Read any statistic on the usage of social media and you’ll be tempted to run into your boss’s office and shout: “We MUST be on [insert social channel]!”
We can’t blame you. We’re now at around 2.77 billion social media users worldwide (and rapidly approaching 3 billion by 2021).
When you consider 71% of all internet users are social media users, investing in social channels feels like a no-brainer. Who’d want to pass up the opportunity to attract highly engaged users wherever they’re located?
If we look into individual social media platforms, here’s how they rank by number of active users:
- Facebook: 2.32 billion
- Instagram: 1 billion
- Twitter: 330 million
- Snapchat: 287 million
- Pinterest: 250 million
There are also almost 2 billion active users on YouTube, 1.6 billion on WhatsApp, and 1.3 billion on Messenger. Even though these are slightly different channels than the big players listed above, their numbers show how big of a role they play in our lives and ways we connect with others.
The accessibility and opportunity behind social media marketing is making companies dive in fast, both from a hiring and a budget perspective.
In fact, there are 368 active social media manager jobs just on Indeed, just for Dublin area right now.
And budgets for social media activity? According to a report, social media spend is expected to increase from $48 billion to $76 billion from 2017 to 2020.
With every new platform or a massive feature release, there’s a lot of hype. Just look at the recent hype around Instagram Checkouts for an example.
You might be feeling like you have to be present everywhere. Create every content format. Try all the ads.
Do. All. The. Things.
But with the assumption that you don’t have infinite money, time, staff, and knowledge, here’s the truth: You shouldn’t be everywhere.
In fact, if you take the time to combine what you want to achieve on social media with the platforms, campaigns, content formats, and other key elements, you’ll increase your chances of seeing success.
Here are the six questions to ask yourself before planning and launching your social media campaigns.
1. What are my business goals?
This question might sound obvious but in order to be smart about your resources, focusing on business goals is essential.
In other words, you shouldn’t be hiring new staff, buying expensive software, or spending thousands on ads unless it will help you get closer to your goals.
(Or unless one of your goals is to have someone scroll down their Facebook feed 8 hours a day and get paid for it. We’ll assume it isn’t.)
Working from a well-defined goal means you can understand the impact of your marketing strategies and campaigns more easily.
Your business goals will always depend on your business, but they’re most likely one or more of the following:
- Brand awareness: the key goal that drives the process to become the go-to online store or brand for your industry, topics, and product categories
- Lead generation: a certain number of people that have shown interest in your content and products and want to know more, but haven’t bought yet
- Sales/revenue: number of sales or a monetary value over a certain period
- Community building: going beyond the number of followers or impressions and creating groups of highly engaged customers and supporters
- Efficient customer service: the speed and efficiency of solving customer issues
- Press mentions: number of social and press mentions from journalists, publications, and influencers
Each of these goals impacts your bottom line and your sustainability as a business in its own way.
Identify one or a few that you want to focus on for the foreseeable so you can focus on an appropriate platform accordingly. Below is a quick reference image that explains the social metrics that link to your goals (there’s more help in question #4).
2. Where is my audience hanging out?
When you ask yourself this question, it comes with two equally important aspects:
- Where on the internet is your target audience spending time daily/weekly?
- Who belongs to the audience that you already have on your social channels?
The answers will require some digging, but they’re not difficult to find. All you have to do is find the right sources and take note.
Let’s break these further.
2.1 Where is my target audience spending time?
In other words, which social media platforms are the default, most frequent choices for the audience you want to reach?
Is there a social media platform you should be on, but aren’t?
To answer this, identify the traits of your target customers. You can usually find these data points in your best customers—those that have the biggest spend, are easy to support, and have been with you the longest.
Some data points you’ll want to consider here are:
- Location and time zone
- Topics of interest
- Purchase power and habits
- Stage of life
With the list of your target audience traits, you should then compare them to the demographic breakdown of each social platform.
For this, we believe that there’s no resource as complete and in-depth as the one from Sprout Social, so make sure to bookmark it and refer to it often.
2.2 Who belongs to my existing social media audience?
Next, make sure to take a look at the analytics sections of all social platforms you’re present on.
This will help you gauge your position and potential improvements for each. You’ll also be able to answer the question: Is there a social media platform I’m spending time and resources on that really isn’t worth it?
You’ll find your social analytics in the following places:
- Facebook analytics: https://analytics.facebook.com/
- Instagram analytics: in-app for business profiles, tap on your profile image > menu icon > Insights
- Twitter analytics: https://analytics.twitter.com/
- Snapchat analytics: in app, tap on your profile image > Insights
- Pinterest analytics: https://analytics.pinterest.com/
As you collect your social analytics, you might notice that some of your audiences align with those you want to target quite well. That’s great news—it means you can explore and leverage the platform further!
Others, however, might be a complete mismatch. If you’re selling women’s fashion, but one of your channels’ audiences is made of mostly men, it probably isn’t the platform to help you reach the business goals you’ve defined in the first question.
3. What are my competitors doing?
As with most other strategies, channels, and campaigns, it’s useful to know what your competitors are up to.
- See what your target audience responds to and engages with
- Find gaps and underused opportunities that will help you stand out
- Identify hashtags, content formats, typical ads, phrases
Equally important, there’s one thing you shouldn’t do based on your competitors: fall into the comparison trap, only look at vanity metrics like number of followers, or copy what your competitors are doing.
Instead, dedicate a few hours to answering the following questions:
- Which platforms are my competitors active (daily or at least weekly) on?
- How often do they post on each channel?
- Identify the formats they’re using (text-only, images, video, live video, polls, etc.); what is their preferred format? How much of each format are they using?
- What engagement rate (likes, comments, and shares compared to their total follower number) do they receive?
- Does engagement differ depending on format?
- Do they do special posts such as giveaways or partnerships?
- Do they feature user-generated content?
- Do they educate, entertain, or promote product with their content?
- How do they educate, entertain, and promote their products?
- How are they handling customer queries?
- Are they running ads? If so, what kind of ads? (You can see ads run by any page on Facebook by going to the page and clicking Info and Ads in the navigation menu.)
By answering these questions, you’ll gain insights into platforms, formats, and topics that work well and those that underperform. You’ve just got to be sure to look beyond what they’re doing, and analyze how well it’s working.
These insights will also allow you to add originality while capitalizing on strategies that are already liked by your audience.
4. How can a platform contribute to my goals?
Social media has evolved so much that it’s hard to believe that, upon its launch, Facebook only had user profiles, ‘about me’ details, friends, and basic search as features.
Today, you can run an ad featuring a 360° video and target 45-year-olds located in Manhattan who have a wedding anniversary in 2 months, love cruises, and are parents of teenagers.
Each platform comes with advantages and downsides, and if you’ve answered all the questions listed by this point, you should have a pretty clear idea of what you’re looking for.
Here’s a broad overview of what the main social platforms are offering:
Advantages: highly specific and advanced ad targeting, community management through groups, social commerce in Messenger, Shop feature on Facebook Pages
Downsides: organic reach of Facebook Pages is low and difficult to predict or control, limited shopping feature
Advantages: highly visually driven, great for branding, more personal connection and benefit of vertical video on Instagram Stories, product tagging in posts, development of the Instagram Checkout feature, ad targeting capabilities of Facebook
Downsides: only one place for a link, limited organic reach, checkout feature limited to very few retailers, potentially time-consuming content creation for the feed, stories, IGTV, live, etc.
Advantages: conversation-driven, great for social listening and brand monitoring, the opportunity to excel at customer service
Downsides: falling behind other platforms when it comes to features, such as content formats as well as ad targeting capabilities
Advantages: real-time nature, the opportunity to post less-than-perfect content
Downsides: lack of feel of platform (no opportunity for audiences to comment, like, or interact with each other), high budgets required for advertising, less content options compared to Instagram Stories, decline in number of users
Advantages: driven by inspiration, highly topical and niche thanks to Pinterest boards, highly visual, Shopping ads
Downsides: challenging for non-visual industries, search function could be better, lots of spam, some great ad options are still quite limited for many retailers
With these benefits and disadvantages in mind, you can see how each platform aligns with the goals you’ve defined earlier:
- Twitter is a great choice for goals around customer support and press mentions
- Instagram will work great for brand awareness (especially for highly visual products)
- Facebook can do wonders for lead generation through paid ads
…and so on.
Along with data on each platform’s audience and your own social media analytics, you can use this question to identify the one or two to focus on—and drop all the others, at least until you master the main ones.
Remember one more thing: no platform is perfect.
For example, Twitter is great for one-to-one interactions with your customers and followers, but it could become overwhelming, which is where tools like Buffer Reply can help.
And even though you can tag your products on Instagram and Facebook, very few retailers can actually sell directly from there. This is where Jumper comes in.
Jumper lets you create simple but powerful automated checkouts so that your customers can buy without having to go through several long pages to type their information on a small mobile phone screen.
Talking about tools perfectly introduces the next important question:
5. What staff, time, and other resources do I have available?
This is a loaded question that, based on your answers, might lead you to adjust your goals and lower your expectations.
That’s a good thing! By doing so, you’ll be less likely to waste time or money by trying to rush unrealistic milestones. You’ll also avoid disappointment and grow sustainably rather than expect miracles.
Here are a couple of examples:
- If you want to get back to Twitter support inquiries within 30 minutes, but you only have the budget for one person on social media support team and there are 10 questions to handle every hour, your goal needs to be scaled down
- If you want to generate 100 leads for $1,000 in Facebook ad spend, but each lead converts at $17, your ad spend will require adjusting
- If you want to reach 2,000 accounts on Instagram every week but you’re starting out with 100 followers, you need a smaller goal to get you there
Remember that expenses will come in many forms, such as staff, tools, and ad budgets, but also unforeseen interruptions and other ongoing projects.
If you want to better understand your social media ROI and avoid overextending, be sure to read this piece I wrote on accurately tracking your social ROI.
Make sure those you choose to go with align with what you want to achieve with your social media activity over the coming period.
6. How can I keep track of my progress?
Finally, know what metrics will show you the true progress on your social media goals.
Always track your success on a timeline and with context rather than in vacuum.
Here are some metrics you may want to track based on your goals:
- Brand awareness: follower count, reach of your posts, mentions, shares, comments
- Lead generation: number of people who exchanged their information for downloadable content, number of people who filled out a contact form, number of direct messages with qualified inquiries, number of contest participants
- Sales/revenue: signups, revenue from specific posts (Jumper can help with this!), revenue from ads
- Community building: number of participants and/or conversations in Facebook groups, Twitter chats, Slack communities, etc.
- Efficient customer service: number of support issues, response time, customer satisfaction score
- Press mentions: number of shares of key articles, number of influencer or journalist mentions, overall number of brand mentions online
Whilst the above are great ways to track the effectiveness of your social tactics, never take your eye off the end goal of revenue.
Growing followers is great, but if it’s not leading to sales then there may be something wrong with your approach that needs tweaking.
Answer these questions to own your social media strategy
Do you feel like throwing dollars into the wind?
Neither do we.
Be sure you’re not doing exactly that as you rush into every new platform, tactic, or competitor’s idea—all the time.
With time invested into figuring out your goals, target audiences, gaps on the market, platforms’ quirks, resources, and tracking, you’ll be well on your way to running social media campaigns with success, whether you go with organic or paid activities.
And when your goals lean towards making sales on social media, make sure you make the most of your Jumper account and convert followers into customers with automated checkouts.
Happy social media strategizing!