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How to create an effective social media strategy

We looked last time at how social media can help your business and why you should be involved in it. But to be really succcessful with social media, you need to plan how you’re going to use it. In this post, I’m going to look at why you need a plan and then share with you a simple 4-point social media strategy to get you started.

The social media landscape

Any web-based or mobile communication that is interactive and encourages conversation is classed as a type of social media. And there are literally thousands of them. The current landscape can look a little frightening to the untrained eye:

(Image source:

But you don’t need to worry about them all. There are some key players and some sites will be more relevant to you than others, depending on the nature of your business. That’s why having a plan is crucial to making social media work for you.

Who are the key players?

You know the big names already: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn. Each of them have literally millions of active users worldwide. In the UK, 30 million are active each month on Facebook, 26 million on Twitter and 9 million on LinkedIn. And Youtube is now the third most popular website in the UK after Google UK and Facebook.

More recently Google+ and Pinterest have exploded onto the market. Google+ growth is accelerating rapidly currently with 62 million users, which is predicted to grow to 400 million by the end of 2012. Pinterest – used for collecting and sharing images online – is one of the fastest growing social networks with more referral traffic than Google+, LinkedIn or YouTube.

With so many sites out there, how do you decide which ones to use?

Before deciding on the networks that are most suitable for you, it’s better to decide what you want to get out of social media first. There’s no point in signing up for everything going. You’ve got a business plan, hopefully even a marketing plan, so the same goes for your social media.

The most successful social networkers always have a plan. So what should yours include? Well, it’s not rocket science but a little bit of forethought will go along way to helping you be successful. The best way is to keep it simple – outline what you’re going to say, how often and to whom.

Here’s my simple 4-point social media plan:

1. Identify your audience

This is the number one rule for any type of marketing strategy and social media is no exception. You need to know who you want to talk to, so you can tailor what you say to them and where you say it.

You know the key people for your business already – your customers and others with an interest in your products or services. But who are they, really? Break the list down into the type of people you’re trying to reach. Think about age and geography too.

For example, a driving instructor will be targeting consumers. But they will want to focus on those who are local to them, young people and also parents, who will most likely be the ones paying for the driving lessons!

On the other hand, if you provide a service to other businesses, you will want to reach them through business networks, their industries and you might have a national or an international focus.

2. Work out what you’re going to say

Now you know who you want to talk to, it’s time to tell them about your business. But social media isn’t just about selling your products or services. It’s about engaging people in conversation.

So make sure you have a mix of topics to talk about. Don’t just say ‘buy my products now’ as that’s the quickest way to put people off!

By all means talk about your products or services, but not exclusively. Also talk about what you’re up to – special offers, competitions, events or activities you’re involved in, a cause you’re supporting – or share some industry news or little known facts about you or your industry.

And most importantly, ask questions. That’s the best way to get your audience engaged and talking back to you. It might even help you develop a new product or improve your customer service!

3. Decide where you are going to say it

Only decide on the networks you’re going to use once you know who you want to talk to and what you want to say. Different people favour different networks, so that’s why it’s important to do steps 1 and 2 above first. Talk to them where they’re going to be listening.

For example, if you’re trying to reach younger people, Facebook is ideal but if you’re a B2B business, you may find your customers more easily on LinkedIn or Twitter. If your business sells products that are easy to show pictorally, then Pinterest would be great, but if you’re selling a service, it’s perhaps not the right choice.

It’s always worth looking at the latest demographics for the key players to help you target the best sites for your own activity, such as this one:

Of course, you can and should be on more than one network but you might be saying slightly different things on each one, so it’s appropriate for the audience there.

4. Decide when to say it

The question of how often to post doesn’t have an easy answer. You need to find what works best for you. Not posting often enough means people won’t know you’re there; too much and you’ll put them off. Initially, 2-3 posts a week might be enough but if you can post daily that will increase your visibility. Start small; you can post more as your confidence grows.

Also think about the time of day you post. When are your audience most likely to be listening? Lunchtime and early evening often work best, but this will vary. If you’re international, think about posting at different times of the day.

Don’t worry, you don’t have to sit up all night or be glued to your social media networks all the time. There are tools available to help you manage and schedule your activity. But that’s the subject of another post!

So there you have it. It’s as simple as who, what, where and when! In my forthcoming blog posts, I’ll take you through the most popular networks and show you how to get the most out of them for your business.

About the author
Jane Rogers is a public relations and communications expert, with over 13 years’ experience helping businesses large and small to raise their profile with cost-effective, clear and credible publicity. She advises clients on social media, as well as traditional media, and helps them create compelling content to create a voice for their business.