Simply posting to social platforms without a goal is so 2008 – in order to be successful now and in the future, outlining your social media marketing plan is key. This is particularly true for businesses that rely heavily on social media marketing.
Where do I Start when Creating a Social Media Marketing Plan?
The first task when creating a social media marketing plan is finding out your goal/KPIs. Is it:
- Website traffic
- Engagement (post likes, shares, comments, RTs…etc.)
- Email signups
- New page likes/followers
- New customers
This will be the foundation of every campaign in your social media plan.
Once you’ve answered this question, the next task is to identify your busy/successful times. Ask yourself:
- When is my business the busiest?
- When will I see the best return on investment (ROI) on my marketing spending?
- When do I really want to get people into my store/to my website?
Why do you need to do this? Because it helps you discover what times of the year you will focus on (time and budget) and when your social media will take a lesser role in your business plans.
The third task is defining your budget. How much time and money are you going to invest in your social media? With targeted ads becoming key to social media success for businesses, creating a monthly or quarterly budget is a necessity for your campaigns.
Brainstorming Social Media Campaigns
Create a document (I’m a big fan of Google Docs) and add headers for each month. I recommend going 6 – 12 months out with your social media plan. Once you’ve organized your document, you’re ready to begin.
1. What events does your business already have?
Quite often your business already has a base for a social media marketing plan. Do you have holiday festivals? Annual fundraisers? Quarterly events? Different offerings for each season? If you answered yes to any of these questions, add them to your social media calendar. This will help give you a foundation of where you are and where you need to go.
Here are some ideas:
- Digital Marketing Agency – Celebrate your anniversary with a deal, just like we did to celebrate our 5th birthday! We created a social media campaign to promote us turning 5 years old by giving one lucky winner 5 months free SEO or social media services. We sent out social media updates, promoted posts and emails to get people to sign up to win! Plus, we had a bit of fun with it 🙂
- Vacation Destination – Does your vacation resort’s town have holiday festivals, such as Oktoberfest or Renaissance Festival? Build on the buzz around that for your social media. Use a special code, such as “YOURRESORTNAMEHERE20” for 20% off tickets. This will encourage people to stay at your resort and promote your town at the same time.
Pro Tip: If you create a campaign around your event, use a hashtag that is unique yet easy for people to remember. Whether it has your business name, motto, or a play on words, make sure it is short, simple and to the point. For example, if I were to create a hashtag for a Renaissance Festival in Charlotte, some options would be: #OldeQueenTowne #HuzzahQueenCity or #OldeFestivalCLT.
2. Start with what inspires you
Have a specific time of year that inspires you? Favorite song? Awesome alliteration? Have a historic story? Love doing an activity?
For instance, I love Fall activities – such as hiking, apple picking, camping, road trips and drinking craft pumpkin beers (shout-out to Saranac Lake Pumpkin Ale).
Here are some ideas inspired by what I love:
- Cabin in Asheville, North Carolina – Use If This Then That (IFTTT) to alert you to perfect weather conditions over the weekend in Asheville, as well as cold or rainy weather in target areas (Charlotte, Raleigh, Charleston, Knoxville…etc.). Then use promoted posts that are specifically targeted to people who like hiking and craft beer in those areas that say, “Don’t let the cold/rain in Charlotte get you down. Escape to Asheville for the weekend” with a button to “book now.” This will grab their attention and encourage them to book a cabin for the weekend and keep you in mind for future trips.
- Pumpkin Patch – Throughout October, have a search for the Great Pumpkin all around the patch. Leave clues on social media of where visitors can find the Great Pumpkin or funny shenanigans the Great Pumpkin has been up to. Whoever finds the Great Pumpkin wins free pumpkins for 5 years.
Once you’ve finished with what interests you, you’ll have the creative juices flowing and be ready to tackle the harder months.
Pro Tip: Write down everything that comes to mind, no matter how outrageous it sounds. You can always go back and fine tune your social media plan later.
3. Use random holidays/observances to promote on social media
Don’t limit yourself to just Thanksgivings and Christmases. I love building social media around the random holidays and observances too! By using these monthly holidays to inspire me, I can develop a creative and fun social media plan.
Here are a couple of examples for different campaigns:
- Pet Rescue – October is “Adopt a Dog Month.” Promote it heavily with graphics of adorable puppies and dogs on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Pinterest to generate awareness and grab the attention of your fans. Plus, you could partner with a local pet store (try local pet stores first and promote them on your social media as well) to give adopters of dogs in October a $20 gift card.
- Cooking/Recipe Website – November 6th is National Nachos Day. Promote on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest with delicious recipes for various kinds of nachos, such as traditional nachos, dessert nachos, buffalo chicken nachos, pulled pork nachos, vegetarian nachos, vegan nachos…the list goes on and on! This is a fun way to get people interacting on social media and sharing their own nacho recipes.
- Doctor’s Office – September is National Prostate Cancer and Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month. Whether a gender specific doctor or a general practitioner, your practice can help create awareness through blog posts and social media updates. By adding #ProstateCancerAwareness and #OvarianCancerAwareness to social media updates (particularly Twitter), you’ll help create awareness for these cancers. Plus, if you write blog posts about “5 Signs and Symptoms of Prostate Cancer” or “3 Treatment Options for Ovarian Cancer,” you’ll educate people and drive traffic to your site.
- Thrift Shop/Goodwill/Vintage Shop – December 18th is National Ugly Christmas Sweater Day. Yes, ugly Christmas sweaters have taken off in the past 5 years – so keep taking advantage of the trend! By posting all the awesome stuff your thrift store, goodwill, or vintage shop has for ugly Christmas sweaters, you’ll grab the attention of your fans. Plus, you’ll encourage them to go shopping at your store for all their ugly Christmas sweater needs.
Pro Tip: Be creative with these holidays, but don’t overreach. For example, don’t try to make National Pomegranate Month work for your vintage shop.
4. Social media campaign length can (and will) vary
The time needed for a campaign to gain traction on social media really depends. No, this is not a cop-out answer. It truly depends. Sometimes a campaign only needs 2 weeks, but sometimes it needs longer to be successful.
Whether you’re running a contest through the summer or are ramping up excitement and ticket sales for the Halloween festival, don’t be afraid to have your campaign last longer than a month!
Here are some examples of campaigns that can span more than a month:
- Halloween Festival Ticket Sales – If your pumpkin patch/town/vacation area has a big festival that draws people from all over for Halloween shenanigans, you should start promoting that in September. This will ramp up excitement, plus by saying “last year we sold out in x many days – don’t miss out,” you’ll create a sense of urgency for your fans.
- Ski Resort Picture Tag to Win – If you own a ski resort, winter is a big season for you (big surprise). Get visitors sharing pictures on social media of them skiing and snowboarding at your resort with a season-long contest. By using a hashtag, such as #TearinItUpAtYourResortName or #ShreddinAtYourResortName and having contestants tag you on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram (that’s using the @YourHandleHere), you’ll be able to keep track of the images that come in. Then, at the end of each week, you can post your favorites in a photo album on Facebook. The image with the most likes at the end of the season wins a free pass for next year.
That being said, don’t be afraid to have your campaigns last 1-2 weeks either! This can create a sense of urgency and get more people to participate, as opposed to waiting until the end of the campaign.
Here are some examples of campaigns that are quick and short:
- New Website Puzzle Pieces – Is your website getting a much needed facelift? Then have some fun releasing it on social media. With a target release date of a Friday, start slowly releasing screen grabs of the updated website. This will help create buzz about your website and get fans excited about what your company has to offer.
- Retail Store – I’m sure November/Christmas time is a big time for your store. Have a picture post that says “Dear Santa, I want __________ for Christmas” and encourage your fans to fill in the blank. This will increase engagement, which increases reach (a.k.a. the number of people who see your post). Plus, people will share with their “Santa” to make sure they get the clue.
Pro Tip: No matter how long your campaign is, always give it a “shelf life.” What I mean is that you have an ending date. Even with the season-long campaign, I still had an end in sight.
5. Always have a goal in mind for your social media
Social Media is infamously lacking when it comes to tracking success and determining an ROI. That’s why keeping track of the goals of each campaign is key. I mentioned the goals you can have at the beginning of this article, but since it’s been a while, let me remind you:
- Website traffic
- Engagement (post likes, shares, comments, RTs…etc.)
- Email signups
- New page likes/followers
- New customers
Wondering how I decide the goals for each campaign? Well, here are the goals for every campaign I’ve developed so far:
Digital Marketing Agency = Email signups. We used Kickoff Labs to create a fun landing page to drive website traffic to increase email signups.
- Vacation Destination = New customers. Using a special code exclusively for your guests encourages visitors to stay with you.
- Cabin in Asheville, North Carolina = New customers and new Facebook fans. By creating real-time and targeted content, you’ll grab the attention of a very relevant audience.
- Pumpkin Patch = Engagement. By getting fans invested/talking about your patch, you’ll increase engagement, thus reaching more people.
- Pet Rescue = Getting pups adopted (a.k.a. new customers/adopters). As a rescue, you know it’s imperative to get pictures of pups in front of adopters. Sweeten the deal (just for a month) to encourage everyone to adopt a dog.
- Cooking/Recipe Website = New likes/fans/followers and new customers. Grab the attention of new fans and convince them to like/follow you with relevant and eye-grabbing images of delicious nachos!
- Doctor’s Office = Reach and new followers/fans. Adding popular hashtags that are relevant to your content is a great way to increase reach and grab the attention of new followers. The more followers, the more people who will click your link and visit your website – ultimately converting into new patients.
- Thrift Shop/Goodwill/VintageShop = Sales and new fans/followers. Using a super fun holiday like National Ugly Christmas Sweater Day is a great way to add relevance to your marketing plus some spark! Taking advantage of a trend will help grab the attention of both old and new fans, plus encourage them to buy the ugly Christmas sweaters from your store.
- Halloween Festival Ticket Sales = Sales. Using social media to create buzz about your event is a great way to increase ticket sales!
- Ski Resort Picture Tag to Win = Engagement and reach. User-generated content is GOLD for social media. Getting your visitors to post real photos of their experiences serves as a great referral source for you. The more visitors who share their images, the more people you’ll reach and the more people who will engage on social media. Just make sure you have an enticing enough offer!
- New Website Puzzle Pieces = Website traffic and engagement. Creating buzz about your new website on social media is a fun way to get fans engaged and excited about the new release.
- Retail Store = Engagement and reach. Getting fans to share what they are hoping to receive for Christmas will increase the engagement on your social media profiles, thus increasing reach as well. The more people who see your posts, the more potential customers who will see your store and hopefully buy your products!
Pro Tip: Keep track of your road to achieving your goals with screenshots and tools like Sprout Social. This will help you discover which campaigns work and how you could better design the campaign to make it a success.
P.S. Social media marketing takes time, resources and commitment
Posting on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, LinkedIn and Instagram without a goal just doesn’t cut it anymore. Social media planning takes time, but it is 100% worth the investment. By creating an outline for yourself, you’ll be able to better organize efforts and utilize social media platforms to their fullest potential.
If you don’t feel you have the time or resources to commit, then you should look into outsourcing your social media. While many worry about putting their social presence into the hands of an “outsider,” it is truly a better option for many companies – especially those that would rather focus on the day-to-day instead of social media marketing.
Social media managers have the knowledge and experience to make the most out of your social platforms. Plus, they want to work with you to create a successful social media plan.