8 Steps to a Social Media Plan for Your Small Business

June 10, 2015

If you own a small business, having enough resources is always a struggle, especially when it comes to marketing efforts.

However, an important part of getting your company in front of people—and often the most cost-effective way—is through social media.

Handling social media efforts is a full-time job, but even if you can’t afford to bring on a full-time (or even part-time) employee, you can still find success by doing it yourself. Here are eight key elements of a social media plan to help you get started.

1. Determine your goals

What are you trying to accomplish with social media? Is it brand awareness? Are you trying to drive more people to your website or blog? Are you selling a product or service?

Establishing your goals will help guide the social platforms you choose. It will be especially important when you start developing and sharing content to those platforms.

2. Define your audience

If you’ve already started your business, you should have a good idea of your target audience. Once you know who you’re targeting, you will want to research what social platforms that community is spending time on.

3. Choose your social platforms

Before we get into which social platforms to choose, it’s crucial to note that you shouldn’t take on more than you can manage. To start, it might be best to create two to three social profiles. One of the worse things you can do is create profiles on several platforms, only to neglect them and rarely post content.

When trying to decide which platforms you should be on, think back to the audience you’re trying to attract. Pinterest and Instagram are visual platforms, so if your business creates great images then you should consider having a presence on these platforms. If you’re a freelance designer, writer, or photographer, Twitter is a wise choice for building your credibility and interacting with potential clients or other people in the industry. B2B companies often find success on LinkedIn and use it to generate sales leads. Having a Facebook presence is often a safe bet since it’s the largest social network where you can reach the most people (again, that doesn’t mean it’s the best platform for your business). It also helps to understand the demographics for each platform.

Once you’ve created social accounts, make sure the “about” section of your profiles is completed so people know what your company is and what kind of content they can expect from you.

4. Create a content plan  

Before diving into writing social posts, it helps to create a content plan. This is simply deciding how often you want to post to each platform, the key themes you want to post about, and how much of that content will be unique (original content you create) vs. curated (re-shared from other sources).

This article is a great guide for determining how often you should post to each platform.

5. Create a content calendar—and post

When you’re the sole person responsible for social media, creating a content calendar helps you plan out content and stick to the frequency you laid out.

This can be done by using a simple Excel spreadsheet (or Google Sheet). The key elements of a content calendar are the following: social platform, date, post copy, link, and image/asset description. Here’s a simple template that I use.

Once you’ve developed a content calendar, take advantage of inexpensive (even free) social media management tools out there. These tools make it easy to schedule content so if you only have a few hours a week to devote to social media, you can schedule all content for that week and not have to think about it again.

6. Visuals are important

Finding good images to use with your posts can be a pain. But remember, it’s often the most important aspect of creating good social content. Tools like Canva make it easy, especially for non-graphic designers, to quickly create images. They also have a ton of great templates to choose from.

If you don’t have Photoshop and need to make quick edits to your images, Pixlr is another a great tool.

Also, check out this article on where to find free photos online.

7. Don’t just share. Engage.

If you want to be successful in social media then you need to do more than just publish your content and hope that people will see it. In order to build a following and gain authority, it’s important to engage with the community you’re trying to attract. Here are a few ways to help you engage:

  • Find relevant sites and blogs and follow their social profiles.
  • Like, comment, and share content from those sites’ and blogs’ social profiles. People (and companies) appreciate it when others share their content. It also lets people know that you’re on social media, engaging and sharing content they may find relevant.
  • Create Twitter lists to stay on top of what important people in your industry are talking about.
  • Use Tagboard to search for conversations around relevant hashtags.
  • Use Hootsuite or TweetDeck to monitor activity on your social channels, including people mentioning you or leaving comments.
8. Measure and optimize

Most social platforms have analytics that you can access for free (i.e. Facebook Insights and Twitter Analytics). Make sure you take advantage of the data available to you so you can see what content has the most engagement (likes, comments, shares, retweets, etc.) and URL clicks. Understanding what your followers are responding to will help you create better content.

If you’re interested in learning more, check out lynda.com’s How to Rock Social Media and Social Media Marketing with Facebook and Twitter courses.