In the past decade or so, social media has been an exciting new frontier in marketing. It has so much going for it as a marketing platform: it’s (mostly) free, it’s audience-driven, it’s fun, and it can be extremely effective.

But if you want to use social media to grow your business, it’s not enough to post whatever you feel like whenever you feel like it. Having a well-researched, thoroughly-planned strategy means the time and resources you invest in social media won’t go to waste.

New year, new content strategy. Here’s how to create an effective social media content strategy that will help your brand flourish in 2020.

Align your strategy with your target audience

Marketing always starts with identifying and understanding your target audience. Who are the people who need your product or service most, and how can you reach them? An accurate customer profile will guide you throughout the rest of the process, and the only way to create one is to do your research.

Gather as much information as you can about your most loyal customers. What’s their age range? Where do they live? What are their interests? What’s important to them? What challenges do they encounter that are related to your product? The more specific a buyer persona you build, the more effectively you’ll be able to target them.

Analyze the performance of previous content

If your company already has an active social media account, you have some valuable data at your disposal right now. Take a look at the analytics and pinpoint what’s worked well and what hasn’t. Identify the highest-performing pieces of content and analyze the elements they have in common: what type of content was it? Images? Video? Text? What was the tone? What kind of message did it convey? When was it posted?

Also, don’t be afraid to reach out to your existing audience. You can poll your followers to ask what kind of content they’d like to see in the future.

Research competitors and influencers in your field

Competitors, influencers, and complementary business accounts can provide a lot of useful information and inspiration. You can analyze the type of content they’re posting and what kinds of content resonate most with their audiences. Their feeds can also give you ideas for content of your own to develop (just be sure not to copy from them).

You may also discover gaps in types of content provided by brands in your field, pinpointing a niche that your company may be able to fill.

Another benefit of getting to know your competitors and social media influencers in your field is that you can reach out to them for mutually beneficial partnerships. Collaborate on giveaways or arrange social media takeovers of each other’s accounts to cross-pollinate your audiences.

Choose your social media platforms

Before you start churning out content, you should make sure that you’re using a platform where your target audience actually hangs out. Different social media platforms attract different demographics. Research which platforms are most popular with people who match your customer profile.

Another thing to consider is whether the platform supports the type of content that best showcases your work. Some platforms are more text-based, while others are image- or video-based.

Also, remember that your following on one platform may be completely different from your following on another platform. This is great, because it widens and diversifies your reach, but it also means you need to strategize differently for each platform.

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Determine your content style

The look, feel, tone, and voice of your social media content should stay consistent with those of your brand. Decide what type of content is a good fit for your business: what are the topics your posts should address? What messages or information will be most valuable to your customers, and how can you convey those things in a way they’ll find engaging?

Set out your goals and objectives

A solid strategy requires concrete goals and objectives. What is it you’re hoping to achieve with your social media accounts over the next week, month, or quarter? It’s a good idea to set goals for overall performance — such as increasing your following or website traffic — as well as goals for each individual post, such as click-through rates (CTRs), conversion rates, and engagement.

Gather the right resources for high-quality content

Your social media accounts are the interactive online face of your brand. They need to look and sound professional.

You’ll need well-designed images and clean, crisp copy that’s in line with the voice of your brand. Make sure you have the resources to produce high-quality posts — and that may include staff members who specialize in creating and managing that content as well as a budget for outsourcing, paid ads, and professional tools for management and design of social media content.

If you don’t have a design team or much of a budget for design, don’t be intimidated. You can still create professional-looking content thanks to free tools like StoryBoost and VideoBoost and which give you beautiful templates to create engaging images and videos to share on social media.

Make a plan

instagram plan content strategyNow that you’ve collected all this information, it’s time to draw up a social media content plan.

You can draw up a weekly or monthly plan, depending on your needs. Chart a content calendar based on what you’ve learned about your target audience behavior and responses, incorporating ideas you’ve gathered for content that will engage them. This outline will serve as your guide for what and how often to post, and should include concrete concepts that your team will be able to turn into content easily.

Experiment and be flexible

Start implementing your plan — but stay flexible! Keep an eye on analytics, and test different practices to see what works best. Sometimes a little tweak to the timing of your posts, their frequency, or the number of hashtags you use can make a big difference.

Social media is constantly evolving and your content strategy should evolve with it. If you do your research and stay organized, 2020 will be your year! You’ll create a solid online presence that will continue to grow and generate leads as you move forward with your business.

Action Items:

1. Do a short target audience brainstorm. Who are you creating content for? What’s most interesting to them and why?
2. Set aside time in your calendar to review your previous content. Jot down some notes: where do you seem to be getting the most engagement or business results? What are the common threads between your best performing posts?
3. Take an hour to browse the competition and influencers in your space. Write down any content ideas that come up as you research.
4. Decide which platforms you’ll be focusing on this year. Think: where is your target audience most likely to be?
5. Create Goals! What do you want to accomplish with your social content in 2020? Create 2-3 main goals and make sure that you can measure them along the way.
6. Block off time to create your content calendar. Investing the time now means less time later!

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