By Brent Barnhart

Source: Sprout Social

Do you have your social media marketing strategy squared away for 2019?

If not, we don’t blame you.

Because 2018 was a whirlwind year for social marketing to say the least.

Facebook was shrouded in controversy due to its algorithm changes and privacy concerns. Instagram finally came into its own by rolling out a whole slew of business features while also passing the one-billion user mark.

All the while brands got bolder, launching conscious and seemingly controversial campaigns as customers want to see brands get real.

And that doesn’t even scratch the surface.

Last year’s happenings combined with this year’s emerging trends have left marketers with a sense of analysis paralysis. Where do you go from here?

Perhaps what matters most is that you have a strategy at all. To keep your brand from sitting on the sidelines, we’ve broken down the steps to developing a social media marketing plan to carry you through 2019 with a sense of purpose.

1. Set goals that address your biggest challenges

First things first: you need to figure out what you want out of social media at large.

Maybe it’s more social-savvy customers. Perhaps it’s a larger share of voice in your industry.

Either way, remember that social media planning is a marathon, not a sprint.

Brands should strive to set goals that are actually attainable. For example, shooting for a million new Instagram followers in 2019 isn’t going to happen. By tackling smaller, realistic goals, you can scale your social efforts in a way that’s both reasonable and affordable.

And on a related note, your goals will influence everything from your budget to which social networks you’ll tackle.

Sample Social Media Goals for 2019

Below are some actionable goals that brands of all shapes and sizes can divide and conquer.

Increase brand awareness. To create authentic and lasting brand awareness, avoid solely publishing promotional messages. Instead, focus on content that emphasizes your personality and puts your followers ahead of the hard sell.

Achieve a higher quality of sales. Digging through your social channels is nearly impossible without monitoring or listening to specific keywords, phrases or hashtags. Through more efficient social media targeting, you reach your core audience much faster.

Drive in-person sales. Many brick-and-mortar businesses are on the hunt for a social media marketing strategy that drives in-store sales. Is your brand promoting enough on social to entice folks to come see you? Are you about alerting customers to what’s going on in your stores, including promotions and action shots of your store?

Improve ROI. Positive social media ROI doesn’t happen by accident. Taking the time to audit your social channels can help keep the cost of labor, ads and creatives down. The end-result is squeezing way more out of your social spending.

Create a loyal fanbase. Does your brand promote user-generated content? Do your followers react positively without any sort of initiation? Your customers can be your best cheerleaders and sources of fresh content, but only if you’re encouraging them to post on your behalf.

Better pulse on the industry. What are your competitors doing that seems to be working? What strategies are they using to drive engagement or sales? Such analysis can help you better understand how to position your own brand both on social media and off.

Any combination of these explicit goals is fair game and can help you better understand which networks to tackle, too. When in doubt, keep your social media marketing strategy simple rather than muddling it with too many objectives that’ll ultimately distract you.

2. Research your audience

Making assumptions is a dangerous game for marketers.

And thanks to the sheer wealth of demographic data and social media analytics tools out there, you really don’t have to anymore.

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