4 Ways to Ensure Your Social Strategy is Working

2010 Social Media Plan: “Post stuff often.”

2014 Social Media Plan: “Create a calendar and measure likes.”

2018 Social Media Plan: “Stay on brand, be useful and drive business goals.”

To engage fast-scrolling, message-overloaded social users, brands have become quick to deploy the newest social platforms and tactics (think AR lenses, social commerce, live video or Facebook Messenger ads, etc.) It’s a risk that can pay off. But many brands are still stumbling, despite embracing the newest tactics. Why? Because they never consistently nailed the basics.

A successful social media plan covers all the bases: It engages both prospective and current consumers. It contains fresh content that’s tailored for the audience. And it contributes to positive, measurable business outcomes, not just vanity metrics.

Before your marketing team sits down to think what’s next for its 2019 social media plans, first reassess how you have maintained execution of the basic framework of your social strategy. Even with thoughtful and forward-thinking plans, brands fall flat because they are weak on the fundamentals.

Here are commonly missed fundamental elements that cause performance to wane over time:

Trust in organic.
Yes, algorithms are changing. So should you stop posting organically and shift all your focus toward paid? Not yet.

There is still a need for organic executions to engage brand loyalists with topics and content you know they care about. Companies who are not doing this well tend to use social as a one-way sales tool. They hustle their product or service to consumers they already have, rather than fostering conversations to engage an existing fan base.

To do this right, content must serve a purpose. It should educate, add value and entertain. Audit your content — does everything you’re posting organically do one of these three things? Focus on retention and adding real, tangible value through your content mix. As a baseline, content should be centered on engagement and usefulness.

What’s in store for your organic activity? Smaller audiences that are more loyal and engaged. That’s a huge upside.

General Electric uses a strong mix of content, packaged in different ways for each platform. They understand what content their users want, which allows them to employ new tactics — like 360-video — successfully.

Think like a publisher.
Social teams should be empowered to create and push out agile content. This means thinking like a publisher: “Newsify” your content model with angles and stories that are timely, aligned and targeted.

Brands fall flat when they use a linear approach. They will conduct a research phase for the social plan months in advance, then expect everything to fall in place and align with their expectations over that period. This approach limits responsiveness.

You can still be nimble and create a research-fueled plan. Pressure test timely topics using social listening tools to validate your approach faster. It will ensure the chosen content will still resonate when you hit Publish.

For example, Brit + Co is a class act in terms of understanding their audience. On Instagram, their point of view is fun, artistic and empowering. They mix a whimsical graphical style curated with bright, colorful photos to create a very inspiring visual voice that reaches their female target. They also seamlessly weave in content around pop culture moments and cultural issues that matter to their followers. An excellent mix.

Focus your paid social strategy.
Paid is essential to any social plan. It provides companies the opportunity to extend reach and engage new audiences. It also provides powerful options for targeting ultra-specific audiences and their habits.

Companies that do this well use paid social as a tactic throughout the different stages of a social campaign. They identify the phases of their call to action and implement different tactics to reach across different audiences at various stages of the sales cycle.

A poor way to use paid social is to interject your brand voice where it doesn’t belong. Be sure to do your homework. Leverage social listening tools to identify relevant conversations. And then take advantage of the vast amounts of targeting options available to cater content to different audiences.

Hotels.com ran an ad that leveraged how most channels do not enable audio automatically for video playback. The result? An interactive experience that made engagement easy.

Prepare an influencer strategy.
Be prepared to work with influencers. Influencer activation garners better engagement from those followers whose affinities match those of the brand. If done in an authentic way, these partnerships pay off — both in ROI and brand loyalty.

Before working with influencers, do you truly understand the motivations and values of your customers and followers? Perform external research to validate perceptions first. This research will help you identify influencers who correctly align with the brand’s goals. It will also help you understand what the influencers and their audience want so it’s a mutually beneficial plan. But be prepared. The research could reveal that an influencer strategy isn’t a good fit. Influencer marketing is not right for all brands. And we all know, some influencers have inflated follower numbers, so do your homework.

Sperry USA sources many of its best images from micro-influencers who are strong brand advocates and embody the brand lifestyle. By using brand ambassadors to fuel much of their content, they portray a genuine feel across all channels.

Success in social is based on consistent performance of the fundamentals combined with a strategic blending of new content and tactics. To avoid falling flat, remember this: Do the work to know your audience, stay true to your brand voice and post content with real value. Assess what works frequently and pivot when the risk makes sense against your research and past results. If you stay responsive, you’ll be in a good place to grow and drive business goals over time.