It may seem obvious that there’s a proper order of operations for social media management, but too many organizations jump into their social media channels without any thought or preparation. Though over time, an audience and engagement will develop regardless of the strength of strategy, the audience will only become the right audience if time, dedication, and deliberate action are applied to the channel. Here is the no-contest, non-debatable order of operations for the implementation of your social media strategy. If you’re not following this order yet, it’s not too late to start!
To successfully implement a social media strategy, you need to start with your goals. And no, “get more followers,” “increase engagement,” or “become viral” are not goals. A goal needs to be SMART – specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely, and it also needs to be channel-specific. What exactly are you trying to achieve with each social channel? Who are you trying to reach? Are you using social as a “top-of-the-funnel” platform, or something more specific?
It’s also important to think about long- and short-term goals. Short-term goals will facilitate periodic check-ins for analyzing your data, and long term goals will give the channel purpose and editorial vision.
Once you set goals for each channel, it’s time to consider your posting strategy. But before you start – consider the elements that are necessary for each platform. If you’re strategizing your Instagram account, the images and photography should be the first consideration. For Twitter, it might be a call-to-action to your website. On Facebook, it could be visual and written content in conjunction, with occasional links. Regardless of what you want to publish, remember that social media platforms create communities. It’s a dialogue, not a monologue.
You should also consider the schedule within which you will post – how often do you want to post, but also how often can you post based on your time-commitment, budget, and available content. It’s generally a good idea to post at least once daily across your platforms, if possible. However, if you find it difficult to come up with good content, less is okay too – quality is more important than quantity when you start out.
Develop a strategy for the media and the content that will deliver on your goals, but don’t forget about the strategic choices you need to make outside of actually publishing content. Beyond the posting strategy, you also need to consider your engagement strategy, where you interact with the channel’s community and follow other influencers. Don’t underestimate this step!
Only once you’ve developed both short- and long-term goals, and created both a posting and engagement strategy, it’s time to implement your plan. The difficult part about social media management is that it tends to fall to the bottom of the priority list. Make time for social media however works for you – book a time slot in your calendar, set a reminder in your phone – even just one hour a week will make an impact. It’s also important to set up all of your accounts on your smartphone. Facebook has its Pages app, Twitter allows you to seamlessly switch between your accounts, and Hootsuite is always good to have on-hand. Instagram doesn’t currently provide a simple way to switch between accounts, so make sure you have your passwords memorized!
Another difficult task once you start posting is to maintain your original strategy. It may be tempting to start using social media as the catch-all for marketing messages, but straying from your editorial vision won’t pay off unless it’s a concerted effort to re-direct your social strategy… for a good reason.
It’s absolutely essential to track your data frequently and thoroughly (once a month is a good place to start!). If you don’t want to do it in-house, you can hire a digital analyst to create easy-to-digest reports for you. You’ll also learn a lot just from watching your posts and noting things about them – when a post encourages significant engagement, ask yourself what may have caused that reaction. Is it the time of day? The media attached to the post? The tone of the post? You’ll pick up a lot, and your monthly report will confirm or deny what you’re observed – and you can test the theories going forward.
Another important element for tracking is using link tracking, like bit.ly. Bit.ly allows you to monitor the click-through across your channels. Clicking a regular link like “www.yourbusinesshere.com” will show up in Google Analytics as a “direct” source, so by using a smart link like bit.ly, you can gather that data. This is particularly important for platforms that are notoriously poor at driving traffic and don’t have built-in analytics platforms, like Instagram.
5. Debrief & Re-strategize
Lastly, finally, after successfully and deliberately setting goals, and creating, implementing, and tracking your posting strategy, it’s time to consider your analysis. Simply tracking numbers isn’t enough; the metrics require interpretation, and through that interpretation, your goals and strategies require some finesse. It’s absolutely vital that you learn from the past with your platform, and apply those learnings towards the channel going forward. On the short term, it’s okay to leave the same strategy in place. However, you should consider updating your goals and strategy on a quarterly or biannual basis.
Are you reaching some of your goals? If not, maybe decrease the scope of your goals, or decrease the complexity of them.
Most importantly, are you developing relationships and creating communities? If not, you need to re-strategize, because conversation is what social media is all about.