A December 2013 Social Media Study produced by Pew Research, indicated that 73% of online adults participate in social networks. Not surprisingly, social media can be an effective way for your business to communicate with and engage your target audience(s), especially when your social media approach is integrated into your overall marketing strategy.
1Define your goals What are you trying to achieve through your use of social media? Common goals include building brand awareness, authority and trustworthiness, protecting your brand's reputation, building community, gaining insight into your customer demographics and behavior, providing timely customer service, increasing conversions through social media, encouraging customer loyalty, and increasing online visibility and search engine ranking.
2Define your target audience(s) The demographics of social networking users vary by social media platform, sometimes significantly. Before you make a social media plan, it's imperative that you understand your audience so you can put yourself where they are. Research the demographic characteristics of your current, previous and target customers. Develop profiles for each and consider which social networking sites would allow you to most effectively engage with each audience.
3Choose your social media platforms Determine which social media sites fit with your brand. Popular platforms are listed in the box below, but you should also consider niche social media platforms that relate to your industry and cater to shared interests. For example, businesses in the clothing industry may want to engage users on Kaboodle. Does your brand focus on Internet savvy moms? Become a part of the community at CafeMom. Do your products appeal to those seeking a healthy lifestyle? Consider joining the conversation at SparkPeople. Check out Raven Tools' Ultimate List of Niche Social Media. The post is older but links under many categories have been updated.
4Develop your brand message Design your presence on each of your selected social media platforms so the look and feel is consistent with your brand and core story. Your tone and voice may vary depending on the specific social media site, but make sure there is a consistency so your customers are able to identify with your business. Keep in mind that branding is more than just using the correct Pantone colors and keeping your logo intact. Think about the core messages that you are trying to communicate about your company. Make a list of these "talking points" and make sure that your posts, tweets, pins, photos, videos, infographics, etc., support your company's overall story.
5Create a content calendar What subjects do you want to address and what content do you want to include on your social media sites? Create a content calendar to strategically organize your efforts. A content calendar lists the who, what, where, when for each day that you will publish content. Being timely and consistent are two obstacles to having an effective social media strategy. Using a content calendar will help keep you on track.
6Consistently participate in the conversation This is your chance to become part of an online community. It's not enough just to have pages setup across different social media sites. You actually have to be there ... virtually, of course. Brainstorm and research information related to your topic. Respond to comments and messages, ask questions, create content, actively participate in the social media pages of others within your industry, the businesses within your community, and local media. Be an advocate for your brand but avoid being too heavy-handed.
7Measure Your Results Make sure you are reviewing your website analytics and/or data provided by each specific social media platform to determine the effectiveness of your efforts. Report on traffic, followers and conversions. Analyze your data and assess what's working and what isn't. Use tools to monitor how well your various social media interactions are performing. Try to assess which content hit a home run with your audience and which fizzled. Pay attention to the day and time that you released your content. Could that have impacted your success or failure? Analyzing your results is an important part of the process, so don't try to save time by skipping this step. It could negatively impact your long-term results.