The power of social media is undeniable, and we are the witnesses of it each day. But at times, regardless of whether you are a social media newbie or a well-known veteran, the right course of action is not always clear. With frequent algorithm updates, new features, and marketing trends, social networks are ever-changing media. As a result, it can be quite challenging to stay up to date and on top of your game. If you turn to Google for answers, you might come back with more questions than solutions. Should you start making Reels? Do you need a Tik Tok account? Is social commerce going to replace e-commerce? Which begs the question, as a business how do you use social media to your advantage?
Before your anxiety spirals, how about a change of perspective? How about developing a social media plan that will reflect on your business goals, help you showcase authenticity, and strengthen your online community? We’ve got just the thing, and it’s called Social Media Game Plan.
Since we wanted to make sure you get all the necessary details, our guide might be a tad bit too long. But don’t worry – here’s the table of contents for all you impatient souls.
I How to Use Social Media to Your Advantage – A Game Plan
What are your social media goals?
What metrics should you watch?
Who is your target audience?
Who is your target customer?
What is your social media presence like?
Should you spy on your competition?
II Why It is Important to be Authentic on Social Media
How to find your authentic voice
How to use ephemeral content (stories and live streaming)
III Include Your Community in the Conversation and Content Creation
IV Bonus Tip
First things first, social media is your friend, not a foe, and you’d do good to remember that. Although, if not used properly and to your advantage, it can certainly become a foe. Now that we’ve got that out of our way, let’s make a social media game plan. A game plan, or social media strategy if you will, should start by clearly stating your goals and how you plan on achieving them.
Business owners often have a misconception that their social media goals should be more followers or more likes. While surely, this could not hurt, your social media strategy should focus on supporting your overall business goals. So, the first course of action is outlining your social media strategy to your business goals and creating a set of objectives you want to achieve.
Establishing objectives can sound a bit ambiguous. Luckily there are evergreen marketing tools like S.M.A.R.T. (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based) goal setting. Tools like these help focus your efforts and resources effectively and create objectives that adhere to your business goals.
But how does this look in reality? Let’s say in 2021 you wish to improve buyer satisfaction through better customer service. This is the overall goal that you should ‘narrow’ down to a goal that is specific, possible to measure and attain, realistic and time-based.
Specific: What is a specific issue you need to address in order to achieve your goal or improve the current situation?
An example could be ‘answering customer messages in under 1 hour’.
Measurable: Define how you’ll measure the progress you make on this specific goal.
How are you going to measure the response rate?
Attainable: Setting a goal that is not reachable (for whatever reason) will hurt your performance on social media.
So ask yourself, do you have the necessary resources to answer your customer messages in under 1 hour?
Relevant: How relevant is this specific goal to your overall business efforts?
If focusing on improving customer relations is not as important to your business progress (although, we can hardly imagine a scenario where this is the case), then focusing on it would not have the desirable progress on your business.
Time-Based: What is the time frame set for this goal?
Knowing the time frame can be helpful for creating an action plan for a given calendar year. If you’ve decided to improve buyer satisfaction in 2021, outline when you plan on doing so. As well as, when you can expect to see the results.
Setting your goals would be pointless if you are unable to track the progress you’ve made. However, the tracking method you choose should be in line with your goals. So choose your metrics wisely. Suppose your goal is to increase your brand awareness. In that case, you will have to monitor post reach and impressions, brand mentions, and post shares. If your business goal is sales-oriented, you will keep an eye on conversion and bounce rates.
It’s easy to get swayed away with “applause” data and focus way too much energy on the number of likes. Keep in mind that without action, these are only vanity metrics. Focus on your goal and metrics that show you how well you are doing.
Now comes the tricky part. You’ve outlined your goals and defined metrics to track your progress, but do you know who is your audience? Oftentimes, we set out to accomplish our goals without taking our audience into account. In other words, your target audience represents your market. Therefore, adjust your goals according to their characteristics.
If you already have a business for some time, you’ve probably developed buyer personas. Now, transform your perfect offline customers into an ideal online audience. For example, if you are making clothes for teenagers, your audience will be quite different across social media platforms. On Facebook, you are talking to their parents. While on Tik Tok your content should address teenagers directly. Check your follower analytics for a better insight into your target audience.
If you are just starting, think about who is your target customer. Start with demographics like age, gender, location. Then, add education level and income. Think about which life stages your audience is at – are they bachelors, engaged, newlyweds, parents of toddlers, retired, etc. What are their interests? Regardless of your industry, find out – which tv shows they watch, how they spend their leisure time, what they like to eat. The good news is that market research is now easier than ever. You can use keyword research, social listening, google trends, hashtag research, competition research, etc. Knowing your audience well will help you develop your voice and create content that will be relevant to your ideal customers. You will be able to use pop culture references and make jokes that will deliver.
Social media marketing allows for detailed targeting. And when we say detailed targeting, we really mean it. Knowing who to target will help you get the most out of your advertising budget and use social media to your advantage.
If you are already using social media, you need to review your work so far. It will give you a clear picture of the quality of your profiles at the moment and insights into what’s working and what’s not. First things first – check if your social media accounts are easy to find.
Evaluate all visual elements of your business’s social media profiles. Are all images in line with your brand? Is your branding consistent across all platforms? How about image size? It would be silly to come off as unprofessional, due to a trivial mistake such as an ill-fitted Facebook cover.
Although the visual impression is important, your profile is not all about looks. Words matter too. Description of your business, whether it is ‘our story’ on Facebook, or 150 characters Instagram bio, must be perfect. We know, it’s not an easy task. But with our 3 hacks, you will write the about description in under 25 minutes.
When you got your profile’s first impressions polished up, let’s go backstage. Take a look at your analytics – which type of content has the most engagement and the best conversion rate? Maybe you’ve read that the best way to use social media to your advantage is through video content but the analytics show that your audience doesn’t respond to it well. On the other hand, you might be surprised to find out the free e-book is doing wonders for your conversion rate. Social media analytics is a gold mine of insights, don’t overlook them.
Read more: Why Your Company Needs Brand Audit.
While we wouldn’t recommend stalking your ex’s social media accounts, spying on your competition isn’t always a bad idea. This will give you an insight into potential gaps in the market or tell you where you need to step up your game.
Take a look at what your competitors are doing and which social networks they are using. Check what their posting frequency is and which type of content gets the most engagement. Another thing you should inspect is their customer service and the quality of their community management.
Although keeping an eye on your competition can be very beneficial for your business, don’t mindlessly copy whatever they are doing. We are aware that: “It’s important to be yourself” sounds so cheesy. But that’s truly the best advice if you wish to use social media to your advantage.
Having all that set, it’s time to start creating social media content!
People are tired of curated feeds and airbrushed photos and have been so for quite some time now. Social media users expect to see companies showcasing their unique personalities through their posts just like their friends do. This helps consumers to connect better with a brand and develop a meaningful relationship. That way, when choosing between two similar products, buyers can choose the one they feel connected to.
So, how do you develop your brand’s authentic voice and personality of your company?
Try to follow these four simple questions as a guide to finding your authentic voice and personality:
1. Start by outlining the reason(s) behind your product or service – why have you created that exact product or service?
2. Then, move onto your company values – what does your company stand for?
3. Think about how you want to sound – joyful, confident, friendly, formal, like an expert?
4. Reflect on what makes your company – your employees, work environment, communication style, product, delivery, well, basically everything – different from others. It doesn’t have to be something big. Maybe your employees are quirky and nerdy, or sporty and love engaging with others over social media. Or your company is passionate about environmental causes and is dedicated to conducting business in a green manner. Perhaps, you are known among your business partners and suppliers for your informal and friendly communication style. Whatever it is, however big or small – own it and showcase it.
And if you are nodding to this, thinking to yourself – yes, I got this covered – well, think again. According to research, 92% of brands believe that their content resonates as authentic. However, the majority of consumers disagree. They believe that less than half of the brands have authentic content. This is a perception gap too big to ignore.
Showing a face behind the brand is not only about being authentic. Rather, this simple decision helps you connect with your consumers on a deeper level, as we all love connecting a face to a product. After all, ever wondered why large brands stick to a certain celebrity for years? This tactic is especially important for small businesses, solopreneurs, and freelancers.
Best approach? By opting for an ephemeral content – material that lasts a very short time, usually 24 hours, and then it’s gone. On social media, the most popular types of ephemeral content are stories and live streams. This type of content, by its nature, needs to be authentic and have a spontaneous feel. It mustn’t feel scripted, and it doesn’t have to be perfect. Because of this rawness and genuineness, it is ideal for building trust among your consumers.
A perfect example of leveraging stories and live streaming is the Australian candy shop “Sticky”. While their business was on a downward spiral due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they found unexpected salvation in social media. Owner David King was always aware that they are not only selling candy but rather an experience. “It’s a little bit unique in its theatrical nature, and it’s not just a product, it’s a story”, said King. Social media allowed them to be a small local lolly shop on a global market. Live streaming their candy-making process gave their audience a chance to enjoy interesting how-it’s-made content, and more importantly, to engage with them as people.
Another great way to improve your authenticity on social media is by including your audience in content creation. Consumers are 2.4 times more likely to view user-generated content as authentic compared to branded content. Inviting your followers to be a part of content creation strengthens the relationship with your customers and builds a stronger community. By turning the spotlight on your customers, you are not only making them feel more valued but giving them a chance to be a part of your brand.
Good user-generated content usually doesn’t emerge on its own, ready for you to claim it. There are several ways to invite your audience to participate. You can create a special campaign with a call-to-action for social media users to join and share their content with a dedicated hashtag. You can motivate your followers to post their photos of your products and tag you for a chance of getting featured on your profile. This type of content is a new form of testimonials that speaks loud and clear about user satisfaction.
However, whether they are tagging you and using your dedicated hashtag or not, never turn to user-generated content thinking: “It’s free real estate!” Always ask for permission to use it, appreciating this situation as a chance to start a meaningful conversation with members of your community.
It’s ok to feel overwhelmed, but no need to panic. Even if you think you don’t have the knowledge, time, or resources to devote to your social media presence. There are many ways you can still use social media to your advantage.
First, let’s make it clear – you don’t have to be on all social media platforms. Analyze social media demographics and find out which social media platforms you should prioritize. If your target audience is tweens maybe you don’t need a LinkedIn profile as much as you need Tik Tok. On the other hand, if you are selling books about retirement, your audience probably won’t be on Tik Tok.
Another thing to keep in mind – you don’t have to create completely new content all the time. You can save some time and improve the quality of your social media profiles by including curated content. Also, repurpose your content! For example, if you recycle your longer YouTube video into several 1-minute posts – you’ve got yourself Instagram videos for a month. With a little touch-up, some of your older blog posts can turn into a Tweet Bank.
But, suppose you are a solopreneur with your hands full or your business’ marketing team can’t keep up as they have too much on their plates already. If this is the case, consider outsourcing some social media management that is daunting for you or your employees. You can hire a freelancer to develop a long-term strategy and create monthly social media calendars for your business. Then you, or your team, can work on implementation. On the flip side, you can make the strategy and outsource the fieldwork to an agency.
One of the main reasons we love social media is its dynamic ever-changing nature. And even though we love thinking about which new trends are coming and how to incorporate new features in our content strategy, don’t let trend-hunting derail you from what is truly important. Your business, your employees, and your community.
There is no algorithm change that can shake the foundations of a strong community. And new features like Reels are just a new way of showcasing the world authenticity of your company. While you use social media to your advantage for your business, don’t forget to have fun with it.