Welcome to the second part of our 2015 Effect Marketing blog series! If you haven’t read our first post about what a marketing plan is and why it is important for your business to have one, click here.

Even though the weather is chilly, most marketers’ brains are warming up with ideas and plans on how to successfully market this year. Benjamin Franklin once said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” In today’s blog post, we’re going to go over the steps to creating a social media marketing plan for this year. Most businesses realize that social media is a crucial part of their marketing strategy, but not everyone executes their social media strategy as well as they could. That’s why it is important to develop a social media marketing plan to stay on track. Although there is no one right approach to social media marketing, the planning process is usually pretty similar no matter what your goals are. Hopefully this blog post will help you get started with your social media marketing plan for 2015.

Step #1: Know your goals

Decide how you want to use social media to contribute to reaching your company’s goals, such as: increasing brand awareness, generating leads, or retaining customers.

Step #2: Know Your Audience

You need to figure out who you are trying to reach. If you know who your audience is, you can match up your social media marketing efforts with the right social networks to make sure you’re putting your marketing efforts into a platform where your audience is spending their time. Women between the ages 18-29 comprise Facebook’s primary audience, while LinkedIn’s users are primarily males with graduate-level education. Clearly, you’ll want to take this kind of statistic into account when planning which social media platforms to target.

Step #3: Choose the right social network channels

This part goes with knowing your audience. Many businesses create accounts on every social media platform without researching which platform will bring the most return for their business. These companies’ social media efforts often feel very scattered, because they’re not really thinking about their target audience. You can avoid wasting your time by finding your niche social network. The easiest and fastest way to find these niche networks is by using Google search. An example of this would be, if you are an artist, trying typing “social media network for artists” into Google search.

Step #4: Know Your Competition

Knowing your competition is a key component of any marketing strategy. Get a sense of their strengths and weaknesses. Researching you competition not only keeps you aware of their activities, but it gives you an idea of what’s working for them so you can integrate those tactics into your own social media marketing.  Compile a list of your main competitors, figure out which social networks they are using, and analyze their content strategy. Look at their numbers of followers, posting frequency, time of day they post, and the type of content they are posting. For example, are they funny memes, promos, blog posts, or something else altogether? Make sure to keep track of how their audience is responding to the posts as well. If you see something working for them, you may as well see if that same tactic might work for you as well.

Create Content for Social Media

Content and social media go hand-in-hand. Without great content, social media is useless, and without social media, nobody will know about your content. There are 3 main components to good social media content strategy: type of content, time of posting, and frequency of posting. The type of content you should post on each social network should focus on form and environment. Form is how you present that info (text only, images, links, video, and etc). The context should fit with your company’s voice and platform trends.

There are many studies and programs that tell you a specific time/day when you should post on social media. You can use these as guidelines for your own social media marketing plan. You probably will need to test and figure out the best time for yourself. Posting frequency is really important as well. Social media audiences are finicky. They don’t like hard sales pitches, but they do like to be engaged… But not too much. It’s quite a daunting task. Finding the right balance is essential to your social media marketing success. This will take some trial-and-error.

Have a budget and resources

To budget your social media marketing, look at the tactics you have chosen to achieve your goals. Make a list of tools you need, such as: social media monitoring tools, email marketing campaigns, graphic designs for infographics and other visual content, video production, etc. You should also have an annual project cost so you can have a view of what you are investing in and how it affects your marketing budget.

Social media is effective and wallet-friendly marketing tool if it is taken seriously. Follow these steps to create a social media marketing plan to be more successful this year. Don’t worry if you discover that some tactics don’t work or go according to plan. Always try to adapt and change, just like social media. There’s always something new popping up!