Are you starting from scratch with social media? Got a new product or new business?
In this article, you’ll discover a six-step plan for launching your new social media presence. Plus you’ll learn about some key things to avoid in your planning process.
#1: 12 Weeks Before Launch: Choose Your Social Platforms
A few months before launch, choose which social platforms you'll use to launch your business. It's important to decide (or find out) how seriously you're going to take social media in the next 1-2 years. It's better not to launch on a platform at all than to create an account, post four times, and then forget it.
This is also when the social media manager (or team) should be coordinating with the marketing team or other marketing agencies (depending on the size of the company) to make sure your social media plan is integrated into a big-picture marketing approach.
You'll want to do a competitive analysis to get a feel for your market. This makes it easier to decide how you want to differentiate your business from your competitors. For example, you'll want to research what your competitors are doing on LinkedIn if you're thinking about creating a presence there.
Also determine your overall goals for converting social media followers into customers and spend some time thinking about which platforms best support those goals.
#2: 8 Weeks Before Launch: Write Social Media Guidelines
The next step is to create character sketches and a brand handbook outlining your dos and don'ts for social media posts.
This step is vital if your social media presence is, or will be, managed by multiple people. Spend some time thinking of your brand as a character. You may even want to write up who they are. What are their extracurricular interests? What would their online dating profile say?
Here are a few more questions to get you started:
- Does your brand refer to itself as “we” or “I”?
- Are any words off-limits?
- Does your brand have a political leaning? How comfortable is your company with offending followers of a different political leaning?
- Will you respond to comments and how often? Even negative ones? What tone will you use to address negative comments? (There will be haters. It's a public forum after all.)
- If your social media account were a person, what would they do for fun? How would they talk? What TV shows or books would be of interest to them?
The answers to these questions may be different from the interests of the brand manager or CEO, as they should be. Unless you're creating a personal brand (in which case the answers to many of these questions will fall in line with you or the person you're representing), your brand's personality should be a reflection of the personas you want to attract.
Once your team has a good grasp of your “who,” create a handbook to document rules and behaviors for your business on social media. As with all rules, some will be broken but having these guidelines in place will help establish your business during launch.
Pro Tip: Write the handbook as if you were explaining things to a new employee who doesn't know anything about your business. Who are you? What are you selling? How are you using social media to enhance the user experience with your business?
#3: 1-4 Weeks Before Launch: Create a Social Media Calendar
Next, create a social media calendar for the first month, even if you don't plan on sticking to it 100%.
Rigid social media calendars can be constrictive, especially if you plan to comment on current events or use memes while they're still cool. But it's good to have goals for how often you'll post and have some planned shares on hand, especially for busy days.
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Before launch day, make sure you have 10-15 sample posts for each platform. Pass these posts around to the marketing team and key decision-makers. Or, if you're a solo-entrepreneur, try them out on socially savvy friends. This will give everyone (including you) a taste for your brand voice. If you report to higher-ups, everyone will be on the same page before planning has gone too far.
Pro Tip: Some of these posts may work to seed your accounts with activity before you're officially live.
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This is also a good time to start thinking a few months to a year ahead. Speaking to product or production managers about where your business is headed in the next year can provide ideas for the types of social campaigns you'll want to launch in the coming months.
As with most tasks, launching a social media campaign typically takes more time and planning than it may seem from the outset. If you can start getting the details together a few months out, future mini-launches will go more smoothly.
If possible, ensure that at least two people (the content writer and a proofreader) sign off on every post before it goes on the calendar. Typos are inevitable, but they're easy to prevent. Read this article to learn how to set up a social media approval process for your business.
#4: Launch Eve: Double-Check Details
On the day before launch, make a detailed to-do list and mark off every item before you leave the office.
Launch eves are often email-full days. Check in with this person, verify details with that person, and put out a few fires. The best way to keep everything straight is to create a checklist and double-check every detail. Don't make assumptions. Re-verify everything with the people you're depending on for a successful launch day.
Here are a few details to double-check:
- Your social media bios and art are the final versions.
- All posts are proofed and ready to go live with photos.
- Photos have watermarks, hashtags, or other necessary branding.
- Key people know when and what to post on their personal accounts, and you've accounted for different time zones.
- All links are correct.
- The social team is ready with launch-day goals and key performance indicators, and it's clear how these metrics will be measured.
- Everything has been signed off on.
#5: Launch Day: Start Engaging
If you've planned well, launch day is about execution and observation. Watch your well-prepared copy go live, hit Refresh until you're on the verge of carpal tunnel, and enjoy watching the brand you created come to life.
Today is also when you start engaging. Respond to your new fans' questions and comments. This is a first chance to show off your brand's personality.
Higher-ups may be expecting a brand launch post-mortem, so make sure you (or your social marketing team) measure engagement and take screenshots of successes throughout the day.
#6: Post-Launch: You're a Social Manager Now
After the launch, stay active and passionate, interact with fans, and develop your brand's personality as the company grows and changes.
There are too many tasks to list for this phase because it may comprise the rest of a social manager's job. Instead, here are some brand strategy points to consider adding to your handbook now that you're interacting with the public:
- If you received press coverage on launch day, select pieces to share and interact with the journalists, too.
- Get to know your first few followers and frequent posters. Who are these folks? How do they compare to the people you anticipated interacting with your business? How might these differences (if they exist) affect your strategy?
- Don't forget to experiment. Original plans for converting fans into buyers may not be as effective as expected. Plan to try (and measure the effects of) new tactics. That will keep the brand fresh and its social manager in constant idea mode.
Bonus Tips: What to Watch Out For
Now that you know the “dos” for launching a business on social media, here are a few launch “don'ts” to avoid:
- Don't count on launching a viral piece of content that will make or break your social success. Even if you get lucky, you'll need more than 15 seconds of fame to build a brand.
- Don't launch on a platform just for the sake of launching on that platform. Building a brand means generating unique and interesting content.
- Don't wait until 1-2 weeks before launch to begin social brainstorming. Make sure someone on the team is focused on social media content throughout development, whatever form “development” may take for your business.
When you're starting a new social media presence, it can be a strange sensation to post into a void, “Hello! We're here! Come buy our widget!” But, if you follow the tips and timeline above, you're sure to start with your best social foot forward.
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- Establish a social strategy that will guide you closer to your marketing goals.
- Create buyer personas to use in your social media marketing.
- Develop a pipeline of content ideas that never ends.
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