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The Ultimate Guide to Creating a Social Media Strategy for Your Small Business

Whether you’re just starting your business or looking for new ways to grow your business, having a social media presence can provide you with unique marketing opportunities. Before you begin, you’ll need to create a social media strategy. Here’s a detailed guide to help you develop a sound social media strategy so you can meet and exceed your goals for your small business.

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What is a social media strategy?

A social media strategy is a well-thought-out and intentional plan that business owners create to help establish their social media goals and see them through for maximum engagement and increased brand awareness. Your social media strategy can act as the basis for all of your social media campaigns.

Benefits of using social media for your business

There are several benefits to using social media to promote your business. Here are some examples:

Reach a wider audience

Social media can help you expand your audience to new age groups and demographics. According toPew Research Center, here is how age factored into social media usage in 2019:

  • Adults between the ages of 18 and 24 use Instagram and Snapchat more than other social media platforms.
  • Adults between the ages of 30 and 49 tend to use YouTube the most, along with Facebook.
  • Adults 65 and older tend to use Facebook and YouTube the most.

By understanding which age group tends to gravitate toward one social media platform over the other, you can target your social media presence. For example, an online jewelertypically catering to women between 24 and 35 would like to expand their audience to include women from the age of 50 to 65+. Using research, they determine that Facebook may be the best platform.

Create a less-expensive alternative to traditional marketing

You can use your social media platforms for a more cost-saving approach to marketing. This depends on whether you want to create a social media budget for sponsored advertisements or posts. However, if you have limited funds, social media can be a great way to achieve brand awareness on a budget. For example, if your company does not have the budget to put an ad in traditional places like newspapers or on billboards, you can post about your product and services on social media, using hashtags to increase engagement and links to drive traffic back to your website.

Build customer relationships

Social media can be a great way to engage with new, existing and potential customers in a more casual setting. For example, if a customer purchased a blouse from your online boutique and tags you in a picture on social media of them wearing that top, you can engage with them by commenting and liking their post. To go a step further, you could ask their permission to post their picture on your profile. This can promote customer loyalty and encourage others to purchase and post pictures wearing your products.

Offer platform for product promotion

Social media is an excellent resource for promoting your products. Here are some examples of product promotions using social media marketing:

  • Announcing a flash sale via synchronized posts across all of your social media platforms.
  • Holding a contest to win a gift card or a free product. You can do this by focusing on one platform, like Instagram. Use the caption to instruct users to follow you (if they haven’t already), and like this post and ten other posts of yours. The first ten people to do so win a prize.
  • Hosting a Facebook or Instagram live event to talk about a new product or service you offer.

Help communicate company news

Social media platforms are an excellent resource for sharing information about your company with your followers and news outlets. Considering using social media when you hire a new staff member, when a staff member wins an award or hits a career milestone, when your company releases a new product or service or when you have an open position and are accepting applications.

Provide a new source for recruiting candidates

You can use social media to expand your candidate search for an open position at your company. Professional social networking sites are a great place to promote an opening. However, you can also use other social media channels to do this as well. You can use Instagram and Facebook to announce the open position, and you can link to application details in the description.

10 steps to create a social media strategy for your business

There are a variety of ways to create a social media strategy that works for your business. Here is a suggested list of steps to help guide you in creating a plan that is unique to your needs:

1. Outline your goals

The first step to creating a sound social media strategy is to outline your short and long-term goals. By doing this first, you can use your goals as a basis for measuring your success on social media. To come up with achievable goals, you can use the S.M.A.R.T. goal method, as follows:

  • S-specific
  • M-measurable
  • A-achievable
  • R-relevant
  • T-time-bound

Example of a S.M.A.R.Tgoal for social media:

"Set up a Facebook account to engage with the 65+ audience and see a 10% increase in website sales within three months."

2. Develop your budget

Decide how much you want to invest on social media marketing. If you operate a small business, it could be helpful to start with a small budget designated to platform-specific analytics or advertisements. This way, you can figure out what works for your business and devote more of your budget to those areas.

3. Establish your target audience

Establishing a target audience for your social media strategy can help you determine other factors like the types of content you want to promote and which social media platforms you should use. For example, if you own a restaurant and want to draw in a younger audience, you might want to use social media to promote a free drink night or post pictures of young adult customers to convey that your restaurant appeals to that generation.

4. Review competitor profiles

Look at your competitor’s profiles and overall social media presence. For example, if you own a hair salon, make a list of other hair salons in your area and search for them on platforms like Instagram, Facebook or Twitter. This can help you establish appropriate content within your industry.

5. Choose your platforms

After establishing your target audience and reviewing your competitors’ social media presence, use your findings to determine which platforms to take on. Consider starting with one or two that resonate with your desired content and target audience. This can help you get used to just a few platforms at a time before expanding your social media presence. Some of the most popular platforms today include:

  • Instagram
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Snapchat
  • YouTube
  • Pinterest

6. Make your profiles consistent

By promoting uniformity across your social media platforms, you establish your company’s brand. A good example is to have the same username and profile picture for each of your accounts. This way, someone who follows you on Instagram can find your Twitter or Facebook profile with little effort. Here is an overview of how to stay consistent across social media:

  • Username
  • Profile picture
  • Background/cover photo
  • Bio
  • Posts

7. Get organized with a social media calendar

A social media calendar establishes organization within your strategy. There is a variety of software programs designed specifically for social media planning. You can also use the calendar feature on your computer or create a handwritten calendar. Set reminders for specific posts that align with a new product launch or a holiday.

8. Create guidelines for engaging with customers

When you create an account on one or more social media platforms, you provide new, existing and potential customers with a casual setting to ask questions, give constructive feedback or praise. Create social media guidelines to help your staff engage with customers in a helpful and professional manner. For example, for every comment that asks a question about a product, your reply should acknowledge the commenter by name before referring them to a product page or answering their question in your response.

9. Complete a social media audit

A social media audit is a review you conduct to determine what your social media strategy has accomplished and which areas need reforming. Typically, you enter data like the number of followers, likes, usernames, comments and other metrics to determine the success of your social media strategy at that specific time. According to best-selling author and entrepreneur Neil Patel, you can perform a social media audit in 30 minutes, every week or however often you think is necessary.

10. Allow your social media strategy to evolve

Like any good marketing strategy, you might need to adjust your social media strategy to better fit the needs of your customer base, new social media trends or other factors. For this reason, allow your company to shift and change its approach to social media for more refined results.

Tips on how to establish metrics and track performance

After you have established a social media strategy, you can monitor the progress by implementing metrics and tracking methods. Here are some tips to create your own metric criteria:

  • Base your metrics on your overall social media goals.Review the short- and long-term goals that you hope to achieve through your social media strategy to determine what key metrics to include when tracking its progress. For example, if one of your long-term goals was to increase traffic to your website by 15%, then you could track how many users clicked the links on your Facebook posts.
  • Start with a few metrics before expanding.It may be tempting to track several metrics at once, but you can establish a sound tracking system by starting with a few key metrics that are important to you. Develop a method for tracking each metric that allows you to measure it more closely.
  • Make use of the platform-specific analytical tools available.Many social media platforms have built-in analytical tools to measure and track the success of your social media presence. You might have to pay a fee or register for a business status if you have not already, but this can be a useful way to track platform-specific metrics.
  • Invest in a social media analytical tool.There are a variety of social media analytics software programs available online. The benefit of purchasing one of these programs is to track metrics across your social media platforms all in one place. This could help when pulling data, and it can help you measure the success of a post across multiple social media platforms.

What are examples of social media metrics?

Here are some examples of standard metrics that businesses use to measure the success of their social media strategy:

  • Impressions
  • Engagements
  • Likes
  • Comments
  • Shares or retweets
  • Views
  • Followers
  • Account mentions
  • Link clicks
  • Bounce rate

Roles to fill as your business grows

There are a variety of roles within social media marketing, digital marketing and content creation that can contribute to a successful social media strategy. Here are several examples of roles you can consider hiring for as your business grows:

Brand ambassador

A brand ambassador is someone who works closely with a business or on the internal level, as they work to promote the business’s products or services in a positive way. Brand ambassadors typically do this via social media. They might work with social media specialists and content creators to establish an acceptable picture and caption, vlog or tweet with the purpose of leading their followers to purchase and use your products.

Content strategist

A content strategist is responsible for understanding the overall brand identity, values and products or services of your company. Using this knowledge, they work with social media professionals and content writers to develop compelling content. This includes blog posts, social media posts and captions and videos. Depending on the current size of your company, they might take on the role of managing your social media profiles, along with content creators and freelancers.

Content writer

A content writer is a professional who writes articles, blog posts, social media captions, tweets and press releases. They provide significant benefits to your social media strategy by writing compelling pieces that reflect your company’s brand and describe your products.

Digital marketing manager

A digital marketing manager is responsible for overseeing digital marketing campaigns for your business. One way they help drive traffic to your website and generate new customers is by creating or maintaining your social media presence. In this situation, they would most likely delegate tasks among their staff to help create social media posts, run campaigns and pull data to measure campaign success.

Graphic designer

A graphic designer is a professional with extensive knowledge in computer software like Adobe Photoshop and Dreamweaver. They also have a creative edge to design things like brochures, banner ads and logos. They use brand guidelines and company color schemes to create visually appealing images to post on social media, use as profile pictures or use as background pictures.

Social media analyst

Social media analysts can be instrumental in tracking and recording the success of your company’s social media campaigns. They are typically responsible for using social media analytical tools to monitor the level of engagement and reach that each social media post receives. Using their knowledge, they can help you determine whether your campaign and social media platforms work well together.

Social media editor

Social media editors are responsible for editing written content such as blog posts, tweets and captions. They check for tone, clarity, punctuation and grammar mistakes to ensure that the final product is a polished representation of your brand. This also helps promote your company’s professionalism and its ability to engage in effective written communication.

Social media manager

A social media manager is someone who oversees a team of social media professionals. However, in a small business setting, social media managers can act as the sole coordinator for all of your social media. When interviewing, ask if they have experience creating a posting schedule, replying to customer comments and developing compelling social media campaigns to engage with your followers and expand your reach.

Social media specialist

A social media specialist can be responsible for running one or multiple social media platforms for your company. They perform in several areas, including post creation, post planning, social media analytics, graphic design and customer engagement. They usually work on campaigns while under the guidance of a social media manager.

Creating a social media strategy requires a level of research and planning. The result can provide you with an excellent platform to market your business inexpensively, spread awareness of your brand and engage with your customer base.

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