When social media marketing first became a thing, anyone participating in it was already ahead of the curve. Because there were so few of you, you were winning at it just by default. Today though, in a marketing world where everyone and their mother is trying to grow their brand on Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter (to name a few), you need to step your game up to stand out from your competition.

In 2018, we’re glued to our mobile devices more than ever. Marketers have had to shift their way of advertising in order to include the huge chunk of people who don’t ever seem to look up from their screens. According to Sprout Social, over 30% of millennials say they engage with a brand over social media at least once a month. This means that if you’re not fully invested in social media marketing with a strong focus on engagement, you’re losing out on huge market potential. Marketers worldwide are catching on to this fact. This means that if you’re not fighting for your piece of the social media marketing pie, someone else will come in and gobble it up for you.

While there are many different ways to win at social media marketing, there are several steps that should always be taken. While each step should be adapted to your marketing goals, the following list is a good base. Here is a step-by-step guide to building a solid social media marketing strategy.

 

Step 1: Set Goals

This seems like a no-brainer. The trick here is to not only set goals to get you what you want but to set goals to solve your biggest challenges. What do you want out of your results? Is it website traffic? Is it product sales? Do you just want people to know your name? Social media marketing is a long game. It takes a lot of time and effort to build your social media presence large enough to make a significant impact. It also requires you to be quick on your feet. The social sphere is constantly evolving and it’s imperative that you keep up.

When setting goals, make sure they’re attainable. Not to be a downer, but aiming for a 10 million follower increase in the first week will likely end in disappointment. Go for objectives that are challenging but realistic at the same time. This is necessary to stay on track as you’ll not only have to work toward that goal but will face unforeseen obstacles trying to get there.

A good tip for reaching your online marketing goals is to limit the channels you’re on. Unless you have an endless amount of resources dedicated to your socials, it’s almost impossible to thrive on multiple networks at once. Start with the one that best aligns with your brand’s goals and go from there. Sometimes (often), less is more.

Common goals to strive for in social media marketing include increasing brand awareness, higher sales, improving your return on investment, creating a loyal following, and gaining a better understanding of your industry’s landscape. As you travel through your social marketing journey, don’t forget to keep track of your progress. Not only is it important to see how you’re doing in relation to your goals, it’ll also show you how and when to adjust your strategy to improve your results.

Step 2: Know Your Audience

Knowing your audience is key to being able to reach them. Who’s interested in your brand? Of that group, which ones are engaging most with you online? What is their income level? Understanding the demographics of your most valuable segment will help you better target them through your marketing efforts. For example, while over 80% of adults use Facebook, is that where your target market is spending their time? If not, your marketing resources dedicated to Facebook would be better applied elsewhere.

Here’s a breakdown of general demographics of the most popular social media networks.

 

In order to know you audience, a great tool is a social media dashboard. While social networks like Instagram do offer demographic analytics to business profiles, there are additional programs that offer a more in-depth view of exactly who your audience is. In addition to information on who is following you, they can also tell you how they’re following you. This means how they’re engaging with you and what type of content they respond best to. Our top picks for social media dashboards are Hootsuite, Sendible, and Buffer.

Step 3: Prioritize Your Metrics

Metrics is one of the most important things in measuring your marketing efforts. Unfortunately, most people focus on the wrong ones. While follower count and likes are fun, they don’t necessarily translate to results. They are sometimes just vanity metrics. If your goal is to drive traffic to your website and your post is getting a ton of likes but very little click-through, you’re not actually winning. Having a good idea of which metrics are most important to your goals will allow you to get a better grip on how well you’re doing.

Engagement rates paint a much more accurate picture than likes or followers ever will. This rate will give you an idea of what percentage your audience is actually engaging with your content in proportion to your following. A low engagement rate tells you that, while you may have a ton of followers, they’re either not quality followers or your content isn’t resonating with them. If you have an exceptionally high engagement rate, it means that the followers you have are both attentive and involved in your brand.

Below are important metrics you may want to focus on.

Step 4: Scope Out the Competition

Scoping out the competition not only saves you a bunch of time but saves you from making some pretty big mistakes. Before you begin creating content, it’s a good idea to check our what your direct competitors are up to. Investigate what’s really worked for them and what bombed. While we’re not suggesting you copy them, doing this will give you a clearer idea of what your target market responds best to. Basically, pick up on what made them successful and drop what made them fail.

Before creeping your competitors, you’ll need to find out exactly who they are. The best way to do this is by doing a Google search and checking out their social media accounts. Look up keywords that your followers would search to find you. Exclude the big box chains like Amazon and focus on your niche industry instead.

Once you find your direct competitors, check out what the successful ones are up to on their feeds. Analyze their text content, photos, and videos. And then do it better.

Step 5: Create Engaging Content

Content can single-handedly make or break your social media success. It’s everything. The substance of your social feed is a direct representation of your brand. People follow others on social media because they see value in their accounts. This is especially true when it comes to brands and business accounts. If your feed is full of sale-sy, pushy content, no one will want to be at that party. In fact, Sprout Social found that 47% of users say they’ll unfollow a brand if there are too many promotional messages. On top of that, over 40% said they’d unfollow a brand if they share irrelevant content. It’s cut throat out there. No mercy.

Having a common theme running through not only your feed but all of your marketing emissions is also important. This theme will show followers that you’re consistent and that your brand has an established, thought-out personality. You can show off your theme through color scheme, photography style, setting, or mood. If you check out your favourite influencers and brands, you’ll see that their feed is uniform and balanced. To learn more, check out our article on 4 Qualities That the Best Instagram Photos Share.

If your brand is light and funky, make sure this shows through in your day-to-day content and captions.

In addition to being consistent, a huge shift in the past 6 months is one towards video content. In the beginning, almost no one was doing video. For those who were, it was almost expected that these types of posts would get a lot less engagement than the photos would. Now though, video content is more important than ever. If you want to learn more about why video content is rising in popularity on social media, click here.

If you’re selling a product or service, video marketing becomes even more valuable. About 90% of online shoppers claim that product videos help when making a purchasing decision. Though the lead time for content creation with videos is much higher than that of still photos, the return is worth it. Besides posting videos to your social feeds, Instagram Stories, Instagram Live, Facebook Live, and Snapchat are all incredible tools to market your brand.

Step 6: Engage

The initial point of social media networks was just that- to network. What was once a space to converse and mingle has now developed into a much less social experience. These days, it’s a lot of silent creeping. Though the case may be, it’s important for brands to hold on to the social aspect of social media marketing.

While it certainly takes effort, networking and interacting with your followers is a huge opportunity that many are missing out on. Some of the biggest brands out there have teams dedicated to engaging and responding to their followers on social media networks like Facebook and Instagram. This is because it makes the brand seem human (so to speak). It allows its audience to connect with the brand which, in turn, makes them much more loyal and invested.

Showing that customer care is a priority lets your followers know that they’re important to you. By ignoring or not responding to them, you’re basically telling them you’re above them and don’t need them. And that hurts.

While you may not be at the level (yet!) to have a group of people dedicated to engaging with your followers, this is something you can easily do on your own. The most efficient way to do it is to pick 1 or 2 uninterrupted hours a day that you can set aside just for engaging. By doing it this way, you’re avoiding stopping and starting your work every time someone comments or asks a question via your social media. Ideally, you would schedule this chunk of engaging time shortly after you post so you can respond to any questions or comments as they arrive. If you want to know the best times to post to your social media, check out this article.

Currently, brands are not meeting expectations when it comes to response time. According to a study done by Hootsuite, a brand’s average response time is about 10 hours. Yikes. Imagine waiting 10 hours for your crush to respond? Customers’ expectation of a good response time is actually between 0 and 4 hours.

Step 7: Measure Results

Now, steps 1 through 6 were done to drive results and reach targets, right? It only makes sense then that the last step is to measure your performance. What worked? What didn’t? This step is uber important as it’ll help you tweak your marketing efforts going forward to do even better. Without analyzing results on a continuous basis, you’ll have no way of comparing one marketing campaign over another.

One of the initial downsides of social media marketing was that it was tough to measure. Unlike other forms of marketing where you can easily track exactly how well your campaign performed, social media marketing delivers results that is a little more difficult to piece together. This is evident in the over 45% (as reported by Hootsuite) of marketers who felt they couldn’t accurately measure their results.

The most commonly used metric is currently the engagement rate. Over 80% of marketers look to this rate to see how well their campaign is performing. Other ways to measure your success include tracking unique promotional codes, website traffic, link clicks, and conversions.

BONUS: Use Influencers

If you live in the 21st century, you know that influencers have taken over social media marketing. If you haven’t started using micro or macro influencers as a vessel to shoot your brand into success yet, you’re missing out. To check out the complete guide to influencer marketing and why it’s effective, check it out here.