Managing your social media communications can be a daunting task. Almost daily I receive an invite to join a NEW social media platform.
My inbox is cluttered with updates from Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other online communities with news about colleagues, friends and family. If I were to sort through it all, it would take me HOURS per day.
In the new digital age, everyone (and I mean EVERYONE), can benefit from a few hours of strategic planning around how to BEST manage online communications. Not only will you SAVE TIME but you’ll also be able to better meet the needs of your online network.
About this time last year, I created a social media planning spreadsheet and laid out some basic social media strategies in my Social Fresh article, ‘Stop Fying Blind, 2013 Social Media Planning Spreadsheet‘. I would like to thank the THOUSANDS of you that downloaded that spreadsheet. I hope it helped you achieve your social media goals for 2013.
Back by popular demand, is the NEW and UPDATED worksheet for 2014. This version shows you how I completed the spreadsheet for my own social media strategy. Just hop over to my online store and download your free copy.
This article walks you through a straight-forward process to help you BE BETTER at social media communications, BETTER meet the needs of those around you and BECOME a social media super hero. I have also created an online course that provides hands-on workshops and guides you through the entire process.
I’m offering Social Fresh readers $50 bucks off, just use the discount code: SOFRESH at checkout.
Part 1: Research
It’s ESSENTIAL you start off your social media strategic planning with research. In order to truly be effective on social media you need to know three things:
WHO you are and what you offer
WHO your target audience is and what they want
WHAT is being offered already across the media landscape
Asking yourself ‘Who you are’ is a great exercise in aligning your core values with what you hope to accomplish with your social media communications. You should have a solid understanding around what you believe in and how that fuels what you offer to the world. Spending a bit of time reflecting on your business, your passions and your talents will help you have a clear vision of WHO you’ll be presenting online.
Once you understand who you are and what you offer, it’s time to determine if your current digital footprint is telling the right story. In order to determine how visible you are online, Google yourself. In order to get results that don’t take into account your own user behavior, use the Google AdWords Preview Tool. Do the results align with who you are, what you offer and what you do? Are any of the results on the first page actually YOU? If you have a common name, this might prove to be a challenge. You can include variations on your name, like adding a middle initial or the city you live in, to help find more targeted results. Beginning to understand how OTHERS see you online, is the first step to ensuring that your message is reaching your audience.
Who are you trying to reach anyway? What do they want? The second component of your research should include a survey of your current audience or potential audience. You don’t want to GUESS at what the people who follow you online are looking for. ASK THEM! If you already have a following, use your social media channels to determine WHY they are using social media. What social need are they trying to meet? Are you currently meeting their expectations? What do the need MORE of?
If you don’t currently have a social media following, survey your colleagues and friends via email or face-to-face interviews. Start asking questions and having conversations around the social media channels they use and why they use them.
There’s ALOT of noise out there. You’re competing with thousands of other brands, businesses, bloggers, advertisers and countless others all fighting for the attention of your online community. Take the time to discover who else is trying to speak to your target audience. Who is offering what you do and how are they using social media to connect? How can you differentiate yourself from the pack? Are there gaps where your target audience’s needs aren’t being met online? Find the gap. Fill the gap.
Part 1 Action Items:
- Google yourself
- Survey your audience
- Research your competition
Completing the research above will provide you with insights to help drive a successful strategy. Taking the time to reflect on who you are, hopefully provides a starting point to develop your overall goals and objectives.
Setting S.M.A.R.T. social media goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-bound) that directly support your overall business and life objectives are essential to ensuring that your social media effort is time well spent. What do you really want to accomplish with your social media updates? Do you have objectives that reflect business goals? personal goals? both?
After planning specific and measurable goals, it’s time to precisely determine WHO you are trying to reach. Defining your target audience segments will allow you to create content that will meet their specific needs – making you an invaluable resource. You’ll also be able to choose the social media channels where those people live. There’s really no reason to engage on a social media platform if your target isn’t engaging there.
Social media channel selection is one of the most important elements of your planning process. Really step back and determine if the channels you’re currently using are meeting your objectives. Take the time to learn about the social media platforms that are currently engaging your target segments and consider participating in those conversations.
Finally, last but not LEAST in this planning process is CONTENT. You need to strategize your content to meet the needs of your audience. Are you giving them something they are looking for? Your community isn’t on social media to buy your product or service. That bears repeating: Your community isn’t on social media to buy your product or service. So don’t try and push that content, they’ll tune out. Hopefully your research helped to determine what it is they ARE looking for. Plan content around their needs, not yours.
Part 2 Action Items:
- Create S.M.A.R.T. social media objectives
- Define your target audience segments
- Choose your social media channels
- Create a content strategy based upon your communities needs
Part 3: Listening and Engagement Strategy
Every social media plan worth its salt includes a listening strategy. I’m sure you’ve heard the dinner party metaphor – NOBODY wants to be sitting next to that guy who only talks about himself and doesn’t listen to others. Don’t let this be YOU! Planning time to respond to those who are engaging with your social media content should be a top priority. Be sure to have a system in place that notifies you anytime someone mentions you on Twitter, shares or comments on your content. Recognize and reward your followers for taking the time to engage with you online. A third party tool like Hootsuite can be a great resource for setting up a low-cost dashboard for ‘listening’ to and updating your online communities.
Once you’ve got listening under your belt, it’s time to ENGAGE. Create a consistent schedule to regularly update your chosen channels with GREAT content. Using a simple editorial calendar can be a good way to organize your topics and types of content. Broaden the scope of what you share on social beyond your own blog posts. Considering including rich media like infographics, videos, curated lists, slide presentations and anything else under the sun. The stats continually show that social media updates that include a photo get a higher engagement rate than updates that don’t.
Part 3 Action Items:
- Create a listening dashboard and set-up Google Alerts for your name
- Develop an editorial calendar and regularly schedule social media updates
Part 4: Commitment and Accountability
Finally, my favorite part! I LOVE metrics and data. Choosing the right Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) and taking the time to track them month over month can give you the motivation you need to stay on track.
When considering what to measure, make sure you choose ACTIONABLE data points that align with your overall objectives. You are off to a great start by creating social media objectives that have a measurable outcome. Ask yourself, ‘What does success look like?’, ‘Where would I like to be at the end of 2014?’. Choose metrics that help support these outcomes.
I have provided you with a list of the KPI’s that I’ll be measuring in 2014 on my planning spreadsheet. Once you establish your key metrics, create a baseline, so that you can begin to see improvements month over month.
My KPI’s for 2014:
- # of LinkedIn connections
- # of Twitter followers
- Total # of RT’s, Replies and mentions on Twitter
- # of comment, shares and ‘likes’ on Facebook
- # of Google+ circlers
- # of Instagram followers
- Klout score
Coupling this strategic plan with your owninnatee talents, passions and expertise will put you on the path to becoming a social media SUPER HERO. If you’re looking for ongoing support on this important mission, be sure to check out my online course, Be a Social Media Super Hero. Here’s to your social media success in 2014 and beyond!