If you’ve been struggling to meet your business goals on social media, you’re in the right place.
Creating a social media marketing strategy will give purpose to your social media efforts. It will help you decide what content to develop and share, who you’re talking to, and what type of content performs best. Ultimately, it will help you harness social media to drive your business goals.
Here, we cover the essential steps to creating a successful social media marketing strategy, and include a useful template to get you started.
What is a social media marketing strategy?
A social media marketing strategy is a plan that outlines what content you’ll post and on which social media channels, your goals, and the tactics you’ll use to achieve them.
Brands continue to ride the wave of social media marketing, with 33% of marketers saying they’re confident their efforts deliver a positive return on investment for their business.
Whether it’s TikTok ads or influencer marketing, social media lets brands access cost-effective marketing. Like a Swiss Army knife, a social media marketing plan can serve various marketing functions from:
- Driving traffic and sales
- Tapping into influencer networks
- Building brand awareness
- Amassing an engaged audience
- Connecting with customers and prospects
- Providing customer support
This is because you have a wide range of channels to incorporate, each with its own strengths and weaknesses to consider.
Having a well-defined social media strategy will help you build a community around your brand and, ultimately, make more sales.
How to create a social media strategy
1. Define your goals
Identify and clearly define what you want to achieve with your social media strategy plan. This will depend on your business, your audience, and your wider marketing strategy. Examples of social media marketing goals include:
- Increase brand awareness
- Drive website traffic
- Lead generation
- Grow your audience
- Increase engagement
Whatever you choose, this will be the guiding light for your strategy and will serve as the benchmark for tracking your performance. It’s important that your goals aren’t generic and instead focus on percentage increases or a revenue boost. For example, rather than having a goal of driving more website traffic, you should aim to increase website traffic by 5% every month, or reach 10,000 website visits a month by December.
It helps to create goals that are SMART:
This means you can easily track your goals, they aren’t wildly out of the realms of possibility, and they’re relevant to your overall business objectives. Most importantly, they have a time limit on them. This will increase the likelihood of you achieving your goals.
“I like to start by putting together a list of goals for each platform,” says Mac Steer, owner and director at Simify. “What do I want my audience to walk away from this post thinking? Do I need them to take action? How can I make that happen? Then, once I’ve got some ideas in mind and know what my goal is for each platform, I’ll figure out how best to execute those goals on each platform.”
2. Know your target audience
An effective social media strategy starts with understanding your ideal customer. Building rich context on your target audience takes time, but there are steps you can take immediately that will provide lasting value.
“We identified our audience by researching demographic information, interests, and online behaviors, which resulted in the creation of our four customer avatars,” says Maria Mooney, brand director of Truly Free. “Knowing this information allows us to tailor content and messaging to the people most likely to engage with our brand.”
Start by researching your target audience or looking for demographic and psychographic data or observable patterns that help you form an image of who is likely to buy from you. This exercise won’t just inform your initial strategy but also help you develop a voice and tone for your brand that resonates with them.
Here are some activities you can do to get to know your target audience:
- Run a survey: Collect quantitative data about your audience, such as their age, location, job role, and core interests.
- Conduct interviews: Ask to speak to a handful of your best customers to get qualitative data, such as their values, challenges, goals, and pain points.
- Research the competition: See who’s following your biggest competitors. Identify what characteristics they share, what other content they follow and engage with, and any other information you can glean from their social media profiles.
- Check support tickets: Your customer service team has a wealth of information about your customers via support tickets. You can often find pain points and challenges here.
- Dig into your analytics: Most social media platforms have in-built insights that show you information like the age, location, and gender of your followers.
Once you’ve carried out this research, you can create customer personas that match each audience segment. This should include demographic information, like age and location, as well as psychographic data, like interests, buying concerns, and motivation to buy.
You can use this information to build up a picture of your audience and tailor your content so that it resonates with them.
Here’s an example of some of the demographic and psychographic information you can use to get to know your audience.
- Location: Where do your ideal customers typically live? Even knowing just the countries can help, but if you’re a local business or focus on one region, then it should be the cities you can realistically cater to.
- Age: What is the age range of your customers?
- Gender: What gender do they identify as? This might not be as important depending on your brand.
- Interests: What are their interests/hobbies/passions? These make for effective targeting options (e.g., food, hip hop, bars, basketball).
- Career/industry: What industry do they work in and what job titles have they held? This may not be relevant depending on your brand.
- Income level: What is the income range of this buyer persona? Are they price-sensitive or are they willing to spend more money for premium products?
- Relationship status: Are they single, actively dating, or married? This may be relevant if you’re in the wedding industry, for example.
- Favorite websites: What type of websites do they keep bookmarked? Do they browse Instagram or TikTok daily?
- Motivation to buy: What reasons would they have for buying your product? Do they want to sport a status symbol or make time to work out despite a busy schedule?
- Buying concerns: Why might they choose not to buy your product? Are they worried about the quality?
- Other info: Anything else that isn’t covered above but would be worth mentioning, such as education, stage in life (parents with newborn kids), events they attend, etc.
3. Conduct a social media audit
Running an audit on your existing social media content strategy will help you see what works and what doesn’t. It will give you a better understanding of what content formats and messaging styles your audience prefers, but it will also provide insight into when your audience is online and the best time to post.
Here’s how to run a social media audit:
- Analyze engagement: Check your insights on each social media channel you use to identify your top-performing posts based on the number of likes, comments, and shares.
- Identify patterns: See if there are any patterns that show up in your insights. For example, you might find that people prefer to engage with videos on your Instagram account or that your followers are most active on the weekend.
- Run audits on each channel: Every social media platform is different—what works on Facebook might not work on Instagram and vice versa, so run an audit on each channel you use.
When you’ve run your audit, assess the effectiveness of each top-performing piece of content in reaching your goals. For example, if followers are engaging wildly with meme-style videos that have nothing to do with your product, you might not hit the product sales targets you were hoping for.
4. Choose the right platforms
The social media content audit will shed some light on your best-performing platforms based on your goals, which will help you decide where to focus your efforts. It can be tempting to spread yourself thin across every new channel that pops up, but it’s better to excel on two or three than be inconsistent on six different channels.
When choosing the best social media platforms for your brand, consider:
- Where your target audience is most active
- Your business goals and objectives
- Which platforms are easiest to promote your products on
- Where your content performs best
Once you’ve selected the best platforms for your business, you can create a strategy for each of them that keeps your big-picture objectives in mind. Alex McIntosh, CEO and co-founder of Thrive Natural Care, finds choosing channels easy, as the company is focused on an omnichannel experience.
“This means we want to be present where our customers are, so we publish content on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, Reddit, and YouTube,” Alex says. “We know that our customers and audience are using different platforms at different times, so however they prefer to consume content, we want ours to add value to their day.”
5. Develop a content strategy
Design a plan for the type of content you’ll create and share on each of your chosen social media channels. The content may vary depending on the platform and the audience you’re trying to reach, so it’s important to create a strategy that encompasses all of your customer personas and all of your social media channels.
Defining your content mix—recurring formats and post types—makes it easier to produce social content while adding a rhythm to your posting schedule. This offers your audience both variety and consistency at the same time. Otherwise, you’ll wind up scrambling for something to publish every day.
Within your content mix, you want to have ideas you can plan for in advance, reproduce, and schedule to go out on a regular basis. For example, you might feature a customer testimonial every Tuesday and share a quote graphic every Wednesday and Friday.
“For a content plan, we try to focus on both timeliness and value for our customers and followers,” says Alex. “One core value of our business is “leave it better,” and this is a guiding principle for our team. This means we want our social content to be something people feel good about. Whether it is a post about our regenerative farming efforts in Costa Rica or we are showcasing a new skin care product, we want our social media content to be valuable for anyone that sees it.”
The content mix you develop can incorporate:
- News: Information about what’s happening in your industry or posts that are based on what’s trending at the moment.
- Inspiration: Motivation to use your products or pursue a certain lifestyle, such as quote graphics or photos from around the world.
- Education: Share fun stats and facts or how-to posts from your blog or YouTube channel.
- Product/promotional posts: High-quality product shots of your products being used, demo videos, testimonials, or feature explanations can help you achieve your ultimate goal of getting sales. You can often run these as ads after you create them.
- Contests and giveaways. A contest or free download in exchange for an email is a great way to promote something of value to both you and your audience other than your products.
- Customer/influencer features: Shots or videos featuring your customers or the people they follow.
- Community events: Share meetups, fundraisers, or learning opportunities, especially if you’re a local business.
- Q&A: Ask your audience a question or make a request to elicit responses, such as: “Tag a friend who’s always late.” Answer a common question that you get from customers.
- Tips and tricks: Share useful information and tutorials around your products.
- Behind the scenes: Share how your product is made or what you’re doing to grow your business to offer some transparency that your audience can relate to. Giving your audience a look into the humans behind your business can go a long way in creating trust or building your personal brand as a founder.
- Repurposed blog posts: Leverage your existing content on your Shopify blog and repurpose it into engaging social media content, such as snippets, images, or teasers.
Aim for five to seven content archetypes to start. Balance your content mix with post formats you can create quickly and those that are more labor intensive, as well as posts that aim for sales and posts that just seek to delight and grow your audience.
Snack brand Oh Snap! Pickling Co. finds the right mix of engaging content by publishing a mix of product shots, trending Reels, engagement posts, and even a tarot card series on its Instagram to keep customers entertained and engaged.
Developing a mix of different content types will ensure you have a social media lead generation strategy that provides customers at every stage of the purchasing funnel with the information they need.
6. Create a content calendar
Establish a schedule for when and how often you’ll post on each social media platform. This will help you maintain consistency and ensure a steady flow of content.
Start slow and then ramp up to a higher frequency as you develop your routine and figure out what works.
You don’t want to spread yourself too thin or spam your audience’s feeds. It’s fine if you only have time to post once every few days in the beginning. You can build up to one post a day and then test to see if a higher frequency actually nets you better results on specific platforms.
Ultimately, you want to focus your attention where it will have the most impact and when your audience is scrolling through their feeds.
Each platform has a different ideal posting time depending on when their followers are most engaged. You’ll find that the best time to post on TikTok will be different than the best time to post on Instagram. If you aren’t sure where to start, think about when people check their feeds: in the morning, at lunch, during their commute, or before bed.
You’ll discover the best posting times for your particular audience through trial and error. Popular posting times will also vary depending on seasons and other variables.
What’s more important is that you schedule your posts in batches, at least a week in advance. Do it in one sitting, dedicating a few hours at a time so you can focus on other things while your social media publishing runs in the background. You can use an automated scheduling tool to load up your social media posts for the week.
“First, we identify the themes and messages we want to communicate to our target audience,” says Maria of Truly Free. “These may include promotions, product launches, educational content, and a behind-the-scenes look into our company.
“Then, we establish a content calendar outlining the topics we’ll cover and when we plan to post them. This helps ensure we have a consistent and diverse range of content that aligns with our marketing objectives.
“Next, we brainstorm ideas for each piece of content, taking into account the specific platform and its best practices. For example, on Instagram, we may focus on visual content like images or videos that engagingly showcase our products. On Twitter, we may create short, snappy posts that are shareable and attention-grabbing.”
7. Engage with your audience
Develop strategies to actively engage with your audience, respond to comments and messages, and foster a sense of community. No one wants to feel like they’re shouting into the void, so make an effort to start discussions and encourage interactions around your content. Alex McIntosh of Thrive Natural care says that the brand has put added importance on engaging with its audience.
“It is one thing to put out great content, but audiences want to feel like they are a part of something, and by engaging with our customers, we help them join us on our journey,” says Alex.
Here are some ways you can engage with your audience:
- Reshare content: Post customer photos and reviews to your own feeds (remember to credit the original creator).
- Ask questions: Invite discussion by asking a question.
- Run a poll: Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook all have a poll feature you can use to encourage engagement and learn more about your customers at the same time.
- Jump on trends: Join in with the latest TikTok trends or trending hashtags on other channels—just make sure it’s relevant to your brand and audience.
- Respond to comments: Engage your audience by replying to the comments they leave on your content.
Shopify merchant Bubble Skincare does an excellent job of engaging with its followers. It consistently replies to fans and shows its appreciation for purchases and comments.
8. Leverage influencer marketing
Consider collaborating with influencers relevant to your industry or niche. They can help amplify your reach, increase brand awareness, and drive engagement.
Here’s how to get started with influencer marketing:
- Find relevant influencers: Use apps like Shopify Collabs to find influencers that have an audience in your niche. Consider the platform they’re popular on and how that’s likely to impact your brand.
- Brainstorm content: Work together to come up with content ideas that will resonate with their audience. Make sure it’s relevant to your brand and products, too.
- Track and tweak: Measure what works and what doesn’t to see what content you can collaborate on in the future.
You don’t need to hire influencers with millions of followers to expand your brand reach. Skin care brand Plenaire works with niche and micro-influencers to reach highly engaged audiences. Not only does this help you grow your audience, it builds trust in your brand and encourages sales, for a relatively low cost.
You can work with influencers on a short-term, one-off basis or as an ongoing ambassadorship. Both have their pros and cons, but it will ultimately depend on your goal and your budget.
“We include influencers in our strategy as well, notifying them about monthly sales and products to advertise on their blogging channels,” says Nicky Miller, social media manager at Lion Brand Yarn.
“An example of a successful campaign was our 145th anniversary. It was the perfect moment to create dialogue about our brand and invite others to talk about us. We encouraged influencers to share videos about our brand’s history and products. We updated our logo and utilized our social media platforms to share fun facts, reels, trivia, and giveaways. The results were a success, we saw nice growth on Instagram and were featured in several publications covering our brand.”
9. Monitor and analyze performance
Use social media analytics tools to track the performance of your content and campaigns and monitor their effectiveness.
Here are some metrics to monitor:
- Reach: How many people see your social media posts in their feeds.
- Engagement: How many people like, comment, and share your posts.
- Click-through rates: How many people click through from your social content to your website or product pages.
- Conversions: How many people buy something after seeing a social media post.
The metrics you track will depend on your goals. For example, if your aim is to increase website traffic, you should closely track click-through rates, but if you want to boost sales, then conversions is your go-to metric.
Monitoring your metrics lets you make small changes to your strategy, rather than huge overhauls. You can be proactive in the short term and use those learnings to inform future campaigns.
10. Iterate and refine
Continuously evaluate and refine your social media marketing plan based on the insights and data you gather. Adapt your approach based on what works best for your audience and aligns with your goals.
Your aim now is to get a positive return on the time, money, and effort you spend marketing your business on social media. That requires deliberate action.
Your social media strategy is your plan of attack. But in a space like social media that changes by the day—with feed algorithm updates and audiences always ready for something new—you need to remain flexible and keep your finger on its pulse.
It’s important to have goals to track and check in regularly to see what’s working. Use those insights to develop content ideas, build out your calendar, and grow your audience.
“We believe in putting our members first and providing them with the content they want and need,” says Maria. “To do this, we conducted a survey to gather feedback on the types of content our members were most interested in seeing from us. Based on the responses we received, we created a social media campaign focused on how to clean homes using Truly Free products. This campaign provided our members with valuable tips and insights, while showcasing the benefits of our products in an engaging and informative way.”
Social media strategy template
Social media strategy and planning templates
Ready to get started with your social media strategy? These free, customizable templates give you tools to plan and execute a strategy that connects you with your target audience while keeping your content calendar organized.
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Get a better return on investment with social media
Developing a social media marketing strategy will give you purpose when connecting with your audience on platforms like Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and TikTok. It will help you determine the kind of content your audience likes to see and what they engage with the most. Ultimately, this will help you grow your audience, sell more products, and increase revenue.
Illustration by Elena Xausa
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Social media marketing strategy FAQ
What is a social media marketing strategy?
A social media marketing strategy is a plan for what content you’ll post on social media, what platforms you’ll post on, and how often you’ll post. Your social media marketing tactics should align with your overall business goals.
How do I create a social media marketing strategy?
Define your goals. Know your target audience. Conduct a social media audit. Choose the right platforms. Develop a content strategy. Create a content calendar. Engage with your audience. Leverage influencer marketing. Monitor and analyze performance. Iterate and refine.
Which social media platforms should I focus on in my strategy?
The social media platforms you choose to focus on should be the ones where your audience is most active. Look at the channels your competitors use the most and which platforms complement the kind of content you want to post.
What type of content should I create for social media?
There are multiple different types of content you can post on social media, including educational content, videos, user-generated content, news stories, polls, promotional posts, and inspiration posts.
How can I measure the success of my social media marketing strategy?
Regularly check the analytics on each social media platform you use, or use a tool that brings them all together. Track the metrics that are most important to your goals, such as reach, conversions, click-throughs, and engagement rates.
Should I use paid advertising on social media?
Social media paid advertising is a great way to reach new audiences and put your brand in front of potential customers. If your budget allows, it can be an effective addition to your organic social media strategy.
How can I engage with my audience on social media?
Ask questions. Reply to comments and shares. Start discussions and join in existing conversations. Jump on trends that are relevant to your brand. Reshare customer content.