Thursday, 18 April 2019
A clear plan helps streamline your SME’s social media marketing. From setting core objectives and creating a social media calendar to monitoring your success, we outline seven steps to success.
Few businesses can afford to ignore the power of social media marketing – it’s a cost-effective way to reach customers, strengthen your brand and gain insights into your market. Yet many businesses still have an unstructured approach. By using a social media calendar and a well-planned campaign, you can take your social media marketing to the next level.
“Creating a clear social media marketing plan helps to set measurable goals and objectives,” says Catrin Evans, marketing executive for digital marketing specialists Copper Bay Creative. “This makes it far easier to track performance. You can also set more specific goals for each campaign.”
Dave Schulhof, co-owner and marketing director for search marketing specialist Red Hot Penny, agrees that a structured approach is best. “It’s easy to just dive in and start posting and launching ads; however, this will quickly become unmanageable.
“Having a clear plan is crucial, and by doing so, you share the right messaging for the right audience at the right time.”
Without a clear plan, you’ll waste money on ineffective activities, says Martin Thomas, author of The FT Guide to Social Media Strategy. “Planning is important to ensure that social media campaigns are synchronised with other marketing activities, such as advertising, PR or direct marketing,” he says.
Planning helps ensure that time and money are invested efficiently, says Daniel Humphrey, founder of craft spirits members club The Summerton Club.
“A good example is how different generations have a prevalence to use different forms of social media. For instance, if you’re targeting an audience above 40, Instagram won’t generally be your best route to talk with your customers,” he says.
You may choose to create a strategy on your own – but there are plenty of experts and tools that can help you get the most out of your social media presence. Sarah Lowther, founder of retailer NI Candle Supplies, opted to use a social media marketing service from Blend Commerce to manage her company’s platforms.
“This helped to free up my time to focus on customer service,” she says. “A huge benefit of planning our social media management has been consistency in our brand – this has helped us to quickly grow a loyal customer base.”
Tom Ali, co-founder of Freshly Spiced, which sells spice blend recipe kits, uses Smoothie PR, which specialises in food-related start-ups, to help plan the company’s social media campaigns.
“We get a great annual calendar with events and noteworthy days that we can start planning from,” he says. “We use this and incorporate days we want to have content for into our yearly GanttProject bar-chart planner.
“Since implementing it we’ve found it much easier to manage social media. We can still have natural posts that occur sporadically but know we have a bank of ideas and content to work towards at any one time. It also helps when it comes to photography as you can get bulk photography completed.”
Here are seven key tips to bear in mind that will help you create an effective social media plan.
Decide on your message.
Begin by taking a big step back, says Lesley Bambridge, founder and director of SME marketing specialists We Mean Business. “Ask yourself what you’re trying to convey. What’s your brand image and what do you want people to know about you? Once you’re clear on this, you should have a few specific areas that you can start to expand on as content subjects. Next, think about your brand image, style and colours. How can you present your social media in a way that people instantly recognise it as you?”
Research your audience.
“Carry out an audit of any existing social media accounts to see what you’ve got to work with, and always do your market research,” says Evans. “Knowing who your customers are makes it far easier to create targeted campaigns.”
Schulhof adds that key questions to ask are: what social platforms does your target audience use and what type of content do they engage with?
“Knowing when your customers are online can help you place your content in front of them at the right times,” he says.
Research your competitors.
Liam Solomon, marketing lead at online sale and clearance outlet Love the Sales, recommends carrying out a competitor analysis. “This is research into your competitors’ channels, what they post, their engagement levels, looking for any tips on what to do and what not to do from their networks,” he says.
Set your objectives.
These can include increasing brand awareness, following, engagement or traffic back to site, says Stephanie Tabah, PR and social media executive for Venn Digital. “Each post and platform should have its own objectives and strategy, from an opinion poll designed to gain customer insights or get people talking in the comments, to a relatable meme to be shared with friends,” she says.
It’s important to set measurable targets for your campaign. “Create specific, measurable, actionable, relevant and time-specific goals,” says Evans. “For example, you might want to gain 50 new followers on Instagram a month over a six-month period.”
Integrate with your wider marketing plan.
Social media shouldn’t be a standalone strategy, says Tabah. “It should feed into the wider marketing plan and campaigns to ensure you’re supporting the overall objectives."
Create a calendar.
“You can invest in tools such as CoSchedule that can help you build a content calendar, and they also have free templates you can download,” Tabah says. “Personally, I find it’s quite simple to build your own and just include what works for you and your objectives.
“Decide which platforms you want to use and what type of content you want to post. Google Sheets allows you to easily share the calendar with clients.”
Solomon adds: “You should create a schedule of when you need to post, with times and dates in a calendar, while also keeping important campaign dates in the diary.”
Schedule posts – but be responsive.
“Organise your posts around a user-friendly platform such as Hootsuite,” says Michaela Pontiki, founder and CEO of healthy lifestyle bakery Arapina. “However, remember that a marketing plan needs to reflect current state of business and society – so don’t get ahead of yourself and plan digitally your year in advance, because this will look dated two months into your planning.”
By reviewing the times, days and posts that gain the highest interaction, you can hone your approach to make it more effective, adds Lowther.
“We’ve been able to tailor future posts to fit in with what our target audience enjoys and to schedule these posts at a time when our users are most active,” she says.
Your plan needs to be a working document, says Evans. “Once you have a template in place that works for you, update your plan every month. If you need to tweak your goals, then do it.”