A strong social media presence is critical for any present-day business. But before you open an account on every social media platform that exists including QQ (a social media app used in over 80 countries with more than 853 million users), you need to have a plan in place. Without a plan you are likely to be ineffective and waste a lot of time and energy. From my experience working at a company that curates and sells gift baskets online, I recommend a seven step plan.

1. Set goals

As with any business objective and marketing plan, you need to document your goals before you begin. Without goals, you are throwing efforts at the wall hoping something will stick. But you have no way of determining what is effective, and whether the work is worth continuing, i.e. whether your return on your investment is reasonable. When setting your goals, you need to gather relevant stakeholders and determine what you are trying to accomplish. At the end of the day, what quantifiable metric will be meaningful for your team? A certain amount of increased website visits? Increase in sales by a certain percentage? X amount of return customers? X percent increase in online share of voice? The types of goals are numerous. Just make sure your goals are quantifiable and reasonable, among other SMART goals (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely).

2. Identify your target audience

Before launching your social media presence, you must make sure you know who your target audience is, and that you understand some key details about your audience. For example, you should know your audience’s age, interest, and geography, at minimum. Knowing these key identifiers will help you know which social profiles to focus on, and how best to communicate on those social channels.

3. Focus your efforts

You likely cannot maintain a strong social presence on every single social media application that is available. For most social media sites, posting three times a week is a minimum for a brand. More is usually better. If you cannot post at least three times a week then you probably should not have an account on a channel. That being the case, identify the top channels where your audience spends time and begin to craft a strategy that will make your brand appeal to your target audience.

4. Use a calendar

Your plan is only as good as, well, your plan. So you should have one. Meaning a calendar. Your calendar is your launching point and roadmap for all marketing activities including social. And social should definitely be coordinated with other marketing tactics like email, direct mail, events and so on. Also, if you’re managing multiple social channels you need a calendar to track the content you’re posting on each, and that content should be customized according to the social channel. For example, Twitter allows 280 characters. Facebook and Instagram allows a lot more. You should use each channel in the most effective way you can, and use your calendar to track that activity.

5. Brainstorm

Consumers require creative content. You can’t be boring on social. Even if your brand  has a professional tone, you can still be creative and you must be engaging, otherwise consumers will ignore you. Creativity comes through brainstorming, so be sure to including brainstorming sessions in your planning process. If you can include other team members in your brainstorming efforts, that’s great. Bringing multiple minds together can provide different perspectives and enable variety that your customers will appreciate.

6. Have a defined approval process

Businesses should have a defined, i.e. documented, approval process for publishing all content, including social media content. Social media marketers should feel confident that the content they are publishing has been approved from higher ups, and managers should feel confident that nothing is getting published that they aren’t aware of and sign off on. This protects all parties and ensures minimum errors going live.

Review results

Businesses don’t stay in business long if they’re not looking with a critical eye at their profit and loss, and how different parts of the business are performing. Social media marketers need to look critically at the performance of social content including what types of content receives the most engagement, what times of day are best for publishing, and how often you should publish, among other factors. Establish a regular report that clearly identifies your goals and how you are achieving those goals on a month over month basis.

Document and implement this plan to achieve the best social media performance for your business. It is important to document it and have all relevant stakeholders review and agree to it. Otherwise the plan will be useless. For businesses who have been flying by the seat of their pants when it comes to social, this plan will move them in the right direction in a significant way.

Steve Hofstetter, Sr. Marketing Manager, Wine Country Gift Baskets
[email protected]

Steve has been with Wine Country Gift Baskets since 2010 where he is the Sr. Marketing Manager.  As manager he oversees the email marketing channel, social media and content marketing and digital advertising.  During his tenure at Wine Country Gift Baskets he has pushed for content personalization and automation to increase email marketing sales.