• Entrepreneurship

Beginner’s Guide to Building a Social Media Strategy

Lauren Marinigh | January 15, 2016

Photo Credit: Satapat Muangsai / Shutterstock.com

These days everyone is quick to jump on the social media bandwagon, as they are inexpensive, real-time marketing platforms that are easier (and quicker) to utilize than traditional advertising. But jumping on the social media trend without a proper strategy and plan in place is like trying to drive with your eyes closed—you’re only going to get so far before you crash and burn.

A proper social media strategy will help you set goals and objectives for your online presence, determine the right platforms to reach your target audience, and how to use each platform efficiently and effectively to set you up for success. So how do you put together a social media strategy when you don’t have the budget to hire a marketing guru? Continue reading for a step-by-step guide.

Step 1: Audit your current social media activities and those of your competitors

If you have already gone ahead and set up social media channels for your business it’s not too late to build a strategy! Take a look at what you have done on your social media channels and identify what has and hasn’t been working. Most social media channels have built-in analytics (see step 5) that allow you to access key data about your posts and your page for free. These tools can help you see which posts people are engaging with (liking, re-sharing, commenting), and which ones they aren’t.

Helpful resource: This guide by Hootsuite can help you audit your pre-existing social media channels.

If you don’t already have your social media channels set up, or haven’t been active enough on them to make any conclusions, take a look at what your competitors are doing. No, you’re not going to want to copy exactly what they’re doing, but your competitors can be a great place to gain inspiration, and get a better grasp on what makes people react.

Helpful resource: Want to dig even deeper into your competitor’s social media presence? Check out this guide.

Lastly, take a look at other brands you like or follow already on social media. Analyze what they are doing that you really like, and what they’re doing that you don’t like. Even if your business is in a different industry, take inspiration from other places and alter it to fit your brand and audience.

Step 2: Develop Your Vision and Purpose

Now that you have a better grasp of what your competitors and favourite brands are doing, and have some inspiration and key findings , you need to figure out what you want your social media presence to accomplish. Do you want it to direct traffic to your business’s blog? Do you want to drive conversions/sales on your e-commerce website? Figure out what the main purpose is for your social media and develop a vision. Your vision statement is meant to be aspirational and lay out the most important primary goals for your business’s social media. By creating this statement, you’ll be able to see, analyze and understand who you are as a business online. Just like when creating a vision statement for your business as a whole, this statement will give you a clear starting point, and act as a roadmap to where you’re going.

Here is an example of our vision statement for Futurpreneur Canada’s social media:

Create a digital space where entrepreneurs, mentors and partners (aspiring, current, and veterans) can discuss, learn, be inspired, ask questions and connect. The key components of Futurpreneur Canada’s social media are:

  • To drive the conversation around entrepreneurship in Canada
  • To drive traffic back to the Futurpreneur Canada website and blog
  • To showcase and share success stories of Futurpreneur-funded businesses
  • To increase engagement in the entrepreneurial space in Canada

Step 3: Determine Where and Who Your Audience is

The good news is, you’ve probably already conducted some sort of target analysis and discovery before starting your business. If you haven’t, take a look at the demographics of your customers (age, gender, location, household income, etc.), and their psychographics (what they like/dislike, values, lifestyle, etc.).

Sometimes it helps to visualize your target market as one specific person, but often your target market may encompass  a few different types of people. For example, Futurpreneur Canada’s target market is young entrepreneurs and experienced business mentors—two different types of people with different demographics and psychographics.

Helpful resource: This guide by Marketing Land breaks down how to define your target audience.

Once you have a better understanding of your ideal customer, determine where they “live” online  (what social media platforms and websites they frequent) and their online behaviour. There are thousands of studies online that can show you who resides on which social media platform, but here are some statistics from Pew Research Centre that break down the demographics of the top social networking platforms. Remember though, just because your audience is there, doesn’t mean you have to be!

By understanding your audience and its online behavior,  you’ll  avoid wasting your time on the networks that your audience isn’t using, and instead focus your time and efforts on the ones they’re on. Once you have picked your  channels your business will be on, lay out the purpose of each of these channels, and what you hope to use each channel for (i.e. What you will be posting on these pages and how you will use it).

Step 4: Create a Content Plan/Calendar

Now that you know what the vision of your social media is, and where you plan on setting up your business in the online world, it’s time to figure out what exactly you’re posting on these pages, and when.

Creating a content calendar can be an easy way to organize your communications and make sure that you don’t miss anything throughout the month. Your content calendar or plan can be as simple as an Excel or Word document stating the date you want to post something and what you want to post.

Helpful resource: Here is a sample template from Hootsuite of what your content calendar could look like.

Now, the hardest part for most busy entrepreneurs and business owners, is trying to figure out when they’ll find the time and how they’ll  remember to post content online. Thankfully, free tools like Hootsuite exist that help you pre-schedule your social media posts as far in advance as you want. All you have to do is plug in what you want your post to be, choose a social media channel, and pick a date/time you want it to post to your page.

Step 5: Analyze and adjust

Last but not least, by not analyzing your social media results, you could be missing out on opportunities to improve your social media. Determine a way to regularly track how you’re doing on social media that works best for you and your busy schedule.

Assuming you probably don’t have a dedicated marketing professional to do a complex report for you, analyzing your social media can be as simple as just regularly checking the analytics tools that are built right into most social network platforms (see the below helpful resources to learn more). See which of your posts are creating engagement (likes, retweets, comments, etc.), and which ones aren’t, and use this information to determine what you will post going forward.

The important thing about a social media strategy is that you should be prepared to review, alter, and change it whenever you need to!

Helpful Resources:

Written By: Lauren Marinigh, Social Media & Content Creation Coordinator, Futurpreneur Canada