You’ve been charged with (or determined on your own) to manage your organization’s social media strategy. Seems simple right? Set up a few accounts, start posting, see results.

But that’s precisely what will derail your company’s social media success right from the start. As with any good marketing, you need a plan. And once you have a plan,  and learn to follow it,  you’ll be able to see results and modify them for greater social success.

Let’s explore what goes into a social media strategy:

What do you want to achieve with your social strategy? 

You can measure the numbers of followers and engagement (which is a metric that measures how much sharing, commenting and clicking your users do to your posts.) You can measure conversions, too. Customers with inbound marketing systems (like Hubspot) can go even further, measuring return on investment, sales and customer aquisition numbers via each social platform. Ask yourself what would be best for your business; to create an engaged audience or to sell stuff (or both.) Defining what success looks like for your business is key, because your business is unique.

Who are you targeting?

Identifying a persona for each customer group is critical. Some customers hang out in places that are different than others, and matching the right social channel to the audience will be key. Understanding your audience needs to happen first. If your audience is women 25-55 and you’re selling fashionable products, you’re likely to be on Instagram and Pinterest. If you’re selling software to men who run health care clinics, you will not find success with these same platforms. Understanding your target audience and where they hang out (and are likely to engage with you) is key. While you may know that your male audience is on Facebook, they’re not going to follow your company personally (and someone else, someone younger, is managing their social media.)

What social media platforms are the best-fit for your company?

Social platforms vary wildly, from the teen-centric SnapChat, to Millennial Instagram, to the middle-aged Facebook, to female-heavy Pinterest, to news-hungry Twitter. The type of content, the publishing schedule and the follow and share strategies vary from platform to platform. Having goals for each platform is important. Fringe platforms that appeal to a specific niche like Polyvore (fashion), Tumblr (fashion, design & style), Medium (style/design/tech) and Reddit should also be considered depending upon your specific audience.

What kinds of messages should you be crafting?

What you’re saying about your brand, communicating with your customers about topics they want to know more about, and what types of media used in posts (graphics, photos, video, linked and curated content) are essential for a good social strategy. Design factors are important too; deciding what colors, photography and graphics should be used in your social media is important. You’re building your brand and consistency is key.

When should you post what type of content?

New metrics show that more sharing of content on Twitter is more effective in the afternoon, whereas unique content sharing on Pinterest engagement tends to happen in the evenings, later as the day moves into the central USA (a key Pinterest demographic are heartland and Southern women.) Selecting the optimal  time of day AND the frequency (more frequent on Twitter, less frequent on Facebook) are critical for your audience to even see your posts, let alone act on them. Defining the times you’ll post helps you in the next stage of execution planning, or calendaring your social media activities.

Whether you’re measuring the number of new followers in a given time period or matching individual tweets to new contacts in your inbound marketing database, each platform (and client) will have their own unique numbers that mean success. Your definition will be different than another organizations’ definition of success; measurement and refinement of the social strategy is really what makes it work in the long term. You should have a baseline number – where you’re currently at – before you start making changes. That way you’ll know what is working and what you should change.

Why have a strategy at all?

Would you take off on a road trip without a plan? That’s the same reason you don’t want to head off into social media marketing without a social strategy. Most likely you, as a business manager or director, are not doing the actual tweets or posts. But you’re supervising staff who is, and making sure they know what to post, when, to whom and why is important for success.  If you are one of those that would take off on a road trip without a plan, forge on to the next step! Otherwise, sit down and write out a plan that covers these important areas – don’t worry if you have them right. Just get them down on paper. Social media success is a process that evolves.

Have your strategy in hand? The next step is to plan out all of that great social content. Download the social media planning calendar template and get going!