Looking to fine-tune your social media marketing strategy for 2021?
Good! Now’s the perfect time to make it happen and leave 2020 behind for good.
Sure, doing so might seem daunting given how social media is so much more competitive and complex than it used to be.
The reality, though? A succinct strategy will help your brand tackle its goals with a sense of purpose.
That’s why we put together a comprehensive guide to creating a social media marketing plan from scratch.
Whether you’re totally new to social or just want to double-check your priorities in 2021, this guide has you covered.
- Set goals that make sense for your business
- Take time to research your target audience
- Establish your most important metrics and KPIs
- Create (and curate) engaging social content
- Make your social presence as timely as possible
- Assess what’s working, what isn’t and how to keep improving
1. Set goals that make sense for your business
Let’s kick things off with a quick question:
“What do you want from social media, anyway?
Social media strategy planning starts with your goals.
Perhaps you want to build a community or a more dedicated following. Maybe you want your social accounts to drive more revenue this year.
Either way, your goals will define your content strategy and how much time and energy you’ll need to dedicate to your campaigns.
Sample social media goals for 2021 and beyond
What really matters is that you set realistic social media goals.
Emphasis on “realistic,” by the way. We recommend tackling smaller objectives that allow you to scale your social efforts in a way that’s both reasonable and affordable.
Below are some sample goals that businesses of all shapes and sizes can pursue.
Increase brand awareness. This means getting your name out there. To create authentic and lasting brand awareness, avoid solely publishing promotional messages. Instead, focus on content that emphasizes your personality and values first.
Generate leads and sales. Whether online or in-store, followers aren’t going to make social purchases by accident. For example, are you about alerting customers about new products and promos?
Grow your brand’s audience. Bringing new followers into the fold means finding ways to introduce your brand to folks who haven’t heard of you before.
Growing your audience also means discovering conversations around your business and industry that matter the most. Digging through your social channels is nearly impossible without monitoring or listening to specific keywords, phrases or hashtags. Having a pulse on these conversations helps you reach your core audience much faster.
Boost community engagement. Explore ways to grab the attention of your current followers. This means experimenting with messaging and content. For example, does your brand promote user-generated content and hashtags?
Even something as simple as asking a question can increase your engagement rate. Your customers can be your best cheerleaders, but only if you’re giving them something to do.
Drive traffic to your site. Simple enough. If you’re laser-focused on generating leads or traffic to your website, social media can make it happen. Whether through promotional posts or social ads, keeping an eye on conversions and URL clicks can help you better determine your ROI from social media.
Any combination of these goals is fair game and can help you better understand which networks to tackle, too. When in doubt, keep your social media marketing strategy simple rather than muddling it with too many objectives that might distract you. Pick one or two and stick with ’em.
2. Take time to research your target audience
Making assumptions is bad news for marketers.
And thanks to the sheer wealth of demographic data and social media analytics tools out there, you really don’t have to anymore.
Much of what you need to know about your audience to influence your social media marketing strategy is already available, granted you know where to look.
In fact, in a recent survey of 250 business executives, 72% are currently using social media as a source of data and insights to inform their company’s business decisions.
Remember: different platforms attract different audiences
Take today’s social media demographics, for example. These numbers speak directly to which networks your brand should approach and what types of content to publish. Here are some key takeaways as of 2021:
- Facebook and YouTube are both prime places for ads due in part to their high-earning user bases.
- The majority of Instagram and TikTok‘s users are millennials or Gen Z, signaling the strength of bold, eye-popping content that oozes with personality.
- Women vastly outnumber men on Pinterest, which is noted to boast the highest average order value for social shoppers.
- LinkedIn’s user base is well-educated, making it a hub for in-depth, industry-specific content that might be more complicated than what you see on Facebook or Twitter.
Don’t spread yourself too thin. Instead, focus on networks where your core audience is already active.
Do your homework on your existing social media audience
Although the demographics data above gives you insight into each channel, what about your own customers? Further analysis needs to be done before you can determine what your real-world social customers actually look like.
That’s why many brands use a social media dashboard that can provide an overview of who’s following you and how they interact with you on each channel.
For example, Sprout’s analytics dashboard puts your audience demographics front and center. It also highlights which social networks are seeing the most activity, helping you ensure your spending your time on the right networks.
With Sprout’s Group Report, you can view Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and Pinterest data side-by-side in a customizable format that’s exportable by date range and profile.
Consider also that there’s plenty of other sources of valuable audience data to supplement your social media insights. This includes your Google and email analytics or even your best-selling products.
All of the above will ultimately influence everything from your marketing messaging to how you’ll approach customer service or social selling.
3. Establish your most important metrics and KPIs
No matter what you’re selling, your social media strategy should be data-driven.
That means focusing on the social media metrics that matter. Rather than focus on vanity metrics, brands are tasked with digging into data that aligns directly with their goals.
What metrics are we talking about, though? Check out the breakdown below:
- Reach. Post reach is the number of unique users who saw your post. How far is your content actually reaching users’ feeds?
- Clicks. This is the number of clicks on your content or account. Tracking clicks per campaign is essential to understand what drives curiosity or encourage people to buy.
- Engagement. The total number of social interactions divided by the number of impressions. This sheds light on how well your audience perceives you and their willingness to interact.
- Hashtag performance. What were your most-used hashtags? Which hashtags were most associated with your brand? Having these answers can help shape the focus of your content going forward.
- Organic and paid likes: Beyond a standard Like count, these interactions are attributed to paid or organic content. Given how organic engagement is much harder to gain traction, which is why many brands turn to ads. Knowing these differences can help you budget both your ad spend and the time you invest in different formats.
- Sentiment. This is the measurement of how users reacted to your content, brand or hashtag. Did customers find your recent campaign offensive? What type of sentiment are people associating with your campaign hashtag? It’s always better to dig deeper and find out how people are talking about your brand.
An effective social media marketing strategy is rooted in numbers. That said, those numbers need to be put into a context that circles back around to your original goals.
4. Create (and curate) engaging social content
No surprises here. Your social media marketing strategy hinges on your content.
At this point, you should have a pretty good idea of what to publish based on your goal and brand identity. You probably feel confident in which networks to cover, too.
But what about your content strategy? Below are some ideas and inspiration that can help.
The importance of sticking to content themes
Chances are you’ve seen a post from a particular brand that just feels like, well, theirs.
The bold, grandiose images that give Passion Passport’s Instagram grid a recognizable, cohesive feel are a great example.
From filters to captions and beyond, many brands rely on the same content formats and creative touches time and again. These content themes can help you become more consistent and zero in on a content strategy that makes sense.
For example, you might cycle between memes, product photos and user-generated content while sticking to a rotating color scheme. If you’re struggling to keep up with all these sources of social content, consider social media management tools that help you organize your media library and schedule your posts in advance.
“Which types of content should be part of my 2021 social media marketing strategy?
To help narrow down the specifics of what you should be publishing and make sure you’re developing innovative content, here are some social media trends to consider.
Stories and time-sensitive posts
Stories aren’t going anywhere. Tapping into your followers’ FOMO (fear of missing out), Stories-style content is both interactive and can’t-miss. Popping up first in your followers’ feeds by default, such content can help your brand’s account “skip the line” and stay fresh in your audience’s minds.
Stories are especially valuable for taking your followers behind-the-scenes and making your social feed feel a bit more personal. For example, consider how you can use Stories to cover an event or take your followers on a journey without them having to leave the comfort of the ‘gram.
Social video is booming, especially with the rise of TikTok and the recent rollout of Instagram Reels. Both long-form and short-form productions continue to dominate the social space across all platforms due to their high engagement rate.
Posts that show off your human side
Particularly important as we (eventually) come out of COVID-19, both personal and personable content should be a cornerstone of your social media marketing strategy. In short, don’t be afraid to remind followers of the humans behind your posts.
there’s someone out there who wishes they were gaming with you right now🧡
— SteelSeries (@SteelSeries) December 31, 2020
Pro-tip: conduct competitive analysis to help your content stand out
Before you start creating content, you should have a good idea of what your competitors are up to.
While some brands might want to look into third-party competitor analysis tools to dig deeper into their competitors’ numbers, you can learn a lot from a simple review of competitors’ social presence.
The simplest way to find competitors is through a simple Google search. Look up your most valuable keywords, phrases and industry terms to see who shows up.
Then, see how their social channels compare to your own promotion strategy. The goal here isn’t to copycat or steal your competitors’ ideas. No two companies’ social media marketing strategies can be (or really should be) the same. Instead, determine what’s working for them and what conclusions you can draw to adapt your own campaigns accordingly.
After identifying some of your industry rivals, you can use competitive analysis tools such as those found in Sprout to quickly compare competitor performance to your own.
See what they’re posting on Facebook. Contrast your Twitter engagement with theirs. Find out how they’re tagging their content on Instagram. Optimize your own strategy. Rinse and repeat.
You can also go a step further using Sprout’s Advanced Listening. Using social listening, you can spotlight unfiltered consumer feedback regarding competitors, as well as their products and services.
You get the added bonus of discovering honest conversations about your own brand you may have otherwise missed.
5. Make your social presence as timely as possible
Timeliness is arguably more important than ever for marketers.
Not only are you expected to put out fresh content on a regular basis, but also always be “on” for your followers.
But you can’t always expect customers to operate on your clock. Timeliness is a tall order when you’re strapped for resources or are part of a small team.
Let’s look at some ideas to maximize your schedule and your
time spent on social.
Post at the best times to engage
Quick question: when is your brand available to engage and interact with customers?
You might see some recommending times to post late in the evening, for example. But if your brand isn’t there to communicate, what’s the point of posting at the “preferred” time?
Instead, try to ensure your social media or community managers are available and ready to answer any product questions or concerns when you tweet or post. It’s smart to learn the best times to post on social media. However, it’s just as critical to engage after posting.
And hey, that leads us to our next point.
Respond to your customer questions and shout-outs ASAP
Not only do customers expect speedier responses from brands but also meaningful conversations on a regular basis.
Your brand can’t forget these core elements of networking. It takes effort to ensure conversations or engagement opportunities aren’t left unattended.
Through social media, you gain respect as a brand by just being present and talking to your audience. That’s why social customer care is so important to brands wanting to increase audience awareness. It’s all about engagement.
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— BlackMilk Clothing (@BlackMilkTweets) December 16, 2020
Whether it’s capitalizing on a compliment or responding to a question, businesses shouldn’t leave customers hanging. According to our research, a brand’s average response time is around 10 hours. But did you know that most users believe brands should respond to social media messages within four hours?
Designating teams to specific tasks can help your staff run like a well-oiled social media team, whether you’re a group of one or 100.
As social algorithms go through continuous updates, organic content has an increasingly tough time reaching the majority of your audience. The last thing you want to do is ignore those who do engage and lose out on sending more down your marketing funnel.
6. Assess what’s working, what isn’t and how to keep improving
By now you should have a big-picture understanding of your social media strategy.
However, it’s important that you’re able to adapt your strategy as you progress throughout the year.
Without continuously analyzing your efforts, you’ll never know how one campaign did over another. Having a bird’s eye view of your social media activity helps put things into perspective. This means looking at your top-performing content and adjusting your campaigns when your content stalls.
There’s no denying that a lot of social media is a matter of trial-and-error. Monitoring the metrics behind your campaigns in real-time allows you to make small tweaks to your social media marketing strategy rather than sweeping, time-consuming changes.
So much of how to do social media marketing right starts by being diligent about your data. You can be reactive in the short term to get the most out of your running campaigns, and then proactively use these takeaways to inform your next major strategy.
Reporting on data is also important for the sake of sharing valuable insights from social with your coworkers and colleagues.
Our Index data notes that there’s a growing expectation for marketers to report on results and ROI with their higher-ups. Doing so not only holds you accountable for your efforts but also highlights the role and the unique data points that your social strategy is able to produce.
Based on your data, you can better assess whether your KPIs make sense based on bigger company goals or whether they need to change. With instant access to easy-to-share data, pivoting and making changes can be done sooner in a timely manner.
And with that, we wrap up your social media strategy guide for 2021 and beyond!
Is your social media marketing strategy sorted out for 2021?
This guide highlights that there are plenty of moving pieces to a modern social presence.
That said, putting together yours doesn’t have to be a drag.
If you set actionable goals and address each of the steps above, you’ll already be way ahead of the curve when it comes to your social media marketing strategy.
And if you need more inspiration for actionable ways to build out your strategies, make sure to check out the our updated Social Media Toolkit with templates and resources.. Best of luck in 2021!
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