social media how toDoes your business have a social media strategy?

According to research conducted by Constant Contact, over 50% of small businesses need help with social media.

While many businesses have a social media presence, many are not engaging on those platforms and thus not meeting their goals.

With planning, your small business can use social media effectively.

Here are seven steps to a social media strategy for your business.

#1: Determine Your Business Objectives for Social Media

How do you want to use social media to help your business? What goals do you want to achieve?

Make your goals as concrete, measurable and achievable as possible. For example, if you currently get five new leads a month, setting a goal to get 100 new leads in the next 12 months is more realistic than setting a goal to get 5,000 new leads.


Define clear goals for your social media marketing. Image source: iStockPhoto.

Here are some objectives commonly identified by small businesses:

  • Build your brand by getting people to recognize your name and associate it with your product.
  • Attract new customers by driving traffic to your social media page or company website.
  • Support sales by answering prospects’ questions and showing them how to use your products or services.
  • Engage with your fans by giving customers a reason to talk about your brand and encourage others to purchase from you.

By setting specific objectives, you establish markers for your business. This helps define your social media metrics and will make effective social media marketing easier for you to do.

#2: Know Your Audience

Determine the prospects and customers with whom you want to engage on social media. This is your target audience.

target audience

Who is your target audience on social media? Image source: iStockPhoto.

To help you understand their characteristics, create a set of marketing personas for the segments you want to reach.

  • Understand your target market’s point of view and activities. Think demographics, psychographics and past purchases, as well as interests and priorities.
  • Consider influencers, buyers and end users. Most purchase decisions, including consumer purchases, are made with input from more than one person.
  • Know where your audience engages on social media. Not everyone is on Facebook.
  • Consider your audience’s social media behavior. Does your market lurk, share or create social media content? What incentives will make them act?

The more you know your audience, the easier it will be to engage with them on social media and get the results you’re looking for.

#3: Choose Your “Hot Buttons”

These are your firm’s core topics.

hot button

Select your audience’s hot buttons. Image source: iStockPhoto.

Target your three to five main topics. These should be categories or words you want to place for in search optimization. Create content around these topics for which you want your business to be known.

  • Create an editorial calendar integrated with your promotional calendar. Plan relevant content around your main keywords and your planned promotions. Develop a framework to minimize content creation time by not needing to think about what you’re going to write before you craft content.
  • Brainstorm ideas for content around these categories. Before developing your content, list topics you want to cover. For most businesses, the easiest way to accomplish this is to answer your customers’ questions before and after purchase. Link to appropriate product pages but don’t be promotional!
  • Offer a variety of content formats, not just text. People take in content differently. Attract attention with images, since some social media platforms such as Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram are image-based.

Actionable marketing tip: Leverage the power of blogging. It provides an owned home base for social media interactions, while supporting building a house file and encouraging social sharing.

By clearly defining the right hot topics for your company and creating content and conversations around these topics, you’ll find it easier to get the results you want from social media.

#4: Stake Your Social Media Turf

Create a presence on all major social media platforms.

social media icons

Stake your claim on social media venues. Image source: iStockPhoto.

Take ownership of your firm’s name across social media entities. Understand that this may not be possible, depending on your company name and similarly named organizations. But you’ll want to secure your name for the main social media profiles.

Branding is a shorthand that helps customers to recognize your company without thinking. After you’ve claimed your space, remember to incorporate elements of your brand into your profile.

facebook page

Here’s how Social Media Examiner presents its brand on Facebook.

Also think “findability” and post your store location, phone number and local hours. Remember to include a link to your website.

A strong social presence will help you get the most out of your social media marketing.

#5: Set Your Social Media Engagement

Be strategic with your social media time usage. It’s easy to spend more time than you need to on social media. A social media plan—together with a strategic approach—will help you find the right balance.

Use your existing communications such as email and in-store signage to encourage your customers to get onto social media and engage with you.


A New York City green market vendor encourages social media engagement using a chalkboard.

#6: Plan Your Resource Use

For many small businesses, the concept of planning resource utilization may be new. Even if you’re a solopreneur, you must take a strategic view of your time. If you don’t, you’ll find that you’re running from one online emergency to another.


Plan your social media engagement. Image source: iStockPhoto.

  • Decide who will handle your social media engagement. For most small businesses, this is often the owner.
  • Set parameters for social media use. This means defining your social media guidelines for both employees and visitors.
  • Create processes where possible. Depending on your business, assess where you have opportunities to develop content that supports your goals. Think customer interactions, purchases and conferences.

Actionable marketing tip: Prepare for creating content. Have a camera, smartphone or iPad ready to capture content while you’re doing business! Don’t forget to get customers’ permission to use their images to ensure you don’t have issues later. Have a plan in place to determine how and where you’ll use the information.

#7: Measure Your Social Media Results

Don’t forget to set up everything you’ll need to measure your results. The metrics you’ll want to track will be based on the business objectives you defined.


Measure your social media progress. Image source: iStockPhoto.

You’ll want to make it easy to measure your results.

  • Incorporate a social media call to action. Don’t just assume prospects will take the next action without prompting. Guide them to engage and interact with contextually relevant calls to action.
  • Track indicators that help show that you’ve accomplished your objectives. For most businesses, this means more than comments and social media shares.

Actionable marketing tip: Ensure you can track your results by using a unique promotion code or targeted landing page.

Over to You

The bottom line is that your small business can successfully use social media to achieve your business objectives. To this end, plan ahead to ensure that your time spent on social media reinforces your other business messaging and engagement and yields measureable results.

What do you think? What are your special tips for making social media engagement effective at driving your business’s success? Please include your suggestions in the comments section below.

Images from iStockPhoto.
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  • Eric Leszkowicz

    Heidi this is a great post.

    I think #5 should be repeated as #8, #9, #10 (then you could have a 10 things post 🙂

    Time has been the absolute hinderance to implementing social media. That said….tips I learn here like this article have trimmed my time down to less than an hour a day.


  • Heidi you said something that everyone should write down, “Incorporate a call to action.” I often try to explain to businesses and brands that there’s a huge difference between action and awareness. That putting something in the world for awareness is useless if it doesn’t lead to taking action.

  • heidicohen

    Patrick–Without a contextually relevant call-to-action, it’s difficult to get readers to act. Additionally it helps your tracking process. Happy marketing, Heidi Cohen

  • heidicohen

    Eric — You are right. Social media can be a huge time suck for a small business. To be effective, you need a time efficient process. Happy marketing, Heidi Cohen

  • Thanks for this Heidi. Lots of the small businesses that we talk to are not spending much time at all on social media, so I am wondering if we should encourage people to focus on being successful with just one network like Facebook, instead of trying to come up with a strategy for all the different networks. Would appreciate your thoughts and anyone else’s as well. Thanks.

  • Michael Wilson

    I think that finding your target audience is the most important because all of your hard work could go to waste if you don’t know who to target. Making sure you are creating engaging content for your targeted audience is big if you want them to keep coming back for more and allow them to share your content with others. Social media marketing is one of the biggest tools for marketers to take advantage of right now, and I think you gave some pretty good strategies here Heidi, I enjoyed reading this!

  • heidicohen

    Great question.

    Unfortunately when it comes to social media, one size doesn’t fit all. Each business must assess their business goals and where their target audience is on social media by creating a social media persona. (Here are some insights to help you create one

    In today’s ever expanding social media ecosystem, I’d recommend using more than one social media platform to maximize reach and minimize risk of a major change on a specific site.

    That said, if I had to choose one platform, I’d create a blog since it provides content to feed various social media entities. (Here are my tips on the subject

    Happy marketing,
    Heidi Cohen

  • elmer

    heidi, thanks for the post. really great

  • heidicohen


    I agree that you need to determine who your audience is. You can look at competitive products and who they target. Also, you can ask prospects what they think and get their feedback. Even if it’s not statistically relevant, it gives you some feedback. Lastly, you can ask your social media community.

    Happy marketing,
    Heidi Cohen

  • heidicohen

    Elmer–THank you for taking the time to read it. Happy marketing, Heidi Cohen

  • Heidi – Once again, a great informative post….! Thank you.

  • heidicohen

    Dave–Appreciate that you took the time to read it. Happy marketing, Heidi Cohen

  • Great thanks Heidi and thanks for the link. FYI there is a colon added to the end of the link to your site so its not clicking through for me. Here it is without the colon if anyone else has the same problem, definitely worth a read as well:

    Best Regards,
    Dave Waring

  • Heidi – great stuff! One thing that really works great for me on Social Media, related to your “Plan your resource use”, is actually making sure that I’m setting the time aside to have meaningful interactions with people in the social platforms I’m on. Thanks for the great tips here!

  • heidicohen

    I agree planning is one thing but you must hold yourself accountable for actually doing the quality engagement.

    Happy marketing,
    Heidi Cohen

  • Great suggestions! I’m in desperate need of structure and this was very helpful.

  • Heidi thanks for a great article. As a small business owner myself in a very niche market I have discovered that trying to focus on all my social media platforms it very difficult let alone sometimes very distracting when it comes to work focus requirements. I think this is when a good Social Media Manager could be beneficial, but in saying that unless they know your market or industry well you would still need to provide the content. I try and minimize my time to on these platforms and post a few times time. Again integrating sharing buttons and linking accounts helps. Regards Kim

  • rustylyan

    social media could be great part of the business but we always be in mind that media have sensitivity of human
    It could be strategy but not sensitiveness .

  • heidicohen

    Sue– Don’t worry you’re not alone. Many businesses need structure, especially small ones. Happy marketing, Heidi Cohen

  • heidicohen

    Kim–As a small business owner, you must start by realizing that you can’t do everything. To this end, you need to focus on what’s most important for moving your business to the next level. You can’t spend all of your time chasing the latest fire or inappropriate opportunities. To this end, create a schedule so that you can target your social media activity. (Here are three strategies based on SME’s social media research Happy marketing, Heidi Cohen

  • heidicohen

    Rusty–Understand that your business must start with a business plan including goals, target market, metrics and more. From there, you can integrate social media into your marketing. Many small businesses use social media out of necessity since they can trade time and effort for marketing budget. Happy marketing, Heidi Cohen

  • U wrote such a great post here as always Heidi.
    I definitely go for all tips. Keep going.

    Thank you.

  • heidicohen

    Jessi–Thank you! I suggest that you write each tip down and then answer it with your information. Happy marketing, Heidi Cohen

  • Anna Nesbitt

    Fantastic post Heidi, thanks for putting the time aside to put together. This echoes what I endeavour to instill within my team, so its great to have this kind of advice (and more!) in writing. We will be spending considerably more time ensuring we follow this advice starting tomorrow. Social media is under used and time and priority to dedicate enough resource to it does not feature highly enough in my opinion. We are all guilty of letting it slip. Prepare, set goals, know your audience and talk to them in a way that they are accustomed… The recipe for success 🙂

  • heidicohen

    Anna– The key is crafting your organization’s specific goals making them achievable and measurable. Happy marketing, Heidi Cohen

  • Setting up a strategy is often overlooked. While I do not agree with lack of action because there is no plan, jumping in with no intention or roadmap leads to not understanding how to value your efforts. And, sometimes audience confusion. Good tips!

  • Tasneem_Alnajjar

    How can I build the Scoial Media strategy plans and documents? Any suggested articles ?

  • heidicohen

    Tasneem–To build your own social media strategy, take each of these steps and answer the questions for your business.This means writing down your responses. The more detailed and specific your answers the better your strategy will be. This will give you the basis for a basic social media plan. Happy marketing, Heidi Cohen

  • meme agwuna

    Thanks for this great post Heidi. i just got a job as a social content manager for an international firm starting a branch in west Africa. i stumbled upon your post and it was of get use for my presentation. ive also signed up for more post.

  • heidicohen

    Melonie — The challenge most businesses, particularly small ones, is that they jump into the work without a plan. If you don’t know what you’re trying to achieve, it’s difficult to do it well. Happy marketing, Heidi Cohen

  • heidicohen

    Meme– Glad that you found this article useful. If your job is focused on content, you need to also create a strategy to ensure that you develop sufficient content and that you maximize its distribution. Happy marketing, Heidi Cohen

  • Coffy Group

    Like every other form of marketing, social media marketing can take a toll on you if it is not properly planned and executed. So thanks a lot for this. I’ll make sure to share this to my friends.

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  • Angie

    I’m really trying to learn as much about Social Media Marketing as I can and in a really short time, you blog has helped me a whole lot! Great post thank you!

  • Maria Berneiser Haase

    This is some great stuff, Heidi! I think #8 should be to adjust your strategy according to your measured results and repeat what’s working, as I think your Social Media Strategy is more like a living, breathing thing, rather than a static construct. After all, every business in every industry is different and when we (the Social Media Managers or Consultants) set up the initial strategy, there is a lot of guessing involved. After testing and measuring the results, we can then fine-tune it to fit the exact needs of this particular audience. Too many businesses just do Social Media without any plan or strategy at all and then say it’s not working. I’ve been writing a series of 12 Tutorials on how to create a Social Media Strategy and I love your point of view on this, because I think having a strategy is what makes and breaks Social Media Success.

  • Tracey Westgate

    this provided me with a good base structure to start- thank you!

  • amir levy

    hi Heidi,
    “Set parameters for social media use”
    tell what you think of those parameters?
    1.Which media to work with.

    2.What message we want to convey?

    3.How to create content ? much time to invest in every social media?

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  • I am looking for some news for teh social media and i found this article. I relise where i have to go with socail media and i think those tips are always usefull and basic for the social media.

  • Zaitsev

    Great post, Heidi. Very helpful. I’m always looking for tips and tricks regarding social media management. I’ve learned the hard way that it’s not as simple as just updating your business’s Facebook status here and there.

    With that in mind, I’ve noticed that many business owners who are good at what they do are sometimes baffled by social media. It’s hard for some. I did find a solution to do though — and it is industry-specific stock posts. Something like that automates and streamlines the process, so that you don’ t need to be a marketing whiz to have good, engaging content on your business page. Actually, having things like a detailed calendar and scheduler really makes things easier. There are platforms with calendars and all, but they can be pricey. I’ve found one that was affordable enough — it’s called Capzool. Anyone looking to streamline their social media presence should give it a serious look. Like I said, it utilizes stock posts (which are updated almost daily); you can even send a request for specific types of posts (they don’t charge you for it — there’s only a monthly membership fee, and it’s super cheap). Check it out (just Google “Capzool”).