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noun Strategy / A plan of action designed to achieve a long-term or overall aim.
First, you need to understand what a strategy is, and isn’t it. A strategy should define the main aim of your social media presence and set the parameters for what it will deliver and how it will be delivered. It will be supported by a tactical plan that defines how the strategy will be delivered, including the channels, resource and budgets to achieve it.
Tip – ensure your strategy is no more than 3-4 pages long. A strategy has to be concise and provide the governing principles that guide the plan.
Below is a summary of key content to include in your strategy document.
A short, concise summary of what the strategy is aiming to achieve, broken down into bullet points. Below is an example from a homewares retailer I worked with:
Set-out where you are in your social journey and where the business needs to be, and the reasons for this.
For example, are you a global organisation seeking to consolidate a fragmented approach to social media, or a startup looking to build a social presence from the ground up?
Goals define your high-level aims and objectives use SMART criteria to ensure each goal has a measurable set of criteria against which to evaluate progress.
I still use SMART criteria for objectives because they encourage you to think about the practicality of achieving each goal, rather than focusing on things that sound good but might not be feasible.
S = Specific in terms of what needs to be achieved
M = Measurable so that progress can be tracked and evaluated
A = Achievable so that your team has a realistic chance of success
R = Relevant to your business so it’s aligned with overall business goals
T = Timeframe within which the objective must be satisfied
Below are examples of high-level goals for your social media plan:
An example of a smart objective for goal #5 is:
We want to increase our followers on Twitter (Specific) to drive more organic social traffic to the website (Achievable/Relevant). We want to gain 1,000 new followers (Measurable) from our marketing by 31st January (Time based).
Here you set out the business challenges for the social channel that need to be overcome, and the strategic activities that will enable this. Below is an example – I find using a tabular form helps to visualise this:
This frames who you want to reach via social networks. For this, you need to understand your core audience (personas, profiles, demographics etc.) and identify any new customer types that you want to attract based on your products/services. It can help to split this into three types of social follower:
Your strategy shouldn’t be set in stone; it needs to be flexible to respond to changing market conditions.
Include an explanation of the review process:
Some people include social media guidelines in the strategy but we don’t think this is the best approach. Guidelines are part of the tactical execution, providing a set of rules for the business to adhere to. It’s not a strategic activity, so this content sits best within the tactical plan, or as a separate document referenced by the plan.
Make sure you include links to all other documents that are relevant to your social media strategy so that anyone new joining the business can find them and get the full picture.
This provides a summary of all activities that need to take place to support the implementation of the plan. For example:
Here you will spell out what you’ll be doing for each social network to satisfy the goals of your social strategy. Be sure to include all tactical elements and any related, process, people and tools.
Below is an example channel level plan for Twitter:
We will use our primary Twitter handle as both a customer service channel and a broadcast/interaction channel instead of having 2 separate handles. Twitter will be used to make us feel extremely accessible to consumers – real humans at the other end in real time (so we will initial conversations wherever possible). This will be beneficial in developing brand awareness and putting a real face to the products bought elsewhere.
Note down how social will align with other marketing channels so that the people doing the work understand the wider picture. For example, for email marketing explain:
Don’t forget, it’s a two-way street, so also define how you need other marketing channels to support social. Again, taking email as the example:
This is the ‘T’ in the SMART objectives – ensuring each activity has a time frame stamped on it, so you can track progress.
Timelines are critical because they give you a yardstick against which to measure your ability to implement the strategy. Activities without deadlines tend to drift and are often seen by others as less important (if you don’t know when you need it by, it can’t be important can it!).
Note that some activities are recurring, such as posting the weekly newsletter to Facebook. For these simply state the frequency and target day of the week.
Start by defining the KPIs for your social strategy, which should break down into macro KPIs (for the whole strategy e.g. increase traffic from social media) and micro KPIs (channel specific e.g. increase RT rate on Twitter).
You should align your KPI expectations with the metrics that you can track for each social network so that they can easily be measured. Then sense check that your web analytics tools are configured correctly to capture all relevant data.
I recommend using campaign tracking parameters in all URLs you share via social. Using Google Analytics as the example, this means adding UTM parameters for at least medium, source and campaign.
You’ll be able to drill down into traffic from social and isolate specific elements of activity, such as individual links. I’ve used this for differentiating between different content formats, such as text vs. image vs. video updates for the same campaign. You can overlay ecommerce goals and conversion data to see what is adding the most value, and use the learning to fine tune your social marketing.
Include details of the reporting you’ll do to measure performance, and where these reports can be accessed.
So this is step 2 in the Smart Insights 12 step series on social media strategy and planning.
Did you find it useful?
Do you think there are any gaps i.e. would you put anything else in a social media strategy or plan?
Please join in the discussion with comments and your own experience. Keep an eye out for next month’s article, “What competitor analysis should we do to inform our social media strategy?”.
If you missed the previous post, catch-up by reading "6 reasons why you need a social media strategy".
By James Gurd
James is an Ecommerce consultant and owner of Digital Juggler, an E-commerce and Digital Marketing consultancy helping retailers develop, execute and evolve E-commerce strategies and optimise their digital channel. With a background as a Head of E-commerce and also agency side as Head of Client Development, he has experienced life on both sides of the fence. He has helped companies like A&N Media, Sweaty Betty and Smythson to manage RFP/ITT proposals. and been lead consultant on high profile projects for Econsultancy, Salmon and Greenwich Consulting. He is a guest blogger for Econsultancy, for whom he also writes best practice guides, regularly contributes to industry events and co-hosts #ecomchat, a weekly Twitter chat for e-commerce knowledge sharing. For e-commerce advice and support, connect with James on LinkedIn and Twitter.
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