5 Steps To Create Your Social Media Marketing Strategy

Marketing is all about strategy, goals, and objectives. With a social media marketing strategy, you can better decide which social media services best fit your marketing goals and target market. 

To get the best return on your social media investment, you must try to use the same social media as they do. This principle also applies to any other marketing and advertising efforts you undertake. Social media is a new tactic, not a new world.

In this article, we’ll show you the steps to create your social media marketing strategy.

Step 1: Locating Your Target Market Online

Nothing is more important in marketing than identifying and understanding your target audience (or audiences). After you can describe your customers’ and prospects’ demographic characteristics, where they live, and what social media they use, you’re in a position to focus your social marketing efforts on those people most likely to buy your products or services

Because social media techniques focus on inexpensive ways to reach niche markets with specific messages, they’re tailor-made for a guerrilla-marketing approach. As with all guerrilla-marketing activities, target one market at a time.

Step 2: Segmenting Your B2C Market

If you have a business-to-consumer (B2C) company, you can adapt the standard tools of market segmentation, which is a technique to define various niche audiences by where they live and how they spend their time and money. The most common types of segmentation are

  • Demographics
  • Geographic location
  • Life-stage-based purchasing behavior
  • Psychographics or lifestyle
  • Affinity or interest groups

When you’re creating subgroups, keep these concepts in mind:

Simple demographics affect your market definition. The use of fragrances, descriptive terms, and even packaging may vary by gender. How many shampoo commercials for men talk about silky hair? For that matter, what’s the ratio of shampoo commercials addressed to women versus men?

Consider geography. Geography may not seem obvious, but people who live in dry climates may be more receptive to a message about moisturizers than people who live in humid climates. Or perhaps your production capacity constrains your initial product launch to a local or regional area.

Think about how purchasing behavior changes with life stages. For instance, people who dye their hair look for different hair care products than those who don’t, but the reason they color their hair affects your selling message. (Teenagers and young adults may dye their hair unusual colors in an effort to belong to a group of their peers; older men may hide the gray with Grecian Formula; women with kids might be interested in fashion, or color their hair as a pick-me-up.)

Even lifestyles (psychographics) affect decisions. People with limited resources who are unlikely to try new products may respond to messages about value and satisfaction guarantees; people with more resources or a higher status may be affected by messages related to social grouping and self-esteem.

Affinity or interest groups are an obvious segmentation parameter. People who participate in environmental organizations or who recycle goods may be more likely to be swayed by a green shampoo appeal or shop in specific online venues

Demographic 

Demographic segmentation, the most common type of market differentiation, covers such standard categories as gender, age, ethnicity, marital status, family size, household income, occupation, social class, and education

Geographic location

Geographic segmentation also makes sense if your business draws its primary target audience from within a certain distance from your brick-and-mortar storefront. For example, geographic segmentation makes sense for grocery stores, barbershops, gas stations, restaurants, movie theaters, and many other service providers, whether or not your social media service itself is location-based.

Many social media services offer a location search function to assess the number of users in your geographical target area:

Twitter users near a specified location (https://twitter.com/search-advanced): To find users within 15 miles of a designated location, click the Add Location pin under Places. Your current location appears. Click the text box to view a list of several nearby communities, as well as a search field. For somewhere farther away, enter the name of the city in the search field and click the blue Search button at the bottom of the page. On the search results page that appears, you’ll see Who to Follow and Trends options in the left column. To alter the 15-mile default distance, change the mileage display in the grey search box at the very top of the results page.

LinkedIn users within a certain radius (www.linkedin.com/search): In the Location drop-down list in the left column, select Located In or Near. Additional options appear, including a Country drop-down list, a Postal Code text box, and a Within the drop-down list, with choices of radius from 10 to 100 miles. After clicking Search, the number of results appears at the top left of the center column, above the list of names. You can filter further by the degree of connection if you want.

Facebook users near a certain location: The most accurate way to size a potential target audience geographically is to create a Facebook advertising account with a test ad, which you may choose not to launch. Log in as the admin for your page. Click the drop-down arrow in the right corner of the top navigation, and then click Create Ads. Follow the prompts to create an account and choose an objective for an ad. (For audience research, it doesn’t matter which objective you select.) Now click Audience in the Ad Set section of the left column that appears. In the center column, choose Everyone in This Location, and specify the geographical region you want. For the total number of Facebook users, avoid setting any demographic or other parameters. At the top of the right column, find the Audience Definition dial display. Below the dial is a numerical value for potential reach, which is the total number of Facebook users in the location you requested.

If you can’t determine the number of potential users for a social media channel in your specific geographic location, use the Help function on the social media channel, check the blog, or contact the company. Several companies combine geographical information with demographics and behavioral characteristics to segment the market more finely. 

Purchasing behavior in different life stages

Rather than look at a target market solely in terms of demographics, life stage analysis considers what people are doing with their lives, recognizing that it may affect media behavior and spending patterns.

With more flexible timing for going through life passages, demographic analysis isn’t enough for many types of products and services. Women may have children later in life; much older, nontraditional students go back to college; some retirees reenter the workforce to supplement Social Security earnings. What your prospective customers do each day may influence what they buy and which media outlets they use more than their age or location.

Psychographics or lifestyle

Psychographic segmentation divides a market by social class, lifestyle, or the shared activities, interests, and opinions of prospective customers. It helps identify groups in a social-networking service or other, smaller, social networks that attract users who meet your desired profile. 

Behavioral segmentation, which is closely related, divides potential buyers based on their uses, responses, or attitudes toward a product or service. To obtain this information about your customers, consider including a quick poll as part of your e-newsletter, website, or blog. 

Although the results from those who reply may not be exactly representative of your total customer base — or that of prospective customers — a survey gives you some starter data.

Affinity groups

Segmenting by affinity group (a group of people who share similar interests or participate in similar activities) fills in the blank at the end of the “People who like this interest or activity also like … ” statement. Because psychographic segmentation uses activity as a subsection, that approach is somewhat similar.

For example, Quantcast estimates other interests of visitors to Goodreads based on their browsing behavior under the General Interests option. 

On Alexa, scroll down to the Related Links section for a list of the top ten sites related to the target site in various ways, or click Categories with Related Sites to view sites that fit in the same classifications as the target site.

By using Quantcast and Alexa in this way, you can obtain public information about visits to specific social media services or to your competitors’ or other related businesses’ websites. You can also use these services to profile your own business, although your website might be too small to provide more than rough estimates. 

If your business is too small, estimate the interest profile for your target market by running Quantcast for a verified, large corporation that offers a similar product or service.

Alexa’s paid options include Certified Site Metrics if you want an independent, direct measurement of your site traffic and a more accurate site ranking. To get certified, you’ll need to sign up for one of the paid options and install Alexa’s Certify Code on your site. You can choose whether or not to display your results to the public. Otherwise, consider polling your customers to find out more about their specific interests.

Google Trends uses real-time search data to estimate customer interest in various topics over time. You can select specific keywords, time periods, or locations for additional detail.

Step 3: Researching B2B Markets

Market research and social media choices for business-to-business (B2B) markets are somewhat different from business-to-consumer (B2C) markets because the sales cycle is different. 

Usually, B2B companies have a longer sales cycle, high-ticket purchases, and multiple people who play a role in closing a sale; consequently, B2B marketing requires a different social media presence. In terms of social media, more B2B marketing efforts focus on branding, top-of-mind visibility, customer support, customer loyalty, and problem-solving compared to more sales-focused messages from B2C companies.

One key step in B2B marketing is to identify people who make the buying decision. Professional social networks such as LinkedIn, Networking for Professionals.

According to research by the Content Marketing Institute, more than 93 percent of all B2B marketers use some form of social media.

B2B firms may emphasize different forms of social media than B2C businesses. In many cases, the choice of social media varies by company size, industry type, experience with social media, and the availability of budgetary and human resources.

As always, the key is ensuring that your customers are using the type of social media you’re considering. Use the search feature and group options on major social networking sites to test your list of existing customers. 

Chances are good that if a large number of your existing customers are using that service, it will be a good source for future customers as well. In addition to participating in general market research, you might want to try SimilarSites, which not only assists with research on social media alternatives that reach your target market but also helps you find companies that compete with yours.

Step 4: Conducting Other Types of Market Research Online

The amount of research available online can be paralyzing. A well-crafted search yields most, if not all, of the social-marketing research you need. You aren’t writing an academic paper; you’re running a business with limited time and resources. Set aside a week or two for research, and then start laying out your approach.

Don’t be afraid to experiment on a small scale. In the end, what matters is what happens with your business while you integrate social media into your marketing plan, not what happens to businesses on average.

Despite these statements, you might want to touch on two other research points:

  • The most influential sites, posters, or pages on your preferred social media: You can learn from them.
  • Understanding what motivates people to use certain types of social media: Make the content you provide meet their expectations and desires.

Identifying influencers

Whether you have a B2B or B2C company, you gain valuable insight by reviewing the comments of influencers (companies or individuals driving the conversation in your industry sector). You may be surprised to find that the most frequent posters aren’t necessarily the ones with the most followers, and vice versa.

Understanding why people use social media services 

The expectation that people gravitate toward different types of social media to meet different needs seems reasonable. The challenge, of course, is to match what people seek with particular social sites. A review of successful social media models may spark creative ideas for your own campaign.

Step 5: Setting Up Your Social Media Marketing Plan

Depending on your marketing plan’s complexity and the availability of support, think in terms of a timeline of 3 to 12 months to complete the following steps. Estimate spending half your time in the planning phase, one-quarter in execution, and one-quarter in evaluation and modification. To set up your own custom social media marketing plan, follow these steps:

1. Do market research and online observation.

2. Draft marketing goals, objectives, and your marketing plan

3. Get your marketing ducks in a row with in-house preparation: Hiring, outsourcing, or selecting in-house staff Training Team-building Writing a social media policy document 

4. Complete preparatory development tasks: 

  • Designing advertising creatives 
  • Content overview (an outline of which marketing messages you want to send out when) Measurement plan and metric implementation 
  • Social media tool selection and dashboard development
  • Social media activity calendar setup
  • Programming and content modifications to an existing website(s), as needed

5. Create accounts and a pilot social media program. 

6. Evaluate the pilot program, debug it, and modify it, as needed. 

7. Launch and promote your social media campaign one service at a time. 

8. Measure and modify social media in a process of constant feedback and reiteration.

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