How to build a social media strategy that works?

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Sheryl Maywood

Sheryl is a marketing whiz and an analytics expert. She's currently studying for her PhD in computational linguistics. She spends most of her time crunching numbers and developing new analytical models to help clients find the best way to market their products. Sheryl also has a knack for creating witty copy that gets people to buy things they never knew they needed!

Social media is very complex and a constantly evolving medium. It’s no wonder why many businesses struggle to figure it out and keep up. While a number have enjoyed quantifiable success, there are also many who failed, and the rest have still yet to figure out their social media strategy.Failure is often brought about by overlooking the importance of understanding the concept of social media. The very basic question as to “why people engage in it?” as well as “what are the unwritten rules governing it?” While it is true that social media gives businesses free exposure, many organizations fail to carefully plan the message they want to convey, as they would have normally done for any expensive ad campaign.

Consider this: In the joint study conducted by Facebook and Nielsen back in 2010, the report revealed that the following benchmarks are used on social media for enterprise: brand awareness, ad recall and purchase intent. It is not surprising to note that in the study, it was found out that social media has been able to generate significantly far better results than traditional marketing approaches and campaigns.

Much like dating, any organization needs to woo, nurture and meet the needs of their network. To help you out, below are the following rules that apply to any type of social media user, whether individual, business or non-profit. If you seriously want to harness a powerful platform to propel your business, acquire new clients, increase sales as well as enhance brand awareness, here are the golden rules you should abide by and respect.

Social media is all about building relationships, not business transactions.Any attempt to overtly sell a certain product or service can easily damage your online presence.Consumers no longer have to think of excuses and come up with a polite “no” to a persuasive sales person, all they have to do is to click the “unfollow” button. Don’t make the blunder of using an autoresponder to thank individuals who decided to follow you on Twitter.

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Organizations must assign a dedicated social media expert. Don’t make the mistake of assigning anyone to handle your social media campaign. The person must be qualified and work independently as a social media evangelist and report directly to top executives.

Organizations should focus on cultivating engagement and not on figures. The number of followers, likes and the size of network should not be considered as a performance indicator. There is greater value in maintaining a smaller network with regular interactions and active engagements.

Define your target audience and identify specific area of expertise. Don’t try to cater everyone by being all things to all people. If you are truly keen to reaching power users,key decision makers and influencers, your content should be designed around your market.

Content still reigns supreme in social media. As stated, social media is not a place to publish your award-winning sales pitches. Posts should be clear and concise, not emotional or impulsive. It should be carefully constructed and always politically correct.Twitter posts in particular should be free from any gimmicks or hidden strings attached but instead provide information, free resources and best practices.

Updates should be frequent and consist. Social media campaigns are long-term and ongoing efforts, and work as an integral part of the company’s online presence. It is not an 8 to 5 weekday job. It is generally best for posts and updates are published daily, no more than 7 to 9 times.

Social media platforms should be manifested. All social media streams and accounts should be lined to all pages of the website, include all the “like,” “follow” and “tweet” buttons.Social media profiles MUST be impeccable. Profiles are the first and most viewed page in social media platforms. But all too often, it is the most ignored aspect. All elements, including background, images and messages should be consistent with the corporate image and brand.

An Important Prerequisite

If you are working for a big company or organization, before you start formulating your social media strategy, it is absolutely critical for the stakeholders of the business to believe in the potential of social media and that the primary goal is not just to simply sell products and services.

Your company should not launch a social media campaign to join the bandwagon and in response to the fact that everyone else is doing it.

Social media is not a temporary marketing gimmick or project with an expiry date, but a long-term commitment with invaluable benefits. It is important for organizations to recognize that constant testing and experimentation are required every so often to study the effectiveness.

Now that we have that covered, here the 7 critically important steps to guide you through developing your very own social media strategy:

1. Define Your Goals and Objectives. Determine what are your specific social media objectives and goals and how they complement and support the overall goals of the company.

2. Research, Research and More Research. Don’t make the mistake of simply jumping the in with a sea of competition and discerning consumers without having any clue.Research is very important as basis for execution. This will include the action plan for the 5 major social media platforms. Take time to check out what’s out there, scope the competition and understand your target audience.

3. Prepare a Database of Contacts and Content. If you go about your social media campaign correctly, social relationships will start to develop naturally. Start establishing connections by following conversations relevant to your branding. Make a list that will identify the key influencers and power users that play important role in your industry.

4. Join Conversations to Start Developing and Forging Relationships.
Start answering questions relevant to your industry, give your opinion and join a community. This will not only help you start your network, it will also help you build your reputation as an industry expert and a thought leader.

5. Strengthen Your Social Media Relationships. Don’t just hide behind an avatar or brand, make your presence known by attending events that encourage face-to-face interactions. This includes offline events that are relevant to your industry.

6. Take Time to Measure Results. You have already established your goals and
objectives, right? It is equally important to measure your success. Among the most common goals include:

  • Enhance brand presence across social media platforms
  • Increase traffic to company website
  • Increase positive consumer sentiment and perception towards brand

Develop relationships for potential partnership opportunities in the future

7. Analyze, Adjust and Improve. Once you have measured your success and progress towards your goal, you need to analyze and identify key areas that need
improvement, adapt to changing trends and improve your overall social media
campaign. Remember, it is not always a straight road ahead, so you need to
constantly evaluate and adjust.

An estimated 67% of marketers have actively increased and strengthened their social media channels. As more and more companies work on integrating social media into their corporate marketing and communication plans, there is a growing emphasis for creating a winning social media strategy. Without any semblance of a plan or strategy, your presence might as well be nonexistent or muted.