Expecting your marketing team to drive business growth without a social media plan is like asking them to put up an advertising billboard without any power tools.
This may have worked for companies in the past, but with 83% of marketers now actively pursuing social media marketing, business growth relies on representing your brand across multiple channels.
In this two-part series, we take you through every step required to develop a social media marketing plan.
This guide focusses on the three main social media platforms for business: Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
From plugging into new platforms and developing content, to building your brand and becoming an advocate in your industry. Implement each step and you’ll have an upgraded marketing toolkit that’s ready to start generating leads for your business.
Strategic Safety First
A social media plan relies on strong, strategic foundations to provide a stable base from which it can operate effectively.
Let’s assume you’ve already thought through your business aims and set aligned goals and measures. If you haven’t, read our recent blog, How to Create a Social Media Strategy for Your Business!, first.
Venturing into social media marketing shouldn’t be an adventure with new and different horizons. It should be another tool that complements your existing marketing approach and provides another way to:
- Distribute brand information
- Improve brand recognition, authority and loyalty
- Open up richer conversations with highly targeted audiences including existing and potential customers
- Generate new business leads with higher conversion rates
- Increase inbound traffic and SEO
- Improve customer insights
But only if you get your plan right to capitalise on these potential benefits.
Different Strokes for Different Folks
Deciding which platform is right for your business is an important first step. We recommend a maximum of three platforms so that you can give each sufficient care and attention in order to drive meaningful results.
If you’re starting from scratch, master one social media platform first and build from there.
Let’s take a look at the three main social media platforms used by businesses.
Source: All stats taken from HubSpot’s Marketing Statistics Report 2017
Which platform you choose to use will depend on your business type, product, service and sector. For more detail on this, our social media strategy blog will help. Once you’ve decided which will work best for you, pick one and set up an account.
How to Create Social Media Profiles for Your Business
Setting up your social media account is like dressing an online shop window. It needs to look great, let people know who you are and provide clear information about what you do. Above all, your audience should be tempted to find out more.
Each platform takes a similar approach, although LinkedIn is a little different. Follow these steps to get set up on your preferred platform.
Step 1 – Find the ‘Create Page’ Link
Login to your personal Facebook account, click the icon in the top right to reveal a dropdown menu, and click the Create Page link.
Credit: Austin Lindsay, Red-Fern Media
Step 2 – Choose Your Sector
Choose the right sector for your business from this screen, select your industry and enter your business or product name.
Step 3 – Follow the Instructions
You’ll be taken to the dashboard for your profile. Facebook provide helpful instructions about what you need to do for each section.
When adding a photo or cover image:
- choose an image that relates to your business - your company logo, for example
- ensure they’re high resolution, eye-catching and representative of your brand
- check they’re the right size – this post tells you how
Then follow the steps to populate your profile. Don’t worry - none of your information will be live until you tell Facebook to publish it.
One important tip is to always include a call to action button on your homepage – it directs people to where you want them to go next and makes it easy for them to take action.
For example, include a button that says ‘Shop now’, or ‘Visit our website’ to direct people to one of these locations. When clicked, it will open up your online shop or website in a new window.
The Facebook dashboard's interface makes it extremely easy to get your page up-and-running.
Step 4 – Familiarise Yourself with the Power of Facebook
The menu at the top of the screen lists the following options:
- Page – the public page visible to visitors
- Messages – this is where you’ll be able to see private messages sent by your audience
- Notifications – a timeline of activity on your account, including posts, share, likes, and comments
- Insights – this is your in-built analytics tool. You can gain a range of data on the performance of your posts, both organic and paid. Use the menu on the left to drill down into the data to reveal detailed information.
- Publishing Tools - this provides an overview of what you have published, future posts that are scheduled to publish, and draft posts. It’s also a repository for content like images, videos, and lead ad forms and submitted data.
Now you’re set up and ready to go. If you can’t wait to start posting, make sure you read our guidance on content.
This is probably the quickest and easiest account to sign up for.
Step 1 – Get Set Up
Go to Twitter for Business and select the Business drop down in the top left of the page to reveal a full menu of options that provide in-depth tips on how to promote your brand or product.
From creating your profile, developing content, and planning an ad campaign, it’s all there with a range of supporting guides.
Select ‘Create a Profile’ and you’ll be presented with a five-step guide that shows you how to get started.
Twitter for Business offers a full menu of options that provide in-depth tips on how to promote your brand or product.
1 – Your Twitter @name
Devise a Twitter username of up to 15 characters related to your business. Don’t sweat it - you can change it in your account settings at a later date if required.
2 – Your profile photo
As with Facebook, pick a photo to represent your brand. It will appear on every Tweet and can also be updated. At the bottom of the Twitter guide you’ll find image size details.
3 – Your Bio
This is your first shot at communicating with a small number of characters – 160 to be precise.
Describe what makes your business stand out and why people should follow you. Adding a unique link to your website now will help you track Twitter visitors at a later date.
Stuck for ideas? Check out this article on 15 of the most effective Twitter bios.
4 – Your header Image
Use this area like an advertising billboard: promote products, events, or the latest eye-catching business images. Keep it interesting and on-brand to capture people’s imaginations.
5 – Your Pinned Tweet
Pin an important Tweet to the top of your timeline and it will stay there for maximum exposure.
Remember to change it frequently: an out-of-date message doesn’t put your business in a good light. Particularly when social media is always on and ever-changing.
To pin a Tweet:
- write a Tweet by clicking the blue ‘Tweet’ button in the top right-hand corner of the screen
- then publish it
- find it on your timeline and select the dropdown button at the top right of the tweet
- select ‘pin to your profile page’
You can spot your pinned Tweet by the blue pin in the top left corner.
You’re done. Simples.
2 – Practise Tweet
You’re ready to Tweet. But some guidance is in order. Tweets can only contain 140 characters or less, and in case you’re wondering, links to a website, emojis, and spaces, all count as one character.
Look out for anything highlighted in red – these characters are over the character count.
Hover over the icons at the bottom of the Tweet to include images, gifs, surveys, or to add a location.
Coloured visuals increase people’s willingness to read a piece of content by 80%, so including images or video will increase click-through rates.
Although it’s tempting to tweet the first thing that comes into your head, a social media marketing plan relies on a structured programme of communications to get best results. Hold on until your editorial calendar is ready and make your first tweet sing.
3 – Find Your Way Round
The menu bar at the top of the page helps you navigate around your account.
- Home takes you to your Twitter homepage – this is what everyone else can see
- Moments are “curated stories showcasing the very best of what’s happening on Twitter” in the worlds of news, sport, entertainment, and more
- Notifications provides a timeline of interactions
- Messages stores private messages from other Twitter users
To access your profile and settings, including analytics, click your profile photo in the top right hand corner of the screen to reveal a list of options.
Select this and you’ll get a drop-down menu where you can:
- change your profile
- create lists of people you want to see updates from on your timeline
- access and create your own moments
- create and check the performance of ad campaigns
- access your analytics tools to review progress and successes
With your profile all set up, you’re ready to start taking full advantage of Twitter’s advertising solutions for businesses.
LinkedIn is a more complex set-up than Twitter. You will need a personal profile before setting up a company profile.
Here we’ll focus on the basics of setting up a personal profile before moving on to setting up your company profile.
Step 1 – Decide on an Account Type
If you don’t already have a personal LinkedIn account, you have two options – join up for free with a standard personal account, or choose and pay for a Premium Account.
The standard account allows you to:
- Search for other LinkedIn members and view their profiles
- Build and maintain your professional identity and a large trusted professional network
- Request and provide testimonials
- Receive unlimited in-app messages
- Save searches and get weekly alerts on those searches (three maximum)
Going premium gives you additional benefits, like lead generation, and costs up to £650 a year, depending on the package you choose.
However, neither of these options promotes your business as a whole, which is why a company profile is required.
Step 2 – Create a Company Profile
Now that you’ve set up your personal account, we recommend creating a free company profile. Click the Work link at the top right of your LinkedIn home page, then the Create a Company Page button, and enter your company’s name to get started.
According to Hootsuite, 57% of companies have a LinkedIn company page as part of their social media plan, and there are plenty of reasons to set one up:
- It showcases your whole business
- Your company will be found by anyone who searches for you on LinkedIn
- It can be used to promote your products and services to anyone who follows your company
- Employees can become company ambassadors
- You can find talent to grow your business
- Targeted LinkedIn ads help you communicate with a specific audience
- It improves search engine rankings
- You generate a valuable repository for content that’s aligned to the business, not an individual
What You’ll Need
As with Twitter and Facebook, you’ll need to upload a profile picture and a cover photo, so choose images that relates to your business - your company logo, for example.
There are some additional requirements for company accounts which must have:
- A profile strength of Intermediate or All Star
- Several connections
- A current employee list with your position in the ‘Experience’ section
- A company email address with a unique domain name that can be confirmed
Step 3 – Add More Detail
In the menu is an overview drop-down where you can enter a description of your business that should entice people in by showcasing the benefits you can bring. L’Oreal, Mashable and IBM all have strong company pages for inspiration.
In a similar way to your business website, your social media marketing plan should be underpinned by SEO keyword research.
Including words your audience searches for throughout your profile will build your company’s visibility, and ensure it can be found by search engines like Google and via LinkedIn’s search function. This blog has a range of ideas on how to do this.
The specialities drop-down menu allows you to add to your profile the skills and expertise your business brings. This gives your audience the ability to understand what you offer at a glance, and supports SEO.
Once you’ve completed all the sections simply hit publish and you’re live.
Step 4 – It’s Not What You Know …
It’s who you know that makes LinkedIn worthwhile. Unlike Facebook, you can’t invite a list of contacts to like your page. In this respect, LinkedIn is more like Twitter and you need to earn followers by:
- Asking employees to set up LinkedIn profiles and following your company page
- Promoting content from your company page to your personal profile to recruit followers
- Linking to your company page in all of your marketing communications, such as emails, newsletters, and blogs, so that your customers and other key audiences can find you and become followers
- Adding social links to all your content so people can share, find, and follow you on LinkedIn
You can keep an eye on your success rate by using the analytics tools covered in the next step.
Step 5 – Get Comfortable
As with the other platforms, the menu bar is at the top of the screen and includes a homepage, analytics and notifications options. Click the latter and you’ll get a high-level summary of activity on your company profile.
The Analytics menu gives insight to visitors (those who visit your page but don’t become a follower), engagements and followers.
It also provides data on the engagement levels you’ve achieved with both organic (free) and sponsored (paid) posts. Data covers the specifics of your targeted audience, number of impressions, clicks, shares, and post engagements. This will be explored in the second guide in this series ‘How to Advertise Your Business on Social Media’.
Quality content relies on knowing who your audience is and what they’re interested in. The first step to establishing this insight is to create descriptions of your customers.
Create Buyer Personas
Mine your existing customer data for details about your customer segments and use this to create Buyer Personas. These useful HubSpot templates will guide your research.
If you want to build on this detail, visit Google Analytics. Select your company’s website and choose the ‘Audience’ menu from the left-hand side of the screen. This will give you different audience insights, including demographics, interests, geography, and whether they use mobile devices or not.
Use this data to fill in the details for your Buyer Persona so that your content and social media marketing plan targets your customer profile effectively. If you’re still not sure which social media platforms to set up, these avatars will help.
Add Value with Content
Although social media helps you engage and communicate with prospects and customers, it is, at heart, a tool for promoting information.
Whether that’s a blog post or a video, a new product page on your website, a promotional offer or a sale, the aim is to do one of three things that all eventually generate more sales and profit:
…customers with social media posts that are themselves useful, informative and engaging, or because they provide a link to such content.
These kind of posts familiarise people with your brand and, with a good social media plan in place, over time your content should generate trust.
… people who are further on in their buying journey by demonstrating how your company can solve their problem.
The aim is to get them to find out more. That could be by directing them to your website or getting them to give you a call. If they do contact your sales team, they will come through as a qualified lead who’s already engaged with your business.
Qualified leads tend to have a conversion rate 13% higher than traditional methods making your social media marketing plan a worthwhile investment.
…existing customers with content that keeps them engaged with your business so that they become repeat customers. Businesses are increasingly using social media to keep their customers happy with enhanced customer service provision.
Types of Content
Sitting behind every successful social media plan is a tonne of content that takes many different forms:
- Written – blogs, ebooks, news, case studies, guides, whitepapers, checklists, calculators, testimonials. The list goes on
- Images and Video – including live broadcasts via Facebook, interactive demos and demo videos. Posts with visual content are 40 times more likely to be shared on social media than other types of content, and there has been a big shift to video, making it a medium worth investigating
- Surveys that can be set up within the social media platforms – quick, easy and fun to engage with
- Endorsements from celebrities or people who are a respected authority in the field
Your social media marketing plan should be packed full of different ways to engage audiences at different stages of the buyer journey. Various content types can be used to elicit different responses from your audience.
Attention Grabbing Social Media Messaging
Whatever content you decide to advertise on social media, regardless of its quality, if your social messaging is weak – or worse still, boring – you won’t generate the outcomes you want.
Help People Find You with a Hashtag
Hashtags (#) are a good way to help people find a topic you’re talking about. You add them to a post, generally at the bottom in Facebook or within your tweet in Twitter. LinkedIn doesn’t do hashtags – avoid like the plague on this platform. And make sure you don’t go #hashtag #crazy.
Knowing which hashtags to use can be a challenge. Start by checking out your Twitter homepage – trending topics aligned to your profile are listed on the left. Look at what the hashtags influencers in your sector are using and tap in to relevant trends.
Or work with a social media marketing agency to provide you with a full hashtag strategy.
Tell People What to Do Next
Calls to action are really important in your content and your social media posts. Each post should tell people what you want them to do, which will aid conversions.
Whether that’s to:
- comment, like or share (to generate engagement and increase followers)
- click on a link to a piece of content or to your website (which will also have a call to action to get people to do something)
- or an invitation to get in touch or visit your online shop (for lead generation)
A call to action prompts people to do something.
Stuck for Ideas?
Social media is constantly evolving. What’s fashionable one year can be old hat the next.
Keep an eye on industry trends and your competitors to see what content people respond to best and what your competition is doing well.
Go one step further and identify what your competitors are missing and fill the gap to become the leader in your sector.
Plan Your Messaging
A strong social media plan relies on effective scheduling. HubSpot’s social media editorial calendar will help you decide what to schedule and when, and to keep your team on track.
Amplify Your Message Through Social Media Advocacy
Once you have a message to communicate, you need to ensure it is shared with as many people as possible. Building your following is the best way to ensure that your message gets heard. But you also need to garner additional support through social media advocacy.
Make best use of the resources at your disposal by asking your employees to spread your social media content. If you have a new announcement, video content or blog to share, if everyone shares it, you’ll significantly increase the content’s spread and reach.
Extend this approach to your customers by retweeting and sharing relevant posts from their feeds to give them exposure to your social media network. Choose which posts to share wisely so that you continue to add value for your audience.
Don’t forget that social media is a two-way conversation. This makes it important to adopt this approach when it comes to advocacy. Don’t simply ask your customers and employees what they can do for you, but ask what you can do for them and become their supporter.
Setting up a social media plan can feel daunting, particularly if it’s the first time you’ve ventured into these parts of the web. Follow the steps in this guide and you’ll be part of the way to generating valuable leads for your business. Keep an eye out for the second part of this guide which will show you how to boost posts and videos to increase reach and how to create a strategy that generates engagement and leads.