How to Build Your Social Media Strategy

Social media marketing is like icing a cake. Anyone can chuck sprinkles on a sponge, but it takes time, patience and planning to sculpt a Great British Bake-Off worthy lemon-drizzled Royal Albert Hall.

Before you jump in tweet first, it's vital to consider your goals and form a strategy around which social media platforms to join, the personality you want to present, what types of content you'll post, how often you will post, and how you'll fit social media into your daily schedule.

Deciding who you are and who your audience is early on doesn't just save you time later — the more focused and targeted you are, the much more likely you are to start reaping tangible benefits quickly.

What is your social media goal?

As a small business, you're probably most interested in likes (to endorse your posts and help them reach a larger audience), clickthrough (the people who click a link to your website) and of course followers on your social media accounts.

Of course, there are far more subtle ways to estimate your social media strategy's worth, but as a small business, followers, likes and clickthrough is a great place to start.

The most effective way to gather likes, followers and clickthrough is to post content that appeals to your target audience, so you need to know who that is. Being clear about your target audience helps you choose the right social media platforms and tone for your posts.

Which social media platforms should you join?

When it comes to choosing which platforms you’re going to focus on, it’s best to think about the sorts of audiences you want to connect with and what sort of content you’re going to share. Here’s a quick summary of each of the main ones.

  • Facebook is great for building brand loyalty and reputation by posting interesting, informative and entertaining content. People will naturally search for you on Facebook, so, unless you've got a good reason not to, you should have a Facebook page for your business.
  • Twitter’s short character limit makes it ideal for breaking news, new products, event announcements and quick conversations — and it’s immediacy can help by providing instant feedback. It might not suit small, local service providers, unless you need a way to make quick announcements.

  • Instagram and Pinterest are best for businesses with strong visual components and impressive design who want to show off their work and build a following.

  • LinkedIn is a professional networking site designed to help individuals connect with new employers and further their careers, but there's plenty of scope for individuals to post thought leadership pieces direct to LinkedIn, which can cast a positive light on their business. 

For a more about each social media site, have a look at the best social media platform for your business.

You might only use one platform to begin with, then, once you get the hang of it, expand to two, three or more. Just try not to bite off more than you can chew. You’re always better off having one platform with regularly updated content and an established audience than splitting your attention and only updating your content piecemeal.

What's your business' voice?

In our private lives, social media is an informal, casual means of communicating with people we already know. Mostly, we're speaking as ourselves (or a consistent image we want to project), with the aim of presenting our true thoughts and beliefs.

When they connect with you on social media, people want to see and hear the real people behind your business, not torrents of jargon and salespeak. In fact, anything inauthentic sticks out like a sore thumb. It often helps to take a few minutes to think about what you do, your core customers and how you want people to think about you when formulating your voice.

If you tend to deal with older professionals in serious, executive positions, don't be flippant. If your customers are young and hip, a casual and dynamic tone will suit you more. Consider also your company values. If you save your customers time, write efficiently. If you make them happy, post funny cartoons.

Mailchimp, an email marketing facilitator has a great guide to tone and voice in their style guide, so if you’re struggling, take a look.

How often do you intend to post?

As with all of these strategy considerations, frequency will be partly determined by what sort of business you have, which platform/s you’re using, and what sort of audience you’re trying to connect with. That said, there are some general rules to help you along.

Users of image-heavy platforms such as Instagram and Pinterest lend themselves towards more frequent posting — up to five times a day — because visual content is generally quick to consume. Equally, because Twitter is so fast-moving and features a high rate of short, sharp posts, anything between three and five is a relatively safe number.

Facebook, which tends to move less quickly than other platforms and has space for longer content, should be less intense. In fact, more than two posts a day can cause people to disengage.

What will you post?

Much like in real life, it can seem a bit strange to spend all of your time on social media just talking about your own opinions. That’s why it’s also a good idea to curate content — finding interesting articles, videos, podcasts and visuals created by other people and sharing it with your audience.

Not only does content curation increase the amount of content you can share without much extra work, it also helps to form relationships with other businesses and influencers and can start conversations with potential partners and customers. Remember to add value where you can, generally by adding a short commentary or original perspective alongside the curated content.

A good rule of thumb is to curate about a third of your posts. This is enough to ensure you’re still sharing relevant content from other sources, but not so much that customers think that you don’t have much to say yourself. There will always be ebbs and flows, though, so don’t get too caught up in deciding when to curate content. If something is worth sharing, then by all means share it — just remember to create and promote your own content as much as possible too.

How will you fit social media into your schedule?

Once you’ve decided which platforms you’ll use, what sort of content you’ll post and how often, you can start building a social media schedule to help you stay on top of your game. It doesn’t have to be complex by any means, and a simple spreadsheet or note in your diary that says, ‘I’ll spend half an hour each Wednesday morning posting content on social media' will more than do the job. Of course, if you plan on a fairly heavy social media campaign over several platforms, it’s not a bad idea to scale up your schedule to keep track.

Fortunately, Facebook and some other social media platforms have in-built scheduling for business accounts so you can prepare posts in advance and decide when you want them to go live. If your platform of choice doesn’t support this, there is also a range of third party services such as Hootsuite that can automate the process.

Don’t go overboard though — as tempting as it is to load up weeks of content in advance, part of the power of social media is its immediacy and responsiveness, so it’s worth checking in manually to see what’s trending and if there’s a conversation you can join in on.