Social media is one of the most vital marketing tools, and also one of the most overlooked and difficult to understand. Reason being — there is just so much to learn, and so much continually changing.
When a business, especially a service-oriented business, decides to implement some marketing in order to meet their business goals, becoming an active social media user is a great place to start. So, what is the best way to implement social media into your marketing mix? Start by looking at your business goals. Ask yourself some of these questions to get a good understanding of your business and where you want it to go:
- What does your business do? What do you sell?
- What does your business look like from a financial perspective?
- Where is most of your business coming from now? Are these people or organizations your target client? Are you looking to pivot into a new target client demographic, or grow into a new market?
- Do you have a sales strategy in place? If so, what do you need in order to create more client conversions? Is it purely a larger quantity of leads? Is it more qualified leads?
- When talking with a prospective client, what values do you lead with? What are your client’s needs? What problem of theirs do you solve?
- What marketing goals do you have? Is it thought leadership? Brand awareness? Increased sales? Client loyalty? Client acquisition?
Once you have a good high-level view of your business direction, goals, and sales strategy, you can start to see where marketing (and social media marketing) should fall within that strategy. The importance of this exercise is to ensure that you have a good understanding of your unique competitive advantage and future aspirations. If you don’t know your own story, how will you tell it to others?
Now that we have the initial planning out of the way, let’s talk about how social media fits in. Social media is great for so many things: thought leadership, lead generation, brand recognition, and client engagement to name a few. Social media should complement your current business alignment and help you reach your business goals. Because of the many platforms, algorithms, tools, and creative thought that make up social media, it can seem fairly overwhelming at first. Don’t worry — a simple social media planning exercise can help you feel much more confident as you take on this marketing endeavor.
How do you make your social media plan?
Let’s start with who your current clients are. Where are your current clients hanging out online? This is the most pivotal part of your social media plan — and is worth doing a little research on. Perhaps you are a financial institution targeting financial advisors — your financial advisor prospects and clients are likely active on LinkedIn. Did you know that many financial advisors reach out to their prospective clients on LinkedIn? Capitalize on their preexisting engagement with the platform by incorporating LinkedIn into your social media plan.
There are so many social media platforms, and new ones coming out all the time. If you are overwhelmed by social media already, it is OK to start small. Select one or two social media platforms to create your social media plan around. We already mentioned LinkedIn, but a couple of other platforms to consider are Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, and Pinterest. Identify where your target clients are hanging out and start there.
Now that we know where to focus your social media efforts, let’s determine what content you should be putting out there. We are going to put the focus back on your target client — what type of content are they interested in? Your social media content should always provide your audience a value — even if that valuable content is not a direct pitch of your product or service. You want to educate, engage, or inspire whenever you are talking to your audience, so keep this in mind when thinking through the type of content you plan to disseminate.
Create a couple of content buckets that are based around the type of content you think (or better yet, know) your target clients are interested in and meet your business goals. What this means is, if one of your business goals is to be seen as a thought leader in your industry, you need to be putting out educational content and this content needs to be directed to both your target client as well as others in your industry.
Are you a financial advisor looking to grow your assets under management by bringing on new retiring clients? Great! Let’s talk to those baby-boomer target clients about income-focused portfolios, social security, charitable giving, tax strategies, and how to create a budget. These are valuable topics for your target client. You know what else you should focus on, content your target client will resonate with, and possibly even engage with. Let’s talk to those baby-boomer target clients about traveling around the world, how to perfect your golf swing, or a great new local place to take the grandkids.
Alright, now that you have defined your platform focus, your target audience, your goals and objectives, and your content buckets, what now? Let’s jump into the tactical pieces of a social media plan.
How frequently should you post? This is going to depend on your target client. How often are they on social media? Does their feed likely get clogged with information from other businesses? Generally, the rule of thumb here is quality over quantity. You do not want to be posting content just for the sake of posting — you want to make sure the content you are putting out there is providing your target audience value. If you can get two pieces of valuable content posted a week, that is a great place to start. You can always see what your audience is thirsty for and push out more valuable content at a higher frequency. Social media constantly evolves, and your strategy can (and should) too.
How are you going to talk to your audience? Define your tone, manner, and style. For example, “Howdy! We are so excited to share some of our events happening this month! Come check us out!” could be an appropriate tone, manner, and style for a football stadium, but if a funeral home used the exact same copy it would be perceived differently (we marketers call this “off-brand” but others might call it “extremely inappropriate”). This means you should think about how you want to be perceived, and how your target clients and target audience will best perceive you. Do you want your voice to be casual and informal? Or does your business call for formal writing? This type of introspect will help you define your brand voice and give you guidance when you are creating your social media content.
What are your posts going to look like? You probably have some sort of brand standard set, even if you never really put thought into it (although if you haven’t put thought into it, now is the time). Use the colors from your website as your main go-to colors when selecting images or creating posts. Use the fonts you already use on your website and marketing materials. Put together a vision board using your current colors, fonts, words that resonate with your business, and any quotes that you frequently look to or use in the office. Whenever you get stuck on what to post, or what images to use, you can look at this vision board and get a little bit of inspiration.
How are you going to engage with your audience? One of the most important pieces to the social media planning process is establishing a social media engagement routine. Your engagement routine should include proactive engagement (joining in the conversation with your target audience, commenting, liking, and making your social media presence known) and reactive engagement (staying present with your target audience by responding to their comments and direct messages — even if it is something just as simple as a “thank you”).
Let’s recap on what we have so far for your social media plan:
- Business goals
- Target client
- Sales strategy
- Marketing goals
- Platforms to focus social media efforts on
- Content categories to focus on
- Posting frequency
- Tone, manner, and style
- Post/image standards
- Proactive and reactive engagement plan
These pieces make up the backbone of your social media plan and will help you move forward in putting regular social media content out there in a way that isn’t overwhelming. From here, it is as simple as filling in the blank spaces. Take a blank calendar and mark down the posting and engagement frequency you decided on for at least one month. Then start building your content out. Go to your content category activity and start taking each category and placing them in your calendar dates. Once you have the content categories plotted out, you can start writing your posts while referring to the tone, manner, and style portion of your plan. Final step, find an image to associate with your post. These steps can really be as simple and straightforward, or as in-depth, as you want. But for those who are trying to take on social media in the face of being overwhelmed, start small and start simple. A little planning can help you gain the confidence you need to put forth a stellar social media presence that will help you reach both your marketing goals, and your business goals.