3 Steps to Building a Successful Social Media Strategy

On social media, we said “goodbye” to the days of figuring it out as you go a long time ago. Gone is the time when a social media strategy is a quick, tactical guide to posting content. Now that social has evolved as a way to provide timely customer service and effectively advertise your product, it’s important to have a clear plan established that supports the overall vision of your organization. Whether you’re part of a small business or a giant corporation, if you haven’t already asked yourself “why?” when it comes to social, make 2016 the year you do. Go ahead. Ask, “Why are we using social media and what are we trying to accomplish?” Don’t worry if you can’t answer right away; we’re here to help.

Establish Goals and Objectives

The first step is to understand what a social media strategy is developed to do. A good strategy should align its social media marketing efforts with high-level business goals and specific marketing objectives. Determine at least three high-level goals that already exist for the organization and then create specific social objectives that relate to those goals. Keep in mind that high-level goals should hold true for nearly the entire lifespan of the organization and align well with the traditional marketing funnel framework. If they do not, then use the marketing funnel framework as a guideline to understand how you’re intentionally directing consumers toward your intended action.

In the travel industry, that action normally means booking a trip. However, an intended action on social could also drive website traffic or provide exemplary customer service. While it’s true that some facets of the traditional marketing funnel can prove to be out of date at times (since there are many new ways to shop, recommend and hear about a destination or product) it continues to serve as a good representation of the ideal journey and approximation to build a strategy and group objectives around.

Here are a few examples of high-level goals based on the marketing funnel framework:

Once you've determined which goals you are trying to achieve on social, it’s time to establish SMART objectives for each of those goals, where SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Relevant and Time-related. Include in your objective what you’re measuring, the time frame you’re measuring, to whom you’re targeting and lastly assign a target growth amount.

For example, if your high-level business goal was brand awareness, an example of a corresponding objective would be to:

“Increase awareness of _____ as _____ among customers __ years old in the following markets as measured by social impressions over the next 3 months. The impression target for social channels is ____.”

Remember, objectives answer questions such as what, who, where, how much and by when.

Determine KPIs (Key Performance Indicators)

KPIs are specific metrics that allow you to track progress toward achieving your objectives. However, on social, there are a lot of metrics that platforms natively report on and it’s not always clear which should be tracked and why. To figure out which metrics are most important for each objective, divide KPIs into three groups: Primary, Optimization and Output.

Primary KPIs tie directly to the objective. For an objective attached to a goal achieving awareness, your Primary KPI would be impressions, since that is the most accurate way to know how many people your message has been in front of. Occasionally a KPI may not be accurate or available for all platforms. For instance, because Instagram does not directly report impressions, community size may be used as a proxy.

Optimization KPIs help you optimize your tactics and better deliver on your objective. Using the awareness example again, paid impressions would be used, as advertising metrics are easier to adjust and manipulate in order to achieve the goal.

Output KPIs measure activities like the number of posts published or content featuring specific themes.

Directly Correlate Tactics to Objectives

After you have established clear and achievable goals, objectives and KPIs, it’s time to start the tactical work. Remember that tactics are action-oriented and are the day-to-day tasks that you’re completing to maintain and grow your accounts. While there is a basic set of best practices that seem to work for nearly all platforms, what you do tactically to achieve your set of objectives and KPIs will greatly depend on what you have already established as your critical goals (or objectives).

What’s important to keep in mind when starting your tactical approach is to continue to ask the question, “why?” For every post you make, every response you give and every ad you place, think about which objective it will ultimately tie into and how it will work to achieve it. If you cannot directly correlate a tactic to an objective, then it’s probably best to leave it behind.

Building a successful social media strategy can seem like a daunting task to take on, but if you use the right fundamentals to establish the “why” and the "who," then the “what” and "how" will easily follow suit.