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7 questions to help shape your social media strategy

Estimated read time: 9 minutes

Social media strategies. They’re about as fun to create as anything with the word ‘strategy’ at the end of its name (ie not very) but you’ll probably get asked to write one at some point.

The thing is, they can be daunting to work on; that mixture of them being wanted by your boss’ boss – usually by last week – and their incredibly broad scope can often mean that starting work on them can keep getting put off.

However, they don’t have to be! I reckon you can at least give your strategy a solid start by working through seven simple questions and building from there. Even better, I’ve listed those questions for you below, because I’m nice like that.

Here you go…

Where are you at right now?

It’s always good to take stock of where you are now before you get started – and I don’t just mean counting up your follower numbers and engagement rates.

First of all, what is the capacity of your social media team? Are you a team of one or a team of many? Have you got the right people with the right skills? Do you and your colleagues have a willingness and interest in learning and staying on top of trends?

Not only that, is your social team connected to other, strategically important, teams in your organisation? What’s your relationship like with the PR guys? The video crew? The CEO or equivalent’s office?

And that isn’t all; have you kept an eye on what the competition is doing? Do you even know who the competition is? Are you looking outside of your sector for ideas and inspiration? And, crucially, do you have a budget? A social strategy built around organic activity will look drastically different to one where you’re actually allowed to spend some money on promoted posts.

Why do you even want to use social media?

If you can’t answer this question then don’t go any further with your strategy until you can. Without a purpose, you can’t plan properly, you can’t evaluate effectively and, before long, you’ll be left posting shitty memes that get you nothing more than a few likes.

The ‘why’ will be different for every single organisation, so take the time to work out what it is for you. Even organisations within the same sector will have largely different reasons why they’re on social; for example in the Higher Education sector, University A might want to use it to engage with their current students, University B might be using it for student recruitment, University C could be using it for their research dissemination, while University D might be indecisive and trying to use it for all three.

Whatever the case, work out your own ‘why’.

Who is your audience?

Another must-have; you won’t get very far if you don’t know who you’re trying to talk to on social media. You need to establish what makes up your audience, where they hang out, what motivates them, what turns them off and more.

Luckily, we live in a world where there are tonnes of reports and data sets to help you do this. Just three examples that come to mind are We Are Social’s annual global digital stats reports, Voxburner’s Youth Trends report and, for University marketers, the National Clearing Survey.

If you’ve got the resources/budget to do it, consider creating personas for your audience. They’ll really help you understand who you’re talking to and will work as a reference point to keep returning to in your work and help shape your planning.

What time of year is it?

Mapping out timelines is often overlooked but can be a really helpful exercise. First, map out a typical year for you, your team and your organisation – what are your big events, when are your quiet times and when are you likely to be low on numbers?

Then, perhaps more interestingly, map out your audiences’ year. What are their stress points – eg exams, deadlines – and what big cultural events are on the horizon that will divert their attention away from you – eg a World Cup, the new series of Love Island etc? Also, map out what your audience will be feeling at these points – will they be stressed, happy, distracted or something else?

Once you’ve done that, blend the two and see where you’re at – you should have a picture of crucial times for your organisation cross-referenced with an idea of when your audience will be willing to listen. This sort of insight could help make or break your next big campaign.

What channels will you use and how will you use them?

This is the (only) fun bit of writing a strategy – the creative part! Now, you can finally start being creative and coming up with tactics and ideas for how you’ll tackle your different channels – all the while keeping in mind your answers to the previous questions of course.

Not much more to add here really – go on and express yourself!

How will you measure all this?

Measurement is mega important – you shouldn’t ever be doing social simply for the sake of it. If you factor in measurement at the earliest stage possible, you will ensure you social media activity always has a purpose.

With that in mind, create goals that are tied into the ‘why’ that you established earlier and then break down into SMART objectives. Then, well, measure them.

How are you going to shout about all of this?

Lastly, something that social media managers everywhere should try and do more of; telling their colleagues about their work. Don’t be shy in creating reports about specific campaigns or even just weekly/monthly/quarterly roundups of your social media activity and circulating them to your your colleagues.

You’ll find that your colleagues will really appreciate seeing what difference your work is making and it will quickly help play up the ROI of your social media activity and you establish yourself as the go-to expert for all things social media. Win-win!

Even better, pull together a monthly one-pager to send to your senior officers that gives them an idea of what’s going on, how that compares to your goals and that gives enough context for them to understand it. In my experience, any insight you can offer a senior officer to stop them being unable to answer a question and feeling like a dickhead is a good thing.