Social media is the ying to content marketing’s yang. Without social media, your content won’t be able to reach a wide audience. Without content, there’s nothing to share on social media.
But before you go firing off posts, tweets, and status updates, it’s important to step back and figure out your social media content strategy. This will help you generate the best return on investment (ROI) for your social media content marketing efforts.
In this guide, we’ll give you the nuts and bolts on creating a social media content strategy so that you can amplify your brand’s voice and reach new customers. Let’s start by understanding what a social media content strategy is, and the specific benefits it offers.
What is a Social Media Content Strategy
A social media content strategy is a roadmap of what you plan to do on social media, and the results you expect it to drive. In a way, it’s not all that different from your regular content marketing strategy, as it requires identifying goals and crafting and distributing content in such a way that you can meet those goals.
Of course, social media is a completely different beast than an owned content hub like a blog or newsroom. For starters, the type of content people want to engage with on social media is different from the content they engage with on a blog. According to Social Media Today, short-form content, interactive content, visual content, user-generated content, and highly positive content play best to a social media audience.
Secondly, the tone of voice on social media differs from other communication formats. You’ll typically find brands speaking more casually. That’s because social media is primarily used for entertainment. Users don’t want to be sold—they want to be amused, surprised, comforted, distracted, delighted, or some combination of all of the above.
Therefore, your social media activity should primarily reflect who you are as a brand, not what you do. Remember: People may not recall what you said or did, but they’ll remember how you made them feel.
Social media is all about how you make people feel.
If done well, a social media content strategy can increase engagement with your audience and foster brand awareness. By allowing your content to reach a wider audience, it can also help generate backlinks to your website, which is good for SEO. Who knows, your content could even go viral!
But in order to achieve those goals, you need a tailored approach. So let’s find out how to create a social media content marketing strategy for your brand.
How to Create a Social Media Content Strategy in 10 Steps
We mentioned that a social media content strategy isn’t all that different from a content marketing strategy. In both instances, you need to start by determining what type of content you need to create. But before you can even do that, you need to figure out why you’re investing in social media marketing to begin with.
This brings us to our first step:
Step 1: Set Goals
The end goal of all marketing efforts is to generate leads and drive sales. Social media can help by growing brand awareness, improving customer retention, and generating word-of-mouth buzz. But what does that look like from a numbers perspective?
The metrics that are most indicative of social media marketing success are as follows:
- Impressions: The number of times a post you shared was displayed in a social media newsfeed.
- Reach: The total number of people who see a post you made on social media.
- Engagement: The number of times someone interacts with your social media post (i.e. like, share, comment).
- Brand recall: A person’s ability to remember your brand name as a member of a product or service class, 3-7 days after receiving a certain number of impressions.
- Lead generation: The number of people who have indicated interest in your brand after encountering it on social media.
- Conversion rate: The number of leads from social media who turn into customers.
Typically (but not always), impressions, reach, and engagements will increase brand recall, lead generation, and conversion rate. How much of each metric do you need to drive in order to see an adequate ROI? That’s what you need to find out.
To help set up your goals, we recommend using the S.M.A.R.T. framework of goal setting:
- S: Specific
- M: Measureable
- A: Attainable
- R: Relevant
- T: Time-based
An example of a S.M.A.R.T. social media content strategy goal would be to publish 50 pieces of social media content on Facebook each month that collectively generates 10,000 impressions, 500 engagements, 50 leads, and 10 new customers per month.
Note that we made our goal specific to Facebook. Because each social media channel is so different, it’s important to adjust your goals for each channel accordingly. You may find that some channels are more suited to your brand than others, and you should plan accordingly.
Step 2: Create Your Budget
Now that you have your goals, you need to figure out how much you’re willing to invest to hit them. This isn’t just about money, but also time.
Are you going to carve out time from your day to share content on social media, or are you going to hire someone to do it for you? If you do decide to take on the task, what other projects will fall by the wayside, and will they have a greater impact on your bottom line?
Furthermore, consider what you’re willing to pay to get your social media content in front of the right people. It may be free to set up a Facebook or Twitter account, but that doesn’t guarantee people will find it. That’s why many brands pay extra in order for their content to reach their target audience. Businesses are charged on a per-click basis for promoted posts, with prices typically ranging from $0.20 per click to up to $10 per click.
For beginners, we recommend setting aside about $1,000 per month to promote your social content and build up a following.
Step 3: Audit Your Content
If your company already has a social media presence, now’s a good time to audit it. What posts get a lot of engagement? What gets ignored? Finding the answers to these questions can help set the foundation for your social media content strategy.
Most social media platforms let you export your data directly to a spreadsheet, which should make this process easier.
During your audit, identify which types of content and social channels roll up into your broader goals. For example, if you post the same content to both LinkedIn and Facebook, and the LinkedIn post gets far more engagement, it’s safe to assume that LinkedIn is a more appropriate channel for reaching your target audience.
Also consider how language and tone affect engagement on your posts. This will help you hone in on your social media brand voice. Lastly, auditing your content will help you see the types of people who may be interested in your product or service, which brings us to our fourth step…
Step 4: Identify Your Audience
You now have an understanding of the social media content that works well for your brand, but that won’t help you unless you know why it works. And to find out why it works you need to find out who you’re talking to.
This means creating customer or buyer personas. If you already have them, great! If not, now’s the time to get on top of that. In a word, buyer personas are fictitious representations of your ideal customer.
Having a clear picture of who your customer is will help you better tailor content to satisfy their needs. There are a bunch of different ways to develop buyer personas. You could interview your current customers and ask them about their background, the social media content they consume, and what they need help with.
You could also talk to sales representatives who work directly with customers, send out surveys, or perform general market research. The social media platforms you use should also be able to provide you with some demographic and location-based information.
Step 5: Competitor Research
You know who your customers are and the type of social media content they like to consume. Now it’s time to research the competition and find out what you can do differently—or better—with your social media content strategy.
Your competitor analysis should identify your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses on social media. With this knowledge, you can find ways for your content to stand out. For example, if your competitor shares a lot of their content on Facebook, but none on LinkedIn, creating content for LinkedIn may be a way to win over some of their customers.
A great way to perform competitor research is to engage in social listening. Social listening is the act of monitoring competitor social media channels for intel regarding keywords, topics, and other activity. Note that you should also use social listening to audit your own content as well.
Sprinklr and Talkwalker are among several vendors that can help brands perform social listening.
Step 6: Perform Social Keyword Research
The last step in the information-gathering phase of your social media content strategy is to perform some keyword research. Your social listening efforts should have helped you hone in on some keywords to target, but social keyword research will provide you with a complete understanding of the needs and wants of your audience.
When you perform social keyword research you’re looking for trending topics related to your brand and how frequently keywords related to your brand are searched. This will help you gauge market interest in your products and services, identify topics to focus your social content around, and discover new ways to engage your audience.
Keep in mind that the process of social keyword research differs depending on the platform you use. Keywords trending on Facebook may not be trending on Twitter. For this reason, it helps to create a keyword list for each individual platform. The social listening platforms mentioned above have capabilities to do this for you.
Step 7: Pick Channels to Share Content On
At this point you should have all the information you need to figure out what type of content works well for your brand on social media.
Now you need to find out where to put that content. As we already mentioned, content suited for Facebook or Twitter may not work on LinkedIn or Pinterest. Here’s a quick overview of how the major social media channels are used for business:
- Facebook: With nearly 2.5 billion users, Facebook is still the largest of all the social media platforms. It’s good for promoting all types of content. To market with Facebook, you will need to create a free Facebook Business account.
- Twitter: Twitter has a much smaller audience than Facebook (about 380 million), but its user-base is extremely loyal. Given the 280-character threshold on Twitter posts, it’s ideal for sharing short-form content, as well as videos and images. If you’re going to be active on Twitter, we recommend getting your account verified.
- LinkedIn: LinkedIn is career-oriented and works great for B2B networking. On LinkedIn, brands tend to share content related to jobs, marketing, finance, HR, and other work-related topics. LinkedIn’s audience skews older, and the tone of voice tends to be more formal.
- Instagram: Instagram should be used for sharing vivid images and videos targeted at young audiences. It’s used most often by B2C businesses. Because Instagram is owned by Facebook, you can advertise on the platform via your Facebook Business page.
- YouTube: YouTube is a video-hosting platform that is also the largest search engine behind Google. Any type of video content your brand produces should be shared here. To help you get started with YouTube, check out our guide on video content marketing.
- Pinterest: On Pinterest users discover, collect, and curate images shared by other users. The platform’s audience skews female. Many use it to find inspiration, such as dinner recipes, style tips, or home decor. Visual content obviously works best here. It’s also a good channel for businesses trying to reach consumers.
Keep in mind that you don’t need to market on all of these channels—just the ones you think will be most effective at reaching your target audience. Having said that, utilizing a combination of channels, and having a unique strategy for each, will increase your chances of success.
Whichever channels you choose, make sure you set up a professional looking profile. This includes a keyword-driven description of your business and high-quality images. You should also follow a few other brands you admire, or work with, to help foster a sense of community.
Step 8: Build a Content Calendar
The meat and potatoes of your social media content strategy is your content calendar. Here you can visualize what you’re going to post, when you’re going to post it, and what you expect it to do.
The best way to approach a social media content calendar is to prepare your social content on all channels, then schedule it to be automatically published at your desired time (Note that there are specific times you should post on social media in order to maximize exposure). We recommend posting at least twice per day to start gaining exposure.
Keep close track of what you want each post to do, and how it rolls up into your larger goals. For example, how much do you need to post each day to reach your engagement goals? How much educational content do you need to share vs. product content?
Your goals will inform your content mix. Some brands opt to use social media to promote mostly educational or engaging content. Others place greater emphasis on transactional content.
In the end, it all depends on where you're posting, what you’re posting, and what your overall goals are.
If planning and tracking different types of content, and different channels, feels overwhelming, don’t worry. There are lots of great social media marketing software vendors, including Buffer, SEMrush, and SocialBee. Sprinklr, mentioned above, also has publishing capabilities in addition to social listening capabilities.
Step 9: Distribute & Promote Your Content
Now it’s finally time to start firing off posts, tweets, and status updates. Utilize all of the data you’ve compiled around your audience, competitors, and keywords to publish excellent social media content that generates buzz.
If you need specific examples of content to publish, consider the following:
- Informational content that educates a reader on a topic or concept related to your business. You could also link to a blog post in which you discuss the topic in greater detail.
- Humorous content that ties back to what your business does.
- Re-shares of user-generated content about your product or service.
- “Behind the scenes” content about your business.
- Timely content related to major holidays or events.
- “Live” status updates during an event your brand is hosting.
- Sales content promoting discounts or special deals.
- Company announcements.
- Imagery related to your brand.
- Polls that ask your audience for their opinion on a topic related to your brand.
- Questions about how people feel about your product or service.
- Entice influencers in your industry to share content promoting your brand.
The type of content you choose to publish will depend on the channel and your goals. You could try posting similar content on different channels and then seeing which post performs better. This is called social A/B testing.
Also remember to use hashtags in all of your social content. Adding a hashtag followed by a word or phrase (without spaces) allows that word or phrase to be indexed by the social network, which makes it easy to search. Adding trending hashtags to posts will help increase impressions.
Within your owned content hubs, be sure to include social sharing icons so that your content can be easily distributed on major social networks. This is a powerful form of social proof.
Lastly, reply to your customers when they comment or reshare your post. Like we said in the beginning, social media is where people find out who you are as a brand. By talking directly to your customers, you transform from a faceless business to a real person. This helps build a deeper connection with your audience.
Step 10: Measure Your Results & Adjust As Needed
The cornerstone of any marketing strategy is measurement. You probably won’t get everything right with your first couple of posts. Therefore, you need to dive into the data and figure out what’s working and what’s not, then iterate as needed.
At a minimum, you should be tracking impressions, reach, engagements, brand recall, lead generation, and conversion rate on a monthly basis. Other metrics your brand may find helpful include virality rate, click-through-rate, cost-per-click, and cost-per-impression.
To help track data on all of your social media content use UTM parameters. These bits of code added to the end of a URL can track the actions social visitors take once they click-through to your website. This will provide you with valuable insight into your social media content strategy.
In the end, social media content marketing is all about testing. You should regularly be testing new content formats and campaigns in order to hone in on the perfect social media content strategy for your business.
Your social media content strategy is a living thing. Social media trends change rapidly (hello TikTok!), and your strategy will have to change with it. Being able to move nimbly and try new things will help you meet your goals.
Additional Social Media Content Strategy Tips
Our ten-step guide is plenty enough to get you started with your social media content strategy. But once you get going, there are additional steps you can take to optimize your results. Here are a few to keep in mind:
Make Your Website Mobile Friendly
Roughly 61% of people browse social media on a mobile device. If they find your content and click through to your website, what are they going to see? If it’s a page that isn’t mobile-friendly and difficult to navigate, all of your social media content marketing efforts will have been wasted.
Outsource Social Media Marketing
If you can’t hire someone full-time to perform social media marketing, but you don’t want to take on the responsibility yourself, you could always seek out a freelancer to do the work for you. There are thousands of social media strategists for hire on websites like Fiverr and Upwork.
Another approach is to hire a marketing agency to oversee your social presence, although this will likely be more expensive. If you need help starting your search, websites like The Manifest, UpCity, and Clutch publish rankings of the top social media marketing agencies in the country.
Use Visual Content
Social media attention spans are short. Therefore, visual content works extremely well in this medium. According to Social Media Today, Tweets with images receive 18% more clicks and 150% more retweets than tweets without images, while LinkedIn posts with images generate a 98% higher comment rate.
Think of ways your brand can creatively use visuals—be it photos, graphics, or videos—to increase the performance of your social media content.
Consistency is Key
Social media content marketing has compounding results. The more you post, the more of a following you build, and the more impressions and engagement you get. But that only happens if you are putting out new content regularly, not once every couple of days.
In your content calendar, make sure you’re scheduling posts at a regular basis so that you can stay top of mind with your customers.
Using a Social Media Content Strategy to Build Your Brand
A social media content strategy isn’t something you can rush. Take the time to thoughtfully map out your plans and identify your goals. Speak with all stakeholders and be meticulous in your approach.
Using our ten-step guide, you’ll have a blueprint for social media content marketing success that can serve you today and in the future.
For more content marketing advice, visit our blog.