Create a winning social media strategy on a start-up budget

Let’s face it — having a good social media presence isn’t an option nowadays. With over 3.028 billion active users, social media has become an integral part of brands’ ability to increase awareness, distribute interactive content, generate leads, and boost customer conversion rates.

New features like Snapchat’s ephemeral content and Facebook’s live video streaming are helping brands to connect with their target audience more effectively than ever. And while it’s true that social media advertising budgets have doubled over the past few years — going from $16 billion in 2014 to $31 billion in 2016 — you can still craft a successful social media strategy and get excellent results on a shoestring budget.

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Here, we’re discussing the course of action you should follow in order to implement a scalable social media strategy with a limited budget, plus a list of must-have tools to streamline every step of the process.

Step 1: Set Realistic Social Media Goals That Align with Your Company Goals

A 2015 study found that 88% of B2B marketers engage in some form of content marketing, with 36% of them reporting unsatisfactory results. Why? Not surprisingly, 70% of them either have no planned goals or undocumented ones.

If you want your social media marketing efforts to have maximum impact, it’s super important to set realistic goals that align with your company goals. Start by outlining the specific outcomes you’re hoping to achieve. It’s best to set both high-level and detailed objectives so you can efficiently keep track of your overall performance at all times.

The Framework: High-Level Objectives

High-level goals don’t need to be extremely precise — they merely provide the framework for your social media strategy. Think of them as a form of documentation that guides your social media efforts, or the “bigger picture”. Remember that social media activity isn’t all about sales sales sales – to engage audiences you have to offer content that is useful to them, not shoving them down your sales funnel from the outset. Think of each step along the path that your customers make to a sale – from the need to the solution – and set objectives right along that path.

The Details: Specific Objectives

Once you’ve set high-level objectives, it’s time to move on to the more specific ones. Would you like to increase your close rate — and if so, by what percentage? Are you thinking of building productive relationships with micro-influencers to amplify your brand message within your target market — and if so, how are you going to measure it?

Setting specific goals will help add more structure to your strategy. And once you know exactly what you want to achieve, you can identify the best course of action to actually achieve it.

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Pro tool: Wunderlist is a great online tool that lets you create to-do lists. Use it to set high-level goals, split into several “steps” — detailed objectives — so it’s easy to keep tabs on your social media marketing.

Step 2: Identify and Understand Your Target Audience

One of the challenges with social media marketing is determining your target audience — or, in a nutshell, those users who are most likely to be interested in your brand and product offering.

Spend some time researching your target audience and assessing their background info. Is your product or service specifically for women or men, and what is their typical age? Are they married, or do they have children? Do they need to fall into a certain income class to afford your product? Are they local to you or do you deliver globally?

Once you’ve nailed down the basic information about your target audience personas, you need to start thinking about who they are as people. This is fundamental to crafting appropriate content that engages and resonates with your customers. What are their likes and dislikes? What are their values? What kind of lifestyle do they lead, and how does your product fit into it? What social media platform are they predominantly using?

Pro tool: BuzzSumo lets you identify the most shared content for any search term or topic so that it’s easier to psychographically pinpoint who your target customer is.

Step 3: Establish Your Content Strategy

One of the key components of a successful social media marketing strategy is carefully considered, well-crafted content that is engaging and shareable. Fortunately, creating valuable social media posts doesn’t have to be expensive. Here are a few tips to help you get started:

  • Establish your brand voice — and make sure to stick to it. Remember that your chosen tone of voice is unique to your brand so it’s critical to maintain it consistently. You might want to consider putting together a style guide to better define your brand voice and ensure your content aligns with it at all times.
  • Enhance your posts with appealing imagery. In fact, tweets with images receive 18% more clicksthan tweets without images, while 98% of LinkedIn posts with images have a 200% higher engagement rate. Death to the Stock Photo provides image packs that are absolutely great at helping enrich the visual impact of your posts without paying lots of money.
  • Create a content calendar to maximize your social media efforts. Planning and scheduling posts in advance will not only save you time, but also ensure you post consistently and at the best times of the day for your chosen social media platform(s). Social media management tools like Buffer and Hootsuite are extremely valuable when it comes to scheduling. They have very affordable pricing plans with great features that you can take advantage of.

Take a Social Media Course

In today’s ever-changing, hyperconnected world, social media is evolving alarmingly fast — which is why getting strong foundational knowledge will help you stay on top of the trends. Consider taking a social media course so you can gain a better understanding of how social media networks work, as well as how you can leverage each platform’s unique characteristics to boost brand awareness and generate more sales.

Emma Knightly is a Digital Marketing Specialist at the Digital Marketing Institute. The DMI offers marketing education and certification to over 20,000 marketing professionals and students worldwide. Enrolling now – sign up and change your career for the better!