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Create a Winning Social Media Marketing Strategy in 7 Steps

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A social media marketing strategy acts as a guiding light for marketers, increasing brand awareness, driving customer loyalty and capturing new audiences. A successful strategy can drive traffic back to your website and often shows a higher Return on Investment (ROI) than paid marketing efforts.

Those are just some of the benefits of a good social media strategy. But that kind of impact isn’t easy to achieve. Audiences on social media can be flighty, competition for attention is fierce, and changes to platform algorithms—Facebook’s restriction of organic impressions, for example—means marketers often find themselves being reactive, not proactive.

To keep you focused, we’ve built this guide to creating a social media marketing strategy along with a strategy template. You’re just a few minutes away from creating an actionable social media marketing strategy from scratch.

Download our free Social Media Marketing Strategy Template.

Step 1: Set Social Media Marketing Objectives

All planned marketing efforts, from PPC strategies to influencer marketing, start with well-defined objectives. So before getting into the details of activities, channels and content, set goals for your social media strategy. Not only will doing so keep you focused, it will also allow you to track the impact and success of your social media marketing strategy.

Some common high-level objectives are:

  • Drive website traffic
  • Raise brand awareness or authority
  • Increase sales or retention
  • Improve customer support
  • Boost customer loyalty
  • Increase PR mentions or media relations

These overarching social media goals can be complemented by secondary-level goals for each social media network. Assigning goals to a specific social network is often very effective, as user behavior differs greatly among them. For example, an ecommerce business might find that activities on Twitter may help you reach your customer support goals, whereas Pinterest may be your best opportunity for social sales.

Once you’ve defined overarching and platform-specific goals, it’s time to find out what your brand’s competitors are up to online.

Related: The Complete Guide to Marketing Strategies

Step 2: Research Your Competitors on Social

Competition for attention on social media is fierce. The average Facebook user spends just 1.7 seconds with any piece of mobile content on the platform, and 6,000 tweets are sent every second on average. Studying your brand’s competitors on social media can improve your chances of being heard over the noise.

First, identify which of your competitors are on social media and which platforms they use. If your direct competitors don’t have an active social presence, consider other players in your space that target a similar audience.

If you’re not sure who shares a similar audience, Alexa’s Audience Overlap Tool can help.

Map this information in a spreadsheet and benchmark their activity. For example, if your main competitor is on Facebook and Instagram, note their profile URLs, posting schedule and frequency, post type and engagement garnered.

If you don’t have time to benchmark social media competitors manually, tools like Twitonomy and FanpageKarma will automatically analyze competitors’ accounts and engagement.

You can also find out what percent of your competitors’ traffic comes from social media, thanks to Alexa’s Competitive Analysis tools. Run your site and competing sites through the Site Comparisons tool to gauge what percent of each site’s total traffic comes from social.

This and other competitive analysis tools are available via an Advanced plan. Start a free trial to check them out now.

find your traffic sources to improve your social media marketing strategy

Combine this information with your competitor benchmark spreadsheet to identify which social media platforms drive traffic and which drive engagement. You can also identify competitors’ weak spots (networks they’re failing to leverage, for example) and take advantage of this in your social media marketing strategy.

Step 3: Research Your Audience

Before you define target channels, you need to figure out who your audience is and where they’re hanging out online. Keep in mind that different social media platforms appeal to different demographics: for example, 81% of Pinterest users are female, while 65.5% of Twitter users are male, and 60% of Snapchat users are under 25.

Creating a buyer persona will help you parse out demographic and interest-based segments in your audience (get started with our free buyer persona template). Include information on what kind of websites they visit (Alexa’s Audience Interest Tool helps here), what social media channels they use, and whether they’re receptive to tactics like influencer marketing.

Experiment with targeting the same demographic as your main competitor. Tracking the long-term ROI of this audience will reveal whether they’re the right target for your brand too.

Step 4: Audit Current Social Media Success

If your brand is already active on social media, audit the success of your current activities. This will help you identify low-impact channels, saving time and effort in the future.

Start out by mapping your active social media channels into a spreadsheet. Analyze current audiences using each platform’s internal analytics: for example, Twitter Analytics breaks out audiences by income, gender, interests and wireless carrier.

pay attention to who is following you on social media

Once you’ve identified who is following you on social media, track their activity month-on-month. Metrics like impressions, reach and website referrals will help you define current social media engagement and benchmark improvements.

You may also want to calculate the current ROI for social media channels, especially if you’re thinking of including paid social media activities in your strategy.

Step 5: Set Up a Social Media Content Calendar

A full-fledged social media marketing strategy factors in content types for each channel plus cross-promotion activities.

The best way to organize this information is in a social media content calendar. First, review the social media objectives set out in Step 1, and define what proportion of content should go towards supporting that goal.

For example, if brand awareness is the main strategic goal, you might want to dedicate 50% of your content to helping you achieve that goal. Prioritizing content types based on objectives like this will keep your strategy focused and coherent over the long haul.

You’ll also want to set out what proportion of branded content to share as compared to non-branded posts that might interest your audience. There are a couple of frameworks out there to help define your content mix:

  • The 80/20 rule states that only 20% of your posts should talk about your brand.
  • The rule of thirds says you should divide social media posts equally between promotional content, thought leadership and personal interactions.

Next, set out a posting schedule in the calendar. This should be based on the best times to post content based on your audience’s time zone and behavior.

Whatever the content mix you build into your social media marketing strategy and include on your content calendar, make time for engagement and interaction. Social media is not just a vehicle for promotion; in fact, 46% of people say they unfollow brands that are too promotional on social. People value human interactions and personal attention, whatever channel they use to engage with your brand.

Whatever channel they use to engage with your brand, people value human interactions and personal attention. Click To Tweet

Step 6: Plan Content Promotion & Distribution

In a Twitter-verse where engagement rates of between 0.09% and 0.33% are defined as “high,” planning effective content promotion and distribution activities are imperative. Well-thought-out distribution can separate a successful social media marketing strategy from one that sees little impact.

Prominent share buttons and calls to action will encourage social media followers to share your content with their networks. The so-called “network effect,” the economic theory in which a product or service gains value as more people use it, will increase your brand’s reach and impact.

If you have particular social media posts with high ROI from winning lots of sales or conversions, consider maximizing distribution through paid ads on social media. When done right, social media ads can have a high rate of return: in one survey, 26% of Facebook users who clicked on ads reported making purchases. Testing your highest ROI pieces of content through paid channels may uncover new revenue streams.

Getting colleagues involved in social media distribution can also improve impact. That’s because content shared by employees receives 8x more engagement than content shared by brand channels according to Social Media Today. But don’t just let colleagues run wild over Twitter! Invest time into establishing an employee advocacy program within your social media strategy where you lay out tone and language.

Step 7: Monitor Social Media Impact

Any effective social strategy sets out how to track impact from day one. While it may be tempting to treat every retweet as a sign your social campaign is working, the only real way to measure impact is to compare results with your strategic objectives.

Here are the metrics you might want to track for the common social media marketing objectives suggested above in Step 1:

  • Drive website traffic: Unique views, social media referrals
  • Raise brand awareness or authority: Social mentions, direct traffic
  • Increase sales or retention: Lifetime value, average order value, revenue changes
  • Improve customer support: Renewals, ticket wait times
  • Boost customer loyalty: Retention rates
  • Increase PR mentions or media relations: Backlinks, media mentions

Pro tip: Use UTM tracking links to track your social media campaign traffic accurately. UTMs will help you identify which posts or tweets are driving web traffic.

Tracking these metrics over time will allow you to refine your social media marketing strategy. Cut out activities that aren’t helping you reach your marketing goals, and instead invest time and energy into those that do show positive results. Build on that data to create more effective strategies in the future.

Download the Social Media Marketing Strategy Template

Social media is increasing in importance for sales, customer support and brand awareness. You need a solid social media strategy to stay ahead of the competition and forge stronger links with target audiences on the platforms they prefer to use.

The seven steps in this post will help you build a strategy from the ground up. Get started on these steps with our free social media marketing strategy template, and sign up for a free trial of Alexa’s Advanced Plan. You’ll have everything you need to create impactful social media campaigns, starting now.

Create a Winning Social Media Marketing Strategy in 7 Steps