Originally published in the Boulder Daily Camera and the Longmont Daily Times-Call.

Feeling social? That’s great, but how can your business move beyond just being social in your marketing efforts.  Like everything else, you need a strategy.

Do you have a social media marketing strategy? If not, you should. It’s a summary of everything you plan to do and the goals you wish to achieve on social media. It guides your actions and lets you know whether you’re succeeding or failing. Every post, reply, like, and comment should serve a purpose.

The more specific your strategy is, the more effective your efforts will be. The first step to creating a winning strategy is to establish your objectives and goals. Without goals, you have no way to measure success or return on investment (ROI). Each of your goals should be: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely.

What do you know about your target audiences? Knowing who your audiences are and what they want to see is key to creating content that they will like, comment on, and share. It’s also critical if you want to turn social media followers into customers for your business.

Start by gathering real-world data. Don’t make assumptions. Social media analytics can also provide a ton of valuable information about who your followers are, where they live, which languages they speak, and how they interact with your brand on social. These insights allow you to refine your strategy and better target your social ads.

What is your competition doing on social media? A competitive analysis will enable you to understand who the competition is and why they’re great, or not so great. This activity will also help you spot opportunities.

Take a look at your current efforts. If you’re already using social media tools, you need to take a step back and look at what you’ve already done and accomplished. What’s working, and what’s not? Who is connecting with you on social? Which networks does your target audience use?

How does your social media presence compare to that of your competitors?

This information will help you to better understand which networks to use. As you decide which social channels to use, you will also need to define your strategy for each network. Don’t assume that they are all the same or that they work all the same.

Creating a social media content calendar is important. Sharing great content is essential, but it’s equally important to have a plan in place for when you’ll share content to get the maximum impact.

Create a posting schedule as well. This includes the dates and times at which you will publish types of content on each channel. It’s the perfect place to plan all of your social media activities from images and link sharing to blog posts and videos. It includes both your day-to-day posting and content for social media campaigns.

Test, evaluate, and adjust your strategy. Don’t set it and leave it. Your social media strategy is an important part of your business, and you can’t assume you’ll get it exactly right on the first try. As you start to implement your plan and track your results, you may find that some strategies don’t work as well as you’d anticipated, while others are working even better than expected.

Track your data religiously. In addition to the analytics within each social network be sure to track activity on your website, so you can see exactly which social posts drive the most traffic to your website.

 Lastly, re-evaluate, test, and do it all again. Like all social relationships, the more attention you give the more you will receive.

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