Do you have an actual social media strategy? And I don’t mean where you have it scheduled to open up Facebook to make sure you post daily which ends up with you watching cute kitten videos then next thing you know it’s an hour later. You know you’ve done this. Don’t worry, so have I.

Creating a social media strategy can sound pointless and overwhelming. After all, social media is supposed to be live as it’s happening, so why would you have a plan? Then you start thinking about all of the other plans that your business already has and dread the idea of creating yet another one. As intimidating as it sounds, creating a social media strategy will end up saving you time, a lot of time down the road. So it is worth it.

First, why are you on social media? Yes I am talking about establishing goals because we need to know what we are going after. If your answer to this question is “because I was told to be” then it is time you step away from the device.

Your social media marketing goals should solve a current business challenge. This challenge should be something that realistically social media can be an avenue to help you solve. For example, if your business goal is to reduce your costs, social media can be a resource to help you find new providers, but that information most likely is not relevant to your customers or target audience. Identify pain points across your entire organization and focus on the ones that are 1) relevant to your target audience and 2) can realistically be obtained through social media. It is easy to be seduced with numbers so remember to stay focused on your goals and develop a strategy around that.

Next, let’s do an audit before we create your online marketing strategy. Conducting an audit will allow you to assess what you are currently doing, and look at what has or hasn’t worked. Remember to keep your goals in mind. If you shared a video of a cute puppy kissing a baby and got a thousand likes and shares but it has nothing to do with your goals or your target audience, then it doesn’t count as a success.

Finally, we can now get to creating your online marketing strategy. Just like a business or marketing plan there are a few subsections that need to be included. Also remember that your online marketing strategy should be a part of your overall marketing plan and your marketing plan should be in alignment with your business plan. Remember to keep your goals top of mind and use them to help you make the following decisions.

  • What online platforms are you going to focus on? This includes social media channels (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, et al.), online communities (are their online communities where your target audience regularly visits like Baby Center for expecting moms), blogging, podcasting, and online gaming. You don’t need to do everything, you do need to do a select few very well. In order to do them well, you’ll need to understand their intended purpose which will be their strengths, what they don’t do well or their weaknesses, and relevant quarks or annoyances to using the platform. It is best to get help with this if you need it or are feeling overwhelmed.
  • Who is really a part of your target audience? Your target audience is broader than your target market. It includes clients, potential clients, industry-specific media sources, local relevant sources, direct and indirect competitors, and companies you (could) partner with. Please note that while your master lists of these resources will be the same for your whole company, the profiles you connect with online may be different.
  • How to make content creation plan? What type of content does your audience respond best to—images, memes, video, before-and-after, articles, white papers, infographics, podcasts, or how to—are a few examples. Are you able to consistently produce or acquire quality content? Also remember to build in a repurposing your content strategy. Each new piece of content should be repurposed in another format at least three times. For example, if you write a blog post you could also create a video talking about the same topic, create an infograph highlighting the high level points, and you could expand on the topic and turn it into a white paper. Also don’t forget that you can most likely extract multiple social media posts from just one blog post.
  • What is your social engagement plan? Remember there is more to online marketing than just pushing content. What, when, why, and how much are you willing to engage with your target audience? Will you use social media for customer service?
  • How will all of this get done? I can’t stress enough the importance of building an online tribe made up of your employees as well as external collaborators. Having a team that intentionally works together eases the workload and gives you maximum visibility. With having more than one person involved, it is also best to leverage a project management tool such as Trello or Slack.
  • What online tools will simplify the process for you? Tools such as MeetEdgar or HootSuite will help you execute your plan effectively and ensure that your team can collaborate with each other.
  • How will you track your results? Remember the goal we established at the beginning. We need to know if our plan is helping you accomplish your goal. The online management tools you select, social media platforms, and Google Analytics will all help you track various metrics. Decide which ones you will use to measure your results and keep track of them. This will help you when you review and update your plan to ensure that you are progressing and actually achieving results. Be intentional about where you spend your time. You should spend your time on the platform that drives the biggest return on investment (ROI). Remember, ROI is not always physical, tangible money it could be time, publicity, developing relationships with key individuals, it could be attached to number of new employees hired, or it could be changing brand perception.