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Social Media Strategy Plan: Winning at Customer Engagement

Oct 14, 2020 by Mark Baines Category: Marketing, Social Media 0 comments

A Social Media Strategy Plan is the first thing you should consider when planning how to win in the race for customer engagement.

When you’re marketing to professionals, there’s more to social media than LinkedIn. And there’s more to posting than self-promotion or general chat. Your Social Media must be planned in order to be successful at Customer Engagement.

Sounds obvious, doesn’t it, but if you’re not careful you can waste a lot of time on poor posts on the wrong channel, which have no plan and no consequence. So you are engaging with the wrong people, or worse still, the people you really want to engage with switch off from you, therefore do not see or read and engage with your subsequent posts.

So it’s vital that you have a social media strategy plan, so you know what you’re doing, why, to whom and how. Without that ‘plan’, you’re just throwing mud at the wall and hoping some of it sticks = failure. With a Social Media Strategy Plan you know exactly what you’re doing and why, to whom and when = success.

Simples.

Well, yes and no. Although the fundamentals of social media and customer engagement are simple – anyone can do it and there are lots of tools available to make life easier for you – the writing of a social media strategy plan for customer engagement, and for prospects,  is complex, requiring multiple marketing skills without which you’ll be struggling to justify your actions to the Board.

So here’s how to draw up that Social Media Strategy Plan that will ensure success in social media and increase your brand engagement. It’s a six-point plan that really works: stick to it and you’ll win. Deviate, and you’ll lose.

The six steps to create your Social Media Strategy Plan are:

  1. Situation
  2. Objectives
  3. Strategy
  4. Tactics
  5. Activities
  6. Control

 

It's worth remembering the mnemonic SOSTAC; let me explain the steps to you in more detail, so you can do them yourself and win at Customer Engagement:

Situation:

You’ll need a clear understanding of the complete situation to begin to put together the rest of your plan.

Ideally, this understanding is from your customers’ point of view – what do they think of you, your products or service, your competitive positioning, etc.

But you’ll also need to be aware of what’s going on within your company – your history, your value proposition, your capabilities, product uses and developments, etc. Everything. You have to become an expert!

You’ll also need in-depth awareness of what your competitors are up to, partly so you can differentiate yourself from them, but also so you can see what they do successfully and use those techniques for yourself, if appropriate – there’s no point in reinventing the wheel!

 

Objectives:

You need to be clear on what your objectives are, otherwise you’re setting yourself up to fail: social media is too big for you to try and win on every front.

‘If you don’t know where you are going, how are you going to get there?’

This is particularly true of social media, where you risk wasting a lot of time chasing rainbows when you should be hard-nosed and limit yourself to a few carefully planned objectives. These need to be SMART objectives to be of any value: Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic and Timed.

To keep tabs on these you’ll need to set up and monitor relevant KPIs (Key Performance Indicators), which themselves can be backed up by setting targets.

 

Strategy:

This is the most important part of the whole process, and the most difficult and contentious. Many books have been written about how to achieve the most effective strategy, and many hours of sweat and toil have been applied to the process.

This is the second half of the euphemism above: ‘…how are you going to get there?’ – and those seven little words carry the key to your ultimate success or failure.

The sort of questions you need to find answers to are:

  • How are we going to position ourselves?
  • What are our main messages?
  • Why might people want to buy from us?

Without a well defined and clearly articulated strategy your social media is never going to rise above the mud-slinging category, and the only reason that people are going to engage with your brand will be out of some prurient interest which will not help you become a market leader.

 

Tactics:

Now you’ve got your strategy sorted out, things are starting to get easier. You’ll be drilling down to the campaign details and working out how you’re going to make the marketplace aware of your strategy.

  • What channels will you be using? There’s more to social media for professionals than just LinkedIn.
  • What sort of content will you be posting? Stories or information
  • Who will they come from? Will they be personality-driven or come from ‘the firm’?
  • How will you vary your content to suit the channel?
  • Will you attempt to multiply your influence by using advertising on social media?
  • To video or not to video?
  • How often will you update your best posts?
  • Will you geotag your business? Will you tag influencers and other brands? Will you build advocates (star ratings)?
  • There are many more: it’s a long list!

It’s important to list your tactics so that you can refer to them over the coming months/years. It forces you to analyse what you could do, and make decisions about what you can do. And what is best for you.

By ensuring everyone involved knows what you are doing, you can get your team on board and be sure that they (and other people in the company) will support you in the right way.

You will also avoid the sorts of misunderstandings that can surround such campaigns, when colleagues see your posts and wonder what you’re up to. A Social Media Strategy Plan will make all things clear and measurable, so you will be able to demonstrate what you are doing, and why - vital in the Boardroom!

Would you like to discuss your marketing needs?

Get in touch with Marcom today or book your FREE marketing session here.

Activities:

Finally, we’ve got there. It’s time to put together a schedule of activities so that you and your colleagues know exactly what is happening, when. And then to implement them.

There are lots of different sorts of schedules and tools to use in terms of complexity and job assignment, but whichever system you use, here is where you list all the platforms, all the dates and the accompanying activities. And then make them happen.

This enables you to work to a carefully considered plan rather than being completely reactive.

Of course, you still need to have space to be reactive – the whole point of social media is to engage in a dialogue, rather than just pump out information. It’s how you increase your brand engagement. Which is a giant leap on the way to winning new and retaining existing customers.

 

Control:

Often overlooked or dismissed as irrelevant, I have colleagues who think this is the most important part of any social media plan. It certainly becomes more and more important once you’ve got up and running.

Measure, adapt, implement and measure again. Just keep on doing it. Don’t stop. Ever! That way you’ll build up a picture of what works for you, and what doesn’t. So you’ll get better at the effective things, and drop the ineffective things.

And get a mentor or an agency (like Marcom!) to review what you’re doing. This is really important in social media because it’s so easy to be sucked into the excitement of engagement, without fully understanding or paying attention to the consequences. So a little bit of objectivity can make a big difference.

 

I hope this is helpful. I use SOSTAC often – it’s the standard prescribed process for strategy planning, and no-one’s come up with a better one yet.

Use it and you’ll have everything under control, and run a brilliant campaign. Ignore it, and you’ll be mud-slinging your way to failure!

Evaluate the effectiveness of your social media marketing

Take a hard look in the mirror...

‘Evaluation’ is the third part of the cycle of best practice in your social media strategy – the other two being to plan your strategy and then to implement it.  

After implementation (for a pre-determined period) it is vital to ‘evaluate’ it, so that you know what you are doing right or wrong, where you are succeeding or failing, what works and what doesn’t. The evaluation phase checks that you are doing everything correctly to get the best out of your social media campaign. 

 

Follow the stats – not your subjective opinion

For the evaluation phase to be successful, it is important that you are objective, following the stats and making tough decisions which may go against your own subjective and personal instincts. Take a step back to look at the bigger picture.  

You can start off small by improving upon one aspect; in the end, it's all about incremental adjustments to make your social media the best it can be. Rome wasn't built in a day... your social presence won't be either. 

 

How to measure and monitor

The most important rule is to focus. There are a huge range of stats available, from many different sources and all presented differently. If you’re not careful you’ll end up being overwhelmed with irrelevance, so just choose what’s right for you: engagement rate, impressions, reach, messages, replies etc. 

You’ll find each channel has its own native analytics, or you can make your own tools using Excel or equivalent. Manual monitoring saves money whilst automated monitoring saves time, so decide what works best for you 

Why not make use of social media measuring tools? Sprout Social, Hootsuite Analytics, Google Analytics, etc. Using custom live social analytics dashboards will do the crunching for you and update automatically – and they’re very simple to use. 

 

How to process your data

This requires considerable thought, because it’s too easy to rush into it, become disillusioned and never do it again. So make sure you only have the data you need, presented using charts and infographics that clarify, not confuse. KISS – ‘keep it simple, stupid’! 

Be objective about it, share it with stakeholders and discuss what they mean – there’s always something new to discover! 

 

‘Engagement’ – the most important measure!

Engagement is hard won but is what social media is all about. 

It’s easy to gain more followers – just post something that you know will catch their attention. But are they actually reading it? Are they the right people – the people you want? You’ll only find out and really achieve anything useful if you have some form of ‘engagement’ with them.  

Social media engagement is more than just the accumulation of followers across social platforms. It’s also a measurement of how many people are paying attention to and interacting with your brand on a daily basis. 

Engagement is also an important step on the road of converting followers to customers. 

There are many ‘engagement’ formulas – you have to work out which is best for your purposes –here are some examples of the most common: 

 

Engagement rate = Total engagement / Total followers x 100

by post = Total engagements on a post / Total followers x 100

by post = Total engagements on a post / Total followers x 100

 

Analysis – reviewing your performance and drawing conclusions

Now we come to the important bit: what do the figures tell you? What are you learning and drawing from them? 

Align your data findings with KPIs to see if your performance is measuring up. 

Feedback is important: there is no such thing as 'failure'  only feedback. Two pairs of eyes are better than one, so call on a colleague from another department if you don’t have another in your own. Staying objective and confirming your interpretation is important!  

Acknowledge your achievements as well as your failures – make hard decisions, or you'll end up drifting aimlessly along, and begin to set new targets: ask the tough questions, such as: are you achieving your targets? If not, why not? If yes, are they too low? 

 

Your response and future planning

So what has been the point of all this? 

Here’s what: you have to consider how to adapt your plan. Here are our top tips: 

  1. Keep doing the good things well,
    But remember there is always room for improvement. 
  2. What isn’t working?
    Don’t be afraid to do things differently. Test and test and test again! 
  3. How will your targets change or not?
    Align this to new campaigns objectives. 
  4. Does your content need to change?
    Are your content types working hard enough? EG articles, videos, photos, infographics etc. 
  5. How will your messages change?
    Do you need to be saying things differently?  
  6. What do you now understand about your strategy?
    Have your activities met your objectives, does your strategy now need to develop? 

 

Now that you have completed this third phase of your strategic use of social media, it’s time to reconsider and adapt or amend your plan, before implementing it, then going through this phase of evaluation again and repeating the process. 

It’s a never-ending cycle of continuous improvement which will bring you all the many benefits social media can bring you. 

Do let me know if we can help you with yours!

 

I hope you’ve found this helpful. If you want to discuss any of this info, or your own social media implementation, do please contact me on mark@mar-com.net, or on 07860 799426. 

Listen to our Webinar

Please listen to the recording below, and a PDF version of our presentation - Evaluate the effectiveness of your social media marketing; available for you to download.

Resource available for download:

Evaluate the effectiveness of your social media marketing

Webinar by Marcom: 18th June 2020

Most modern browsers will enable you to view and manage PDFs directly in the browser.
Those users on older browser may need to download Adobe Acrobat Reader DC to view the document in full.

How to implement your content strategy in social media

Making social media happen for your business

General implementation background activities

  • Channels / platforms 
    You’ve worked out your strategic plan, so now’s the time to choose your channel and prepare each post appropriately for the channel selected – LinkedIn, Facebook, twitter etc. To do this, consider what your target is expecting from you by putting yourself in their shoes. 
  • Content generation / optimisation
    Choose your content type from the large range available (post, article, blog, picture, infographic, video, webinar, queries, etc) and be clear on what you want readers to do in response – make sure they know it too! 
  • Publishing and promotion
    Be mindful of your strategic goals; why are you doing this? Will it help you achieve a positive outcome? And be open-minded and ambitious – some campaigns might require paid promotions for that extra boost. 
  • Engagement
    Ensure you are clear on how will you develop engagement with your audience after you publish. Ask yourself, what will you do to offer a better experience to your target audienceand what will they expect from your response? 

And don’t forget, social media is about sociology and psychology more than technology! 

 

How to prepare your channels

  • Refer to your strategy and planning regarding the best channels to use 
    Also, determine the best time of the week and day to post to these channels – it can make all the difference! 
  • Review your primary audience as it now stands; are they warmed up?
    Consider an approach for preparing this audience for any upcoming campaign by posting aspects of your campaign to get them into the correct mindset – you can lose your audience by apparently going off at a tangent, if it’s something they’re not expecting. 
  • Make sure your social channels are properly set up
    This is good housekeeping – hygiene factors which are boring but important: complete all the required profile and company information fields, ensure all information that a visitor might need is populated and correct, review the use of your branding and standardise its use where possible, and check your photos, refreshing them or reviewing their quality.   
  • Determine what content types will work best for each channel
    Consider your audience in this, their interests, popular groups and key engagements etc 

 

Developing your content

Always consider how to be effective – if you can’t make it work, drop it and move on to something else. 

So consider: 

  • Content types - choose what will benefit your customer most, not just benefit you and make you feel good. 
  • Collaborations - use colleagues and contributors to develop helpful and beneficial content – don’t try to do it all yourself. 
  • Batch content creation – that way you’ll create your content efficiently, rather than be constantly running to catch up. For example, if you’re shooting a video, why not produce two or three at the same time? It’ll be worth it for the cost savings alone! 
  • Quality over quantity  - think how you can benefit your audience, not just how to fill their feed. It’s just too easy to lose their interest, and if you lose it once, you might never get it back. 
  • Learn from others - research your competitors and brands from other industries to find what works best for them, then copy it. What have you got to lose? 

 

Publishing and promotion

So now that it’s finally time to make it happen, here’s what you should be doing: 

  • Stick to your plan – that’s what you went to the trouble of writing it for, isn’t it? 
  • Understand the purpose of the post – it could be engagement, selling a product, brand awareness or any one of many reasons; focus on it, and don’t lose sight of it. 
  • Decide when to publish your content to get the best results – make sure you capture your audience’s attention at the right time of day, the month, the market cycle, the political environment etc – you may need to be a little flexible here! 
  • Use a publishing and management tool – to avoid boring and time consuming duplicate publishing tasks and to ensure you avoid the addictive qualities of social media! 
  • Promotion – you need to consider if your post will benefit you through further exposure – or should you publish something new? Don’t forget remarketing  research shows how effective it is,  serving up content to your engaged audience again and again. 

 

Our top 10 tips for engagement

Follow these and you won’t go wrong! 

  1. Create original and relevant content – ie make sure your posts are interesting! 
  2. Understand the platform’s algorithm – you’ve got to ensure you understand how the channel’s algorithms work in order to be able to make the best of it. 
  3. Prioritise visuals over text – infographics, videos, images, gifs etc all gather much more attention than plain text. 
  4. Create socially engaging posts – Why not run a Q&A session? Or a live video, webinars, guides, screenings, live talks, polls, surveys, giveaways, takeovers, interviews – the list goes on… 
  5. Ask questions – if you ask, someone will answer: bingo! 
  6. Team up with other brands for mutual benefit – eg an engineering company with its main customer, so that you can share contacts and their interests. 
  7. Reply to comments – always answer comments in times when the rest of your audience 
    will see you. It’s tempting to respond immediately to a comment, however you’d be better to wait until you know there is an audience following you; ie don’t reply at 11 at night, wait until the following morning, otherwise your response will be buried low down on your followers feeds. 
  8. Promote conversation - reply to comments with open questions and engaging responses. 
  9. Create personable and real content – why not go behind the scenes, offer up case studies, personal stories, share achievements and challenges? After all, it’s ‘social’ media, so share relatable real-world experiences. 
  10.  Repeat what works – when you find a winning formula, stick with it until it starts fading. 

 

What next?

  1. Identify a successful conversion and decide whether the lead meets your criteria. 
  2. Manage audience expectations and intentions, defining your lead profiles as tightly as possible; question how well your lead segmentation works, as better lead profiling will lead to better conversion rates. 
  3. Work out what you will say to your leads and what is the next step in your relationship. Allocate responsibility for following up, and ensure they know what to say and how to do it best. 
  4. Personalise your response where possible – always address the individual, if you can, rather than just giving a generic response. 

 

I hope you’ve found this helpful. If you want to discuss any of this info, or your own social media implementation, do please contact me on mark@mar-com.net, or on 07860 799426. 

Listen to our Webinar

Please listen to the recording below, and a PDF version of our presentation - How to implement your content strategy in social media; available for you to download.

Resource available for download:

How to implement your content strategy in social media

Webinar by Marcom: 4th June 2020

Most modern browsers will enable you to view and manage PDFs directly in the browser.
Those users on older browser may need to download Adobe Acrobat Reader DC to view the document in full.

How to plan your social content strategy

Your strategy plan is the first step in your social media ‘cycle’:

Plan - implement - evaluate ... fine-tune  >  Plan - implement - evaluate ... fine-tune  >  Plan - implement - evaluate ... &c 

The Power of Planning

Planning helps you understand what to write, when or whyWithout a plan, you won't know what you are doing, other than having a vague idea based on your experience and learning to date.  

With a plan, your work is focused on your strategy, targeted at specific stakeholders whom you want to receive the message you have previously decided upon.  

Social media ceases to be a waste of time and becomes a powerful and effective tool in your SEO and stakeholder-engagement strategy. 

Remember to beware ‘The Six Ps’ – ‘Poor Planning Permits P**s Poor Performance!’ 

 

The first stage: Evaluate your position

To begin with, it’s important to analyse and understand your activities and statistics to date, so you have a clear starting point. You’ll need to get to know your audiences and the profile of active channel users. 

You will also need to know your competitor’s activities  as the Chinese philosopher/general Sun Tzu said 1,000 years ago, 'Know thine enemy' – and it’s helpful to study the best examples from parallel industries. 

This enables you to target your channels. Always refer to your strategy and keep an open mind, adjusting your content and style to the chosen channels. 

Be careful always to choose objectively: it’s too easy to simply base your choices on your own preference of channel, or your hunches. Be guided by the analysis and try and incorporate a ‘media mix’, as all channels could offer potential audiences.

 

Setting objectives and KPIs

KPIs are important to performance because they keep objectives at the forefront of decision making. It's essential that business objectives are well communicated across your company, so when people know and are responsible for their own KPIs, it ensures that the company's objectives are top of mind.

 

Inbound audience types

 

Campaign design and planning

The easiest way to get into the mindset to plan is to ask yourself what your audience expects to see from you. 

Remember to always defer to your strategy for content building; develop your strategy by asking yourself what types of articles, posts or resources position and articulate for you best? 

You’ll also need to establish who your contributors are: how will you disseminate your plan and collaborate with them on it ongoing? This is important because you can’t do it all yourself – you need to divide it up and get your colleagues to work together, otherwise your job will quickly become 24/7!  

Don’t overstretch your resources – it’s a marathon not a sprint!  

Key to your campaign momentum, social media successes and any associated SEO benefit is ensuring that you can sustain activity evenly and steadily ramp it up over time, applying greater resources where necessary.  

Too much too soon, or too many random spikes in activity and you will lose momentum. 

So you have to determine the ideal long-term broadcast plan and align it with your marketing goals. 

Remember to ask yourself what are you going to focus on. Keep in mind that engaging your customers with interesting content will increase their affinity for your brand. So you need to be able to think about what your audience would like to see, read, and preferably even share with others.   

 

Campaign organisation

Here’s an example of how a well organised plan might look:

Scheduling

Set up your communications in line with your campaign design, using your strategic plan and implementing its content creation and scheduling without losing sight of your objectives. 

If possible, align your activity with planned or anticipated events, such as trade shows, seasonal sales spikes etc 

Leave plenty of room to adapt and be responsive to sudden changes and events – after all, social media is supposed to be spontaneous! Plus your audience’s reaction might not be what you expected or the market might not change in the way you anticipatedso make sure to adjust to keep your communications relevant. 

Scheduling exactly what happens, when and by whom, and choose the best tools and support for distributing your campaign plans; don’t forget to build in lead times when establishing responsibilitiesNow’s the time to be realistic. How many hours would you be able to allocate to your social media presence every week, or every day?   

 

Planning and scheduling. Our eight top tips!

  1. Research the best times to schedule your content; 
  2. Use a social media scheduling tool, such as Hootsuite; 
  3. Only schedule content which benefits your customer; 
  4. Encourage comments and replies to increase engagement and visibility; 
  5. Don’t over-schedule – your time is important; 
  6. Avoid blanket scheduling, customise each post to the channel it appears in; 
  7. Think outside the box and create interesting content, not boring; 
  8. Always put yourself in the shoes of your customers before you make a decision. 

For the latest in our 'social media strategy' webinar series, we teach you how to plan your social content strategy.

You’ll learn how to design an effective campaign on social media; we’ll discuss how to set and evaluate your objectives so that they are measurable and relevant; we’ll show you how to choose your channel, how to schedule your posts and tweets, articles and blogs.

Be prepared for lots of practical tips to set you on your way.

At the end, we stay online for a Q&A session to answer your queries and help us refine our future webinars.

Please do share this presentation with colleagues whom you think would benefit.

Listen to our Webinar

Please listen to the recording below, and a PDF version of our presentation - How to plan your social content strategy; available for you to download.

Resource available for download:

How to plan your social content strategy

Webinar by Marcom: 21st May 2020

Most modern browsers will enable you to view and manage PDFs directly in the browser.
Those users on older browser may need to download Adobe Acrobat Reader DC to view the document in full.

The value and implementation of strategy in social media

How 'strategic' is your 'social'?

Following the success of our recent 'SEO' webinar series, we begin here our new free webinar series about the value and implementation of strategy in social media.

This webinar series supports professionals in marketing and sales with guidance on up-to-date best practice in social media - ie how to do it effectively.

In the webinar we discuss:

  • Why bother with social media
  • The strategic cycle of social media: plan, implement and evaluate - amend plan, implement, evaluate - and repeat...
  • How to implement your social media strategy

At the end, we stay online for a Q&A session to answer your queries and help us refine our future webinars.

Please do share this presentation with colleagues whom you think would benefit.

Listen to our Webinar

Please listen to the recording below, and a PDF version of our presentation - The value and implementation of strategy in social media; available for you to download.

Resource available for download:

The value and implementation of strategy in social media

Webinar by Marcom: 7th May 2020

Most modern browsers will enable you to view and manage PDFs directly in the browser.
Those users on older browser may need to download Adobe Acrobat Reader DC to view the document in full.

Everyone loves social media. But it’s complicated.

Dec 05, 2019 by Mark Baines Category: Social Media 0 comments

If you think social media is just about kids messaging inanities to each other, or politicians putting their foot in it, think again. Apparently Investec, the ‘High Net Worth’ bank has a potential pool of about 90,000 customers and they see it as a way of personalising financial services. Zalando has some 28m fashion shoppers […]