on your social media activities than you can realistically earn in increased sales, or at least in brand recognition and awareness if that is more where your goals lie.
As with any form of marketing, you should calculate a return on investment (ROI) from your social media expenditure, bearing in mind the goals you set earlier in your strategy.
As you go about setting a social media budget, you should consider how much you intend to spend on all your digital marketing across all channels. Then ask yourself how much of that budget you are prepared to devote to social media.
WebStrategies has done some basic calculations for a typical company and discovered that most companies spend about 5% to 15% of their annual revenue on marketing. Of that, most spend 35% to 45% on digital marketing activities. In turn, most companies spend 15% to 25% of their digital marketing budget on social media marketing efforts (organic and paid).
8. Plan the Types of Content You Intend to Share
Of course, to be successful on social media, you will need high-quality content to share. One of the biggest mistakes that businesses do is to share excessive promotional material. Remember, social networks are designed to be social – they were never intended to be a marketplace for you to sell your products.
Therefore, you need to balance the content you share socially, to be a mixture of informative and entertaining items, with a small percentage of promotional material added in. You will also need to like and share other peoples’ content.
This is probably the most significant reason that most influencers gain that status. They know their audience well and create the perfect content to interest their followers. As a brand, you need to do the same.
If you have previously determined your goals and discovered what works (and what doesn’t) for your competition, you should have a reasonable idea of the type of content that will resonate with your target audience. There is little point creating content for other types of people who will never help you meet your goals.
Be Realistic About What You Can Produce
You need to understand any limitations you may face when creating content. For example, you might want to run a great YouTube channel, but if you don’t have the equipment, people, knowledge, and time to create high-quality videos, it is pointless going down that track. You don’t want a YouTube channel with just one or two poorly-filmed videos of talking heads.
Likewise, there is little value in planning to make live video streams if you don't have anybody who feels comfortable presenting in front of the camera in a live broadcast.
You need to balance the types of content that your target audience most enjoy, with the material that you feel best equipped and most comfortable making.
Don’t Mix Your Personal Tastes with Those of Your Target Audience
The odds are that you, or the person running your business social account, will also run personal social accounts. You must distinguish between the two types of accounts. Just because you like to make a particular type of post on your own accounts, does not mean that those posts will work on the company accounts.
You presumably post about things that interest you. However, when operating the business account, you need to think solely about the tastes of your target audience. You want to make posts that will interest, entertain, and educate them.
You should probably write down your niche topics. This is particularly important when you curate content. For example, you should even restrict the tweets you retweet to those that relate to your niche topics.
9. Set Up Your Accounts Properly Before You Make and Promote Content
It is vital that you set your accounts up correctly. You will want a consistent visual look across all of your social channels. Use the correct colors, logos, and similar graphics on each network.
Don’t waste any of your social real estate. Take the time to fill in your bios and profiles fully. Make sure that you link to relevant places, perhaps even create specific landing pages on your website for people who click through from your social accounts.
It is worth taking the time to ensure that you have uploaded all the images on your bios and profiles at the best resolution for the social network. We include these optimum sizes in our post, Best Image Sizes for Social Media – The Ultimate Guide for Marketers.
Keep in mind your target audience as you set up each account. Ask yourself whether your page will interest these people, based on what you show on your bio or profile.
10. Establish the Best Times to Post and Set Up a Content Calendar
While you could manually make all of your social posts, that is inefficient, and may not lead to the best results. Most of the social networks now use some form of algorithm to filter the results they give people. This means that if you post at a different time to when your target audience is online, they may never see your content.
Ideally, you will want to use one of the social scheduling tools so you can set up and organize multiple posts at the same time. We have reviewed many social media marketing platforms. You’re sure to find that at least one of these will make your life easier. You can also see our post on the leading social media scheduling tools to use.
There are differing opinions over the number of posts you should make on each network each day, and the best times to make them. We have previously written posts giving the best times to post on Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok.
11. Create Suitable Content to Share with Your Followers
There are four questions you should ask yourself when creating content:
- What is the optimal character count per social media channel?
- What is the number of hashtags for messages on each social channel?
- Should I be using emoji in my social media messages?
- What is the best content type for each channel?
Don't forget the importance of images and videos. Visual content is more than 40 times more likely to be shared on social media than other types of content. Instagram has rapidly grown in importance over the last few years, and it has a significant visual focus. Top brands on Instagram report a per-follower engagement rate of 4.21%. That is 58 times higher than on Facebook and 120 times higher than on Twitter.
Each year, video content appears to increase in popularity, too. According to YouTube, mobile video consumption grows by 100% every year. 64% of customers say they are more likely to buy a product online after watching a video about it.
Create Diverse Content
While you want your content to have a general look, particularly within individual social campaigns, you don't want all your social content to look the same. People respond best to variety in their social feeds. Depending on the social network, they like a mix of enticing imagery, entertaining videos, and even some compelling text copy. Of course, some social networks only allow you one or two of these content types, but you can still alter the mix of posts within a medium.
For example, suppose you are a cooking company. In that case, you might like to share close-up mouth-watering food images on Instagram – but don't exclude other types of pictures and even the occasional video. When somebody goes to your Instagram profile, reads your bio, and sees your posts together, they want some variety, without everything being so different that it looks disjointed.
Wendy's does an excellent job of doing this on Instagram. While it's not hard to tell you are looking at food from a fast-food company, the post content varies. They stay true to their brand and emphasize color and creativity. There is a mix of memes, humor, photographs, and enticing food images.
Customize Your Content for Each Social Network
It's important to remember that not every social channel is identical. Ideally, you should customize your content for each network.
Twitter comes with a self-imposed limitation – you can’t write more than 280 characters in a tweet. So your message needs to be short and to the point. You can include links in tweets and hashtags (but no more than 1 or 2). Tweets with images perform far better than those without.
Facebook posts can be longer than tweets, but don't make them excessively so. People can be easily turned off by a wall of text. It is always a good idea to include some personal comments, even if you are simply sharing curated content. Short videos perform well on Facebook. Add an image or video with every Facebook post, but relate them to your text. Link posts often perform well on Facebook
Instagram is an image-based social network, so you need to share interesting, relevant photos, and short videos. You can combine these to tell a Story, which has the advantage of sitting at the top of people's feeds, rather than being lost in regular posts.
Pinterest is also very image-focused. Indeed, people Pin images on themed boards. So you need to focus your Pinterest content around a pinnable picture. Pinterest can be perfect for creatively showcasing products, particularly if you have a predominantly female target audience.
LinkedIn is a professional network, so you need to ensure that all the posts you share there are suitable for such an audience. People often read posts on LinkedIn hoping to educate themselves, particularly anything that can help further their careers.
YouTube is, of course, renowned as the home of medium to long-form video. You set up a channel and post videos to it, preferably following an overall theme. You need something to set you apart from all the other YouTube channels. You should aim to post at least one video per week, so your audience knows they can expect new videos consistently. You should generally avoid simply uploading your existing television ads. Aim to make and upload well-made, high-quality videos. One way to avoid making videos that look too obviously like ads is to make interesting videos that incorporate your products.
TikTok is beloved by Generation Z and, to a lesser extent, millennials. If they're your target market, then you should be making short-form videos for the platform. Videos on TikTok can be of any length up to 60 seconds, although most are around 15 seconds. Trends are significant to TikTok's audiences, so take note of the latest trends and try to make and share a quick video following the trend as soon as you notice it. As with YouTube, it's vital you choose a niche for your TikTok videos that is likely to interest your target audience. With TikTok videos being short, you need to post often to keep the attention of your viewers.
12. Promote Your Social Channels
Although good content will ultimately sell your social channels, you still need to gain your initial following. People have to find your channels before they can choose to follow you.
You can promote your channels in various ways, some highly visible, others more subtly.
You should place buttons for all your social accounts at various places on your website – on your home page, in your footer, on your About and Communications pages, for example. If you have an email list, you should include a reference to your social channels in any emails and newsletters you send. You can easily add buttons to your social channels in the footer of every email.
Of course, you can also promote your social channels offline. Include them in your store signage and old-school advertisements.
Many firms cross-promote their social channels. For example, you can make tweets promoting your YouTube channel. You might notice that most YouTube channels list the channel owner’s other social accounts on their profile page.
You can even run ads on your social channels, with a highly targeted audience, to build brand recognition and increase your social followers.
13. Engage with Your Audiences
People don’t just go onto social networks to read, look at, or watch content. They go online to interact with other people and to be social. Successful businesses do not just broadcast to their social audiences. They engage with them too.
This is why you should not attempt to cover every social network unless you have a very diverse target market and an army of personnel dedicated to this task. By focusing your attention on the social networks your target market frequents, you can use your resources efficiently.
Some firms have found it very useful to create custom hashtags. Not only can these encourage discussions and sharing, but they also make it easier for you to search for posts that reference your business.
Ideally, you should respond to all social mentions of your business and demonstrate that customer care is a priority for you.
14. Build a Community for Your Audience
One of the best ways of engaging with your audience is to create a clear community for them. You want to be one of their "go-to" places each day. A crucial part of this is establishing a personality online. You want to ensure that your business comes across as having heart and soul, and people don't see you as a faceless corporation.
Try and make your posts interactive and involve your audience. Make a point of asking them for an opinion. You could perhaps include quizzes and questions to collect your followers' views. Whatever you do, make sure your posts are interesting and newsworthy. Don't simply regurgitate your advertisements. You want your followers to return to your posts regularly, so they must find them of value.
One thing you need to give some thought to is who you use to run your social channels. Ideally, they should be employees who match the social demographics of your target audience. So if you're targeting Generation Z, use your youngest employees to run the company's Instagram and TikTok accounts. If you're targeting home renovators, you should perhaps look for existing homeowners on your staff to run the business Facebook account.
Depending on your target audience's social platforms of choice, you could join and create relevant groups. Facebook Groups are ideal for B2C businesses; consider LinkedIn if your focus is more B2B. You could create a group on one of these platforms to inspire your audience. Neil Patel has written in detail how to create and grow a Facebook Group. Your group can make an ideal place for networking.
15. Consider Paid Promotion to Boost Your Audiences
Most social networks allow you to buy some form of paid ads. Most will enable you to demographically target your ads, making them only visible to your preferred target audience.
Paid promotions allow you to reach relevant audiences to whom you don't currently connect. You can use advertisements to build brand recognition, promote particular posts/videos, or even to sell products.
16. Consider Working with Influencers to Widen Your Reach
We obviously understand the advantages of working with influencers and engaging in influencer marketing. If you select the right influencers, you have the chance to reach a whole new audience, who hopefully will have an interest in your business and its products.
Influencers have already mastered the art of social media marketing – that is their strength. They have built a solid reputation online, and have a large number of keen and interested followers.
You might consider working with influencers, having them to direct their followers to your social sites. You will, of course, have to create content that will interest them when they arrive at your pages, however.
If you select influencers whose followers match your target audience, and you provide quality content to people that the influencers direct your way, you have a chance that these people will then become your social followers too.
17. Consider Working with Brand Advocates
You might already have access to keen and eager people who are happy to promote your brand on social media. You can include these brand advocates in your social strategy. They may not have the same reach as the top influencers in your niche, but some will already have sizeable audiences and solid reputations, and you have the added advantage that they already know and like your product.
Brand advocacy simply means that the people who love your product or services continue to show support for your brand by promoting your organization organically to new audiences. Your brand advocates can play a significant role in word-of-mouth marketing and drive new business by being enthusiastic fans of what your company does.
Brand advocates can include your executive leadership, company partners, employees, and existing customers.
18. Consider Using Chatbots as Part of Your Social Media Marketing Strategy
If you use messenger-type apps, such as Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp, with your followers, then you could consider adding a chatbot. These can help you resolve problems for your potential or existing customers without the need for any human interruption.
SocialBee describes "the greatest benefit may actually be the fact that a chatbot will provide your customers with a smart assistant with the ability to communicate with them almost like a human consultant and it will progressively begin to get to know your customers and which of your products they are interested in."
If the thought of using a chatbot daunts you, you don't need any coding skills or have to pay a costly development team. There are several existing chatbots you can integrate into your social channels for a monthly fee.
19. Run Cross-Channel Campaigns
Many businesses now have more than one social account and tie them together with cross-channel campaigns. You can even include your influencers and brand advocates in these campaigns too.
Of course, if you sell multiple products targeting different groups of people, you might have quite a few business social accounts. That doesn't mean that you need to include every social account in every campaign. Focus on those accounts that match the target audience for a specific campaign.
Every social network has its quirks and ways of doing things. For instance, hashtags began on Twitter. They're still important there, but you shouldn't use more than one or two per tweet. That network also has a fixed limit of 280 characters. Instagram seems even more beloved of hashtags, and you can use up to 30 hashtags in an Instagram post. They don't like you using the same combination of hashtags in too many posts, however. On the other hand, while some people use hashtags on Facebook, they have never taken off there in the same way they have on Instagram, Twitter, or even TikTok.
So, you can't just use the same items of content, unaltered, on all your social networks in a cross-channel campaign. You need to think of a cross-channel campaign as one giant story you tell across all your social accounts without repeating yourself. You want to tell a connected, cohesive story that does not feel repetitive to your audience, particularly to those who follow you, your influencers, and your brand advocates across multiple social networks. One way to do this is to share only the content types that each network specializes in for your campaign. For example, you would only share images relating to your campaign on Instagram, videos of more than a few minutes duration on YouTube, short videos on TikTok, and short, sharp 280-character tweets on Twitter (but ensuring you include a suitable visual.)
You will, of course, wish to use consistent branding across all the messages on all your social networks for your cross-channel campaign. Ideally, you might create an overall landing page giving more details about your campaign and linking all your messages there. Remember to create a unique, memorable hashtag for these campaigns (and even encourage people to use it on those networks with less hashtag interest, like Facebook.)
20. Track Your Results and Adapt
Of course, no matter how much you plan your social efforts, there is no guarantee that things will work as you expected. If you don’t track your results, however, you will never know the success of your social campaigns.
You began the process by setting goals and then determined your most relevant metrics. Therefore, you will want to keep a constant eye on how these metrics are progressing. Are your social campaigns having the desired effects on these metrics?
We have previously looked at 15 Instagram Analytics Tools for Influencers. Some of these also provide metrics for other social platforms. Many of the social networks offer their own analytics tools that will provide much of the necessary data. For example, you will find an Insights section for your Facebook page and Analytics sections on Twitter and YouTube.
Use these tools to track your success. If they show that you are producing popular, well-shared content, create more of that type. If your content doesn’t perform so well, take note of what does work, and adapt your social sharing to focus on the kind of material your followers preferred.
You could also consider surveying your social audience to discover what they think of your social strategy. Your followers may come up with valuable ideas that you hadn't thought about.
Don’t be afraid to make changes if there is a chance that you can further improve your social success.