Your social media plan is like the rails that your social media train runs on. Without the rails, the train could still move quickly – But it would just run everywhere, and quite possibly be dangerous. The same goes for social media.
You can spend a lot of time on social media without actually getting much done. You can even damage your brand by spending too much frivolous time on social media. On the flip side, with a strong social media plan, social media can be an incredibly powerful tool for building your brand and your following.
So what should you include in your social media plan?
Core Goals and Metrics to Track
To start with, you should have your core goals and your core metrics figured out right at the very beginning.
Begin with your goals. What do you want to use social media for? Are you trying to meet JV partners? Are you trying to land speaking engagements? Are you trying to expose your brand to more people? Are you trying to build up your follower count? Are you trying to drive traffic to your site and get actual buyers?
The metrics you’d track stem directly from your goals. For example, if you’re trying to build up your follower count, you might track virality and new followers per day as your core metrics. On the other hand, if you’re trying to make sales, visitors to your website might be your most important metric.
You can’t have a good social media plan without clear goals. Start your planning by figuring out what your goals are, then pick your core metrics to track.
What Social Media Sites You Plan to Cover
Your plan should cover exactly which social networks you plan to be on. The networks you use depend mostly on who you’re trying to reach.
Let’s say you’re trying to land more speaking gigs. In this case, being on Facebook might not be the best way to reach your target audience. Instead, getting on LinkedIn is probably your best avenue, followed by Twitter.
Don’t neglect smaller social networks either. For reaching an early adopter crowd, Google+ could be a very viable option. Smaller communities might have their own social networks setup on Ning (as shown below).
The long and short of it is this: Go where your audience is.
Breakdown of How to Spend Your Time
Your plan should have a detailed outline of how you plan to spend your time. For example, your plan might look something like this:
Monday: 30 Minutes Scheduling Facebook Posts, 30 Minutes Scheduling Twitter Tweets
Tuesday: 30 Minutes Replying to Messages, 30 Minutes Posting on LinkedIn Q&A
Wednesday: 60 Minutes Post on Forums, Comment on Blogs
Thursday: Repeat Monday
Friday: Repeat Tuesday
Try to segment your activities into different “buckets.” When your time in one bucket runs out, move on. Don’t let yourself get sucked into one thing for too long.
List of Essential Actions
What are the most important things you have to get done every week?
If you’re trying to land speaking gigs, then an essential action should be to respond to any conference organizer within 3 business hours. It doesn’t matter what else you’re doing, this takes precedence.
If you’re trying to build a social media following, your essential action might be not missing a post. You have a schedule and you stick to it rigidly. If something might detract you from hitting your posting deadline, those things have to wait.
Having a list of your essential actions can help you prioritize tasks in a busy work environment.
A Plan for Outreach & Connection Building
Two things you should have as part of your plan are building your audience and deepening your connection with your community.
Your outreach strategy should be, again, tailored to your goals. If you’re trying to reach influencers, you might comment on their blogs for several weeks before shooting them a direct Twitter message. If you’re trying to build a Facebook audience, your strategy might involve putting out innovative content every month.
As for building connections, the most important thing to realize on social media is the value of a single person. It’s easy to get lost in the statistics and the crowd of a thousand likes. But often time’s your biggest breakthroughs – PR7 links, JV opportunities, speaking gigs, etc – Will come from the most unexpected places.
Whenever you can, reach out and get in touch with people one on one. Acknowledge your fans and build real connections.
Adjust Your Plan When Needed
Don’t treat your plan as something that’s set in stone. Treat it as something that’s organic. Your plan should grow as you grow and as your audience grows.
Figure out what’s working and what isn’t about your social media plan, then adjust your plan accordingly. Treat your plan as a living document. Use it as a tool to keep yourself and your company on track as you head towards your goals.