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Six Essential Pillars To Establishing A Social Media Strategy

Ryan Sprance Forbes Councils Member

Navigating the ever-changing social media landscape can be daunting. Daily, we hear about countless new platform features, algorithm changes, and influencer marketing fraud — plus the occasional adoption of new platforms promising to be the next big thing, only to fizzle out months later.

Used properly, however, social media can be a robust marketing tool. There are six critical pillars to building a comprehensive social media strategy:

1. Building Your Community

An effective social media strategy begins with building a following — a group of people that fit the brand's target audience and are truly interested in being part of the community. To build your community, you'll need to provide value-added content (as opposed to self-serving, promotional content) using both paid and organic strategies. Paid strategies include Facebook "page like" campaigns (yes, these still work) and promoted Instagram posts. Some effective organic tactics include manually inviting everyone who likes your posts to your page, proper hashtag usage, actively engaging with other pages in your niche and adding value where you can.

2. Content Planning And Creation

The first primary function of your content should be to add value to your community. If your B2B provides financial services, you could produce and publish high-quality educational content offering tips to small businesses on how to better control their spend. If you run a fashion B2C brand, offer tutorials on how to pair outfits for the fall. Don't try to sell your services; that's what your paid social strategy is for. Your organic feeds should be about community and value while your ads do the selling.

The second primary function should be storytelling. What makes your company unique? What's your value proposition? If your secret weapon is your team, bring your community into the day-to-day of how your team delivers for your clients. Create a short behind-the-scenes video to show how the sausage is made.

3. Paid Social Media

The core of any successful program includes both top-of-the-funnel and bottom-of-the-funnel campaigns. Top-of-the-funnel activities should focus on introducing your product or brand to new audiences. Running community-building and prospecting campaigns with detailed targeting can help you attract your target market into the fold. Bottom-of-the-funnel activities include conversion-based retargeting. Let's face it: The real goal of any business is to drive revenue. Your highest-converting and lowest-cost campaigns should be your retargeting campaigns.

In 2019, Facebook made significant changes to ads involving employment, housing and credit. Marketers will no longer be able to target things that might be viewed as discrimination (i.e., age, gender, zip code, current job title) and lookalike audiences will no longer be an option in these special categories. This just means you'll need to be more creative. Facebook wants you to trust its powerful AI by embracing the Power5, which claims to simplify campaign structure and targeting by allowing machine learning to do the work. This includes things like automatic placements and brand audience targeting.

4. Influencer Marketing

Last year was the year of influencer marketing fraud. More and more bot services propelled phony influencers with fake likes, video views and followers. Brands with inexperienced internal marketing teams would focus on the wrong metrics for influencers. They became enamored with followers and surface engagement instead of true analytics.

The game isn't ending; it's changing for the better. Brands should be worried about impressions, reach and website traffic, and intimately connected to the geography of the influencer's followers. If a brand is a U.S.-based e-commerce company, and most of the influencer's followers are from the U.K., they might not be a good fit.

All in all, if done properly, influencer marketing has enormous value. The best programs are ongoing. Adding a modest budget will allow you to create longer-term brand ambassador programs. The real value comes in the form of pixel retargeting. When an influencer drives their fanbase to your Instagram or Facebook page, you should be retargeting those people with a "warm" offer.

5. Viral Contesting

Viral contesting is a robust strategy that includes a dedicated landing page equipped to collect emails in mass. After a person enters your contest by providing an email address, present them with a series of bonus options to collect more entries for additional chances to win. These bonus options can be customized for whatever actions you prefer, such as "follow us on Instagram" and "share our Facebook post."

The benefits here are multi-faceted. Email harvesting allows you to communicate directly with your targeted audience, who is already familiar with your product or service. The same list can be uploaded into Facebook for retargeting and look-a-like campaigns. Bonus actions spread the word about your contest while having the additional benefit of bringing a new audience into your Facebook pixel. Why is this important? Once someone is in your pixel trap, you can retarget them, which generally has a higher conversion rate at a lower cost.

6. Reporting And Transparency

Anything that gets measured daily is bound to improve. It's not enough to have a handful of KPIs to measure success. You should also be looking for trends and determining how to move the needle each week. The native reports on Facebook and Instagram are a good start, but you should be looking at month-over-month improvement.

Pro tip: Many agencies will create a Facebook Ads account on your behalf and only provide you with limited reporting each month. The problem comes when you try to move to another agency or take the work in-house. If you are not the owner of the accounts, you'll lose all historical data, which means starting over with targeting and machine learning. This could be a major setback for your business.

Investing time and resources into these pillars will allow your business to take full advantage of everything that social media marketing has to offer. You don't need to do them all at once; start slow and build as you gain traction. Most importantly, remember to be authentic and add value to the people you're trying to connect with.

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