7 Steps to a Better Social Media Strategy

In 2012, you made the jump and created a Facebook Page for your business. Maybe you're automatically posting updates to Twitter as well. But you haven't even thought about Foursquare yet, and don't even ask what Google+ is all about!

Now that it's 2013 and we've all had time to break that first resolution (no chocolate pie lasted, oh, a day.) How about a resolution you can actually keep and easy instructions to get you to 2014? Sounds good to me!

Here's your new resolution: A Better Social Media Strategy

And to sweeten the offer, you'll find you can have better content, more engagement, and a better social media strategy in only 7 easy steps.

Step 1. Establish a Goal

Fill in the blank: My goal for social media is ________.  Your goal could be

  • Increased Sales.
  • Better Brand Awareness.
  • More Likes.
  • Increased Foot Traffic.
  • Get More Email / Blog Subscribers

Whatever your goal for social media may be, that goal should be your focus. It's how you can measure your success, and to see what you can do better. Having a goal also helps you keep your attention on what matters and not getting distracted.

Step 2. Make a list of all the channels you are on.

What social networks are you working on? Does your list just have Facebook and Twitter? Or does it include Foursquare, Instagram, Vine, LinkedIn, Google+, and more? Are you managing the content across those channels? Are you seeing the results that you'd like to see?

One of the things I've found in my day job is that our different channels like to see different content. For instance, our Twitter audience likes tweets of industry news, conferences, or self-congratulatory messages. On Facebook, however, it's a more casual audience who likes to talk about karaoke, "Keep Calm and Carry On" posters, and the sometimes industry updates.

It's all about finding what resonates with your audience in each channel. And the best way to do that is to first make a list of what channels you're playing in.

Step 3. Create a content calendar.

Now that you have a list of all the channels in which you play, it's time to find out what you're posting and when. While I won't get into the automation / no automation conflict in this post (although that's a good topic for the future!), creating a content calendar sets the stage for knowing exactly what you're posting, and when.

Whether it's an actual calendar that you fill in the blanks, a spreadsheet, or a simple text document, the main purpose of a content calendar is to help you plan what you're going to say, when you're going to say it, and where you're going to post the message.

A co-worker of mine prints out a blank calendar and writes her posts on the printed out calendar. A member of a local meetup group previously used a spreadsheet listing all the messages that were to be posted. A former co-worker of mine used a whiteboard calendar. All of these means accomplish the same goal:

Knowing what message to post, when to post the message, and where to post.

Step 4. Ask questions!

One of the best tools available to you is one of the easiest: Asking questions.

What better way to fill in a content calendar than to ask what your audience wants to see? Build the engagement with your audience. They want to feel valued and feel like they're a valued part of your business. A great way to build that relationship with your audience is to see what they would find valuable. 

I see this all the time in LinkedIn Discussion Groups. Group managers will post what the group would like to discuss. I've used this for our local social media meetup group on Facebook, posing the question of "What are you looking to get out of this group?"

Asking questions is a two-way street that brings together your social media goals with the needs of your audience.

Step 5. Measure your progress with the right tools.

Any of the goals in Step 1 should be measurable, and there are a plethora of tools available to anyone working in social media to help measure those important metrics.

Now, if your goal was more Likes or Followers, that's the easiest way to measure impact of your social media. But it's not necessarily the best way to take the temperature of how your business is doing on social media.

Say your goal is to increase engagement on your Facebook posts. One way to measure that is through the administration panel of your Facebook page. Dig into Facebook Insights and the information provided. This can be how many people commented, liked the update, shared the updated or took other action.

On Twitter, I use tools such as SocialBro, Mention, and Hootsuite to measure my influence among my Twitter peers. It's a great way to get consistent feedback on the actions I take on Twitter.

Step 6. Say Cheese!

Study after study continue to show that using photos in your Facebook posts and Tweets is the best way to get more engagement and even views of your social media posts. So whip out that smartphone and bust out some pictures! 

But not just any pictures! 

Make sure the pictures provide a value to your audience. 

If it's a picture of an industry event, provide some context.

If it's a picture of one of your events, show people interacting, or your brand's icon/logo in the event space.

You own a restaraunt? Post a picture of your specials for the night. Make sure people can read the words, though!

The sky is the limit! And be sure to check out one of the many cool photo apps, too!

Step 7. Rinse and Repeat.

Yes, just like the shampoo bottles say, it's important to remember that there's no rest for the weary on social media. Take what you've learned through each of the steps, look at how your posts are received, and adjust your strategy. It's important to realize that certain posts will work better for your audience than others, and the only way to figure that out is to post consistently and measure your results.

So what are you waiting for?! 2013 called, and they say this is your year for a better social media strategy!