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A Social Media Strategy is Useless Without This…

A Social Media Strategy is Useless_700x400Have you ever decided you need to do something to improve yourself, your life or your business?

What did you do? Did you create a list of goals and make a strategy to help you achieve those goals?

Did you succeed in achieving your goals?

If you did, then it is quite likely that you had a plan to put your strategies into action and then followed through each day with that plan.

The same is true if you’d like to experience social media success.

Even if you have the most profitable social media plan in existence, it would not put a single dollar in to your pocket if you don’t put it into action – every day.

“Stop setting goals. Goals are pure fantasy unless you have a specific plan to achieve them.” ~Stephen Covey

Occasionally implementing your plan is about as effective as not implementing it at all. To get consistent results from your strategy, you need to take action consistently.

That is why you need a Social Media Action Plan.

An action plan provides you with the tools and the steps to carry out your social media strategy in an efficient and effective way. It will keep you on track and on task. It saves you time, makes it easy for you (or your team) to complete the listed tasks and helps you to keep track of what you have completed.

But before you can begin to create a Social Media Action Plan or even a Social Media Strategy, you must first understand what you want to achieve with social media and what resources you have to do this. Once you have determined these elements, you can use them to create a social media strategy that makes sense for your business and only focuses on those tasks that will produce results.

After you have completed your social media strategy, you will be ready to create your own Social Media Action Plan, providing you with the steps and tools that will help you successfully achieve your goals.

Before You Start Your Social Media Strategy

There is no one size fits all solution or system. Your social media strategy and action plan will vary depending on factors such as your:

  • Goals
  • Ideal Clients
  • Industry
  • Budget
  • Time & Resources

I have listed a number of factors you will wanted to take into consideration before you start creating a social media strategy or action plan.

Who are your ideal clients?

Before you start a strategy or action plan, you need to know who your ideal clients are.  The best way to ensure that you are connecting with your ideal clients and building relationships is to take the time to know who they are, the language they use, and the challenges they face.

Here are a number of questions you need to have the answers for, before you begin.

  • Who is your ideal client? Do you have more than one? Describe them in detail.
  • What is the common language of his or her business, industry, or organization?
  • What kinds of challenges does he or she face?
  • What language would he or she use to describe the challenges?

Do you have a sales funnel?

Absolutely essential to your success is having a converting sales funnel in place. If you are using social media without a sales funnel you will have a hard time tracking your results from social media. Not to mention a very hard time in converting your social media followers into paying clients.

Social media marketing can be highly effective in driving a lot of traffic into your sales funnel and having an automated process to nurture those leads.

A sales funnel can be defined as a marketing system or process where you have created a defined path that will take your potential prospects through a series of steps that will help them to self-identify their interest/intent to move from lead/prospect to customer/repeat buyer.

sales funnel infog

These steps often start with a piece of free content (aka lead magnet) such as a checklist or report that they can receive for free in exchange for providing their name and email address.

Once you have them in your email list it is a lot easier to continue to build the relationship, offer more resources and eventually make an offer for a consultation or perhaps a free webinar that shares more about your products or services while still teaching your ideal clients some valuable tips and strategies that help them with the problems they face.

You can then make an offer to solve that problem via a consultation or a webinar and move them further through your sales funnel.

It’s important to keep in mind that the people who are most likely to buy from you are the people who have already purchased something from you.

What are your business goals?

Let’s forget about social media for a moment. What are you overall business goals? These need to be tied into your social media strategy and should absolutely include and be tied to your sales funnels.

If you have a business plan, go through your goals and objectives and determine which goals social media can help you to achieve.

If you don’t have a business plan, think about what overall goals you would like to achieve for your business. Possible example of some of the goals that social media can help you achieve include:

  • Increase brand awareness
  • Establish your authority on your topic
  • Build a loyal community
  • Attract more leads and prospects
  • Build relationships with new customers
  • Maintain and improve relationships with existing customers
  • Improve customer service
  • Increase revenue

Once you have identified what goals you want to achieve with social media, you need to examine each of the social media platforms available and determine which platforms:

  1. your ideal clients are using and
  2. what business goals each platform can help you accomplish.

Identify which social media platforms will best reach your target market(s).

If a platform is not used by your ideal clients and will not help you achieve your business goals, you should not invest time, effort or money into this platform.

Now create goals you want to achieve for each platform.

An example of this might be that on LinkedIn you want to:

  1. generate 3 new leads per month from LinkedIn
  2. establish your authority on your subject matter

Later you will use these goals to make a task list that will help you achieve them.

Metrics For Success

Next you need to identify what metrics you will use to measure your success on each platform. These metrics will be different depending on the platform and your goals.

If for example you are a B2B company using LinkedIn to generate new leads, you might measure things like the number of prospects which accept your connection requests, those who respond to your follow up messages and the number of people who you are able to move to an off-line conversation.

If you are also using LinkedIn to establish your authority and build a loyal community, you might look at the number of comments, likes and shares of your status updates and LinkedIn Publisher posts.

But just how do you measure or find these metrics?

Most of the social media platforms now provide fairly comprehensive analytics tools. For example, Twitter provides its users with detailed information on things such as the impression and engagement for each tweet, your growth and even the demographics of those who you follow you.

This information can help you ensure that you are reaching your ideal clients or identify if there is another market you should be targeting.

TwitterAudiences

There are also a number of scheduling and measurement tools which can help you to understand the big picture as well as where you are hitting or missing the mark, which I will share more about shortly.

Social Media Profiles

Whether you are just starting out or having been using social media for sometime, you want to begin by making sure that all of your social media profiles are professional looking, well written and consistently branded.

Here is a list of things to consider when you create or update existing social media profiles:

  • share your why message
  • speak to your ideal clients
  • consistent brand image
  • no grammar or spelling errors
  • link back to your website
  • have a profile photo of you (headshot of you smiling and looking at the camera)

First impressions are important, so give prospects the right one.

Create A Social Media Strategy

Using the information that you have complied from above, you are now ready to start building your social media strategy.

The strategy you will create will depend on:

  • Size
  • Time
  • Budget
  • Goals

A single freelance professional who must do all the tasks to run their business will need a very different social media strategy than a business with a marketing team.

Regardless of the size of the business or organization, you must determine how much time you will allot for the person(s) responsible for carrying out your strategy.

This needs to be reasonable in terms of accomplishing whatever tasks you include in your plan. It must also be realistic. You may think that you want to dedicate two hours a day to social media, but if you can not realistically spend that much time each day on it, then you need to figure out how much time you can devote to it daily.

Keep in mind that the more aggressive your goals and the more platforms you use, the more time you will need to spend with your social media marketing efforts.

You also need to determine what kind of budget you have to dedicate to your social media endeavors. There’s been a big myth for years that social media is FREE. It may be free but I have not ever seen anyone be truly successful at it without a real budget.

Your social media budget will need to include things such as:

  • Premium memberships on social media platforms (i.e. LinkedIn Premium)
  • Social media scheduling & analytic tools (i.e. Agora Pulse, Sprout Social etc.)
  • Targeted ads on social media platforms (i.e. Facebook advertising)
  • Content creation (i.e. copywriter to create blog posts or graphic designer to create graphics)
  • Outsourcing (i.e. help with creating the strategy, branding your social sites, an expert to create, run and track your Facebook ads etc.)
  • Time that you and/or your team spend on implementation, content creation, content curation, engagement, outreach etc.
  • Building a sales funnel (if one is not in place or not converting well)

Finally, you need to decide which of the identified goals you are going to start with. If you are a one man show, you may only choose or or two goals to start with.

Start with the goals which will provide you with the quickest wins. The reason for this is that those wins can help you stay motivated to stick with your plan (or can increase support from upper management). It is hard to keep momentum when you don’t see results quickly.

Next I will break down the most important pieces of your social media strategy.

Choosing Your Starting Place

Your budget of time, money and resources will help you to see where to start.

If you have limited resources I suggest that you master one social media platform at a time. It will take a couple of weeks or in some cases months, before you really start to feel comfortable performing each of the tasks you identify.

Next you want to identify what is the specific goals in using the social media platform(s) you select as best to connect with your ideal clients.

Let’s use LinkedIn as an example. Your goals for this network may include things such as:

  1. generate 2 new leads per month from LinkedIn
  2. establish your authority as a subject matter expert

Your action plan might look something like:

  • Accept connection requests
  • Send follow up messages thanking new connections for accepting your connection request or connecting with you (daily)
  • Reply to all messages received (daily)
  • Reply to any comments on status updates or Publisher posts (daily)
  • Review Who’s Viewed Your Profile, Who’s Viewed Your Posts and Followers, for prospects to connect with (daily)
  • Reach out and connect with 10 potential prospects using the Advanced Search (daily)
  • Build relationships with new prospects by staying in touch and providing value to them (daily)
  • Posts a status update that provides value to your ideal clients (daily)
  • Send something of value to a hot prospect (weekly)
  • Publish a post on Publisher (weekly or bi-monthly)

You can see in the example, it is important to include how often the task should be completed. It might be daily, weekly, monthly or another defined period of time.

As you become more comfortable and develop an efficient workflow that is not consuming all of your allotted time, you might decide to add another platform to your daily list.

In some cases, you may be able to add a third or more platforms to your daily activities, just remember more is not always better. To get the best results from each platform, make sure you set aside enough time for engagement (which can be hard to predict) such as answering questions, replying to comments and having engaging conversations with your community.

Content Creation VS Content Curation

You will also need to decide if you will curate (find and re-share) great content from other people or create your own.

For best results, I recommend doing both.

There are many benefits to creating your own content. To start, it is an asset that you own and control. It will also help establish your authority on the topic. If you wanted to post to LinkedIn Publisher, for example, you would have to create your own written work.

Your content, particularly a blog posts can help organically improve the SEO of your website, which helps your prospects to finds you. Other’s who curate content may also find and share your content with their audience, which further expands your reach.

When deciding what kind of content to create, you need to know what kind of content your market prefers. Do they like to read blog posts in the office, listen to podcasts while they travel, watch a video from their phone or just scan a quick infographic for the nuggets they need? Perhaps they prefer even deeper content such as a more detailed report or whitepaper.

A quick way to find out what kind of content your market prefers and is consuming, is to see what kind of content your competitor are successfully sharing.

The key word is “successfully”.

Don’t repeat what isn’t working. Look at the number of views and shares of the various types of content that your competitors are creating and sharing competitors as you can to get a good idea of the best forms for you to choose. You can also check out companies that serve a similar market. You may gain additional ideas for content that your competitors currently haven’t tried.

The thought of creating content, especially if it requires skills you don’t have, can be scary. This is where outsourcing talent comes in. Content marketing professionals charge a wide range of prices depending on skill and location. Don’t be afraid to ask your network for recommendations.

You can also try creating your own. If you decide to write your own blog posts, always have a second or third person edit them for mistakes, content and flow. There are are also a number of great free and paid tools that can help you make visual content such as Canva and Pablo.

When creating podcasts or video content, live streaming platforms (Periscope, Meerkat, Blab) will actually help you to create audio and/or video content that can be shared on other social media platforms and your blog.

Blab

When deciding what topic to cover in your content, always focus on something that will help your ideal clients to overcome a specific challenge or problem they are facing.

You should also look for great content to curate.

You will need to curate content as most people/businesses will not have the time to create enough content to exclusively share their own, nor is it wise.

All strategies should plan to curate awesome content from other experts to share with their audience.

I am not saying you should be sharing the content of your competitors, although it isn’t a terrible idea to do this once and a while (see the Law of Reciprocity).

But you do want to share content that solves the problems of your ideal clients and preferably for the specific problems that you don’t solve.

Call To Action (CTA)

When creating content for blog posts or social media platforms, remember to always add a CTA (call to action). These CTAs will often be tied to your sales funnel.

While you you don’t want to bombard your prospects with your marketing messages, you do want to make it very easy for them to take action if they decide they want to take the next step with you.

There are two key elements to a successful CTA.

The first is that you make it easy. In other words, it should be very simple for prospects to carry out as soon as they read your CTA. If your CTA requires that they do something that requires too many steps, most people will not follow through and you will lose your chance.

The second element is location. The placement of your CTA must make sense and feel like a seamless part of the experience.

For example, on LinkedIn, putting your CTA in your headline or name section in your profile will not produce the kind of results you want. Throwing it in people’s faces before you have provided them with value or at least a very compelling reason why they might want to take the next step, will only turn them off.

Great places to include your CTA on your LinkedIn profile, for example, are the end of your Summary, Current Experience and Advice for Contacting sections as well as in your status updates and at the bottom of your LinkedIn Publisher posts.

You will want to tailor your CTA to suit the location and topic.

So for your LinkedIn profile, include the best way they can contact you (email, phone). In LinkedIn Publisher posts you might ask them to comment, connect with you, share the post or download a freebie such as a checklist, report or other content in exchange for being added to your newsletter list.

Build A Social Media Action Plan

Once your social media strategy is complete, it is time to put that strategy in to action.

“Setting a goal is not the main thing. It is deciding how you will go about achieving it and staying with that plan.” ~Tom Landry

A Daily/Weekly Checklist

The first thing you need to do is turn your list of tasks/activities into a checklist.

Start by creating a doc that is broken down by social media platform and includes all the tasks below it.

Sort the tasks under each platform by how often they are done, in chronological order (first daily, then weekly, then monthly).

Sort each of these tasks in order of importance with the most important tasks at the top.

If you want to further improve your checklist and it makes sense, you might even create a specific set of items for each individual day of the week. For example, your Thursday items might include posting to LinkedIn Publisher and your Monday items include reaching out with a valuable piece of content to a hot prospect.

NEXT: PRINT IT OUT. You did not create this to be another lost document on your computer that never gets used.

Use it every day. Check off each task as you complete it.

If you really want to be effective, make a quick note of how long each task took you. You might want to do this for a couple of weeks, especially if you are just starting. Then in 6 months’ time, jot down the time for those same tasks and compare.

Content Publishing Calendar

If you are creating your own calendar, you will also want to create your own content calendar.

This is extremely beneficial as you won’t be left trying to think of a topic to write about the day before you planned to publish your post.

Your calendar should include things like:

  • Date of posts
  • Ideal client it targets (if you have more than one)
  • Challenge it addresses
  • Title
  • Focus keyword
  • CTA

If you have a team, you might want to include who is writing and editing it and any due dates as well.

Plan your calendar for two months to a year in advance. You don’t need to be so tied to it that you are inflexible. Keep in mind you can always change it, if you need to address an issue that is timely and relevant.

Message Scripts

To further improve your efficiency each day, create message scripts that you can use to reply to inquires or reach out to potential prospects.

These are not to sent without being personalized first!

You MUST add the appropriate details required to customize it to the person and situation.

These messages simply provide the structure to ensure that you remember to include all of the relevant elements you need, while saving the time you would have to spend to write out a similar response repeatedly.

Places that you might want to use message scripts could include:

  • Replies to inquiries that come in via email or social media
  • Scheduling meetings or calls
  • Requesting more information
  • Relationship building & lead generation strategies
  • Sales funnels

Measure, Modify & Test!

There are many tools you can use to schedule posts to your special media platforms as well as provide you with detailed reports and analysis of your social media efforts.

You can’t always be on social media, and these tools make it so you don’t have to be. You can pre-schedule posts, monitor your community’s engagement and have a quick and easy place to see and respond.

Great tools that are free or have affordable options include:

I do recommend for Facebook that you use the native scheduler built right within the platform. I also generally advise not to use automated tools on LinkedIn other than to schedule the occasional status update if you are unable to get on at the time you want to post.

I also advise you to NEVER schedule engagement. Engagement is meant to be a two-way-conversation with your community. You can read more about that here.

A great (and FREE) tool to measure how much traffic your social media efforts are driving to your website is Google Analytics.

You can even create your own dashboard so you can see the results you are most interested in, in a quick glance such as the example below. From a quick glance I can see that Twitter is the most effective social media platform for driving traffic back to my website.

I can even see which articles on Twitter are getting the most clicks each month.

GoogleAnalytics

Looking at your results, you can compare these metrics against your social media strategy goals and your business goals to figure out what is working and what isn’t.

Once you have determined this, you can start to modify your tasks for each platform to improve your results. You may even find that a particular social media platform isn’t working for you as well as you thought it would. Don’t be afraid to modify your strategy and plan!

After you have made changes, test them! Then test them again. I can’t stress the importance of testing to help you improve what you are doing by finding out what is or isn’t working.

Remember that it can easily take six months to a year to start building a social media community big enough to provide viable results on any platform. However, if you are interested in achieving those results much faster it is certainly possible with paid social ads.

Wrap Up

“A goal without a plan is just a wish.” ~Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Social media is an excellent tool to help you achieve your goals, but in order for you to truly achieve the results you want, you must:

  • understand which goals social media can help you achieve
  • create a social media strategy based on your unique business and needs
  • outline a social media action plan to help you to implement your strategy using your available resources – be realistic
  • TAKE ACTION!

Are you overwhelmed at having to create your own social media strategy and action plan?

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