Social media planning too often revolves around a murky set of objectives and a band of interns. So while the 4 Ps of marketing are still relevant, remember too the 7 Ps: Proper Planning and Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance.
When done right though, a social media plan for marketing, recruiting, or customer service is a thing of beauty. Here are the 10 components that belong in your social media plan, regardless of organization type, size, and structure.
1. Baseline Metrics
Even if no one is interacting with your Facebook fan page and only your employees are sharing your content on Twitter, it’s important to establish a baseline. Sometimes the sole reason for establishing a baseline — as bad the numbers may look — is to set up the applause for when those numbers improve.
And don’t worry: If you don’t have reporting and analytics tools yet in place (or if IT is still conducting its months-long needs analysis), it’s OK to simply open up a spreadsheet and start keeping track of some social media metrics.
2. Competitor Benchmarks
You’re not doing this to be a copycat. It’s best practice to do this for the same reason you gather baseline metrics in #1 above. It’s not always easy to identify what success looks like with your social media program, and competitors make an easy (and fun) target.
Whatever you do, don’t assume that because a competitor seems to have their act together that they actually do. Follower counts and engagement and a well-designed presence are often the result of pure longevity and not the implementation of unique ideas.
You might also consider adding a kind of per capita calculation to your benchmarks that accounts for relative competitor size, such as dividing by number of employees, or — if you happen to be, for example, a physicians group — number of locations. Or another example may be a B2B healthcare technology company considering entering a new market against larger or more established competitors. Take that into consideration when figuring out the best way to compare apples to apples.
3. Social Media Goals and Objectives
This is often the most difficult piece of the planning process, because your return on social media is not — and may never be — as cut and dried as something like a PPC campaign. Therefore, you will find yourself trying to justify some goals that feel “soft” and others that may seem unattainable.
My advice: Keep your goals relatively simple to start, use both soft and hard goals, and don’t be afraid to put goals into buckets or categories. For instance, you may have goals for awareness, engagement, followers, SEO, and even prospecting and sales benchmarks.
See #10 below for more on choosing social media KPIs.
4. Naming Strategy
This is a seemingly minor detail, but how and what you name your social media properties is almost as important as the domain you choose for your organization’s website. If your organization has a unique name, this is relatively easy. If yours is not a unique name, be prepared for a process that involves brainstorming, searching, brainstorming again, searching again, consensus-building and finally selection.
In the early days, the name of the game here was consistency across platforms: but as more and more companies have entered social, getting your exact URL, brand name, and social handles across all the platforms you’re on is increasingly impossible. But this is an opportunity for companies to consider how they should be adapting their brand each platform.
For example, Twitter values brevity: is there a shorter version of your name that might work better for the Twitterati? Facebook is less formal, more friendly. LinkedIn is (for the time being) still business-formal. We’re past the days where every name across every platform has to match perfectly, so take this as a chance to loosen up the brand Bible and lean in to the particular quirks of each platform.
5. Staffing Plan
You are going to need people to execute your social media plan. That’s right. People, not person.
Even if you are a small business just dipping your toes in the social media water, it will take the efforts, influence and direction of more than one person to make your plan come to life. You may only have one person doing “the work” of writing and posting but any successful social media plan relies on a group, not an individual, to carry the weight of the plan. You cannot successfully execute a social media strategy without ideas, support, and resources flowing from throughout your organization.
6. Content Calendar
No content, no social media. No content marketing strategy, no social media marketing strategy. If your social media plan does not revolve around some type of content calendar, your message — and your social media plan — will fall flat at best and fail at worst.
But what information goes into a content calendar? At Right Source, we manage content calendars in a two step process: Step 1 is to build out the content calendar in a spreadsheet (download a content calendar example template from Google Sheets).
To start, the content calendar should include the obvious: details like publish date, author, and title. If you can, however, you should get more sophisticated in your planning. We also include content type, target audience, buy cycle stage, and in some cases topic area focus.
To make things go a little faster, make use of Google Sheets’ “Data Validation” feature to add drop-down boxes in the fields which can be standardized. If you decide to use our Content Calendar template, you can change what’s in the drop-downs by clicking “Data,” choosing “Data Validation,” and editing the fields next to the “List of Items” box.
Step 2 in our content calendar management process is to add the content that stakeholders have all agreed on to a project management tool. We use Asana, but virtually any project management tool will work fine. Airtable is also a good option if your social media planning demands high volume and multiple platforms — they have a content calendar template that allows you to easily group social media posts related to your content pieces. It’s a great example of what we refer to as content-driven marketing: marketing which has content at its core.
We’ve also created a helpful checklist on how to build an editorial calendar which you can download, print, and keep nearby (or slyly leave on your boss’ desk at your next check-in). Meanwhile, the SEO company User Growth has a very good and comprehensive post on how to build a content calendar (warning: long).
Finally, whatever you do, don’t let the social media tail wag the content marketing dog.
7. Partner Integration
Can you guess what every single one of your partners – investors, technology partners, VARs, and others – wants to do? Expand their social media audience and engagement.
Can you guess what your brilliant social media plan will do for them if done right? Expand their social media audience and engagement.
Use this plan to present some true win-win scenarios where you and your partners can cross-promote content and campaigns, link to one another’s content, build one another’s domain authority, and share one another’s most compelling posts.
8. The Ideas!
If your plan revolves around only tweets, updates, followers, friends, and day-to-day tactics, it may be organized, but it won’t be special.
Special comes from social media campaigns, not the day-to-day tactics. If you’re trying to reach a particular audience, build an entire campaign to find and engage that audience. If you’re trying to stand out from the crowd, consider using a customized campaign that is anchored by a contest, sweepstakes or special offer.
Don’t just do social media. Get creative with it.
9. Social Media Success Examples
At some point, you’re going to have to sell this plan to supervisors, investors, colleagues, or all of the above. Chances are that most will not grasp the business case for social media and will question whether your plan makes sense as a priority compared to other corporate initiatives.
Hands down, the easiest way to conquer these objections is to show examples of how similar organizations have used an organized social media plan to achieve specific goals and objectives. If you’re a television show, use “The Voice” as your example. If you’re a retailer, use Zappos as your example. These examples are easy to find, and will mean far more than your own proclamations about why social media can have an impact on your organization.
10. Reporting and Analysis
“How are we going to track our progress and return on investment?”
If you don’t get this question multiple times during your social media planning process, then people either think you have the Midas touch or they simply don’t care.
First, based on your goals and objectives, decide what you want to measure. Of course, if you’ve ever been in a large enough meeting about social media KPIs, you understand this is easier said than done. But roughly speaking, most organizations want to measure and report on two things: audience size and audience engagement.
You can get endlessly bogged down in trying to compare apples to apples across platforms, so we recommend not trying. What is important is to decide which social media platforms make sense for your goals, and then focus on overall trends while looking for clear indications of the kinds of content that are resonating and which are met with crickets.
Next, decide how you want to measure against those goals and objectives. Count on this: While each social media platform includes some basic analytics, you will need to explore a variety of tools and software packages to arrive at your ideal reporting and analysis solution.
We use SproutSocial to manage social media for several clients, which we like for its simple reporting capability. SproutSocial is especially good at rolling measures of audience size and engagement across social media properties into a single overall measure which covers all your platforms. That kind of concise reporting is always welcomed by the C-Suite.
And speaking of the C-Suite: It’s also worth asking yourself the why. In other words, what is the goal of reporting on social media in the first place? It could be to justify a budget spend or argue for a change of strategy, but whatever it is, be prepared to double-check that the type and method of reporting supports your reasoning for the measurement in the first place.
Social media planning is not easy
About now you may be thinking, “Wait, isn’t social supposed to be fun?”
As a matter of fact, it’s quite painful for most organizations because many of your stakeholders will not understand the first thing about using social media for business. All you can do is embrace the 7 Ps, include these 10 components in your plan, develop some thick skin, and start moving!
All this planning stuff ten steps too many for your organization? Download our eBook on how, when, and whether to outsource.