What Really Makes a Successful Social Media Strategy

IMG_1393 (2)As someone relatively new to the social media marketing field, I am always seeking out the advice of experts. Luckily in this field, social media experts are constantly sharing their knowledge on Twitter, Google+ and everywhere else on the Internet. And I’ll admit it, I love an article that promises to teach me “How To Be Awesome at Social Media In 4 Easy Steps” or will tell me “7 Things Everyone Who’s Anyone In Social Media Already Knows About So You Really Need To Know Now.” I really am a moth to a flame when I see a title with a numbered list – I can’t resist clicking.

My predictable and often time-wasting love of numbered lists (hello, everything on Buzzfeed) is what led me to click on Chris Brogan’s article, “4 Bullet Points For More Social Media Mastery.” Now I’m pretty embarrassed to say this, but I took this article seriously for much longer than I should have. Just read the article and you’ll understand my embarrassment. I was eating up all of Brogan’s tips, beginning to feel more and more like someone in-the-know as I finished each bullet point. Maybe I was even getting a little bit smug.

It wasn’t until I got all the way to bullet point #3 where Brogan lays out the “action plan” (also meant to poke fun at all these types of articles) that I finally got the joke. Especially when I read this paragraph:

“Mashable. Lots of people like Mashable. Just share that. Also, retweet pretty much anything said by the following: @guykawasaki, @chrisbrogan, @garyvee, @marismith, and pick a few of YOUR favorite social media guru/master/ninja/rockstars. In fact, just set your accounts up to auto-tweet their stuff. Faster that way.”

Everything mentioned in that paragraph would be a sure way to annoy all your followers, which Brogan and any savvy social media marketer is well aware of.  (And even I know that saying you’re a social media guru, master, ninja or rockstar is the quickest way to discredit yourself as being any of those aforementioned things.)

Getting Started With Strategy

While Brogan’s article wasn’t “serious,” it seriously got me thinking about what really makes a successful social media strategy (which I’m sure was Brogan’s true intent). So I did a quick Google search for “social media strategy” which returned a cool 450,000,000 results. Not wanting to stray too far from my pattern, I clicked on “3 Steps to an Effective Social Media Strategy” by Amy Porterfield. I’d like to paraphrase what I learned from her article because her approach is simple and it’s a process with proven results. Here we go:

1) Assessment

Get a clear understanding of your audience’s needs and wants by simply asking them. There are many ways of doing this for free or very little money (Survey Monkey, Google Docs). Then decide what you’d like to accomplish through your social media efforts and narrow your goals to only one. Porterfield states that social media goals are usually these three things: awareness, sales or loyalty. Again, you should only focus on one.

Another important part of the assessment process is for the team to identify the driving force of the brand’s social media presence.  Porterfield references what Jay Baer calls your “One Thing” that stands behind every message you communicate to your customer.  It’s what makes you stand out and what makes your brand special.

The last part of the assessment stage is formulating the tactical social media plan. This includes scheduling, editorial calendars, contingency planning, etc. The plan should be as detailed as possible.

2) Implementation

The implementation stage is when you will put your plan to work. No plan should be written in stone, especially in the fast-paced world of social media. It’s important to be flexible and make tweaks as you go along as well as keep an eye out for new opportunities.

Also, the implementation stage is no time to be shy. Embrace your social media presence and promote it. Add links to your company website and to your email signatures. Don’t make your pages difficult for your community to find.

3) Measurement

Get back together with your team a few months after you’ve implemented your social media strategy. Use the analytics and reporting tools available to you to go over the numbers and see what’s been working and what hasn’t. Schedule time to collaborate and come up with new creative ideas on how to connect with your audience. Then start the process again.

The Core of a Successful Social Media Strategy

With so many people out there claiming to be experts and an almost overwhelming amount of information and new tools and platforms, it’s easy to get sucked into the idea that we need to know it all. Of course it’s our job to be knowledgeable about current social media trends, but what we really need to be an expert in is our customer. That’s why the customer’s values and how we meet their needs is always at the core of a successful social media strategy.

What do you think makes a successful social media strategy? Have any tips on how to stay ahead of social media trends? Leave your comments below.