By its nature, social media tends to be spontaneous. This is more the case with personal accounts, but all too often, I see business owners falling into the same trap. OK, there’s nothing wrong with adding spontaneous posts when something unexpected happens (Things like ‘Flooding in the car park – please avoid!’ spring to mind given the recent weather!) But at the end of the day, social media is part of your marketing strategy and, as such, just won’t work for you if you don’t have a plan.
And when I say ‘plan,’ I don’t mean a few random notes on a Post-it stuck on the office wall! Plans need structure – and therein lies the rub. I recently undertook a five day Social Media Challenge with my clients to find out what they’re struggling with the most when it comes to managing their social media. And guess what the biggest problem turned out to be? You guessed it: structure (or lack of!)
So, what exactly do I mean by a ‘structured social media plan’? Well, as a starting point, it needs to revolve around your ideal client. In other words, you need to have this Perfect Client Persona in mind when you’re creating your posts, and imagining you’re writing just for them. Without this approach, there’s a big danger that your posts will end up being all about you, not your clients. And that’s a big turn-off that will lose you followers in a trice.
To illustrate this further, let’s take an example of a company I worked with recently. Three team members were all using the company Twitter and Facebook accounts to post about the business – and each of them was focused on what they wanted to say. The client’s perspective was effectively cast aside at the expense of three (conflicting!) personal agendas. Not surprisingly, this approach wasn’t cutting much ice for them online.
I appreciate that it can be difficult when more than one person is responsible for using an organisation’s social media platforms. But there’s an easy way to get around this. Put a plan in place that’s focused on what you want to achieve as a business from social media, not what individual people have to say. By staying true to your ideal client and posting about what’s relevant, interesting and valuable to them, you’re immediately off on the right track.
Leading on from this, if you haven’t identified your perfect client yet, you have a problem. One of the best ways to do this, as hinted at above, is to build a persona for them (or multiple personas if you have more than one target audience). This is a creative process that can be great fun to do as a team, so why not download a free persona template – there are lots of them around online – and have a go?
Things to think about include:
- Name and job title
- Demographics (location, education level, life stage, income level etc)
- Hobbies and interests
- Challenges and goals
- Values and fears
- Favourite blogs and websites
- A quote summarising their personality.
Once you know who you’re talking to, it’s time to think about the key messages they want to read about, watch and listen to online. It’s important that these are aligned with your wider business goals and what you want to achieve from your online activities. Make a list of these messages and make them the basis of a monthly plan for your posts. Straightaway, you have a structure you can use to keep your messaging on track and start getting the results you want from social media.
Planning ahead might take a little time but believe me, it’s worth it. This is the approach I take to my monthly blog posts: I make a list of topics at the start of the year, all based around my business goals and taking account of the changing seasons, and use this as a spring board. It makes life so much easier.
Each month, all I need to do is review the topic and make sure it’s still the most relevant message to convey. Sometimes, I’ll make a change or add a new topic as, like everything, my business evolves through the year. But that stable structure is always there in the background to provide focus and clarity for my marketing.
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