How to Create a Social Media Plan

In 1989, Kevin Costner walked across a cornfield to the sound of a voice whispering, “If you build it, he will come.” Today, many businesses have this same Field of Dreams mentality about their social media presence. If we just promote ourselves on social media, they think, prospective customers are bound to find us. This simply isn’t the case. Like any business tool, building a strong social media presence takes time and careful planning.

When harnessed effectively, social media has the power to create strong relationships between companies and their target audiences. However, failing to create a comprehensive plan with clear objectives can result in a bunch of noise with very little return. This blog explores five questions every organization needs to ask when creating a social media plan.

What are your goals?

Start with the end in mind. Social can help you achieve a large range of business goals but it’s best to set a narrow focus early on. Are you primarily using social to raise awareness? Increase sales? Retain top customers? Without a goal in mind, brands often spread themselves too thin and see very little return for their efforts. Setting a clear, measurable objective will help steer your entire strategy.

Who are you trying to reach?

Create buyer personas. Who is your target audience? What is their industry and job title? How old are they? What is their yearly income? Make your personas as detailed as possible. Remember its possible to target more than one group with tailored messaging so creating a couple, specific personas is always best. Knowing who you are trying to reach will help you down the road when determining what networks you should engage on and what kind of content you should share.

What do you want to say?

Find your voice. Decide on the high level, key concepts that you want to get across in your messaging. Often there will be many employees involved in the social media process, so starting with top level messaging can help keep everyone on track. Remember that this is your time to engage. Be creative. Social media gives you freedoms that other, more structured mediums do not. Use a mix of content and graphics. It’s never a bad idea to take a look at your competitors. This can give you a good idea of how customers in your industry respond to certain messaging.

What channels work best for your message?

Don’t just jump on every social network possible. Brands often establish a strong presence on multiple networks in hopes of reaching consumers a variety of ways. However, not every channel fits with every brand. For example, a B2B company might see the most value in LinkedIn and have little use for Instagram.

Study the demographic of the network. Check out where your customers, competitors and influencers are. Who’s most engaged on each channel? What is the style of content on each channel? Does your message fit? Will you be able to effectively display your message? It can be tempting to jump in head first, but it’s important to take time to grow your presence methodically and organically. If you’re just starting your venture into social, begin with a blog and build from there.

How will you measure success?

Set metrics. These should tie directly to your business goals. Make sure the metrics are clear, relevant and achievable. Choose a time frame in which you will measure your success. For example, if your goal is to increase sales, set a goal of generating 80 leads from social over the period of one month. There are a variety of tools to help you track, obtain and analyze this data, many of which are built directly into the network itself. Keeping a close eye on this type of information will help you determine what messaging is working best, who is most engaging and whom you still need to reach. The real-time nature of these tools can also help you adjust your content plan as you move along.

Social media is a fluid medium that requires close attention. There is often a lot of room for change, creativity and personality. However, creating a strong social media plan on the front end will save you from muddied messaging and wasted time.