The key to social success is building a strategy tailored to your target audience, but if you’re not sure exactly who your audience is, it can be difficult to develop a solid social plan. Before you can come up with a workable social strategy, you need to figure out just who you’re going to be talking to.

Your first point of reference is your businesses’ marketing plan, which should give you a good starting point on who your you’re talking to — and the clearer concept you have of that audience, the easier it will be to come up with a successful social strategy to talk to them.

“Much like you would in other marketing and engagement strategies, you should really get to know your audience in multiple dimensions,” explains Andrew Caravella, Vice President of Marketing for Sprout Social. You’ll want to raid your marketing plan for basic demographic information for your audience like age, gender, and geography, which will give you a place to start thinking about tailoring your social messaging to your precise audience — but from there, we need to dig into our social toolbox.

Transform Your Marketing Strategy Into Social Strategy

Social networking goes beyond traditional marketing, with more options to pinpoint your ideal clients as well as respond quickly to their needs. All of this means that to do social right, you need to go beyond the standard demographic data.

“You should also think through some of the psychographic and behavioral data that social enables you to understand,” says Andrew. “From when and how your audience interacts on social channels to its interests, likes, and dislikes, understanding your audience as individuals can really help drive your social content and outreach strategy.”

The more you know about your audience — before or after they’ve started following you — the better you’ll be able to reach out to them.

In addition to considering your audience in a social context, the medium itself will inform your messaging. How you approach your audience and handle conversions will differ between your marketing strategy and your social strategy — and even from social network to social network.

To give a real world example, not only will you find different people on Pinterest than you will on Twitter, you’ll also reach out to them in different ways. On Pinterest, memorable visuals get you attention, while on Twitter you have to fit your entire message into a concise— but clever — 140 characters.

Despite these differing approaches, it’s crucial to maintain a coherent brand across marketing platforms. “From the individual’s perspective, your brand on Facebook is the same brand that is in a catalog is the same brand at your brick and mortar store,” explains Andrew. “Recognize that fact and think of social as an extension of — not a direct competitor to — other brand channels. Too often businesses’ social presences are misaligned with the rest of the brand and the result is just confusion for the customer.”

Even though your social strategy requires some special planning, be sure you don’t leave the rest of your messaging out in the cold.

Make Use of Metrics to Adjust Your Social Strategy

Once you’ve built a sound strategy around your target audience, you need to take advantage of the amount of feedback social can offer. Social monitoring and metrics can give you more information about your followers and the types of content they’re most interested in — which you can use to hone your social plan to perfection.

“The greatest advantage of social, and really digital in general, is that it is extremely nimble and easy to adjust,” says Andrew. “You are able to test, learn, and pivot very quickly to maximize positive impact and neutralize negative results.”

It’s just not enough to decide on a strategy and leave it at that — you have to monitor and adjust in order to do more of what’s working and less of what doesn’t. Without constantly evaluating your social performance, you’re just not making the most of your social presence. “You can quite easily vary content, distribution, medium and other factors to continually improve,” adds Andrew.

Key to success is audience engagement, which will help you grow both your audience and your brand interactions. “You can have a million followers but if you don’t talk or engage with them regularly, then of what use are they to your brand? Conversely, you may have a few thousand followers but if you interact regularly, provide value, and establish meaningful connections then you’re on the right track,” says Andrew.

Those engaged followers have an active interest in your brand, which means they’re more likely to result in conversions than a more casual follower — so it’s worth the effort to keep your audience engaged. To capture these followers, Andrew recommends focusing on “metrics such as shares, retweets, comments, and others that prove engagement rather than basic growth metrics that only show reach.”

Sometimes, however, your planning will have unexpected results. No matter how careful your initial marketing research, the audience you reach may or may not be the one you initially intended to reach.

“Many times marketing and social strategies are created with one goal (or audience) in mind and the result is something very different,” says Andrew. “That’s not a bad thing and shouldn’t be viewed negatively — it enables you to better understand your collective audience, tap new segments, draw conclusions from behaviors and then recalibrate or put more resources behind those efforts to make an even bigger impact.”

Even if your social plan isn’t working exactly as you intended, it’s easy to adjust your strategy to target individuals who are most responding to your brand. In the end, social success doesn’t come down to setting the perfect social plan: it’s about coming up with a solid plan based on your ideal audience and then adjusting as needed to best serve your audience’s needs.