How to Make a Social Media Marketing Plan

Social-Media-Marketing You want to create a social media marketing plan , but you’re not sure where to begin. As a content strate...

You want to create a social media marketing plan, but you’re not sure where to begin. As a content strategist, I’ve helped create social media marketing plans for Fortune 500 companies and solo entrepreneurs. Here’s how I do it, broken down into six steps.

1. Take inventory.

Start creating your social media marketing plan by asking yourself how much time and money you can reasonably devote to social media marketing each day.
How much time do you need to spend? It depends on three things:
  • Your business size
  • Your budget
  • Your goals
If you’re a solo entrepreneur who just wants to expand her reach, you may not need to spend more than 10 minutes a day on social media marketing. If you’re a business such as The Hershey Company with dozens of brands, you’re going to an entire team of social media marketers in place.

Also ask yourself how much social media knowledge you have. Then factor in time and costs for necessary training. This can be as simple as downloading a few free eBooks, or as complicated as taking a week-long social media workshop.

2. Start listening.

Before you start planning what to post, check out social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to see what your customers are already talking about. This is also a good time to find out which of your competitors are online, what kind of content they’re posting, and how often they're posting it.

A good way to monitor the social media chatter—and find influencers in your market—is to perform a keyword search in directories such as WeFollow or Klout. What topics generate the most conversation? What topics go ignored? Jot down any trends you notice. They’ll come in handy when you’re crafting your own content.

3. Choose your social media platforms & monitoring tools.

Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, oh my! Which ones should you choose? You may want to pick one social media platform to start, then move into others when you feel more comfortable. Or you may want to create social media marketing plans for all three, plus a few niche sites.

Picking Your Social Media Platforms

Research social media platforms to see which best suits your needs, your audience and your resources.
It's OK to experiment. Test out a few platforms if you're curious. Just clean up after yourself. If you decide one social media platform doesn't work for you, don't abandon the account. Delete it or state your intentions and give users a way to find you in other places.

Monitoring Your Social Media Platforms

Next, decide how you’ll monitor each social media account. Will you set your Facebook profile to email you when someone posts on your page, or will you check in manually? If you check in manually, how often will you do it?

You can often set your phone or internet browser to alert you whenever someone sends a reply or a direct message. Experiment with the settings to see which work best for you.

You can also monitor your social media accounts using Tweetdeck, Hootsuite, Sprout Social, or any of the new social media monitoring tools that keep popping up around the web. These tools can come with a steep learning curve, so don't commit to one unless you're confident it will save time in the long run.

4. Craft your content.

Now figure out what you’re going to post on each social media account and when. If you don't have a brand already in place, you might need to ask yourself:
  • What subjects will I cover?
  • What kind of voice, personality and tone will I use?
  • How will my tone differ from that of the competition?
  • How often will I post promotional content?
  • How will I balance my self-promotion with other types of content?
  • How will I engage with other users and encourage conversation?
The timing of your posts can greatly impact the effectiveness of your social media marketing. As you post social media content, you may want to try different times of day and different days of the week to see which ones generate the most responses.

You may also want to make a list of potential sources to pull information from for when you’re having a slow week.

5. Plan your social media responses.

Brainstorm all the possible situations that could happen on your social media accounts. Perhaps someone posts a legitimate complaint to your Twitter profile. How will you reply?
Maybe someone uses your Facebook page to promote his own business, or post obscene photos. What will you leave up? What will you delete?

When mapping out scenarios, remember to account for the good things, too. What if someone posts a compliment? Will you respond? Can you leverage that positive feedback in future marketing efforts?
It helps to have a response mapped out for every situation, especially if you’re responsible for the social media marketing of a large company or group. That way, you don’t have to worry about making the wrong move in the heat of the moment.

6. Evolve Your Social Media Plan.

Eventually something will happen that doesn’t have a planned response. Monitor your results, and adapt your social media plan as needed. You might need to adjust your messaging. You might want to consider paid promotion of your social media posts.

You might hire an assistant, and need to create an appendix to the social media plan that spells out who’s responsible for doing what. By getting everything in writing, you have a living document to guide your efforts—now and in the future.

Have you created a social media marketing plan for your small business? What have you learned along the way? Let me know in the comments section.

And now that you've read about how to do social media marketing the right way, enjoy some schadenfreude over these epic Twitter fails.

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