Most of us look back at the launch of social media as sometime in the early 2000s, maybe even as far back as 2006 when Twitter was launched, LinkedIn became profitable and Facebook came of age and opened itself up to the general public. However, for most businesses and nonprofits, social media really became relevant closer to 2010, when users for those channels were starting to grow exponentially, and channels like YouTube and Instagram made it possible to reach people with a variety of content formats. We had no strategy then, for the most part. We were just happy to have a new way to reach out to prospective audiences and threw everything at the wall to see what would stick.
Today, there are over a dozen social media platforms that an organization can use to build connections with their audiences and engage prospective customers. It’s tedious and expensive to try it all, but how can you develop a targeted strategy that’s right for your goals?
Where To Start
As you work to build a social media strategy for your organization, your first decision is where to be present. For most organizations, those choices seem pretty obvious…B2B gravitates to LinkedIn, video content builds engagement on YouTube, and Facebook is the ubiquitous platform for reaching anyone between the ages of 35 and 90.
But what about all those other platforms? Is Twitter a good fit? What about TikTok? Should you just be everywhere?
In the early days, the “spray and pray” methodology was the most common one employed by marketers trying to build an audience. With every new platform that cropped up, we would flock to it like to an open bag of chips and post content relentlessly in the hopes of building the largest audience possible for our brand. Over time, it became evident that the quality of content is far more important than the volume, and that engagement-for-the-sake-of-engagement does little to improve an organization’s bottom line.
Today, we craft our strategy more carefully. Each platform should be evaluated for the existing audience you can find there, as well as the future potential. You should also consider the type of content you intend to develop and already have available. Content is tedious and sometimes expensive to create. You shouldn’t plan to be on a platform for which you aren’t ready or willing to build appropriate content.
Narrow your choices to the places where you know you’ll reach your target followers and where you will have the right content to engage them. That might mean that you’re only on two or three social media channels, and while this might not seem like much, if the audience you want is there, it is likely all that you need.
How To Build Your Platform Strategy
Once you know where you want to be, the hard question is how to create an effective strategy on each platform. As mentioned above, an assessment of your existing available content should be part of this planning, so that you can maximize what you already have available before you start building new content. Remember, content is king, so be sure to prioritize the right content for the right platform.
Next, look at the target market you want to reach. Evaluate each platform for the audience you can reach there, as well as the platform-specific needs for content they are likely to respond to. For example, you might have an excellent opportunity to reach your target audience of 18-29 year old males on YouTube, but if your video content quality doesn’t meet their expectations, your content could fall flat, or worse, turn them off from your brand altogether. If your video content is more casual, or filmed in the 1080×1920 (vertical) format, maybe you should consider TikTok (which leverages more user-generated content that is less produced), even though your reach might be a little smaller.
Concentrate your strategy around engagement and growth that benefits your organization. It’s OK if this means keeping things a bit smaller in scale at first, you can use that time to learn and then build more and better content as your program grows.
What To Outsource & What To Keep In-house
Clients often come to us questioning what they should do themselves versus what we can do for them. When hiring an agency to help with your social media, you should put your budget where it will do you the most good for engagement AND brand reputation. Some social media agencies will run your program from top to bottom, and that’s a fantastic thing to have available. They will be embedded in your organization and be able to provide everything from overall strategy and content creation right through customer support. If your organization can afford that, it can be a huge help in launching or maintaining your program.
But if you can’t afford the concierge service of a full-service agency, here are the areas of social that I DO recommend outsourcing:
Platform assessment and research
This is work best suited to someone familiar with the landscape. So unless you are highly versed in the multitude of platforms and latest research, lean on an expert for this.
This is the work of a strategist and requires someone who not only understands your brand, but also the areas where it will be introduced.
This is some of the most tedious work in social media and includes everything from individual post creation to hashtag research. Very few organizations have the resources or talent to execute this in-house with the efficiency or quality of a professional marketer who specializes in social media. From a cost-benefit perspective, this is good budgetary spend.
Scheduling and monitoring
Again, this is tedious and requires someone with an understanding of what performs well and when on various platforms to execute with efficiency. If you are not already an expert here, or don’t want to invest the time to become one, just outsource it to ensure your program success and maximize your internal productivity.
Even with outsourced help, there are a few areas that I highly recommend most small businesses and nonprofits try to keep in-house, if you have the resources to do so:
Customer service responses
Unless your social media team has carte blanche to solve problems, it’s always best to take customer service issues directly to your internal team that manages this. We live in a world that demands immediacy. Social media users find the “let me get someone to help you with that” response as nothing but an annoying delay to resolving their issue. It’s a bad look for your brand.
Internal feedback systems
Your own organization will likely have feedback about what’s going on with your channels. Tap an internal team who is part of your overall marketing program to take on this feedback and funnel that to your outsourced providers so that internal voices can always be heard, but tempered with a dose of understanding of your holistic program view.
With these concepts in mind, you can build a successful social media strategy that helps your organization maximize your presence on whichever platforms you choose. Go forth and build engagement!