9 steps to creating an effective social media strategy

There is no doubt that, when it comes to building brand awareness, social media is key. So, in 2021, why are there still so many businesses posting blindly and simply hoping for the best? The key is creating an effective social media strategy.

While there’s definitely no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to a social media strategy, there are several steps you should take to make sure you’re getting it right for your brand and your audience. From finding the right metrics to identifying your target audience, read on for my nine-step process.


1. Nail down your objectives

Before you get started, you’ll need to sit down and outline exactly what you’re hoping to achieve with your social channels. This is where you should be setting SMART goals:

S – Specific – When it comes to setting goals, being clear about what you want to accomplish is key, as it will make it much easier to see exactly what you’re trying to achieve. For example, instead of simply stating that you want to ‘increase Twitter followers’, assign a target such as ‘increase Twitter followers to 10,000’.

M – Measurable – for each goal you specify, make sure you know how you’ll be measuring your progress and success

A – Achievable – with social media goals, you’ll want to choose those that are challenging, but not unreachable

R – Relevant – social media marketing works best when it’s aligned with the rest of your businesses goals and objectives, so ensure your social media goals support your businesses wider purpose

T – Timely – when you’re setting goals, make sure you’re including a deadline to keep everyone accountable. Adding in specific milestones along the way is also a great way to ensure you’re staying on track.

2. Audit where you are currently


Before you can start planning your updated strategy, you’ll need to gain an in-depth understanding of how your existing social media channels are performing, so you can see exactly how and where you need to improve. There are a couple of steps for this process:

Your recent progress and results

First, you’ll need to identify all of your social media platforms, channels and handles and write them out in a list, so you know exactly what you’re auditing. Then, for each channel, look at:

  • What types of content perform best on which channel?
  • What types of customers are interacting with you the most?
  • Which platforms are driving the most traffic to your website?

Similarly, you’ll need to check to see if your accounts are cohesive across multiple platforms. From making sure your handles are the same to using the right logos, imagery and tone of voice depending on the platform, it’s all about presenting a unified front, so your customers can find and remember you.

Just remember that your tone of voice and content will differ depending on your audience and which social platforms you’re using, while those brands targeting both B2B and B2C markets will need to ensure they’re tailoring content for both of their specific audiences.

Don’t forget to also complete checks for any duplicated or old accounts, along with those that may have been set up by ex-employees as this can confuse customers.

Competitor analysis

While it’s great to measure your success on your own growth, you’ll also need to know how you compare to your competitors to offer insights into what works within your industry as a whole and to highlight any areas of improvement.

  1. Determine your competitors: you should already have a vague idea of who your competitors are, but if not, use Google or other keyword tools to search for keywords your customers use to find your business and find others who are relevant in your industry. Remember to only ever compare your social strategy against businesses who are actively using social media too, for the most accurate comparison. 
  2. Gather your data: I find a spreadsheet works best for this and is the clearest way to keep everything in one place. You’ll need to research what social media platforms they’re using, how many followers they have and what type of content they post along with whether they use any platform-specific features such as Instagram Stories or Facebook Shopping. You’ll also want to look at their audience growth, engagement and what types of hashtags or keywords they use. A great free tool to use here is Social Blade, which offers an in-depth look at various metrics, so you can get a clearer picture of your competitors’ social presence. 
  3. Analyse their activity: take a look at the specific way they use social media. How long does it take them to respond to comments or questions? When did they last post and what is their posting frequency? By deep-diving into what they’re posting about and how they conduct themselves on social media, you’ll gain a much clearer picture of your industry as a whole, along with what works and what doesn’t.


3. Create customer personas

While you might have already defined your audience in previous marketing activities, it’s a good idea to create detailed buyer personas in order to fully understand customer needs and design your social media strategy accordingly. These buyer personas will take the form of fictional, generalised representations of your ideal customer.

To find the relevant information, use your native analytics to perform an audience analysis by collecting the most valuable data from your social media channels including:

  • Demographics
  • Locations
  • Language
  • Attitudes
  • Interests
  • Beliefs

It’s also a good idea to brainstorm what their problems might be, and how you can fix them along with what might cause them to resist or keep them from adopting your message or carrying out your call to action. Similarly, you can also improve your buyer personas by:

  • Interviewing customers to discover what they like, or dislike, about your products or service
  • Looking through your database of contacts to uncover trends about how certain leads or customers find and consume your content
  • Using forms on your website that capture important persona information such as job role or which forms of social media your customers regularly use
  • Taking into consideration your sales team’s feedback on the leads they are interacting with most (what generalisations can they make about the different types of customers you serve best?)


4. Identify the right KPIs and metrics

While there are so many metrics you can track, from generating leads to establishing online authority, the metrics you do track will massively vary depending on your goals. Here are some examples:

  • If your goal is to improve brand awareness, then you’ll want to track metrics such as impressions, shares, post reach, follower growth and brand mentions
  • If your overall goal is to increase conversions, you’ll be looking at traffic to the site via social media source, conversion rate, click-through-rate and bounce rate
  • If you’re aiming to use your social channels to build and manage an engaged community, then you’ll need to track metrics like shares and retweets, brand mentions, audience growth rate, post engagement rate and response rate. While not necessarily a metric, you should also be tracking your customer response rate as there’s nothing worse than a brand that doesn’t respond to customers on social, whether the comment or question is positive or negative. Ideally, all businesses should aim for a 100% customer response rate.

5. Define your channel purpose and key messaging

Clearly defining the purpose of your social media channels can help make it much easier to decide what content to create and share and what key messaging you want your target audience to take away from your social channels. Here’s an example for an e-commerce business:

Platform purposes:

  • LinkedIn: for providing value to businesses and individuals in the form of longer-form content and thought leadership positioning
  • Twitter: for interaction and engagement: sharing product and company updates, along with relevant industry news
  • Facebook: for connecting with your audience, sharing helpful advice and starting conversations
  • Instagram: for engagement, inspiration, visibility and connecting with your customers

Key messaging:

  • ‘The top-selling xyz product in the market’
  • ‘High-quality products at the lowest price point’
  • ‘Carbon neutral and eco-friendly’

When creating key messaging, you’ll want to create an overall message or umbrella statement and then back this up with supporting messages and proof.


6. Identify your platforms

“The essence of strategy is choosing what not to do” – Michael Porter

While it can be tempting to throw everything at your social media strategy and see what sticks, it’s a much better idea to take a look at what’s working for you and adapt your strategy accordingly. Following your competitor analysis, you should have an overarching view of your industry landscape, where your customers spend time and what type of content they like to consume. From there, you can determine exactly which social platforms you’re going to use. While having an active presence across multiple platforms is great, there’s no point in wasting time on a platform you know your audience isn’t active on.

Always remember that each social platform is tailored towards a different purpose, type of content and audience, so always make sure it’s right for you and what your goals are.


7. Planning and content creation

Unfortunately, this is where most businesses begin, but by following all of the steps above before you get to this point, you’ll know that the content you’re creating is tailored to your ideal audience. Plan your social activities and any actions you’ll need to carry out to reach your goals. Whether that’s creating video content or engaging in influencer marketing activity, make sure you always have your objectives and audience in your mind at all times.

But, what types of content can you share on social media? If you’re uncertain, here are some simple ideas:

  • Video content: from Facebook Live’s to Instagram Reels, video content is hugely popular on social media. In fact, marketers who use video grow revenue 49% faster than non-video users
  • Written posts: from text-only posts to LinkedIn articles, sharing company blogs to takeaways from a webinar or event, text posts are perfect for providing value to your audience
  • Infographics: graphics are an eye-catching and easy way to provide value to your audience
  • Competitions: running competitions from your social accounts can improve social shares, encourage engagement and help you to reach more people
  • Polls and interactive content: these types of posts are of course great for increasing engagement, but they also allow you to ask your followers questions and find out key information from the


8. Go live

You’ve nailed down your objectives, got your platforms sorted out and have created your content, all that’s left is to roll out your strategy across your various social channels. A great way to do this is to invest in a social scheduling tool – such as Sprout Social or Later – which is a super-easy way to visualise your social feeds and make sure that you’re sharing a range of content types.

Don’t forget, you can also download our free 2021 social media calendar to help you build timely and relevant campaigns to make sure your content goes out at the right time, on the right platform.


9. Measure, monitor, analyse and amend

The key to growing a successful social presence is to continuously monitor your progress. When it comes to social media, it’s all about testing and re-visiting – even though you’ve done all of your research, there are no guarantees. Your social media strategy should be constantly evolving and it’s important that you continue to tweak and edit your strategy to best suit your audience and what works best for you.



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