Effective Social Media Marketing Plan

Let’s be serious here. Effective social media marketing is a real beast of a machine. Heck, it’s a daunting task to oversee the social media presence of your business or organization. Anyone who says otherwise is either not doing their job or straight up lying to your face. Using social media to grow your business, generate leads and build a brand is definitely a sizable task, and in many ways it is.

Thankfully, there are steps you can follow that will greatly increase your chances of achieving your goals. These steps will help you take advantage of all the benefits and perks that effective social media marketing has to offer.

It doesn’t matter if you’re just getting started or if you have been active on social platforms like Twitter and Facebook, but have yet to make your mark. Here are a handful of tips and advice that will help you navigate through the choppy sea that we have come to know as effective social media marketing.

Create a Social Media Plan for Each Social Platform

If you fail to plan, you plan to fail

Far too many businesses are guilty of jumping into social media marketing without a solidified, or even semi-solid, strategy or plan. If you cannot answer questions like, “why are you on social media?” or “what social media platform features your target audience?” then it’s time to step back and hit the reset button. Your first step towards recovery is putting together a plan in writing that you and your team can reference when you need it.

Your social media marketing plan should consist of a series of mini-plans for each social media platform that you plan to be active on. You’ll have a plan for Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, etc.

If you’re just getting your feet wet, you should keep your number of active networks to three or less until you’re ready to handle more. For most businesses, especially small businesses, trying to take on five different social platforms often results in a less than mediocre job with little to no results.

Post Consistently for an Effective Social Media Marketing Strategy

Constancy is the name of the game when it comes to social media marketing.

Face it, sending out one Tweet per day simply isn’t going to cut it. Certain platforms, like Instagram and Snapchat, don’t move as fast as Twitter or Facebook. All this means is that you don’t have to publish on those platforms. However, you should still formulate a steady posting schedule and make it consistent.

It all ties back to your effective social media marketing game plan, which should outline:

  • How often you plan to publish on each social channel
  • What type of content you plan to publish
  • Social media outreach publishing schedule (reaching out to influencers via social media)

Keep in mind that your followers are likely engaged with hundreds or even thousands of other accounts. That being said, if you’re not publishing new content as often as the other accounts they’re following then you’re bound to get lost in the mix.

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Be Picky About What You Share

Figuring out what to share via social media may seem like a simple task, but that couldn’t be any further from the truth. You need to be extremely picky about what you share and give quite a bit of thought about why you should share a given piece of content. Keep in mind that quality beats quantity. However, you also want to publish content on a regular basis (see the previous section), but make sure that what you share is valuable. Remember that quality content is:

  • Relevant to your audience
  • Helpful in some way, shape, or form
  • Entertaining (…duh!)

A trend that is becoming increasingly popular that you should be cautious of using are tools that “suggest” content to share with your audience. Sometimes the suggestions are on point, but that isn’t true in most cases. You’ll typically end up with a boatload of content that is either irrelevant or overall poor quality. These automated content curation tools operate on keywords and data feeds…in other words, they lack the necessary human element to separate the quality content from the general junk.

One sound method to ensure a steady supply of fresh content is to create a list of sites in your industry or niche that are renowned for their high-quality content. Once you have a list, add it to an RSS reader like Feedly. This will give you a constant stream of new content from reliable sources to share with your audience.

Use a Social Media Management Tool

You’re flat out wasting time if you’re posting content via the native publishing platforms for Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram. Social media management tools like Buffer and Sprout Social make managing your social accounts a lot easier to:

  • Publish your content across multiple platforms
  • Schedule posts ahead of time
  • Collaborate with teammates
  • See all of your social media streams from a single view instead of logging into a number of different sites
  • Track and measure your results via analytics

These are just a few of the benefits provided by a social media dashboard management tool. The above-mentioned benefits are more than enough reasons to make the move. Casual users may be able to get away with managing their social accounts from their phones, but this is not the case for business accounts. Businesses need a tool that allows them to be more strategic and efficient.

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Post More Images

There’s no getting around it. Social posts with images are by far the most effective type of social media for engagement. They get the most shares on Facebook and the most retweets on Twitter. Instagram and Pinterest are the most compelling sources of support for the above claim. In the event you’ve been living under a rock and are not familiar with either Instagram or Pinterest…both are driven purely by images. In fact, Instagram has the most engagement of all social media platforms. It’s not a coincidence that Instagram and Pinterest have gained exceptional traction and have garnered more success than other failed social networks.

Simply adding images to your social media posts has never been easier. Tools like Landscape and Canva provide you with the means to create perfectly-sized images for all major social media channels. You can also create images for upcoming company events, group photos, and craft other image elements for posts to get more visual with your content.

Also, don’t forget to add Twitter Cards to your blog posts. Doing so will provide a default image for any Tweets featuring your blog posts. This will help Tweets with your content stand out more in your followers’ streams.

A/B Test

A/B testing is a method that a lot of social media marketing professionals employ on a regular basis. However, few, if any small businesses on social media are even aware of it. A/B testing, or split testing, involves using multiple headlines for the same piece of content to see which version generates a better response. This is the exact same method marketers use when they test subject lines for email marketing campaigns.  Marketers also use A/B testing a lot when it comes to landing pages or sales pages, but you can also build split testing into your social media posts.

Instead of publishing a Tweet or Facebook post once and then forgetting about it, schedule the link to share a number of times and tweak the post headline a bit each time.

A/B testing is valuable since people react differently to posts depending on the language used in the copywriting. The reason why content might be lacking on social media could be due to low quality content…or it could be due to a weak headline in the Tweet, Pin, or Facebook Post. Some language simply fails to grab your followers’ attention.

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Measure & Analyze Your Effective Social Media Marketing Strategy

Establishing baselines and benchmarks are without one of the most valuable tools when it comes to effective social media marketing. Even the most well thought out campaign is next to useless if you have no idea how it performed compared to where you started. In other words, you simply need to measure your efforts and then analyze your results. Roughly 40% of businesses flat out do not track their social media ROI in any way, shape or form. What does that mean? In the simplest sense, it means that they have no clue whether or not what they are doing is working. If you don’t want to fall into that dumpster fire of a disaster, start tracking your social media activity right away.

Some of the metrics that you should be mindful of include, but are not limited to the following:

  • Reach and engagement on Facebook
  • Visits, impressions, and mentions on Twitter
  • Clicks, impressions, and interactions on LinkedIn
  • Impressions and engagements on Pinterest
  • Likes, comments, and mentions on Instagram

You should make it a point to track these metrics on a weekly, monthly and quarterly basis. That way you know when and if you need to make changes to your effective social media marketing strategy.

It’s Okay to Pay-to-Play to Develop an Effective Social Media Marketing Strategy

There is no shame when it comes to paying to boost a post or promote a Tweet. Facebook and other social media platforms are continually reducing the amount of organic visibility on your posts. This shift has resulted in more businesses resorting to paid social media advertising. Whether it be boosting a post or promoting a Tweet, social media advertising is a lot more common these days than it ever has been, especially as these platforms continue to grow.

If you’re looking to accelerate your effective social media marketing efforts and have a budget for it, paid to advertise is usually worth a try. Costs are typically lower than other platforms (eg Google Ads & media buying), which makes social media an appealing option for small businesses and startups. Furthermore, you have rather pointed out targeting options at your disposal, such as user interests and detailed demographics.

Jump into a Few Communities

Smaller, more focused communities tend to form within larger social networks. Whether it be Facebook groups, Twitter chats, or LinkedIn groups, there are a plethora of opportunities to connect with like-minded individuals and companies within your niche.

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Taking part in said communities can help you establish yourself, or your company, as an authority. You can use communities as a mean through which to share your knowledge and interact with influencers. As you start to connect with influencers, they’re more likely to share your content!

Look for communities related to your industry on social media channels that you’re active on, then start joining in on and actively participating. Facebook groups and Twitter chats tend to be more active so give these a shot when you see fit.

Build a Community for an Effective Social Media Marketing Strategy

So you claim that there aren’t any existing communities for your industry (doubt it)…or none that are active (more reasonable)? Well, what better time than now to be proactive and start one!

Assuming that your industry has a decent number of active people on a social media channel, start reaching out to let potentially interested people know that you’re starting a Facebook group, Twitter chat, or LinkedIn group and you’d like to invite them to join.

Some ideas for potential groups you could start include:

  • Small business group for your city
  • Groups of people within your industry
  • Groups with other companies related to your industry (eg real estate agents, mortgage brokers, and construction companies)

Most of the time there is a desire for groups, but either nobody thought to start one, or they simply didn’t have to take the effort to put one together. What better time than now to be a trendsetter and lead the group?

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Interact

This tip has the potential to be a real game-changer. In the most simple terms possible, don’t be the user, whether that be as an individual or as a company, who only shares links all day. The whole purpose of social media is to interact and engage with other users. This means interacting on a regular basis.

If you take a look at some of your recent posts, how many of them include @mentions of other people/accounts? How many of your interactions are replies to other posts? If you’re like the majority of company accounts, then the answer is probably not many. Instead, your social media stream is likely filled with broadcast posts. A broadcast post is nothing more than a headline/message with a link to an article or just plain old text.

You’ve repeatedly seen the advice of engaging with your audience, but what exactly does this mean??

  • Replying to other peoples’ posts even if it doesn’t @mention you
  • Retweeting
  • Liking posts
  • Adding people to Twitter lists
  • @mentions

If you happen to share a link, ask for feedback! Tag another account so they’ll reply! Think of your social media posts as part of a conversation.

Watch Your Competition

Is your competition simply killing it on social media? Does it seem like all of their Tweets are getting tons of Retweets and their Instagram posts have hundreds of likes, while your content is simply collecting dust in the land of misfit toys? When this happens, its time to analyze what they’re doing and compare their tactics to yours.

Make sure to take a close look at:

  • The content they post
  • Who they follow
  • Who’s following them
  • How often they post
  • What time of day they post
  • What sort of headlines they use in their posts
  • Their most popular posts

Doing so will give you a decent idea of what’s working for them and why they’re seeing more success on social media. Once you start to get a good feel for your competition’s methods, you’ll want to incorporate some of what they do into your own plan. However, it is important to avoid doing exactly what they’re doing.

For instance, if you notice that a competitor is posting a lot of images, then start creating more images of your own. Try posting at similar times throughout the day, or maybe try posting more frequently based on their activity.

Remember, this isn’t the green light to copy your competition’s tactics down to the bone. Your customers and followers want you to be unique, so don’t become an identical version of your competition. In short, take a few key elements that seem to be working for the other guys, mix it in with a handful of your own tactics and provide your followers with a healthy mix that is of your own creation.

Give People a Reason to Follow and Engage with Your Effective Social Media Marketing Strategy

Why should people decide to follow you or your company? This is a critical question that you simply have to ask of yourself.

Think about it from the consumer’s perspective. They literally have thousands of accounts of which to follow, so you have to stand out in some way, shape, or form. Create a type of value proposition crafted specifically for your social media channels. For instance:

  • Share behind the scenes content on Instagram
  • Share discount codes exclusively with your Twitter followers
  • Curate the best content in your industry on LinkedIn
  • Offer real-time customer service and support on Twitter
  • Host live webinars on Periscope
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The value has to be exclusive to each social media channel. If you regularly share the same discount codes via email or on your website that you post on Twitter, there’s little to no added value in following you on Twitter. However, you can create value by making your discount codes unique to your social media channels, or have content that is specific to Snapchat or on live streams via Periscope…this creates a sense of urgency.

Build Strategic Alliances or Partnerships

The biggest hurdle involved with creating a social media presence is getting that first wave of followers. Face it, people are far less likely to follow an account with only 9 followers and no engagement than the company with 50,000 followers and hundreds of replies and likes on each post.

The big question here is how? How do you get people to notice you when you lack brand recognition and people don’t know your company in any way, shape, or form? One way is to partner with a well-established company or influencer who already has an active following. This is a common tactic on social platforms such as Instagram and Twitter where social recognition is a major part of the success formula. Several accounts have experienced major success using this tactic and have gone from zero followers to thousands within a matter of days or weeks.

This method builds off of the “Know-Like-Trust” approach to social interaction. The account you approach has an audience of loyal followers that know, like and trust them. Getting a simple shout out will let their followers know that they recommend you. This helps their customers know that you’re a brand to recognize and trust as well.

How to Get Noticed

There are a couple of different ways you can get started with this technique. The easiest way to achieve this is through a paid shout out. There are several sites that connect pages with a large following to companies looking to get a shout out to their audience. However, you must be careful and do your research before using one of these services and you should never buy fake followers.

Another way to get trusted brands to promote your company is by building relationships with influencers first and let the opportunity to develop organically.

It could start with an email to a high-level brand saying you like their company and the content they create. Then you should share their content and keep in touch. When the opportunity presents itself, develop some type of content or cross-promotional event like a giveaway that’ll allow you to reach their audience while also giving them some value as well.

Use Keywords in Your Posts

Don’t underestimate the power and effectiveness of social search. Sites like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, among other social networks have search features that operate just like search engines.

When people search for a specific keyword or phrase like #SMM, the site’s bots crawl through all of the content on the site including your posts and profile to display the most relevant information. Including keywords and phrases in your social media posts and profiles makes your company more searchable.

Social media optimization is becoming more powerful and accurate with each passing day. Furthermore, these sites and apps have a lot of content in need of categorization. This is a great reason to get used to using common hashtags (#) on a regular basis, even on Facebook, and relevant keywords within your social media posts. This gives you a fighting chance of being found by people searching for topics related to your industry.

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Make the Most of #Hashtags

Hashtags are quite possibly one of the best ways to gain organic exposure and expand your reach on social media. As I touched on earlier, organic reach has dropped dramatically on both Facebook and Twitter in recent years, and Instagram is likely soon to follow.  That being said, it will become more important than ever to incorporate hashtags into your posts in order to expand your reach and get more impressions for your posts and Tweets.

Simply inserting random hashtags will likely not the job is done, whereas a strategic approach will help you achieve your goals. Research popular hashtags in your industry, as well as more generic and widely used tags. These are the hashtags that people are actively searching for on Twitter and Instagram. Adding them to your Tweets and Instagram posts will give your content a better chance of showing up in the search results.

Lastly, make sure to measure your hashtag analytics to track which hashtags are generating the most engagement.

Explore New Networks to Develop an Effective Social Media Marketing Gameplan

Did anyone ever say that brands are restricted to Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram? Nope! While the aforementioned three networks will give you the widest reach, it doesn’t mean that you should neglect smaller or niche networks. Take Medium for instance. Medium is a popular network for sharing long-form content. It is ideal for gaining thought leadership and sharing your expertise within your industry. While it is not as popular as Facebook or Twitter, it certainly has a large enough audience to make it worth exploring.

You should also keep an eye on rising social networks. Snapchat has been around for years, but it didn’t really take off until recently for marketers. Being able to spot social media platforms like Snapchat early on will give you a leg up on the competition once they work their way into the mainstream world of marketing.

Target Your Social Media Posts for an Effective Social Media Marketing Strategy

Believe it, or not, but not all of your followers are alike. Even though your business may attract a seemingly narrow demographic, your audience consists of individuals who likely enjoy your brand for any one of a number of reasons.

Take Microsoft for instance. Microsoft’s customers and social media followers range from video game enthusiasts to business owners. These two audiences are vastly different from one another and aren’t going to be attracted to the same content. In order to satisfy these different segments, they need to share content that is geared specifically towards each demographic.

Use Contests for Social Media Growth Spurts

Your number of followers should not be a primary KPI since it fails to tell the full story of how your social presence is doing. 1,000 engaged followers are far better than having 5,000 bots follow you. With that being said, social proof is very real. Take restaurant reviews for example. Are you more likely to go to a spot with 100 five star reviews or one with a handful of four-star reviews? The very same concept applies to social media.

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When users see that an account has an extensive following, they view them as having greater authority and to be more trustworthy. The concept behind this is that if you’ve earned 10,000 followers, then you must know what you’re talking about. A great way to reel in followers upfront when you’re starting from scratch is to hold a social media contest. Twitter and Instagram contest provides users with an incentive to engage with and promote your brand. There are a few different types of contests that you can host, but the essential thing to keep in mind is to make them brand specific.

Contests involving generic prizes (ie Amazon gift cards) will attract freebie seekers. However, they will fail to attract users of any long term value. Instead, give away prizes that are related to your brand.

Get your Entire Team Involved for an Effective Social Media Marketing Effort

The majority of the social media marketing tips we’ve discussed so far are typically handled by the person or team in charge of marketing. However, social media doesn’t have to fall completely on the shoulders of the marketing team. If your company has multiple employees or departments, encourage them to help your effective social media marketing strategy. Their support can come in multiple forms. Whether it be contributing content to the blog, following & engaging with the company social profiles or other such steps. All in all, the more involved your team is the better.

A great tool to help employees get involved with your company’s effective social media marketing efforts is Bambu. In short, this tool is an employee advocacy platform that makes it easy for team members to share content via their social media accounts.

For example, let’s say your marketing team has a fresh blog post that they want to go viral. What better way than to have x-number of employees share the post via their personal Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn profiles. Think about it, if you have 100 employees and 90% of them share the post…that’s a quick and easy 90 shares. Not too shabby, ‘eh?

Take Action

Now it’s your turn to put these twenty social media marketing tips to use! If you do, you’ll be well on your way to building an engaged audience and establishing your brand’s presence. These tactics have proven successful for some of the largest brands in the world. Best of all, each of these tips could work for you too!

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About Andrew Roche

Andrew Roche is an underwriter by day at United Wholesale Mortgage and a digital marketer by night. Andrew is currently pursuing an MBA in Marketing & Finance through the Mike Ilitch School of Business at Wayne State University.