How to Develop a Social-First Marketing Strategy

Sarah Howes

Sarah Howes

05.23.18 in Marketing & Practice Management

Marketing and Project Management

You’re likely aware that younger generations get much of their information online, often from social media. In fact, according to the Nielsen 2016 Social Media Report, adults ages 18 to 34 spend (on average) a little more than six hours on social media networks per week. Not your primary target?

You may be surprised to learn that the next-oldest group of adults, ages 35 to 49 (who mostly fall into Generation X), spend the most time overall on social media networks—nearly seven hours per week.

My point is that we tend to think about the digitally obsessed younger generations as the primary audience for social media, but all generations are actively using it. Even boomers spend a bit more than four hours per week on social media networks! Given these numbers, I highly recommend taking steps to develop a social-first marketing strategy. Here, I’ll explain how to do just that, but let’s start with the basics of this marketing strategy.

What Is Social-First Marketing?

A social-first marketing strategy takes into account where your clients and prospects spend a good deal of their time (i.e., online). It considers social as the primary goal for an effort, rather than as an afterthought to “post photos on Facebook after an event.” This isn’t to say that taking part in brand-building efforts and real-life customer events aren’t important. Instead, social-first marketing is an opportunity both to attract and connect with clients and prospects where they are and to elevate your social media presence. But where do you begin?

7 Steps to Building a Social-First Marketing Strategy

An effective social-first marketing strategy helps build relationships and positions you as an expert. As you are planning, begin by thinking about the social elements of your content and how your audience on social media might react to that content.

1) Know your target audience. It’s impossible to develop a marketing strategy without first thinking about your audience. Be as specific as you can—and write it down! You’ll want to include basics like age, job title, and income. But also include their pain points and research their social media habits. Social media management tool companies such as Buffer, Sprout Social, and Hootsuite frequently publish helpful research, as insights about social media use and behaviors are always changing.

2) Create a social media mission statement. Set goals and include your purpose for being on social media (e.g., to connect with as many clients as possible, allow prospects to see you as a thought leader in your market). Twitter awards its coveted blue check mark only to those who have proven that they are an asset to the community. Emulate that same belief system and provide benefits to those around you—and people will notice! Remember, people follow experts, not generalists, so posting only random content won’t help you with your mission.

3) Identify what you want to measure. You can measure your reach and impact from each platform’s analytics, or you can use one of the tools I mentioned above to manage them all in one place. Look at your social media results on a regular basis at whatever frequency you can afford, but do it at least monthly. Get to know the performance metrics that matter, and know what your clients and prospects are posting about and doing.

4) Review your social profiles and cut bait. Take stock of your current efforts and evaluate how they are performing. You should be proud of all of your profiles and review how they compare with those of your competitors. Have you optimized your photos, biographies, and other snapshot information that your prospects and clients first see when they visit your pages? Is your ideal client going to find your profiles valuable, and will the content help you build your reputation as a trusted advisor? Anywhere you have a spot to describe and display what your firm does, get it to where you want it to be. If you feel like you are a master of none, however, and just trying to share content now and again, focus on the one social platform that is adding the most value.

5) Use a marketing content calendar. Yes, you need a content calendar. This should directly connect with your marketing plan and include everything you want to talk about throughout the entire year. The calendar should list how often you will post to each network and what you will share. Personally, I like having a theme for two to three days per week. I’ll still post about other things on those days, but a planned theme gives me a voice for topics I really care about, and my followers have an expectation that they will hear about those topics. The content should primarily serve your target market, but you can also plan for secondary markets. Here, it's important to note that much of your content can be repurposed throughout the year. Look at what’s performed well and use it again, at a different day and time, and maybe even in a new way.

6) Create engaging content. Ensure that your content is relevant to your target audience and pair it with appealing images whenever possible. The more visual you can be, the better. Infographics and videos continue to be popular formats, but they need to be done well. Try user-friendly programs like Adioma for infographics and Promo or Typito for videos. You can also use Canva and Imgflip meme generator to create custom graphics with quotes or tips. Interviews, company news, personal updates, relatable stories, and community involvement are all popular types of content.

7) Engage with others. Being social is not just about your content. It's also about commenting on and sharing other people’s posts. The more social and connected you are, the more attention you will receive. It also makes engaging on social media more fun and gives you good ideas about what you should be posting.

A note about platforms before we go: Facebook is continually evolving and occasionally changes how its newsfeed works. For example, it recently gave greater priority to posts from friends and family and less to publishers and brands. If you want to invest in your Facebook presence, be sure to do some additional research into this change.

Make Social a Priority

The one constant about social media is that things keep changing. Really good social media marketing takes time, energy, creativity, and interest, and that’s hard to muster every day. A social-first strategy prioritizes it for you, so that you’re not just trying to keep up but executing against a strategy. When you make time and resources available for marketing, consider social as a primary aspect to growing your business.

This material is for educational purposes only and is not intended to provide specific advice.

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