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5 Steps to creating a Data-Driven Social Media Strategy - Guide for beginners

The days when Social Media was a light-hearted game where cute GIFs reigned supreme are behind us. Nowadays, everyone is in this game for the win and the most sought after price is consumer attention. But how do you grab your target user’s attention on an overcrowded platform where millions of companies are incessantly shouting “ I’m here!”, hoping to avoid oblivion and bankruptcy? Well, first things first, brands need to realise is that you can’t waste precious time courting customers they don’t really want to attract. That’s why if marketers want to truly harness the power of Social Media and help brands gain momentum, they will need to steer clear of the engagement trap.

The engagement trap

Engagement can be a tempting metric to place at the heart of your Social Media communication, (who wouldn’t like their super-cute cat GIF to get 1000 Hahas, right?), but caution is advised. Likes are addictive and receiving them provides a nice emotional high, that’s why we’re pleading for a more factual data-driven approach to crafting a social media strategy for business, away from the more liberal approach of “we’ll just test this type of content and just see how it goes”. Because some types of content can work really well for all audience types and still generate zero return on investment in terms of both conversions and brand awareness. However, we’re not saying engagement is a metric one can afford to ignore, but moreover that it needs the right context in order to become relevant. Let’s see how we can create such a context.

Create a Data-Driven Social Media Strategy

As we mentioned before, our emotional response to content can lead us astray when we are designing a new Social Media strategy. We may be inclined to use certain networks we know best instead of other lesser known platforms that would perhaps better suit our business needs. Just like we may be inclined to include said cat GIF in our posting calendar just because it would generate engagement. We are all human and being human means being biased. But as long as we keep this fact in mind, we can find the right tools to help us move past these limitations and start using a factual, more data-driven approach to Social Media marketing. Because it is this type of approach that can help us connect our brand goals, our audience and our content in a meaningful way.

1. Define your audience and choose your channels.

Before defining your audience, make sure you know your brand. Start fresh, let go of assumptions and of strategies that have worked in the past and focus on what your brand stands for, its values, its products, its longterm goals. Once you have a clear vision of your brand, you will more easily define your target audience. Of course, ideally, some type of market research is recommended, be it surveys, interviews or focus groups, but you can, of course, use broader targeting to begin with and start learning more about your audience along the way, through analytics provided by your social platforms, websites or other tools. It is however important to try to define an audience as accurately as possible, because your audience will define what Social Media channels are best suited for your brand.

Yes, Facebook and YouTube have the most adult followers, and 63%, respectively, 73% of US adults are using these networks. But if your audience is younger, you should really throwInstagram into the mix. According to SocialMediaToday 76% of users aged 18-29 use it daily. We would not dare ask how many times a day :). So, there really isn’t any way to get around this essential research phase, without the risk of missing out on some great opportunities. For instance, LinkedIn can provide high quality leads thanks to its more professional following, making it ideal for B2B campaigns and communication, while Pinterest has a great female following ready to pin away your best content and even make purchases in countries where this feature is available. And let’s not forget about Snapchat or Twitch. It all depends on how you define your audience persona.

2. Set up clear measurable goals for each channel.

Setting up your goals and KPIs is a crucial step in creating your strategy, after all, we’re aiming for a data-driven strategy. Start by defining your goals broadly, focusing on either brand awareness or sales. Even if you opt for a more balanced approach, your direction should be clear from the very start, leaning more towards one or the other. Next turn these two goals into measurable KPIs. For instance, if you are looking to boost awareness you should track your reach, impressions, video views, and if sales are your bread and butter make sure to consider how many leads, conversions and link clicks you wish to generate through your campaigns and posts. After deciding what your global KPIs are, you should start working on setting your KPIs for each social network and split the budget accordingly. Make sure to check for information available on the web about the average cost per click for your industry on a given platform, if you can’t rely on prior experience. Your plan doesn’t have to be perfect, it should just offer you a benchmark to measure your results by. You can easily adjust and optimise as you go.

3. Listen to your audience

Before creating your content plan, try listening to your audience. There are some great tools out there that can help you gain precious insights about what they care about and about how they engage with other similar brands and products. Sether is a digital monitoring tool designed to help you monitor both your campaigns and your media mentions and reviews. And you can also use specific keywords and eavesdrop on your competition’s conversations. How convenient! Listen carefully and learn what channels provide the most mentions, what products, brands or product categories have a good reputation, and identify what issues you should be prepared to face. Sether even provides a Sentiment Analysis overview for any keyword, letting marketers know if the general feeling towards a specific brand is positive or negative, so you don’t need to read all the reviews, just have a look at the numbers. Don’t forget to keep track of your own brand though. Just because your brand is perhaps just now preparing to start engaging through Social Media, it doesn’t mean that the conversation hasn’t started yet. It’s probably ongoing and you’ll need to jump in with the right type of content.

4. Create appropriate content for each channel

If you want to use each network to its fullest potential, you need to learn to speak its language and adapt your content without distorting your message. If people are asking questions, be informative, create educational videos for YouTube, Infographics for Pinterest, articles on your blog for LinkedIn, and eye-catching visuals for Facebook. If people are disengaged, grab their attention with crisp content on Instagram or partner up with influencers who can amp up the cool factor. There are endless resources available for marketers willing to learn the ropes for each network, so make sure to check at least the official information provided by Facebook Business, Instagram Business, Twitter for business, Pinterest Business, LinkedIn for Business. Just don’t loose sight of your main goals and KPIs in amidst all the possibilities.

5. Monitor. Compare. Optimise.

Monitoring your digital impact is an essential step in creating and refining your strategy and it’s important to monitor both the quality and the quantity of results. After all, having a high engagement count doesn’t really spell out success if everyone is using the angry emoji, and your brand has also received some negative reviews for good measure. Monitoring allows you to assess if your creative direction is producing a decent ROI compared to your KPIs. You can also use tools to identify early on the channels and messages that perform best and optimise accordingly, by investing your budget where it provides the best ROI. Sether helps marketers visualise all campaigns in a single dashboard, thus maximising efficiency and minimising the time spent going from platform to platform. You can choose which campaigns and which KPIs you want to monitor, in order to collect the data most relevant for your brand and make better data-driven decisions.

What if you don’t reach your KPIs?

After monitoring and comparing, more monitoring and comparing, optimisation after optimisation, you might discover that the original KPIs were not attainable. But this is not an issue, their main purpose is merely to offer guidance, a hint of stability in an ever-changing media landscape. KPIs need to be revised as well, depending on the results and insights your brand’s campaigns and posts generate. After all, a data-driven strategy can work only if we truly listen to data and are willing to act upon the insights we uncover.

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