7 Steps to a Simple Social Media Strategy

Social media can transform your business from foundering to flourishing. Here's how to devise a strategy.
March 27, 2012

If you do a search on social media, social media strategy or social media for small biz, you'll get millions of results. 14,753,645 to be exact. I counted.

Okay, just kidding.

What's not a joke is how important and how overwhelming social media can be for small business. It can provide the leverage to move a company from floundering to flourishing, but it can also take over your life. Figuring out exactly what to do is where it's easy to get lost—which is why you need a social media strategy.

  • What should our profile say?
  • What platforms should we use?
  • Who's in charge?
  • How often should we offer coupons?
  • Who's in charge of coming up with stuff to say?
  • How often should we post?

A strategy—a simple, actionable strategy—tells you what to do, how to do it, and when to do it for maximum results, as best fits your company. Set aside an hour and work through these seven steps, and you'll have your own simple social media strategy.

1. Identify your target

Don't get lost in the details here; use the demographic research you've already done, or just answer each question as quickly as you can from what you already know or with a minimal amount of research. You need a rough idea, not a book-length collection of research.

  • Who are you trying to reach?
  • Where are they? 
  • What are they talking about?

2. Define your message

In order to create a message that matters to your customers, you need to talk about what they care about: their problems, their pain points.

  • What are your customers' pain points/problems?
  • What is your unique selling proposition (USP)?
  • How can you communicate your USP most effectively to customer pain points?
  • How can you approach social media with a solution to their problems?

3. Determine your goals

Goals can be anything from “build an e-mail list” to “get more sales”; it depends on how your business operates and how you use social media and your website to interact with your customers.

  • Why are you using social media?
  • What do you hope to gain out of it? (Be specific.)
  • What counts as a successful conversion?
  • How do those conversions turn into profit?

4. Brainstorm your offerings

Creating and offering value is what will make you stand out in social media. Adding to the noise isn't a good strategy; adding value and sharing it with your market is.

  • What can you provide via social media that will help/interest/entertain your target?
  • What kind of content will you produce? 
  • What content or curation makes the most sense for getting customers to your goals? 

5. Set a budget/schedule for needed resources

You can't do it all; define your resources in terms of money, time and personnel, then put those resources to work.

  • How much time, money, talent and energy can you dedicate to social media?
  • Who is in charge? 
  • What will you outsource? 

6. Set limits and benchmarks

You still can't do it all, so don't waste your time trying; focus on sticking to your strategy within a few social media spaces. You can always expand later.

  • What social media platforms will you use?
  • What content will you put on each one? How often?
  • When will you produce this content?
  • How will you measure its success?

7. Apply, wait and test/tweak

Set a time limit (several months, at the least) and stick to your strategy for that amount of time before you start messing with it.

Keys to success

  • Start with a focused approach. Spreading yourself too thin is a sure way to commit social media suicide. Instead, choose one or two platforms, a primary message, and a primary means of communication.
  • Stay consistent. Consistency conveys authority and builds trust.
  • Follow the etiquette of social media (be polite; respond to people; don't spam; give credit; so on).
  • Don't rely solely on automation. Engage, respond, talk to people, help them, have conversations.
  • Don't let it take over your work time. Instead, designate a daily block of time to do your social media work.
  • Set your goals first, then break the goals down into tasks, then assign the tasks to your daily time slots (and/or your employees, and/or your outsourced help).
  • Stick with it! Social media takes time, but it's worth your time. Just not all your time. Use a simple strategy like the one you've just created to use social media effectively and still do the rest of your work.

Annie Mueller writes about all aspects of productivity in life and at work. Her work can be seen at numerous online publications. She blogs at AnnieMueller.com. Find her on Twitter: @anniemueller.