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How to craft your social media marketing plan

In The Marketing Plan Handbook, author Robert W. Bly explains how you can develop big-picture marketing plans for pennies on the dollar with his 12-step marketing plan. In this edited excerpt, Bly offers a five-step plan for successfully managing your social media marketing strategy.

The first step to any social media marketing strategy is to establish objectives and goals that you hope to achieve. Having these objectives allows you to quickly react when social media campaigns aren’t meeting your expectations. Without these goals, you have no means of gauging your success and no means of proving your return on investment.

You don’t want to get carried away, however; too many goals are worse than none at all. That’s why you should limit yourself to two primary goals and two secondary goals. For example, a primary goal could be to raise brand awareness or increase customer loyalty. A secondary goal could be to generate more traffic to your website or build your list of newsletter subscribers. Based on these goals, you’ll choose the social networking sites you’ll use.

Step two involves conducting a social media audit. It’s important to assess your current social media use and how it’s working for you. This requires figuring out who is connecting to you via social media, which social media sites your target market uses, and how your social media presence compares to that of your competitors’. It will become evident which accounts need to be updated and which need to be deleted altogether once you see the numbers.

Once you’ve audited your accounts, it’s time for step three, when you hone your online presence. Fill out all profiles completely. If you don’t already have social media profiles on each network you focus on, build them from the ground up with your broader goals and audience in mind. If you do have existing accounts, it’s time to refine and update them for your best possible results. If authenticity is as important as experts say, you’ll want your social presence to be honest and unique. So in step four, you’ll find your social voice and tone. It can be valuable to turn to your competitors for inspiration when it comes to what content types and information get the most social media engagement.

Your consumers can be equally as inspiring, not only through the content they share but in the way they phrase their messages. Don’t forget to turn to industry leaders for inspiration, too. Many companies have managed to distinguish themselves through advanced social media strategies. Follow them faithfully, and learn everything you can from their successes.

Here’s the essential truth of any social marketing plan: You need great content. So in step five, you’ll get specific about the content itself, adding these specific content pieces to a comprehensive editorial calendar. Your plan should answer the following questions:

  • What type(s) of content do you intend to post and promote via social media?
  • How often will you post the content?
  • How can you target the specific audience for each type of content?
  • Who will create the content?
  • How you will promote the content?

When it comes to posting frequency, recent research has found that you want to post consistently, but not too often. Top brands on Pinterest post five times per day, tweet three times each day (although engagement does decrease slightly after the third tweet), and post three times per day consistently on Google+. You can post twice per day on Facebook before likes and comments begin to drop off; once a day (20 posts per month) on LinkedIn is sufficient to reach 60 percent of your audience. Your editorial calendar should list the dates and times you intend to post blogs, Facebook posts, Twitter updates, and other content you plan to use during your social media campaigns. It’s suggested you create the calendar and then schedule messaging in advance, rather than updating constantly throughout the day.

Here’s one more thing: Despite the need to be specific in step five, your social media plan should be constantly changing. As new networks emerge, you might want to add them to your plan. As you attain goals, you want to adjust them or find new goals for each network. This is a plan that is meant to change, so be flexible and open to changes.