How to Create a Business Plan for Social Media

10 Questions to Ask When Creating a Social-Media Marketing Plan

Repost from Entrepreneur, September 16, 2013

By Kim LaChance Shandrow

Ever heard the saying “Failing to plan is planning to fail?” That old but  wise adage often rings true when it comes to social-media  marketing. Creating a detailed, goal-oriented social-media strategy is just as important as having a rock solid business plan.

“If your social-media plan is to just wing it, your fans and potential  customers are going to know,” says Amy  Porterfield, social media strategist and co-author of Facebook Marketing All-In-One for Dummies (Wiley,  2013). Worse, it could turn them off of your brand and on to your  competitors.

To attract and engage social-media fans and followers — and ideally convert  them into customers — you’ll need to carefully map out a clear, effective  social-media strategy. Here are some questions you should ask when building your  company’s social-marketing plan:

1. What should my company aim to achieve with social media?  That depends on the type of business you’re in. You may want to  use social media to gain exposure for your brand, to directly interact with your  customers or to promote specific products and services.

“The first and most important step in creating your plan is to clearly  identify your goals,” says Lee Odden, chief executive of TopRank Online  Marketing, a Minnesota-based, a digital marketing agency, and author of Optimize: How to Attract and Engage More Customers by  Integrating SEO, Social Media, and Content Marketing (Wiley,  2012). “Next, understand your customers’ goals, and then figure out how  your social-media strategy will connect both.”  Odden suggests that you  first define how your social-media outreach marketing will provide value to your  customers. Specifically, think about how you can use social media to solve your  customers’ problems.

2. Who should set up and maintain my company’s social media  accounts? If you’re a small company with few employees, consider  delegating the task to a staff member who has a good track record of  implementing effective social-media campaigns. If you have a larger company, a  qualified employee in the marketing department might be a good fit for the task.  Businesses with larger budgets but not enough experience with social-media  marketing could benefit from hiring a social-media marketing consultant or firm,  says Odden.

3. Should my company have a presence on all of the popular  social-media networks? As a starting point, Odden advises that  small businesses begin with a blog and a presence on just one social network, at  least for the first few months. Which network? Find out what by surveying your  customers about which platforms they use the most.

The more your company grows — as well as your digital marketing budget —  the more social networks you can experiment with.

4. What are the best social networks for small businesses?  Whether your company is large or small, you can’t go wrong with a  Twitter account, Odden says. It’s a platform that is easy to learn and use, and  you can’t beat the 140-character limit.

Odden also says Google+ is essential to be on, if only to boost your site’s  search engine optimization (SEO). If your company is mainly a B2B firm, you’ll  want to be on LinkedIn and Slideshare to reach influencers within your industry.  For B2C companies, being on Facebook and Pinterest can be smart.

5. How often should I post new content on my social networks?  Porterfield advises posting on all of your social networks two to  five times a day. Your followers visit social-media sites at different times of  the day. “One post a day simply isn’t enough because most of your fans won’t see  it simply due to timing,” she says.

To reach more of your followers more often, stagger your posts consistently  throughout the day.

6. What types of content should I post on which social  platforms? Certain types of content generally work better on  certain social-media platforms, according to Odden. For example, Facebook,  Pinterest, Google+ and Instagram are inherently visual, so striking, memorable  images of your products, company events and perhaps behind-the-scenes snapshots  of employees at work can be effective choices for those particular platforms.  But text-only status updates on Facebook without an accompanying link also trend  well, especially when asking questions.

On Twitter, aim for a good balance of tweeting about your company and  retweeting others’ content, including that of your business partners and  industry influencers, according to Odden. LinkedIn is popular for sharing  company news, productivity tips and thought leadership articles.

Odden recommends curating a diverse mix of content types (standout photos,  short videos, useful links, helpful tips, thoughtful question, etc.) across your  social-media platforms to keep things interesting and fresh. When you do, your  followers will come back for more.

7. Should I use social media to provide customer service?  Social media is fast becoming the most common way for current and  potential customers to interact with businesses. You can use Facebook, Twitter,  Google+ and other platforms to instantly (and publicly, mind you) field and  respond to customer questions, order status inquiries, and, yes, even  complaints.

8. How can I convert social-media followers into customers?  Porterfield says there aren’t any surefire tricks to earn fans’  and followers’ dollars, though some tactics seem to work better than others. For  instance, Facebook ads can be an easy, inexpensive way to grow your fan base,  increase engagement and collect sales leads. It’s up to you to convert those  sales leads.

Porterfield also suggests implementing a cross-platform contest that  integrates several social channels, like Twitter, YouTube, Facebook and  Pinterest. Sweepstakes that offer rewards that resonate with your target market  can be effective in attracting potential customers. To drive consumers to your  online store, for example, you might send a tweet that describes a contest on  your Facebook Page with a link to the rules and entry form found within your  online store.

9. How can I measure the success of my social-media marketing  efforts? It’s important to continually track your social-media  marketing metrics in order to gauge which tactics and types of posts work and  which don’t.

Some social platforms offer their own metrics. Facebook, for instance, gives  Page administrators access to Page Insights data for free. These tell you how  many people are interacting with your posts. You can use the data to better plan  future posts and decide on the most effective ways to connect with your fans and  followers. LinkedIn provides similar analytics for company pages.

Use Google Analytics to see how effective your social-media campaigns are at  driving traffic to your main website or online store. If you see Twitter,  Facebook, Pinterest or other social platforms you’re active on listed as top  referrers to your site, your social-media efforts are not for naught.

10. What is the biggest mistake to avoid? Ironically,  the answer here is not having a social-media plan. So, have one and stick to it.  “Social media is constantly changing, so you need to be ready to change and  adapt all the time as well,” Porterfield says. Constantly evaluate and refine  your social strategy. Doing this on a monthly basis can help you identify which  tactics are working and which ones to ditch.

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