How to design a social media strategy?
For better or worse, most businesses are going to need some sort of social media strategy. For a long time, we were definitely in the ‘for worse’ category when it came to viewing social media. It exhausted us, we knew it was important but didn’t really understand the why, and we most definitely had no strategies, let alone reflected on them.
But as we worked more and more with clients, our own view of social media changed. Instead of seeing it as a necessary evil (though sometimes it still very much feels evil), we now view it as an opportunity to connect and experiment. And part of this switch came down to simply creating a strategy, reflecting on that strategy, and then adjusting. As with everything with business, it’s a lot of making hypotheses and running tests.
So what goes into building a social media strategy?
Decide your platforms.
There are a lot of social media platforms out there and realistically, not all of them will be for your business. Not only that but creating content for all of these platforms takes a lot of time. Each channel has its own unique challenges and requires its own strategies. So being intentional about which channel you invest resources in will be important.
The first question when deciding which platforms to pursue is where is your audience, or desired audience, already spending time. It doesn’t make sense to invest heavily in a platform, regardless of how trendy, that doesn’t have your target audience.
The second question when deciding which social media platform you want to focus on, especially when you’re a small team, is what strengths or interests do you already have as a team? This might be someone who has a keen eye for photography or experience in video editing. Or even someone who is just interested in creating a specific kind of content. Check-in with your team to see what skills or interests they have that line up with your ideal social media platforms. As your team grows, or you’re able to outsource parts of your content creation, this becomes less important as you can hire someone for their expertise. But early on as you’re growing, tapping your team’s creative skills can be incredibly beneficial.
Create a posting schedule
Like everything with branding, consistency is key when it comes to building a social media calendar. The common denominator with all social media channels is they want you and your audience to spend more and more time on them. This means the algorithm rewards posting regularly. What is the magic number of weekly posts for each channel? Unfortunately, since the algorithms are under lock and key and constantly changing, it will largely depend on which article you read and when.
According to Shopify, you should be posting to Instagram at least once a day to maximize your visibility and engagement.
According to Hootesuite, it’s recommended to post 2-3x per week with a maximum of once a day.
These were the top articles that appear when you google “How often should you post to Instagram”
Use a social media scheduling tool to help make posting easier; you can schedule out posts in advance and lay out what your calendar looks like. There are a ton of options out there ranging from very affordable to very expensive. Most will give you a free trial that doesn’t require a credit card which makes trying out a few options easy.
So if there isn’t a magic number of posts per week, how do you decide? The answer is pretty simple. What is realistic for you to maintain? Coming up with content ideas, creating the content, posting the content, engaging with your audience, and then tracking is a lot of work regardless of the size of your business. Create a calendar that you can realistically stick to whether that’s 2x per week or daily. Just be consistent.
Establish Your Goals
Once you’ve chosen your platforms and created a base schedule, be sure to explicitly outline what your specific goal is for each channel. These goals should be different as different platforms have very different strengths. Use those strengths to your advantage.
At UnderBelly Creative we use TikTok, Instagram, and LinkedIn as our social media channels and each platform has a specific audience and goal.
Our LinkedIn is targeted toward clients and prospective clients. This is where we share our blogs, and our educational content, and keep things mostly business with just a little bit of UnderBelly personality. Our explicit goal with LinkedIn is to get in front of new clients, build our positioning as branding experts, and drive website traffic.
Our Instagram speaks mostly to designers, artists, and other creatives. We use it primarily as a place to show off our previous projects, highlight things we think are important to designers and creatives, and showcase our company culture. Our explicit goal with Instagram is to show off our designs and highlight the people behind UnderBelly to attract designers.
Our Tiktok is still very much in flux! But we see Tiktok as a platform to talk about design, branding, and building a sustainable company culture through fun, educational videos. We also see this as a place where we can let our creative flag fly a wee bit more than our other channels. Our explicit goal with TikTok is to build an audience of like-minded creatives and find potential clients.
Write down your story arcs
Now comes the big question. What are you going to post about in order to achieve your goals?
This is where a tip from our friend Laura Paisley Beck at Wa’am Writes comes in handy. Create 3-4 story arcs that offer guidance for generating content ideas and ensuring they all tie back to your ultimate goal. Then start brainstorming a list of questions and post ideas that are associated with each story arc.
Let’s use UnderBelly Creative as an example again.
One of our goals is to position us as experts in branding but to also highlight our value of transparency. For a story arc, we may have “Tangible Branding for startups and small businesses”. Since this story arc aligns with our LinkedIn goals, we know all of this content will be shared to LinkedIn with some being shared to Instagram and Tiktok depending on the specific content. From here we start brainstorming a whole host of topics around the idea of branding, specifically for startups and small businesses.
Each of these topics can be a blog post that then gets shared to LinkedIn with the topic “How to make a color palette” reused as content for Instagram + Tiktok since it’s also relevant to designers.
When we convert the topic ‘How to make a color palette’ into content for other channels, we will need to reformat the content into either a short-form video or a carousel of images in order to get the most out of each of the platforms
Track + Analyze + Adjust
Unfortunately, social media is not set it and forget it when it comes to building the best strategy. But also, one or two posts won’t be able to give you an accurate picture of what you built is working. Ideally, you will want to let a strategy run for several months, keeping an eye on your engagement numbers and metrics at a high view, and making minor tweaks as you go.
After you have a couple of months of data to analyze, you will want to see what sort of content was working, and what wasn’t. The definition of what is working ultimately comes down to your goals. Goals such as increasing website traffic and increasing followers can be easier to measure whether your strategy was a success or not. Goals such as showcasing expertise on a specific topic will require more qualitative analysis such as asking new customers why they purchased from you, whether you are being invited to give talks or write guest blogs, etc.
After you’ve analyzed what worked and didn’t work, you will likely have ideas on how to adjust your strategy moving forward.
Then simply rinse, and repeat. Forever. I wish I was exaggerating but social media channels are constantly adjusting their criteria, customers are changing their preferences, and platforms rise and fall. We really mean it when we say having a robust social media strategy is not set it and forget it.
Don’t forget to engage with your audience! Social Media is not a one-way street. The wonders and horrors of Social Media are that you are able to build a direct relationship with your customer. In fact, the algorithm basically requires this. So similarly to not setting and forgetting your social media strategy, you can not post and forget. You must be following, liking, commenting, and engaging with others on the platforms.
Decide your platforms. All of them is not the right answer.
Create a posting schedule you can maintain. This doesn't mean easy to maintain.
Establish your goals. Try for a nice mix of quantitative and qualitative goals.
Write down your story arcs. These will help you come up with content ideas.
Track, analyze, and adust. It's not set it and forget it.
Bonus! And don't forget to engage with your audience.
Ready to build out your social media strategy? Schedule a discovery meeting or contact us at email@example.com.
About The Author
Olivia Wisden is the Founder + CEO of UnderBelly Creative. She has worked with dozens of brands over the years ranging from city initiatives to product launches and beyond. When she’s not fan-girling over the design team’s illustrations she can probably be found reading a novel or attending a boxing class.