Social Media Marketing should be an integrated part of your overall marketing mix and also part of your general Marketing Plan. Engaging in social media takes time. You must learn how each social network functions and determine which networks are the right ones to reach your customers and prospects while helping you to achieve your business goals.

When formulating your Social Media Marketing Plan, many of the basics of marketing apply, but your strategies should be tailored to what works well online rather than be replications of your offline strategies. Here are seven steps that will help you flesh out your Social Media Marketing Plan.

1. Specify your objectives.

Spell out what you are trying to achieve, not just for your business but through the use of social media. Ultimately, you may want to sell something or to be hired, but you should also know that social media is best used to develop relationships with your prospects and customers over the long term. Social media is also excellent for customer service.

Some suitable objectives for social media marketing include:

Branding
Customer service
Getting feedback
Building your email list
Qualifying leads
Surveying your customers or prospects
Advertise (paid posts and ads)

Social media is usually not as effective as a direct sales tool although you can inform people about your products or services and work to encourage them to do business with you at some point.

2. Know your audience.

If you’ve been in business for a while, chances are you have a pretty good idea of who your ideal customer is, what they like about your business, and their interests overall. Knowing your audience can help you figure out your approach in social media and establish a clear and compelling brand “personality.”

What you post and the tone you take online should fit in with your brand image and also be appealing to your current customers and your prospective customers. Understanding their interests, their online habits, and other behaviors can help you hone in on the right kind of content to publish, from how-to posts to beautiful graphics and photos to compelling storytelling in videos.

3. Determine your channels.

Find out where your prospective customers are “hanging out” and paying attention in social media. Identify their favorite social networks and apps. Do the same for your existing customers, and consider asking them directly which social networks they prefer.

Each social network can be effective in specific ways and to specific audiences. The majority of people on Twitter tend to be older than on Facebook and both Twitter and Facebook users are likely to be older than those using Instagram or Snapchat. Be careful not to stereotype, though, because there are moms on Snapchat and grandmas on Instagram.

4. Specify your actions.

Posting online just to publish information about your company, products or services can be a waste of money if you aren’t using social media to drive attention, traffic and actions. Your posts should not all be commercials but they also should not all be non-commercial, static posts without links.

Links in posts are an important way to get people from social networks to your website or a web page where they can do more — like fill out a form, answer a survey, watch a video, even favorite or bookmark a product to return to it later.

5. Match tactics to objectives.

Once you’ve thought about your objectives and making sure they are compatible with social media, you want to come up with marketing tactics that can help get you closer to each objective. For example, if your objective is to build your email list, there are a number of tactics you can implement to do this such as:

Set up an email list using a reputable email marketing service such as Mailchimp, Constant Contact or Mad Mimi. Pick one that is compatible with social media and that can integrate with the social networks you’re using.
Integrate your email list sign up form with your Facebook Page. Include the link to your email list sign up page in your social media bios as an additional option for people to connect with you.
Post regularly and encourage people to sign up for your list.

While you don’t want to be too commercial, you also don’t want to be so vague that you aren’t asking people to take action.

6. Develop strategic creative campaigns.

In addition to publishing content online, you want to run some advertising campaigns or creative campaigns that attract attention and help drive actions. Going back to the example of building an email list, you could hold a sweepstakes with a random drawing for a prize. Part of the submission process would include providing an email address. Put in the contest rules and explanation that by entering the contest, each person is also giving you permission to add them to your email list.

Come up with a realistic ad budget. Most social media advertising features let you set your maximum ad spend and duration of your campaign so you can control what you spend.

7. Track, measure and analyze.

The final part of your plan includes deciding how you’ll track and measure results of your social media marketing activities and campaigns. You also need to determine what qualifies as success for your business and what a successful social media marketing campaign looks like for you.

Set up tracking using different monitoring tools such as Google Alerts, Hootsuite or SproutSocial to capture the results of your marketing efforts. Generate regular reports and look at trends over time to figure out what is working and what isn’t in your social media marketing plan.

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