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Social media is often the first place people go to see local business promotions or get updates on friends. Indeed, Pew Research reported over 80% of U.S. adults 18 to 49 use at least one social media site, as do 73% of 50 to 64-year-olds. A social media marketing strategy defines how your brand will attract and engage with consumers and what results you expect.

Crafting a social media plan helps efficiency. It identifies the channels and customers to target while determining the content most likely to make an impact. Moreover, a strategy outlines key performance indicators (KPIs), ensuring you can measure performance and respond to consumer or budget changes.

Most small businesses want to increase sales, improve customer experiences and get the word out they’re open for business. Social media goals can do all three – and so much more. Aligning a business plan’s high-level objectives with social media helps in the development of an action plan. For example, you intend to boost overall sales by 20% this year. Your social media strategy may incorporate social selling on Facebook and channel-specific in-person or online purchase promotions. It can be even further broken down by deciding how many sales you expect per channel, campaign and timeframe. Other revenue-linked goals include increasing sign-ups to your customer loyalty program or generating leads through forms and downloads. Branding objectives aim to build awareness, community and engagement. A solid brand strategy creates stronger relationships, leading to increased sales and customer loyalty.

Social analytics and listening tools provide insights about competition and potential customers. With the audience, it’s essential to understand who they are, where they spend time and what type of content they engage with. Combine this information with demographics to segment them into different groups by channel.

Next, check out the competition. What content is driving clicks or falling flat? Are they using videos and images, short or long posts, or paid advertisements? How do they respond to post comments or reviews? Use this information to create a unique approach that stands out.

Social media is time-intensive, especially as your audience grows. Pick one to three channels to prioritize. Facebook and Instagram remain favorites among consumers and brands alike. Both offer built-in shopping tools and support videos. However, with Facebook, you can create communities for loyal fans to update them on the latest specials or give them first dibs on the newest inventory.

Instagram performs well for visual brands. Showcase beauty transformations or photogenic food presentations with high-quality photos or short behind-the-scenes videos. Depending on your industry and audience age, Pinterest, TikTok, Twitter and LinkedIn may also be worth your time.

While LinkedIn is better for business-to-business (B2B) brands, TikTok is great to engage younger clients. Brands can also focus on Twitter’s trending topics and Pinterest’s do-it-yourself vibe to attract interested customers.

Regardless of the channel, it’s important to decide when to post and frequently check back to see if the strategy remains valid. Brandwatch recommends these posting times:

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Social media KPIs measure your performance and the effectiveness of your overall strategy. You may have metrics for individual channels, campaigns and your plan. Hootsuite suggested tracking metrics from several categories: reach, engagement, conversion and customer satisfaction.

Consider monitoring social media KPIs, such as:

  • Profile impressions and reach
  • Followers
  • Click-through rate (CTR)
  • Engagement rate
  • Posting frequency
  • Video plays
  • Customer testimonials
  • Clicks
  • Audience growth rate
  • Social shares

Remember to gather benchmark data before beginning a new strategy. Measure current KPIs and collect industry data. Doing so gives an idea of what to aim for.

Organize social media from the get-go. Start with a monthly calendar and a list of post formats (informational, promotional, inspirational, insiders-look, etc.). Create templates, including photos and quote images. Then complete similar tasks at the same time. For example, do all images or all content curation at once.

By doing these tasks ahead of time, the focus can shift to engaging with the audience online rather than looking for something to post. And when it becomes time to outsource social media, the system and workflows are prepared.

No social media marketing strategy is set in stone. Human behavior and social media platforms change constantly. Set aside time monthly – or quarterly – to review numbers, competition and content. Social media is a long game, like search engine optimization (SEO), to build relationships and brand and increase sales along the way.