No matter what type of business you’re running or how big (or small) it is, marketing via social media is vital. There are now more than 2.8 billion social media users across the globe – which means these platforms are your best way to reach a large audience. To do so, however, you’ll need a strong social media marketing plan.

It may take a bit of work to put this kind of plan together, but it’s well worth the time spent upfront. 75% of marketers also see increased traffic to their websites. These benefits are well within reach for your own company.

In this guide, we’ll walk you through the six steps necessary for developing a social media marketing plan that gets results. Let’s start at the top!

Step 1: Create clear and actionable goals

The first step in creating nearly any type of plan is to be very clear on your goals. The reason for this is twofold. If you don’t know what you’re trying to achieve, you’ll have a hard time knowing if your strategy is successful or not. Plus, your goals will guide your decision making as you put together your social media marketing plan.

In this case, you’ll want to determine exactly what you’re hoping to accomplish through your social media marketing efforts. Some of the basic types of goals you can work from include:

  • Driving traffic to your website (or other key locations).
  • Building visibility and authority for your brand.
  • Increasing sales and other conversion metrics.

Of course, you don’t want to stop there. These kinds of goals are too vague to be truly helpful. You’ll also want to refine and specify your objectives as much as possible.

There are a number of ways to do this, but one of our favorite frameworks is S.M.A.R.T. goals. This involves creating objectives that are Specific, Measurable, Acheivable, Relevant, and Time-bound.

For example, simply saying you’d like to “drive more traffic to your website” is vague and not particularly helpful. Instead, you’ll want to develop a goal such as: “Increase website traffic to 500 visitors per day by the end of the year”. This is specific, is something you can easily measure and has a clear end point. Whether or not it’s relevant and achievable will depend on how much traffic your site is currently getting.

Once you have one or more goals like this in place, you can move on to the next phase of developing your social media marketing plan.

Step 2: Know your target audience

Social media marketing is all about talking directly to your audience. Of course, this isn’t likely to be very successful unless you know who your audience is. Around half of consumers won’t engage with a brand providing weak content relative to their needs and interests, and most engage much more deeply with businesses offering personally relevant content.

When it comes to your target audience, the more you know the better. However, here are the key pieces of information you’ll need to have:

  • Your audience’s key demographics (age, gender, income level, etc.)
  • What their needs are, as they relate to your products or services
  • Which social media platforms your audience most often frequents
  • How they tend to engage with those platforms

In other words, you should know who your audience is, what they want, and how they currently interact with social media. Fortunately, honing in on this information isn’t too difficult. For more details and advice, check out our full guide to finding your social media audience.

Step 3: Choose platforms to target

In an ideal world, you might spend time promoting your brand through every social media site out there. However, time and resources are limited – especially for small to mid-sized companies. Therefore, an important part of your social media marketing plan is knowing where you’ll focus your efforts.

To do this, you’ll want to use the following process:

  • Decide how many platforms to focus on at the start. It’s best to diversify a little, without stretching yourself too thin. Settling on two or three primary sites to target is often smart – you can always add more into your social media marketing plan later on.
  • Look back at your target audience research from the previous step. The platforms your audience is most active on will almost certainly be ones you’ll want to target.
  • Also consider the relative popularity of social media platforms. Top sites like Facebook and Twitter are influential enough to be valuable to nearly any business.
  • Finally, think about the type of content you might want to create, and what types of platforms it will be most relevant on. For example, if you think you’ll develop a lot of very visual content, sites like Instagram and Snapchat might be more useful than Twitter.

By considering the above points, you should be able to come up with a couple platforms that are popular with your target audience, well suited to the type of content you would like to create, and have a strong presence online. If you can’t meet all three of those criteria, each platform you decide to target should fit at least two. Then, you’re ready to move on.

Step 4: Develop a social media posting plan

Once you know what platforms you’d like to target, it’s tempting to jump right into posting content on each one. This would mean skipping a crucial step, however. In order for your content to be effective, you’ll need to post it at the right times and frequencies.

Your best option here is to develop a comprehensive calendar, outlining exactly when and how often you’ll post to each social media platform. Frequent posting is key to getting noticed, given how much ‘noise’ there is to break through. On Twitter alone, for example, there are about 500 million tweets per day.

Plus, each platform requires a particular posting strategy if you want to achieve the best results. For instance, Facebook posts tend to do the best when published around noon, while Instagram posts perform better in the evening.

For step-by-step guidance on how to develop this part of your social media marketing plan, you’ll want to reference our full guide to creating an effective social media calendar. Just remember: the more specific you can be here, the better. Knowing that you plan to post on Twitter three times per day, at 8 a.m., 1 p.m., and 5 p.m., is clear and unambiguous – making it as easy as possible for you (and your team) to maintain consistency. You can use a tool like Hootsuite to schedule automated posts at these times.

Social media marketing plan: Hootsuite

Step 5: Start creating and posting content

Now that the major elements of your social media marketing plan are in place, it’s time to start actually creating content. Fortunately, most of the hard work here has already been done. You know what platforms you’ll be posting on, when you’ll be doing all that posting, and who you’re ‘talking’ to.

The key to actually creating social media content that’s effective and successful is understanding what works (and what doesn’t) on each individual site. This means conducting plenty of research into your chosen platforms and designing your content around each one’s unique audience, style, and tools.

To help you get started, we’ve put together some guides to a few of the most popular and useful social media sites for marketers. Each one will help you determine how to create content that performs well:

No matter what sites you’re targeting, remember to keep your primary audience in mind at all times. Speaking directly to them is vital, as around 72% of consumers expect companies to demonstrate an understanding of their needs and make relevant suggestions through online marketing.

Finally, remember to maintain consistency, based on the social media calendar you developed in the last step. It may take a little time to gain traction and attract a following on each platform – so be patient! Social media success doesn’t generally happen overnight.

Step 6: Track the results of your social media marketing plan

It’s easy to assume you’re finished once you’ve started posting content. In reality, a strong social media marketing plan requires ongoing attention and maintenance. If you don’t track how well your efforts are paying off, you’ll have no idea whether your plan is a success.

Subjective measures won’t get you too far here – what you’ll want to do is track a few key metrics. Clear numbers will tell you exactly how well your social media marketing plan is faring, and make it evident if improvements need to be made.

To decide what metrics to track, you’ll need to refer all the way back to the first step of this process: your goals. For instance, let’s say you settled on improving website traffic as your primary objective. This tells you exactly what to keep track of. By watching your daily and monthly visitor numbers, you can see if they’re improving at the rate you’d like.

There are plenty of other key metrics you can focus in on, such as reach, engagement, and influence. What you choose to narrow in on will depend entirely on your business, audience, and goals.

What’s important is to consistently track the same figures over a long enough period to start seeing real changes. Then, crucially, you’ll want to use those numbers to go back and make changes to your social media marketing plan, if it isn’t performing the way you’d like.

Conclusion

Social media is in many ways a double-edged sword for businesses. Its huge presence means it presents the ideal way to find and attract your target audience. At the same time, this popularity also means it can be hard to make much headway without a clear roadmap.

Fortunately, a strong social media marketing plan can help you find your way and achieve success on key platforms. To put one together, you’ll need to:

  1. Create clear and actionable goals.
  2. Know your target audience.
  3. Choose platforms to target.
  4. Develop a social media posting plan.
  5. Start creating and posting content.
  6. Track the results of your social media marketing plan.
Do you have any questions about the process of developing your social media marketing plan? Ask away in the comments section below!