Today it’s hard to ignore the power of social media. When 22% of the world’s population uses Facebook, more than 450 million LinkedIn profiles exist and 93% of Pinterest users access their account to make purchases, you can’t afford to miss out.

Unfortunately, jumping head-first into social media and creating an account on every platform might not bring a positive impression on your audience. If you really want to turbo-charge your presence, you’re going to need to prepare a strategy to improve the effectiveness of your content.

With a social media content strategy in place, you’ll know which network brings the best engagement, the type of content you need to create and easily measure your results. Now is the perfect time to get ready for making 2018 a successful year. To make things a little easier, we’ve provided a step-by-step guide to prepping your social media content strategy for 2018:

Sprout features mentioned in this post:

Step 1: Establish Social Goals That Align With Business Goals

First if you want your social media content strategy to have a real impact, you need to make sure the campaign goals align with the ambitions of your company. Think about what you’re currently doing in 2017 to enjoy the benefits of social media—even if it’s very little.

Tools like Sprout Social help you see the metrics needed to decide which way you’re headed with your campaigns. But before you can start patting yourself on the back for a job well done, you’ll need to decide what your idea of success looks like.

For instance, here are a few goal and metric ideas you can choose to align with your business and social strategy:

  • Improving brand awareness: Look at the follower count on each of your social profiles, your mentions, retweets, shares and other engagement metrics.
  • Generating new leads: Inspect things like downloads for gated content, new leads developed through social media and clicks on your lead-generation social posts.
  • Driving traffic to your website: Check referral traffic coming from social media in your Google analytics dashboard, along with things like clicks on social posts and bounce rate for social traffic.

Step 2: Choose the Right Social Network

The best kind of social media content strategy is the one capturing the interest of your target audience by their network. Targeting every social network without focus will often lead to wasted budgets and confusion. Consider these factors for each network:

  • Facebook: Facebook is one of the most obvious options for social research. Around 76% of adults online use Facebook, and since the rise of Facebook Live, the platform has seen a 700% growth in video views.
  • Pinterest: Around a third of adult internet users access Pinterest, but the platform appeals more to women than men. This could be the ideal platform for female-focused brands.
  • Twitter: Twitter has about 319 million active users per month. Plus, about 80% of Twitter usage is mobile, which could be great for local companies who want to engage with customers on the move.
  • LinkedIn: LinkedIn is the leading B2B social media platform. The network has members across 200 countries and is perfect for B2B businesses or personal brands looking for growth.
  • Instagram: There are more than 800 million monthly users on Instagram. It’s a great way to engage with young, visual audiences, particularly in the millennial demographic.
  • Snapchat: Home to 173 million daily users, the audience for Snapchat is very young, with most users under the age of 24.

To choose the perfect platform for your social media content strategy, you’ll need to create something called a “follower profile.” This allows you to pinpoint your perfect customer. Look at demographics like age, gender and even educational or career background to pinpoint your top followers.

Step 3: Design Your Content Creation Process

Now you know who you engage with and where you need to create posts, you’ll want to establish a guide to keep your content consistent. Although there’s no one-size-fits-all guide to content, ideally, your social posts should be designed to create emotional bonds with your audience. That means establishing a unique personality and tone of voice.

  1. Find your voice: Content has more volume when it’s fine-tuned to a tone that resonates with your business. Think about what you want your personality to be like and try to make sure it aligns with the platform you’ve chosen. For instance, a professional tone is more appealing on LinkedIn, while a playful tone might work on Snapchat.
  2. Tell a story: Social media is about engaging with your audience, so make sure that you have a strategy for sharing content that aligns with the values of your company. For instance, you should only share content that’s relevant to your industry, aligns with your company ethics and highlights your brand purpose. A green-conscious tech company could share updates about how to upgrade your PC without damaging the environment, for example.
  3. Know your competition: Being effective in your social media content strategy is all about making sure you’re better than the competition. Figure out what some of the main players in your organization are doing, then decide how you can do it better. Be careful not to just copy and paste another strategy.

Knowing your tone of voice, story and competition will help you create a more consistent social strategy, like the fun and carefree Twitter campaigns by Oreo Cookies:

Step 4: Research the Perfect Content & Keywords

You’re almost there! You have a good idea of who you’re speaking to, where your social strategy is taking place and more. Now you need to know what kind of content you’ll create. As we mentioned above, your aim should be to design content that’s relevant to your business and its values. Don’t post content for the sake of it.

Since you know your audience and where they spend their time, why not find out more about what they want to see from your brand. Questionnaires and polls are fun and effective ways to start engaging your audience.

Don’t Forget Your Keywords

At the same time, remember to think about the keywords you want to target with your content. Luckily with Sprout Social, you can monitor hashtags or branded keywords to easily feed content into your Smart Inbox.

Here you can see exactly what people are saying about a specific keyword or how they’re using a certain hashtag. This will help you build your content strategy more effectively by knowing exactly what to target.

Then you can see how well people engage with your keyword afterward–all within Sprout’s social media management tools!

Looking at what comes up when you type your focus market into different social media platforms will not only help you to figure out your competitors, but also provide you with alternate keywords.

Step 5: Create a Consistent Schedule

Once you finish researching for 2018, you want to publish to the right platforms. Remember, a good social media content strategy needs to be consistent. This helps you keep your customers engaged. Here’s how to start:

  • Decide what audience your content is targeting
  • Choose a topic and a platform for your content
  • Decide which kind of content you’re going to share (image, infographic, video, blog post, update, etc.)
  • Evaluate when your target audience is online. For instance, mothers might not browse Twitter much when they’re picking kids up from school, LinkedIn followers might spend less time online during the 9 to 5 and so on.

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As for when you should share your content, we did some research on the best times to post on social media. Here’s what we found:

  • Facebook: Wednesday through Sunday in the afternoon.
  • Twitter: Weekdays in the afternoon or the evenings.
  • Pinterest: Any day of the week in evening.
  • LinkedIn: Tuesday through Thursday at 5 p.m.
  • Instagram: Monday through Friday at 2 a.m. or 5 p.m.

Once you’ve researched your customers thoroughly, use a tool with features like social media publishing to schedule your posts ahead of time. This will let you never miss a chance to engage with your audience.

Step 6: Use Engagement to Create a Community

Social media is all about the communities that you can create online. As customers become more focused on building relationships with their favorite brands, social media can help you strengthen your bonds with your followers and develop loyalty.

Remember when posting on social media, you need to engage in conversations with your customers. Research suggests that it takes an average of eight brand touches before customers will consider buying from you. So think about how you can connect more frequently online. Responding to queries in instant messages, retweeting or engaging with content and sharing customer feedback all helps to strengthen your connections with your community.

You can even use your social media presence to respond to customer complaints and show your followers that you care about their needs. That’s a great way to make a lasting impression on your followers.

Step 7: Track Performance & Adjust

Finally, when you’re actively publishing your content on social media, you’re ready to track your strategy and make changes. Since the most common areas businesses are interested in tracking are engagement, reach and conversions, here are some of the things you’ll need to look out for in 2018:

  1. Engagement: How many people are connecting with you online? Think about retweets, mentions and clicks on social media posts. Comments and shares can be very important too.
  2. Reach: How many people are engaging with your content? You can measure this by assessing how many new connections or followers you’ve gathered over the last month or so.
  3. Conversions: Is your social media content strategy prompting sales? Consider using a social media dashboard to help you measure how many valuable leads are connecting with your company thanks to your posts.

It’s Time to Get Social

Some statistics suggest that almost 2 billion users are connecting online and that number is expected to reach 2.5 billion in 2018. The question for brands to consider today, is how they’re making the most out of the crowds they can access through their social platform?

A social media content strategy can give you the guidance you need to not only find your ideal audience, but engage with them on a deeper level, building the trust that leads to loyalty, conversions and bigger profits.

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