Social media strategy explained (+ free template to create your own!)

Be honest; how sick are you of the sentence “everything starts with your social media strategy”?

Despite everyone’s insistence that nailing a strategy is a basic need for successful social media marketing, there seems to be no single explanation as to what a strategy should look like, what it should include, how long it should be, whether it should be top line or super specific… you know the endless questions, we’re sure.

In our old day job, we remember the excitement of planning a new digital campaign – the stuff that really made us thrive – being overcome with dread because someone would always ask us to “come up with a quick strategy and ping it over on email”.

We were always scared because we never knew what they were actually expecting to see. For all our questioning, we received fluffy answers. For all our comparisons, we couldn’t see how a PR/marketing/business strategy could be used as a template for a social media strategy. For all our research, we couldn’t make out whether what we had in mind was short of, or way over the mark for what everyone was expecting this magical document to look like.

Over the years, we came to realise that the concept of a strategy differs completely from person to place to sector. The issue wasn’t that we didn’t know enough, or that our colleagues were lacking knowledge because they couldn’t give us the guidance we felt we needed (if anything, they probably didn’t want to sound like they were being patronising!). It was simply that we hadn’t taken in hand what our version of a strategy should look like. And when there’s no definitive answer to something like this, the key is to get what you need out of it and own the format.

We’ve been doing that ever since we went into business for ourselves. For every client we take on, we create a strategy for them using a consistent template with a completely personalised spin on each section for them. It’s never failed us yet, and today we’re going to share that template with you.

Take it. Make it your own. Use it to its full potential and never feel the fear of being asked to throw a social media strategy together again. And if you don’t feel like it’s the kind of strategy you want to follow, that’s totally ok. Find a template that suits you – there’s no one way to do this.

Is our social media strategy

You’ll like this if:

  • You want to create an all-in-one strategy, how-to and style guide
  • You want your strategy to bring your brand to life on paper
  • You want to outline your mission, vision and personality professionally but with minimal stuffiness.

Download your

We’ve prepared a Google doc especially for you. Just click here, then press file > make a copy and you have a template you can work from straight away.

Write

VISION

This is the one big dream – the key impact you want your business to have on others. Narrow it down to one single thing – trust me, it’ll make your life much easier in the long run if you can single this out now.

As an example, ours is:

“To help every digital marketer in the UK – whether self-employed, traditionally employed or promoting a passion project – nail their social media marketing, implement more efficient processes and enjoy their work instead of feeling constantly overwhelmed by it.”

Whether your aim is to sell something (“That every parent in London has a copy of my cookbook in their home”) or create an educational shift (“That every 18-25 year old knows turns out to vote in the next election”), don’t limit how big this one single dream is. If you fall short of the moon, you’ll aim for the stars and all that.

MISSION

Your mission section essentially highlights the reasons your social media accounts (and therefore business) exists in the first place. Break down how to achieve your vision into between five and nine bullet points. Make each of these a mini-strategy that highlights an area of conversation you need to tackle through social to achieve your big picture.

Much of the time, our client’s missions contain a mix of the following:

  • Smash a myth
  • Sell XYZ
  • Use digital platforms to educate people on XYZ
  • Prove you’re good at what you do
  • Deliver certain types of content appealing to a specific audience
  • Portray your brand in a certain way
  • Build a loyal customer base
  • Find a specific amount of new customers.

Here’s ours:

  • Use our social media channels to educate people on the importance of sustainable social media marketing, the developments taking place and the importance of careful content planning.
  • Smash the myth that being a digital marketer is an easy job that anyone can do – focusing on why spending time and money on this is important for business.
  • Sell 300 Heart and Soul Digital Content Planners between September 2017 – January 2018.

  • Emphasise the importance of wellbeing for digital marketers through nurturing content, encouraging balance and prioritising mental health to ensure the best performance in their job.
  • Ensure our brand embodies us – intelligent business women with lots of digital marketing experience who prioritise openness, humanity and the greater good. Best friends to digital marketers everywhere.

VALUES

Your values will now break down your mission into the ‘how’. Now is the time to get granular, highlighting who and what you want to connect with, the kind of conversations you want to have, the behaviours you’ll embody online and the content you want to share and endorse. If there are any important factors you know you need to weave into your strategy – such as if you’re utilising an affiliate link as part of your income, or have a quota you need to fill for mentioning business partners online – now is the time to make sure you’ve got this in there.

To guide you, we’ll share ours (gosh, this is getting personal!):

  • Connect with and endorse fellow digital marketers, freelancers, bloggers and coaches whom we love and trust, frequently, using affiliate links wherever possible/appropriate.
  • Be clear and concise, using inspirational and sincere, rather than fluffy language in all communications. Break things down and go into the kind of detail that legitimately helps people get something done, don’t just spout hot air. Make everything mentioned on our social media actionable.
  • Open debates, discussions and ask for feedback on common social media issues, such as those around budgets, how to use new features, highlighting new platforms and features, as well as content planning advice. Encourage engagement and peer-to-peer support on these posts – a daily debate based on a news story or advice piece.
  • Promote the Heart and Soul Digital Content Planners as a whole product, highlighting special features, how they change the life of a digital marketer, best practices for use and how they impact other areas of the business, in particular, the opportunities for better-integrated marketing and PR.
  • Share live updates from events, round-ups and business wins as inspirational and aspirational content across our platforms, with a particular emphasis on how we felt there, who we were with and what we learned.

  • Share achievements and highlights from existing clients and also brands we want to work with.
  • Share and discuss things that we find important to keeping mind, body and soul in prime condition to do our job well, and frequently refer back to the “hardships” digital marketers tend to face – like others thinking that their job is easy or low value. This includes topics that may not be directly linked to marketing but do contribute to a person’s wellbeing, highlighting how this relates back to digital marketing jobs, such as: nutrition, exercise, meditation, mental health, creativity, work scheduling, workspace, relationships, workplace bullying, career aspirations and self-development.
  • Frequently advise and guide others on content planning processes and how to overcome work overwhelm to make this job easier.

  • Reference our followers as our “tribe”, and forge a genuine connection comprising of love, trust and support.

Your values all come down to your positioning of what you’re tackling in your mission. It will probably also sound SUPER over-the-top and self-indulgent – if that’s the case, you’re probably on the right track. Remember, this document is meant to be super focused on every tiny bit of what your brand stands for; it’s not meant to sit in context with the priorities of the rest of the world. Just that of your business.

Helpful hint: You’ll likely have a patch of confusion over what should sit in mission, and what should sit in values. Remember: Mission is issues you want to tackle to achieve your vision. Values are how you will achieve each mission.

Phew! Not easy this strategy lark is it?

DEFINITION

Your definition is a few one-word points to describe the voice of your channel. This is quite a nice, easy section that you can flick back to if you start to feel like your social media voice is veering a bit off-brand.

We’d really recommend grabbing a thesaurus for this, as all-to-often you’ll end up with half of the words ultimately meaning the same thing.

If you find this happening to you, think through what each word really means to you. Is it a goal for your brand to be this particular thing, or is it part of the process to reach a bigger goal? If it’s the former, and it truly feels right, keep it on your list. If it’s the latter, take it out and choose the word that best describes the overall tone of voice you want to achieve.

As an example, our social media channel definitions are:

  • Passionate
  • Understanding
  • Knowledgeable
  • Trustworthy
  • Supportive
  • Witty

PROMISE

Your social media promise is a sentence – two at the most – that describes the most basic content you’re going to offer your audience and what that will offer them if they start following you.

We find the easiest way to do this is to imagine that, for whatever reason, we’ve had to suspend the creation of brand new/original content for a while, but we still want to keep up our social media presence and keep our audience engaged. What one thing will you continue to offer during this time?

Ours is:

To understand and appreciate the work fellow digital marketers do on a detailed level, and always be open to a conversation about how to progress in their role without making any big personal sacrifices.

Some other examples might include:

  • To share all recent, credible research and statistics on to inform and educate others who share the same interest.
  • To continue an open dialogue with our audience about .

  • To spread positive messages to and make them smile every day.

PERSONALITY

Our personality section brings to life our really personal side – the human elements of the channel we’re creating. Even if you’re speaking as a brand, it’s the human voice in your channel that is what will attract customers as much as the content you share.

Like an actor before a major film role, dig deep and profile here the kind of person that’s going to connect with your target audience. Immerse yourself in what their profile would be like – interests, style, tone of voice, likes and dislikes…bring them to life on the page and embrace them as you talk to people through your social channels.

Here’s ours for a little inspiration:

We are a friend – open, trustworthy and nice to be around. Our tone is informal and friendly with a dash of humour, but succinct. 

We are down-to-earth, and we share personal details with our audience, but toe the line between being relatable and oversharing.

We listen. We really care about the work and life of the people we speak to – the highs and the lows – and understand that ultimately they all connect deeply. Whilst we encourage professionalism in the interest of someone’s job, we also encourage honest conversations that they may feel they can’t have in the office, letting a bit more ‘real life’ into work chat.

We do not judge people for having bad days. We understand that happiness, mental health and productivity isn’t a constant, but will provide gentle encouragement to help others get back in control of their work more quickly.

We’ll never bullshit someone. If we don’t know an answer to a question, we’ll say so. But if we do, we’ll offer advice based on experience and trusted articles to help that person as much as possible.

We’re interested in self-development, wellbeing and creative business, and are striving to create a life for ourselves that revolves around these interests effectively. This makes us feel a little bit fabulous because we feel privileged to have the option to build that for ourselves, and we dress well to welcome that new chapter as and when it happens.

CONTENT TYPES

This details what it is you’ll deliver and how. For example; instructional videos to help the audience learn how to use an app, or branded, animated inspirational quotes from female athletes to empower sportswomen using social media.

What you want to do here is detail the piece of content and the format, so that each time you sit down to do your social media planning you can run down this list and create a piece of content from each outline.

Need a little inspiration? Here’s a neat little graphic we use to decide what format we’re going to use on our channels, and we assign at least one format to each regular piece of content we’re going to be sharing from our Values section.

Et voila! One complete social media strategy and style guide. Professional, helpful and detailed.

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