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A Complete Guide to Social Media Marketing for Small Business (2023)

How to develop a successful social media marketing strategy

Effective content marketing starts with a plan. Here’s how to develop your social media marketing strategy in six steps:

  1. Set your budget and goals
  2. Identify your target audience
  3. Research competitors
  4. Select social media sites
  5. Define your social media brand
  6. Develop a content strategy

1. Set your budget and goals

Creating a social media marketing plan should start with reviewing your digital marketing budget. Decide how much time and money you can allocate to social media marketing and what goals you expect to hit. There may be costs associated with promoting social posts, hiring an agency or freelancer, or having an employee handle your social media campaigns internally. Set social media targets that support your broader business objectives but are also attainable given your budget. 

For example, if one of your business goals is to generate 10% more leads in the upcoming calendar year, you might set a social media target of increasing traffic to gated landing pages by 25% over the same period (with the understanding that not everyone who visits your website will fill out a form to become a lead). If your budget is larger, you might bump your social media target to 35% to reflect the increase in marketing resources available for the campaign. If you aren’t seeing results from organic content, you might invest in paid LinkedIn posts, Facebook advertising, or influencer marketing strategies to reach your goal. 

2. Identify your target audiences

Conduct audience research to determine the demographics of active users on each of the most popular social media platforms. Then, identify the target audience for your social media efforts. Knowing who you’re trying to target—as well as who is active on each platform—will help you identify which platforms your business should have a presence on. For example, if your target audience consists of men between 45 and 65, you might focus your social media marketing strategy on Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram, because these channels are the most popular with these audiences

3. Research competitors

In some cases, you can speed up the audience research process by conducting a competitive analysis. For example, let’s say your target audience is eco-conscious, stay-at-home parents between 25 and 45 years old with some disposable income. You can identify successful competitors in the space by searching for similar brands online, surveying your customers, or evaluating social media mentions and follower counts. Then, see what social media platforms your competitors are on and whether they’re receiving likes and comments on those platforms. If you see a trend across several competitors on a specific platform, you can conclude that your target audiences are particularly active on that platform.

A competitive analysis can also help you identify successful content types, brand characteristics, and publishing cadences. Although you won’t want to mimic another company exactly, competitor research can help you identify tactics that work for businesses like yours. When it’s time to create content, you and your creative team can make assets that feel unique to your business but draw inspiration from the positive things you see competitors doing. 

4. Select social media sites 

To select platforms for your social media marketing strategy, start with the audience, ruling out any platforms that don’t serve the target audiences you’ve identified. Next, consider features, displays, and how specific content types perform on individual social media networks. For example, if you’re planning to sell products, consider a platform with in-app shopping features, such as Facebook or Instagram. If you plan to post links to blog posts or articles, consider a platform like Twitter or LinkedIn that can pull featured images from external links. Your social media marketing strategy may also involve a combination of different tactics for each individual social media platform. 

5. Define your social media brand

While your social media content will reflect your main brand identity, you may decide to have slight variations in visuals, tone, and voice, depending on the social channel. For example, you might permit a lightly ironic tone on Twitter but keep your LinkedIn content buttoned up, given that the platform is predominately for business networking. 

Once you’ve established a social media brand, create brand guidelines, making sure to note any platform-specific variations. These will help your social content look cohesive.

6. Develop a content strategy

Use your goals, target audience research, and competitive analysis to identify the key topics, post types, and publishing cadences, as well as what time of day to post on each social media platform. To create compelling content and keep your audience engaged, resist the urge to lean too heavily into promotional content. One common rule for an effective social media marketing strategy states that 80% of your content should entertain or inform, and 20% should directly promote your company. 

For example, imagine that your main goal is to boost sales of your reusable water bottles. Your target audience is health- and eco-conscious, and your competitors see high engagement on wellness posts and video content. Your content strategy might include content about the negative environmental impacts of plastic water bottles, the health risks of disposable plastics, and positive wellness tips. This content might take the form of short videos, excerpts from long-form articles on your blog, and branded infographics.

Social media marketing metrics

Marketing teams use social media metrics to evaluate campaign results and identify successful tactics so they can adjust the strategy to optimize results. Here’s a list of metrics that provide valuable insights:

  • Reach. The number of unique people who see a social media post.
  • Impressions. The number of times a post is displayed to users.
  • Engagements. The number of likes, comments, clicks, shares, or direct messages on an individual post or for an entire account. 
  • Engagement rate. The percentage of reached users who engage with a post out of all those who saw it. The formula to calculate this is: engagement rate = post engagement / post reach.
  • Amplification rate. The percentage of followers, out of all your followers, who share a post. The formula for this is: amplification rate = post shares / total account followers.
  • Click-through rate. The percentage of people, out of all the times the post was displayed, who click on a link in your post. The formula for this is: click-through rate = post link clicks / post impressions.
  • Account views. The number of people who view your company’s social media profiles.
  • Audience growth rate. A measure of how quickly your audience is growing, expressed in a percentage. The formula for this is: audience growth rate = (net new followers over a certain time period / total followers) x 100.
  • Cost-per-click (CPC). A measure of cost effectiveness expressed by how much you pay for every click a post receives. The formula for this is: CPC = ad spend / number of clicks.
  • Conversion rate. The percentage of people who take a desired action, like purchasing a product or filling out a contact form. The formula for this is: conversion rate = number of impressions / number of people who take a desired action.
  • Return on investment (ROI). A measure of the profitability of a social media marketing campaign. The formula for this is: ROI = profits attributable to a campaign / total campaign cost.
  • Mentions. The number of times users mention your company on a social platform. 
  • Share of social voice (SoSV). The frequency of your company mentions compared to your competitors, expressed in percentage form. The formula for this is: SoSV = (number of mentions of your brand / number of mentions of competitor brands) x 100.
  • Social sentiment. The distribution of neutral, positive, and negative sentiments about your company. The formula for this is: social sentiment = (total number of positive mentions – total number of negative mentions) / total number of mentions.

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