Looking to fine-tune your social media marketing strategy for 2022?

Good! Now’s the perfect time to make it happen.

In a landscape with more competition, content and networks than ever, a succinct strategy gives you the focus needed to say “no” to efforts that don’t serve your goals.

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 want to double-check your priorities in 2022, this guide has you covered.

    1. Set goals that make sense for your business
    2. Take time to research your target audience
    3. Establish your most important metrics and KPIs
    4. Create (and curate) engaging social content
    5. Make your social presence as timely as possible
    6. Assess what’s working, what isn’t and how to keep improving
    7. Bring other departments into the mix

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.

According to the 2021 Sprout Social Index™, the most common goals for social are increasing brand awareness (58%) and increasing community engagement (41%). Whether you want to build a larger following or a more active community, taking the time to define your social goals is the first step to reaching them.

Either way, your goals will define your social media marketing strategy and how much time and energy you’ll need to dedicate to your campaigns.

Sample social media goals for 2022 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, in-store or directly through your social profiles, followers don’t make purchases by accident.  For example, are you about alerting customers about new products and promos? Are you integrating your product catalog into your social profiles? Are you running exclusive deals for followers?

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 for specific keywords, phrases or hashtags. Having a pulse on these conversations helps you expand your core audience (and reach adjacent audiences) much faster.

Boost community engagement. Index data shows that 46% of consumers think brands that engage their audience are best in class on social, so it pays to explore new 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 complicating it with too many objectives that might distract you. Pick one or two and rally your team around them.

2. Take time to research your target audience

Making assumptions is bad news for marketers.

Only 55% of marketers use social data to better understand their target audience, making it a huge opportunity for both leaders and practitioners. Much of what you need to know about your audience to influence your social media marketing strategy is already available. You just have to know where to look.

With the right tool, marketers can quickly research their audience. No formal market research or data science chops necessary.

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 for your 2022 social media marketing strategy:

  • Facebook and YouTube are both prime places for ads due in part to their high-earning user bases.
  • The top social networks among Millennials and Gen Z are Instagram and YouTube, 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 niche 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 demographic 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 provides an overview of who’s following you and how they interact with you on each channel.

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 you spend 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.

Sprout's cross channel group report helps you compare profile performance across network side by side. 

There’s plenty of other sources of valuable audience data to supplement your social media insights. This includes your Google and email analytics, your CRM, your customer service platform 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 commerce.

3. Establish your most important metrics and KPIs

No matter your goals or industry, your social media strategy should be data-driven.

That means focusing on the social media metrics that matter. Rather than focus on vanity metrics,  dig into data that aligns directly with your goals.

What metrics are we talking about? Check out the breakdown below:

  • Reach. Post reach is the number of unique users who saw your post. How much of your content actually reaches 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 encourages 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.
Sprout's Twitter Trend report shows which hashtags are most associated with your brand.
  • Organic and paid likes: Beyond a standard Like count, these interactions are attributed to paid or organic content. Given how much harder organic engagement is to gain, 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 react to your content, brand or hashtag. Did customers find your recent campaign offensive? What type of sentiment do people associate with your campaign hashtag? It’s always better to dig deeper and find out how people talk or feel about your brand.
Sprout's Sentiment Analysis tool helps marketers better understand audience sentiment on topics of their choice.

An effective social media marketing strategy is rooted in numbers. That said, those numbers need to be put into a context that aligns with 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 goals, audience 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 quippy, casual tone that makes Discord’s Twitter presence beloved by casual users and moderators alike are a great example.

Discord's Twitter feed.

 

From graphics to Reels and beyond, many brands rely on the same content formats and creative touches time and again. These 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 defined 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.

Content ideas for social media marketing in 2022

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, this content can help your brand’s account “skip the line” and stay fresh in your audience’s minds.

An Instagram Stories post from co-op general store Eola General

Stories are especially valuable for taking your followers behind-the-scenes and making your social feed feel 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.

Short-form video

Fifty-four percent of marketers say that video is the most valuable content type for achieving social goals, and for good reason. Social video is booming, especially with the rise of TikTok and  Instagram Reels. Both long-form and short-form productions continue to dominate the social space across all platforms due to their high engagement rate.

The top five types of content content marketers say are most valuable for social goals: video, images, text based posts, stories and live video.

Plus, thanks to advancements in DIY and remote video production, you don’t need a massive video production budget to be successful. All you need is a laptop or smartphone and a few tricks of the trade.

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. Don’t be afraid to remind followers of the humans behind your posts.

Pro-tip: conduct a 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 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 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 brand you may have otherwise missed.

Sprout's Instagram Competitors report shows how your performance stacks up against your most important competitors.

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 recommended times to post late in the evening, for example. But if your team 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. Take time to review the best times to post on social media. However, it’s just as critical to engage after posting.

A heat map showing Facebook's global user base is most active.

And that leads us to our next point.

Respond to your customer questions and shout-outs ASAP

Your customers want speedy responses. In fact, 47% believe that strong customer service defines a best-in-class brand on social.

What makes a brand best in class on social to marketers and consumers.

Your brand can’t forget these core elements of community building. It takes effort to ensure conversations or engagement opportunities aren’t left unattended.

On social media, you gain respect as a brand by being present and talking to your audience. That’s why social customer care is so important to brands wanting to increase audience awareness—word travels fast about great service.

Whether it’s capitalizing on a compliment or responding to a question, businesses shouldn’t leave customers hanging. According to our research, social is consumers’ #1 preferred channel for sharing feedback and reaching out with a service issue or question. But did you know that most users believe brands should respond to social media messages within four hours?

Designating teams to specific response 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 evolve, 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.

Sprout Social's Smart Inbox consolidates messages from all networks in one location.

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 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 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 strategy overhaul.

A Sprout Social Group Report comparing social media impressions across network.

Reporting on data is also important for the sake of sharing valuable insights from social with your coworkers and colleagues.

Data from the Sprout Social Index™ notes that only 15% of marketers use social data to measure ROI. Including this information in regular reports not only holds you accountable for your efforts, but also highlights the impact and bottom-line results your social strategy produces.

Based on your data, you can better assess whether your KPIs truly ladder up to your overarching company goals or whether they need to change.

7. Bring other departments into the mix

Social media teams have a unique advantage when it comes to understanding customer sentiment. You’re the eyes and ears for your brand online. Those insights can do more than just inform marketing strategy. They can transform your business.

Still, according to Index data, only 39% of marketers use social data to support other departments.

A chart displaying the nine most common ways marketers use social data.

In 2022, stand-out social media teams will approach cross-department collaboration with enthusiasm and intention.

Which departments can benefit from social data

The short answer? All of them. But don’t bite off more than you can chew. Instead, start where you think you can make the most impact. Here are a few ideas to jumpstart your strategy.

HR

We are in the midst of an incredibly competitive job market. Collaborating with human resources on social-first employer brand initiatives can do more than just fill open roles quickly. It can attract stronger, more qualified candidates as well.

Sales

We surveyed 250 business executives and found that in the future, 90% anticipate social will be the primary communication channel for connecting with customers. Sharing social insights with your sales organization can empower reps to work smarter in the context of increasingly digital customer journeys.

Product and merchandising

You’ve probably received quite a few feature or product requests while managing your brand’s social inbox. With a social media management tool, you can distill those messages into actionable insights for your product or merchandising teams. These insights can complement existing roadmap research, creating a customer-focused plan that delights.

And with that, we wrap up your social media strategy guide for 2022 and beyond!

Is your social media marketing strategy sorted out for 2022?

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 our social media marketing toolkit with templates and resources. Best of luck in 2022!