Creating a social media strategy before you “launch” is critical to the success of your social media presence. With the right tools in hand, a reliable process, and time, you will be able to define a great social media strategy for your business.


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10 steps on how to create a social media strategy

If you are about to develop a social media strategy for your business and need some guidance on how to go about it, this guide is for you. If you have already launched your social media campaign and you are thinking, “What now?” this guide is also for you. Essentially, this guide is for everyone (small business to enterprise level) who is interested in finding out more on how to create a social media strategy. It is broken down into 10 steps, some of them challenging but fun.

I have seen a large number of companies launch their social media campaigns without formulating a solid plan, wondering why they haven’t achieved sustainable ROI or good levels of engagement. The simple truth is that you need to measure twice and cut once, although cutting is more fun! Creating a social media strategy before you “launch” is critical to the success of your social media presence.

Enjoy the guide and please share your social media planning experiences in the comments below.

Step 1: Get buy in from the business

Before you start working on your social media strategy, you need support from all areas of your business (sales, marketing, finance, legal, HR, customer services) including your CxOs. The aim is to understand the internal sentiment of your business with regards to social media and to present the steps needed to create your social media plan before you launch. Use this opportunity to understand what each department’s objectives are. Investigate their objectives from a social media point of view and also from a general point of view, i.e. whether it is to increase sales by x% over 6 months by increasing our digital marketing spend and/or reduce call centre costs by y% by launching more customer service information online. More info on objectives and how you can match your social media objectives to your business’ objectives in step 2.

If your company already has a social media presence on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ etc. conduct an internal audit looking into which individuals or departments are currently using these channels to communicate with your customers, what are they doing and how successful their efforts have been. A large number of companies often launch their social media presence without formulating a plan. This could be for a number of reasons and does not mean that once you have launched your social media presence you cannot develop a social media strategy. This will only help get further buy-in from the business and you will be able to make changes to your current setup, improving your social media story and driving an increase in engagement and ROI (transactional and non-transactional ROI).

Step 2: Set your objectives and measurement plan

Talking with the business’ key stakeholders would have already given you a good insight into what objectives you need to set. Although the objectives and measurement plan is in step 2 of this process, each step will reveal more objectives and tweaks that you will need to make to your current objectives. It’s all about balancing what the business needs, with what your audience need, whilst leap-frogging the competition. Your objectives will and should be in constant flux – upwards hopefully!

Some example objectives:

  • to increase traffic from social media channels to your website by 20% within six months,
  • to increase sales enquiries or conversions by 10% from social media sources within three months
  • to build brand awareness by increasing conversations around your products or services by 30% in a year.

Don’t limit your goals to just increasing the number of fans and followers you can gain but think about the wider possibilities such as reaching a new customer base or demographic for your business or to improve your online reputation. Perhaps your goals will include reducing the amount of calls you receive to call centres, increasing internal recruitment procedures or developing a new product or service based on the findings and insight gained from social media audiences. Think of goals that help the organisation as a whole.

According to Econsultancy’s Social Media Management Systems Buyers Guide 2011, 85% of respondents integrate social media activity and insight with the marketing functions and 79% with PR and communications. However, 51% have no social media integration with customer service, 63% have no integration with product development or innovation and 74% have no social interaction with human resources. This highlights the issue that most businesses still leave the social media strategy to the marketing and PR departments where a company-wide social strategy could contribute to improving all aspects of the business model.

Lord Kelvin once said “If you can not measure it, you can not improve it.” Setting a robust measurement plan for your social media strategy is key to the success of your social media campaign. Check out Jamie Turner’s How to guide on “Calculating the ROI of your social media campaign.

Step 3: Get to know your tribes

Seth Godin defines a tribe as “a group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader, and connected to an idea. For millions of years, human beings have been part of one tribe or another. A group needs only two things to be a tribe: a shared interest and a way to communicate.”

Understanding who your customers are is at the heart of developing a great social media strategy and campaigns. The outcome of step 3 is to create a number of personas that fit your target audience. Personas will help you identify the different needs of key market segments and the places where they are online helping you understand their goals, wants, needs and frustrations.

Start by building a questionnaire using survey monkey and asking them for information such as: What websites, social networks and media do they visit and contribute to? What tribes of people do they hang out with? (e.g. shopping, finance, food, travel etc.) What is really important to them in terms of their special interests, activities and hobbies? What brands do they interact with? What are they interested in and what do they search for? (e.g. weather, online shopping, social gaming, holidays, food) and any other questions that relate to your brand’s offering. Analyse this beautiful data and build your personas.

Gathering insights directly from your customers and potential customers will help you understand what your tribes’ habits are online, helping you create more targeted social media campaigns. After all you don’t want to spend time and money creating a fancy Facebook campaign when your target market hangs out on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Step 4: What are people saying about your brand, products and services across the Social Web?

In this step you’ll be getting your hands dirty with some of the tools listed above, namely, socialmention, boardreader and or one of the paid tools (Radian6, Sysomos). Using information from the persona and business research, start searching for the top keywords your customers would use to find you and your products. These keywords could be both branded and non-branded keywords (products etc.) You will discover what is being said about your brand, products and services – positive, neutral or negative. Observe and listen to what conversations are occurring.

Your research will reveal who your key influencers are. Influencers can be a range of people from industry experts, celebrities, respected bloggers or anyone that creates conversations around your brand, has well-respected opinions or authority to influence others. By identifying these key influencers, you can listen to their opinions about the industry and aim to communicate with them; they may even endorse you to all of their followers.

The types of conversations will help you define campaign and response strategies, engaging with your audience and promoting your brand.

Step 5: Analyse our competitors’ social media strategy

Similar to step 4, analyse what is being said about your competition across the social Web. Look at what your competition are doing – how are they engaging with their customers online? What social campaigns are they currently running? Are they any good? What can you learn from them and what can you do to better them? Also look at how your competition has set up their social portfolio from their Facebook page design and content (including Facebook apps) to their LinkedIn strategy, including their company profile, any groups they have set up or other groups setup by industry leaders where they network and share their knowledge.

If you don’t have any direct competitors in your space (e.g. Government organisations such as NHS Blood) look at what other organisations in similar fields are doing locally and globally. There are some great ideas out there – some are listed in the next step.

Step 6: Create your story strategy

Your story strategy needs to encompass the persona research, brand and product research, market research and influencer landscape analysis to create themes that relate to your brand and what it is seeking to achieve. You should aim to create specific social media campaigns with the objective of driving high volumes of links, traffic, conversions, improve your SEO rankings, and brand engagement, helping your brand move beyond likes and followers.

Some of my favourite social campaigns of the past year (I’m sorry but Old Spice, Evian and Tipp-ex aren’t in this short list)

A very recent campaign from Iceland (; check out their Twitter, Facebook and Vimeo profiles) encourages their citizens, including their president, to take travellers on tours of their country. Watch the message from their president on Vimeo: They’re the first government tourism organisation that has truly opened up their country to the World. Let’s see if other tourism authorities follow their lead.

Kraft launched a very simple and effective campaign on Twitter. Whenever two people used the phrase “mac & cheese” in a tweet at the same time, Kraft sent them both a “mac & jinx” tweet with a link and the first person who clicked on the link won free boxes of Kraft mac & cheese and a free t-shirt. This campaign’s simplicity and low cost led Kraft to track down potential influencers of their brand and engage with their fans.

Bing wanted to increase their relevance with a young audience so together with Jay-Z they launched the very successful Decode Jay-Z campaign that blended offline with online social engagement – a true multichannel campaign that created huge buzz and interaction between the offline and online world. Some pretty impressive stats: average player engagement on the website was over 11 minutes. Jay-z’s Facebook fans grew by one million, Jay-z’s book “decoded” hit the best sellers list for 19 straight weeks, it was covered by every major news outlet and by every major cultural influencer and celebrities. Bing became part of the pop culture conversation and in only one month bing saw an 11.7% increase in visits earning 1.1 billion global media impressions. This campaign ticked all the “social media success” boxes (with a pretty hefty budget!)

Step 7: Select your social channels

Choose your channels based on the above research – if your user research and your story strategy reveal that your customers “hang out” and engage on Twitter and LinkedIn (this may be the case if your business is B2B focused) then focus on these social media channels. If your business operates in an international environment then make sure you are aware of the top social networks in each country. For example Vkontakte – and Odnoklassniki – rule the way in Russia – Facebook is very small in Russia.

Each social media channel should have its own content and engagement strategy. Follow social media trends and investigate whether new(ish) platforms such as Google+ and Pinterest would be of benefit to your business. If your target market hang out on these platforms then go ahead and launch a targeted campaign that drives engagement and ROI for your brand.

Step 8: Put together an engagement plan

You have completed all of the above research. You understand what the business wants to achieve. You have a solid measurement strategy in place. You know your audience and have a good insight into what your competition / market is doing and you have developed amazing social media campaign ideas that will meet your objectives and generate sustainable ROI for your business. Where to next? Create an engagement plan.

The engagement plan is essentially your road map prioritising the launch of your social media campaigns over the next 6 months to a year. An example road map would look something like this:

May – JuneSocial media strategy (complete!)Agree social media campaigns with the businessLook into resourcing needs for campaignsSecure your brand names / URLs across the social Web (unless you have already done this)
July – AugustDesign and launch (selected social network) page structurePrepare targeted content for your social networkUpload video content to vimeo / YouTube etc.Launch first campaignCommunicate with key influencers through Twitter and other channelsMonitor conversations and KPIs
September – OctoberYou get the drill!  🙂

Step 9: Set up a social media policy

We have all witnessed some social media faux pas in the past. One of my favourites was a Red Cross employee’s tweet that accidentally ended up on the @RedCross account. The tweet on the @RedCross account said that she was drinking and #gettngslizzerd at work. Red Cross responded well saying “we’ve deleted the tweet but rest assured the Red Cross is sober and we’ve confiscated the keys.” This was well received by their fans and followers receiving donations and some more beer to replenish their stock!

Your social media policy is there to help stop these faux pas and ensure your employees talk about your organisation in a clear, useful, honest and consistent way, matching the policies and strategy of the organisation. All employees who are likely to contribute or create content related to the organisation with social media sites, websites, blogs, forums or any platform which can be shared publicly via the Internet should be trained. There are a large number of articles on the Web about social media policy – some are listed below. From a very top level point of view, a social media policy should cover the following points:

  • Stating who the social media policy applies to, such as employees, assigned workers, and third parties performing services on behalf of the organisation (i.e. contractors/freelancers).
  • Reminding the employees to understand any employment agreements, contracts or communication policies already in existence. This includes copyright, privacy and other applicable rules or regualtions
  • Define social media to include all forms of multi-media, social networking websites, blogs or any other digital content sharing service is covered within the policy
  • Set clear guidelines on how confidential information should not be used or published via social media
  • Request employees use a disclaimer or their opinions to those of the organisation when referring to the organisation
  • Make clear that any postings from employees from personal accounts should not include any logos or trademarks unless permission has been granted
  • Employees are not permitted to create their own pages, accounts or profiles using the branding or organisations name or slogans which could be misinterpreted as an official page by the public
  • The organisation reserves the right to request that specific subjects are avoided or that individual posts can be removed if deemed unacceptable or inappropriate

Some useful links:

Mashable SM policy must-haves

IBM social computing guidelines

57 social media policy examples

Remember to keep your social media policy simple and clear. You don’t want your employees to be fearful of engaging with your audience. However, you do want them to understand the limits of engagement.

Step 10: Bring your social media strategy to life!

You now have a solid plan in place. A plan that details everything you need to launch social media campaigns that focus on achieving results for your business and your customers. Social media is a constantly evolving medium so keep ahead of the curve, listen out for new trends, measure the impact of your campaigns and keep on tweaking your plan. If you discover more engagement and conversions from a particular channel then focus your efforts on that channel.

So go ahead and launch. Manage your campaigns and engage with your audience and optimise your social media campaigns including any social media landing pages on your website. If you do get stuck or need any further advice, please do get in touch with me @stevengrech / @lightmaker, or come and see us at our offices for a cuppa tea or coffee.


Tools you need to help create your social media strategy

social mention

The best free listening tool out there at the moment


Another free tool for listening in to discussion boards and forums logo

Listens to conversations around the Social Web including Google Blog search and delicious tags

hootsuite logo

In Pete Cashmore’s (CEO Mashable) words, “HootSuite is an essential tool for managing social networks by allowing teams to efficiently track conversations and measure campaign results.”


This is an enterprise level tool that can also be used for smaller social media engagements. Radian6 is a fantastic tool to listen, measure, understand and engage with your audience. Radian6 is not free.

sysomos logo

Similar to Radian6, this tool is not free and has pretty similar features.


THE survey tool. Use it for user research, market research and receiving feedback on your social media concepts


Google Surveys

Also great for testing your story strategy and social media concepts

Steven Grech

Steven Grech


Steven Grech is Head of Strategy at Lightmaker UK