7 Easy Steps to Develop an Effective Social Media Marketing Plan

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Developing a social media marketing plan for your content can feel like a daunting task. But like most things, having a solid plan to guide your work will make your life much easier.

Why should you bother with a social media marketing plan? According to the 2018 Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends-North America survey, respondents who had a documented strategy reported higher levels of success than those who didn’t. Are you ready to develop a social media marketing plan that will deliver results? Get started with these steps.

Step #1: Understand how your customers make decisions

To develop an effective social media marketing plan, you must understand how your customers make decisions. This means more than just knowing who your customers are—it’s about understanding the thought process they go through when they make a decision about your product or service.

To do this, consider things from their perspective. What frame of mind are they in when they first hear about you? What is the first thought that pops into their head when they learn more? As they do more research, what questions do they want to have answered, and where do they go for those answers? And finally, what is the last thing they want to know before they decide to make a purchase? This is all part of their buyer persona.

Each demographic group that you serve will likely have a different thought process, so it’s important to create a buyer persona for each group. Need to learn more about this? Check out the tool that Hubspot developed to help you do this:

By doing this first, you can be sure to develop useful content that will help give them the information they need. This will build your company’s credibility and help you gain the trust of your customers. This is what content marketing is all about! To learn more about what content marketing is and why it’s important, read our post about how content marketing can help your business.

Step #2: Choose social networks that are best for your business

Many different social networks are popular right now but don’t worry, you don’t need to use them all. It is likely that your target customers have a couple of favorite platforms they use to do research before they make a purchasing decision—those are ones you should concentrate on. Here is a quick recap of the major platforms and who is using them.

  • Facebook is currently the most popular site, with more than 1.86 billion active monthly users. A survey by the Pew Research Center showed that 68% of online adults in the U.S. use Facebook. The survey also noted that more online women (83%) than online men (75%) use the site.
  • YouTube is the second most popular social media platform, with 167.4 billion unique users every month, which according to the Pew study, include 94% of men aged 18 to 24.
  • Instagram has 600 million monthly users and is growing rapidly. According to the Pew study, more women use Instagram than men (38% of online women versus 26% of online men).
  • Twitter has 381 million monthly users, most of whom use the platform on their mobile device.
  • LinkedIn has 106 million monthly users and remains the go-to platform for B2B online networking, especially among recent college graduates and high-income households.

Many social media users are active at least once a day, and some report using a platform several times each day, as shown in the following graph by the Pew Research Centre.

So if your buyer persona is a professional woman in her late 40s, Facebook would be a better option than YouTube. However, if your buyer persona is a 24-year-old male college graduate, YouTube would be high on your list. In both cases, LinkedIn would also be a good bet.

The Social Media Examiner explores these further in their article about creating a social media marketing content plan.

Step #3: Develop goals and performance indicators

Now you can put those together to develop goals for your social media marketing plan. There are three main reasons that companies use social media:

These goals might feel obvious, but it’s worth spending some time thinking about them because some social media platforms will be better suited to some goals than others. The right match depends on what type of business you’re in—and of course, your buyer personas—and it might take some time to figure out what will work best for you.

Once you know your goals, you can decide what performance indicators you will track to measure your progress. Unless you measure it, you won’t know for certain if your work is paying off. For example, if your goal is to drive traffic to your website, you will want to track how many hits your website receives. Here is how Cooler Insights summarizes the relationship between goals and performance indicators:

This Search Engine Journal article also has excellent tips on setting content marketing goals.

Step #4: Do some content marketing homework

You might already have some ideas, but you must still research topics to find out what your audience wants you to post about. This homework matters because a successful content marketing strategy is all about what your audience needs, not what you want to give them.

The good news is that you don’t need to go looking for a needle in a haystack—you can ask your audience directly. Facebook and Twitter both have the capability to run polls, which can do double duty as a way to engage with your audience. Google Forms is another easy way to create a short survey.

All of these options create opportunities for you to verify or challenge your assumptions about your audience’s interests and concerns and gather valuable information that will help you meet their needs with your content.

Also be sure to follow other social media accounts that your audience is interested in and see how those posts are performing. The goal isn’t to copy what others are doing; it’s to understand what is out there and what your audience is responding to. Armed with that information, you can create and share unique content to fill gaps that aren’t being addressed anywhere else.

Step #5: Use titles to plan your blog posts

Having topics is a start, but having a draft blog title will give you focus. This will help you plan your posting schedule. Instead of writing down “blog about spring fashion trends,” say “5 Key Trends to Plan Your Spring Wardrobe.” This is much more specific, and it will help you set a deadline for when to post it. Why? Because if the content is meant to help your audience plan their purchases, it needs to be posted before they start shopping.

Your title should be interesting, but it also needs to be informative and honest. Resist the urge to use clever titles just to attract clicks. The purpose of content marketing is to build trust and establish your company’s credibility—click-bait will do the opposite. Instead, use titles and content that respond to a need or question that your audience has. Lists are helpful (like the example above). You can also use words like “how” and “what,” as well as descriptive words like “best” and “top.” Look at these examples from our own blog:

Both of these titles give a clear signal to the reader what they can expect from the article. If it answers a question or problem they have, they are more likely to click and continue reading.

Once you have a list of draft titles, you can create a schedule for publishing them on each social media platform. The frequency of your posts will depend on many things, including how much content you can create and share. The most critical thing is to be consistent. Set target dates and do your best to stick with them, so your audience knows what to expect.

Before you finalize each post, review it to make sure that it has a logical beginning, middle, and end and that it delivers on what you promised in the title.

Step #6: Engage with your audience consistently

Once you start implementing your content marketing strategy, you need to actively monitor how people respond and be sure to engage with your audience consistently. If one of your goals was to increase engagement, then you need to stay on top of what’s happening with each post.

Did someone ask a question on your Facebook page? Be sure to answer it promptly. Did someone retweet your post with a comment? Reply to them and acknowledge it. Follow people back on Instagram and like their photos (assuming you do, of course). This is what makes social media social, and your audience will appreciate it.

Step #7: Measure the progress of your social media marketing plan

It’s time to go back to the key performance indicators in Step #4 and measure your progress. Build this review into your weekly and monthly planning processes. Did you metrics change? Observe which posts performed well and which ones didn’t. Make gradual changes so that you can tell which adjustments are responsible for changes in your metrics. Most of all, enjoy the process—it’s a fabulous way to engage with your customers as you grow your business.

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