By Alexandra Zamfir

December 14th, 2016

Social media has evolved in multiple directions since brands figured out it’s a lot more than just an idle pastime. The collective penny has dropped that, wielded properly, social can tick both marketer’s dream boxes of mass reach and one-to-one personalization.

With personalization in particular social media has turned a vital corner. Algorithms and AI are now capable of understanding an individual’s behavior and curating the most relevant posts to them; be it family and friend updates, suggested reading or Christmas gift offers.

This wizardry is the product of back-end mechanisms beyond the control of marketers. To stay top-of-mind with our audiences we have to ensure that our social strategy speaks to our audience’s behavior.

By following these four steps, marketers can outline the basics of their 2017 social media strategy – leaving room to roll with whatever social wildcards the year is bound to bring.

Step 1: Analyze the state of your social media activities

Start at the core–how has your social strategy performed in the past year? By giving your brand a quick social media audit, you can easily identify the areas that need reworking or refreshing.

This central part of your social media plan can help you see which channels are performing to expectations, and which ones need either strategy or spend tweaks. At the same time, it should also look into your processes and whether you’re deploying your social media channels to their full potential.

Your content, as your brand’s messaging, will obviously determine your success or lack of it. It could well be that any shortfalls aren’t down to your channels, rather it’s because your content doesn’t gel with the network it’s going out on, or the audience you have built there.

Another area to go under the microscope is your response time. Customers simply aren’t willing to be kept waiting. One-to-one engagement has gone real-time and you need to be fully aware of your agility; both in responding to inquiries as well as detecting relevant conversations going on in your industry or areas of interest.

By combining a powerful listen tool and real-time agility, businesses can ensure they’re present in the moments that matter, rather than just when people reach out–which could already be too late.

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Step 2: Measure the metrics that matter

The next step in this social media strategy outline is to figure out how to correctly monetize your social and digital strategy. First, you need to understand which type of costs can and should be assigned to your social efforts. These could include the salaries of your dedicated social employees or your paid advertising efforts. You will also encounter non-social specific costs that can influence the bottom line such as the time spent on social by non-dedicated employees.

Figuring out your costs should help you measure the four KPIs marketers must factor in to prove the effectiveness of their marketing campaigns: MCAC, ROAS, ROMI, CLV.

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The results of these calculations should support your overall social media goals. For example, are you looking to increase brand awareness? Would you like to build stronger relationships with your clients on social and eventually build a community? Or are you using social as a channel to attract new customers?

It’s crucial that your social media goals align with your company’s overarching business goals to ensure an organic growth of the brand. Once you’ve reviewed the past year’s performance and decided the KPIs for the next period (a team effort), make sure to share the information across departments. This will help reinforce your brand message and make sure all stakeholders fully understand the reasoning behind your upcoming social activities.

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Step 3: Draw insights from users’ behaviour in your content strategy

The third step is content strategy. This brings in the customer perspective. Sure, you may have established your social KPIs, but these alone won’t optimize your content strategy. Marketers must have a clear view of the customer journey: from the point before this person even heard of your brand to when they become customers and the relationship building process truly begins. Content must supplement all these stages and help your audience move a step further in the journey.

The crux of a successful content strategy is the ability to talk to customers and prospects in those rare, precise moments they’re receptive to what you have to say, e.g. when they’re searching online and in a brand-decision frame of mind. Achieve that, and you will be the brand that wins their coveted attention.

Step 4: Stay up-to-date with the latest opportunities on social and digital

2016 has seen a range of exciting new developments come into their own. While the more disruptive and left-field developments such as bots and VR may come first to mind, we’ve also been gifted and impeded with new algorithms, alongside updates such as new content distribution and targeting options. Pinterest is one excellent example with its auction-based pricing, promoted video pins and new targeting tools (lookalike and retargeting). The year also cemented the rise of video as a prefered media format, with over 4 billion video views every day happening on Facebook alone.

Now’s the time to choose the magic ingredient for your brand from the multitude of this year’s new developments and updates. In this last stage of your social media strategy outline consider:

  • What are the trends that affect your brand and which should you adopt or prepare for? Facebook has announced its plans to become video-first – no social brand can afford to ignore this. Accordingly, in your 2017 planning map out how your brand deploys Facebook and consider if or how you can enrich your feed with this format.
  • Which updates or trends will enrich rather than dilute your brand identity? For example, will investing in bots add real value to your customer service–or will it just complicate the customer journey? Carefully consider whether new additions will genuinely match your brand and always factor in your audience needs and challenges.

Connect the dots, but don’t set them in stone

It’s fun to predict how online marketing will evolve, but, as we’ve seen in recent years, this space’s future is a strange and surprising place. As a last nugget of advice, I recommend making sure you set down a strategy adaptable enough to bend with whatever curveballs and opportunities 2017 brings.

But whatever happens in the year to come, by following these four steps you can hit the ground running.

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