Your social media strategy plan: Where do you START?

social media strategy plan

By Mark Schaefer

When I work with businesses, there is often an enthusiastic attitude about moving on to the social web but confusion about how to actually get started. Today’s post provides a step-by-step overview on how to move ahead. Headline links at the beginning of each section will take you to more detailed posts if you want to learn more about each specific step!

And by the way, your social media initiative doesn’t start with a Facebookpage. It must start with …

1. Marketing strategy

I know this seems so basic but there is no way to have an effective social media marketing strategy if you don’t have a company marketing strategy to begin with … and many companies don’t!

Here is a trick to see if you truly have a marketing strategy. Can you finish this sentence: “Only we …”

To do that, you need to know your true differentiators, your customer’s un-met and under-served needs, and the competitive landscape. If you can answer that question, your marketing strategy more or less reveals itself, including the role of the social web in the marketing mix.

2. Assess the company culture

You might be wondering what the company culture has to do with social media success. In a word, “everything.” If your company is uptight and conservative, your social media presence will be uptight and conservative. If you are open and customer-oriented, your online personality will come across that way too.

To create realistic expectations, you better look at the role of IT, legal, HR and company leadership in this journey. Are they ready to be publishers? Are they ready to engage with the public?

3. Social media lead team

If you are in a large company, I would recommend creating a team of leaders to oversee the progress of the initiative and address problems as they emerge. This is also an opportunity for education and to promote internal successes.

4. Social media policy

Any company, large or small needs to have a social media policy. This provides the groundrules and sets expectations of employees interactions and engagement, It should also provide a detailed action plan if something goes wrong.

5. Identify sources of rich content

Content is the catalyst for business benefits on the web but not all content is created equal. If your strategy is to establish a voice of authority (you should) and have an opportunity for massive reach, Facebook posts or LinkedIn updates probably aren’t going to cut it. You need something deeper. You need rich content.

For most businesses, this means a blog, a podcast, a video series, or perhaps a combination. If you are a visually-oriented business like fashion or travel, Pinterest or Instagram might be options too, but generally to really create powerful content benefits, most businesses turn to a blog, podcast, or video. What might work best in your company culture?

6. Considering social media measurement

Here is an exercise I use to get a leadership team focused on real business results. Ask them “If we meet in this room a year from now and you are telling me how successful our social media marketing effort has been … what would have happened?”

This usually sparks a good discussion that leads to a commitment on what you are actually trying to achieve. Then, it is up to you to find indicators in your data that demonstrate progress toward those goals.

And please, consider the tangible and important qualitative measurements of progress, which may create more business benefits in the long run than something you can stick on a spreadsheet.

7. Develop a social media network strategy

Behind every social media strategy there is a content strategy and a network strategy. Most companies “get” the content part but generally take a passive approach to building an audience. But this is crucial. Your content isn’t optimized to work for you unless it MOVES through the network, creating opportunities for awareness and engagement. You must ignite your content.

Building your network must be strategic, purposeful, and continuous. As you discover WHERE your customers and prospects are, it will help you identify your …

8. Information eco-system

Only now are we beginning to look at the actual platforms we need to populate — where will we post our rich content, where will we engage?

Choosing the right platforms is a very important decision because most companies don’t have the resources to be everywhere and do it well.

While it may seem natural to immediately migrate to Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, don’t overlook other sites and even industry-specific platforms if you are in a market where competitors have a well-established social media presence. Newer options like Pinterest are delivering real business value and even old-school platforms like chat rooms are still very popular and effective places for content that might be off the radar screen.

Well, that should get you started! What do you think? What did I miss?

SXSW 2016 3Mark Schaefer is the chief blogger for this site, executive director of Schaefer Marketing Solutions, and the author of several best-selling digital marketing books. He is an acclaimed keynote speaker, college educator, and business consultant. The Marketing Companion podcast is among the top business podcasts in the world. Contact Mark to have him speak to your company event or conference soon.

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  • Billy Delaney

    This is rich content, and the supporting posts add all the spice needed for me. When someone truely understands something they can explain it simply, likeably and obviousy. I copied this post and the linked articles and put them into a document. I will print it and spend time making it a blueprint for my future efforts.
    So thanks Mark, as always you lead the field.

  • Frederic Gonzalo

    Company Culture. That is, without a doubt, the maker or breaker of all these 8 steps, as it underlies everything that will take place, or not. And too often, it goes unspoken, then people wonder why a project fails, in social media or otherwise…
    Thanks Mark for this yet again insightful post.
    Cheers from Quebec City,

  • Agree 100%. Thanks for the kind words Frederic!

  • Awesome. Glad it helped Billy!

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  • Just for info, video = replay 🙂
    “Business turn to blog, podcast and replay”
    It´s good to have the right keyword 🙂
    Thanks for your interesting article…

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  • Thanks Mark for another insightful post! You rock!!

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  • exigodm

    Mark, you are right the overall marketing strategy is typically missed. The other part is what’s next? What do you want he person you are engaging with to do? How are you going to convert them to a customer?

  • Finishing the “Only we…” sentence is a very powerful and difficult exercise, and in many cases we can define uniqueness only by referencing company culture (or the business owner’s culture and values and history).
    I totally agree with you Mark when you say that company culture is “everything” in the social world.
    Thanks for your insights 🙂

  • Gonna dissent a bit .. say step one skipped a few steps. Per @fredericgonzalo:disqus on culture, any plan starts with the overall BUSINESS plan of which, marketing and communications are key parts. The SWOT, the ‘only we’ eyes on the prize for why you’re doing this — that’s part of developing your business, not limited to marketing your wares.

    It’s a mistake I see companies make, esp. small businesses. They dive into social media with zero idea of what it is to be social. They focus as you say on the wrong networks, the wrong audiences; they’ve got no content or help to share; it’s all kitten pics and pithy quotes for empty engagement or on ‘set and forget’ autopilot; and all for the sole purpose of sell sell BUY NOW selling. There’s not enough there there, no understanding of brand, to type nothing of what makes a business grow. That ‘only us’ is earned via doing good stuff, making nice stuff (then putting in the right place at the right price marketing yada yada)… and by having smart talent on the payroll; by listening and learning, leading and driving trends; by delivering on the promises, doing more and being better value blah blah.

    That SM team lead needs to be a team: CRM, R&D, Service and Support, HR (for more than posting job listings), PR … and you get my ‘integration’ point I’m sure. This is all SPOT-ON very helpful on SM strategy. But as you know, it’s tools and tactics and even the best SM (or ad or PR) campaign won’t help if the brand behind it isn’t worth it. It’s something I say every time I try for a corporate SM gig: it’s not about fixing your FB page, it’s about fixing your brand, building a better company. FWIW.

  • I appreciate you Robin. Thanks for reading my blog!

  • Nicely said sir. Thanks for the contribution.

  • Thanks Giuseppe. Look forward to connecting with you in a few weeks.

  • You know I think you’re right Davina. In fact, if I could do this post over I would probably re-name point one as “business strategy” rather than “marketing strategy.” An important point and thanks for making it.

  • Excellent article, Mark. I’ll be assigning this article as a reading in the social media marketing course I teach.

  • Me too, Mark 🙂

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  • Great article, thank you Mark. At Socialbakers, we have a mission: We wish that all companies will use the right metrics throughout all the social platforms that are best for their industry, so they can keep improving over time on how they are performing. It’s all about defining your #1 above from the start: how do you define your business goals and how can we use social to leverage that? Could be anything from brand awareness to direct sales.

  • Marie Malyon

    Great starter points Mark, good read. I think I would add to number 3 on your list: social media lead team to not only contribute content but also to share and check updates before they are posted. Your social success depends on both the quality and relevancy of the content you share, so having someone to check a) is this a good quality post that meets our brands standards and b) is this relevant to our target audience can greatly improve the standard of social posts.

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  • Great read indeed! The audience…the most overlooked and most important.

  • Great. Thanks for letting me know!

  • Thanks for commenting Evan.

  • Nice addition to the conversation Marie. Thanks,

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