Happy New Year!

When the calendar turns, it’s a perfect opportunity to start fresh. There’s a whole new year in front of you to make plans and set calendars and learn how to measure your results – it’s delicious, really.

One of the primary complaints I hear from clients is that social media is so vast, they have no idea where to begin. What networks do you become active on? How often should you post? What are you posting? Why should we even spend time on this?

These are excellent questions, and they are all answered by a strategy. Social media strategies are one of my favorite things to work on and introduce to nonprofits, small businesses, and thought leaders because they make everything crystal clear. And clarity, really, is what we’re always after.

These are the basic questions you should answer and steps you should take when creating a social media strategy. I’m obliged to mention that this is a service I offer as well, and I would love to help you out.

Step 1) Your Goals

What are your business goals? Once you answer that, we can figure out how social media aligns with them. Do you need more sales? More people on your email list? More donations? Do you need new clients, or a new job? Goals apply across the board, whether you’re an individual working on building your career, a small business, a nonprofit. The idea here is to weave your social media use into your goals.

Something to keep in mind when creating a goal is that it should be SMART – Specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound. So, if you want more clients, a SMART goal would be, “add 3 new clients to my roster by June.” If you want to raise more money online, perhaps that SMART goal reads, “raise $150,000 online this year.” Super secret sidebar note: ANY goals benefits from being broken down into a SMART goal, not just social media goals!

Step 2) Your Active Channels

Based on the goals we set, we’ll determine which channels best support them. If you’re a photographer, or a local cafe, you’re definitely going to be on Instagram – an accountant, probably not so much. I always include best practices for each channel in my strategy document.

Step 3) A Quick Branding Exercise

If you have a separate company brand book, even better. Social media is a part of your brand, so it follows that everything you post should align with it. At the very least, it’s best to pick 4-5 keywords that we’ll use to inform the tone of your posts.

Step 4) Brand Topics

A large part of social media is sharing content that ISN’T YOURS. Here, we’ll choose topics of focus for the content you should seek out to share. If you’re a graphic designer, your topics might include design trends, typography, Adobe app tips, and agency life. If you’re a film production studio, your topics might include new documentaries, editing software, new videography gear, and news about your favorite director.

Having a section of topics makes content curation very easy down the road.

Step 5) An Editorial Calendar

Editorial calendars are amazing because you never again have to decide when you’re going to post. The first step is to figure out how many times a day you’re posting on each network. I recommend a minimum of 1x/day on Facebook and Twitter, more if you’re creating enough content to do so, and a minimum of 3x/week on Instagram. Again, the more the better.

They sound complicated, and truly don’t need to be any more than a spreadsheet. The rows are your days, the columns are each post for each network. So if you’ve decided to post on your Facebook page three times a day, you’ll have three columns – Facebook 1, Facebook 2, Facebook 3. If you’re posting on Facebook 3x a day and Instagram 1x every other day, that is do-able too – just color in the IG column for the days you’re not posting on it. Here’s an example:

Sample social media editorial calendar

Step 6) Assign Roles and Responsibilities

Who’s creating content? How are you posting it? Are you hiring a social media content manager to take care of it for you? Are you using a tool like Hootsuite or Buffer to schedule your content?

Here’s where you decide who is doing the actual work.

Step 7) Measuring Results

Time to close the loop. What analytics will you be looking at and how often? IMPORTANT: Do these analytics tie back to your original goals?

By analytics, I mean any one of a number of things. How much are you posting? How much engagement is each posting getting – likes, replies, and shares? How many clicks to your website are you getting as a result of social media? How many new sales or donations can you attribute directly to social media posts?

Choose what matters to you, and then track it! I recommend running your analytics quarterly at least, and adjusting your strategy appropriately.

Strategies aren’t necessarily simple, but they are straightforward, and most importantly, they will set a path to follow. This is how to avoid confusion, and the specific paralysis that comes from having no idea where to start. Happy strategizing!