How To Create a Social Media Content Strategy in 10 Steps To Outshine Your Competitors

Use our 10-step process to build a social media content strategy that effectively targets and engages your key audience.

Aana Leech
min read
How To Create a Social Media Content Strategy in 10 Steps To Outshine Your Competitors
Table of contents:

Marketers know that social media can be a highly effective channel for reaching out to their online audience. Social media platforms give you direct access to lively and active communities. And when popular platforms record over billions of monthly active users, including Facebook with 2.7 billion and Instagram with 1.16 billion, there’s huge potential for brands to engage potential customers.

Additionally, in a post-pandemic environment, social media channels have become integral to communication, connection, and interaction. In short, social media platforms are now more relevant than ever to your marketing success. From sparking valuable conversations to maximizing influencer marketing, social media communities can return excellent results. So how do marketers make the most of their social media potential? They use a social media content strategy to map the road to success.

What is a social media strategy and why is it important for marketing success?

A social media strategy outlines every aspect of a marketing team’s social media activities for a given period (such as a month, quarter, or year). It identifies your priority social media goals, planned content, and distribution methods, and aligns them with high-level content marketing and business goals. It details how to achieve those goals with specifically selected tactics, channels, and teams. Finally, it highlights the relevant metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs) that will define your social media progress and how frequently you expect to report on them. You’ll create a blueprint plan that maps your brand’s social media channels in terms of:

  • Which channels to use
  • When to post
  • How to post
  • What to post
  • How to monitor social media metrics
  • Which metrics to monitor
  • Which benchmarks to aim for

This process is worth the time investment — 70% of Americans have at least one social media account, and approximately 60% of them access social media every day. Additionally, 9 in 10 people buy from brands they follow on social media. So, not only are your customers using social networks, but they are also ready to build a relationship with and buy from brands. Your social media marketing plan will ensure that you can leverage these customers’ interactions to generate the highest ROI.

A social media strategy guides and aligns your entire marketing team

Building a social media plan helps you maintain a coordinated and coherent marketing presence across all your brand’s activities. Your social media campaigns will naturally intertwine with other marketing efforts. So, it’s vital to put your social media goals — like acquiring leads, increasing brand awareness, and driving sales and conversions — in the context of broader marketing objectives.

A social media strategy lets you evolve with trends

Social media platforms are all about communicating in the here-and-now. Trends are constantly evolving, feeding users new expectations and influencing which types of content work best. It’s important for brands to capitalize on the trends resonating with their target audience while following the data-driven strategy they originally created. If goal-setting is too long-term, your strategy could quickly become irrelevant, failing to anticipate the role of trends on the users and market. And if goal-setting is too near-sighted, your plan will be unsustainable. You risk sacrificing brand recognition and coherence for the benefits of constant content churning. In other words, an effective social media plan gives you the best of both worlds. It strikes a balance between too rigid and too informal.

A social media strategy provides a time-based framework

We would argue that the most important part of a social media marketing plan is the reporting element. Without capturing, analyzing, and assessing data, you can’t measure your improvements down the line. Frequent changes to your plan will affect your ability to reach specific goals and also impact the coordination with other marketing efforts. Many marketing leaders recommend a 90-day threshold to review your social media activities and determine whether and how to adjust. As a result, many marketing teams break down their strategies into manageable three-month plans.

A 10-step plan to create an effective social media strategy

Now that we’ve covered why a social media strategy is so important, let’s talk about how to build one. Start with these 10 steps:

Step 1) Set social media marketing goals that align with business objectives

It’s best to start with the big-picture business objective and then translate them into concrete social media tactics. For example, you can distill a broad goal of increasing brand awareness into social media metrics and goals:

  • Raising follower count by X number
  • Increasing impressions or reach by X number  
  • Increasing the number of product or service referrals via social media by X

Track those metrics in as simple a way as possible

Think about how you’ll quantify and measure these goals over the course of 90 days (or longer). Marketers rely on a variety of social media platforms to build a centralized reporting dashboard for all the channels. Solutions such as Klipfolio are popular for real-time reporting and comparative data history views.

Step 2) Create buyer personas for your social media channels

Of course, the starting point of your social media content strategy is to develop a deep understanding of who your customer is.

Importance of creating audience personas

Buyer personas allow you to identify and better communicate with the smaller segments within your overarching target audience. You’ll be able to tailor the content type, language, and CTAs within your social campaigns for each persona. Most personas include the following:

  • Most used social media platform
  • Go-to products & services
  • Needs and desires
  • Pain points
  • Interests and hobbies

Gather data via data platform hubs and 1:1 interviews

Buyer personas work so well because they draw on real, market data and customer information as much as possible. Many brands use a combination of third-party market research, demographic information, social media analytics, focus groups, and one-on-one interviews to define their ideal customer profiles.

Step 3) Take inspiration from competitors and accounts seeing success

Simply put, you can learn a lot from observing your competitors. Before launching into your social media strategy, you can run a competitive analysis and audit your content against your competitors’ content. You can easily draw inspiration from their activities by looking for content gaps or opportunities to create better content than theirs.

How to find your competitors

Luckily, it’s in the interest of your competitors to maintain a highly visible, searchable social media presence. Typically, marketers can use the search function on social media platforms to identify the relevant brands and explore their content. Buffer has more tips on how to conduct a thorough competitor analysis.

Keep a list of accounts using interesting strategies

Over 9 in 10 brands admit competitors’ social media channels are a significant source of information, according to Crayon’s 2021 State of Competitive Intelligence. For niche markets with a small range of competitors, you can capture data manually in an Excel spreadsheet, comparing engagement, activity, and brand awareness data. You can also make a note of commonly used or trending hashtags on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram that are relevant for your brand. It’s also worth looking into their influencer marketing strategy. You can also use competitor analysis tools such as Sprout Social, Phlanx, or SocialBlade. If you have a development team, you can build an API to extract and sync helpful data to a single dashboard.

Step 4) Determine which social media platforms are best for reaching your audience

Not all social media platforms are right for your brand. Audience demographics can be a determining factor. Younger generations (Gen Zers and millennials) prefer TikTok campaigns over Facebook, for instance. Ultimately, your social media marketing plan needs to zero in on the platforms where you’re most likely to find your audience.

Remember those buyer personas you created earlier? They’ll provide valuable information about your customers’ favorite channels. You can also find hints in your competitors’ strategies.

Establish which type of content you’ll be creating

Once you establish which platforms are relevant, your social media content strategy needs to define the individual pieces of content you’ll develop — or which content you’ll repurpose — for each platform. Which content formats you should use depends entirely on your goals, your audience, and your platforms. In addition, each network has unique specifications for posting content.

Brand awareness and user engagement:

  • Influencer marketing content (sponsored posts, account takeovers, etc.)
  • User-generated content with branded hashtags
  • Live streams and video content
  • Contests, giveaways, and competitions
  • Media coverage and features
  • Curated content, such as boards and lookbooks (like H&M’s #HMxMe hashtag on Instagram)

Conversation starters:

  • Polls and open questions
  • Memes
  • GIFs
  • Throwback images (a handy form of repurposed content)

Thought leadership and expertise:

  • Blog and e-books
  • Slide decks
  • White papers
  • Case studies
  • How-to’s
  • Webinars
  • Infographics

Are you B2B or B2C?

B2B and B2C businesses will naturally gravitate toward different social media platforms. Here’s a brief overview of their most commonly used social media channels. However, goals and target communities can affect these choices. Best channels for B2B social media marketing

Best channels for B2C social media marketing:

  • LinkedIn
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • SlideShare
  • Instagram
  • YouTube
  • Vimeo
  • Pinterest
  • Snapchat
  • WhatsApp
 Recommended Reading: B2B Influencer Marketing: Your 2021 Guide To Success [+ 3 Examples] 

Step 5) Set up optimized account profiles

Informative, engaging, and recognizable social media profiles are an essential part of your social media strategy. Your audience needs to be able to identify your brand voice as they scroll through their feeds. So, optimize your social media profile to create cohesion between the different platforms. A clear brand name and logo matching your website will enhance recognition and improve SEO visibility. Keep your bio relevant and informative, making it as personable as possible while targeting important keywords. Remember to link to your website for SEO advantages. You can also add brand-related hashtags to your profile to help social media content and engagement.

Step 6) Coordinate your social media content plan with other marketing departments

Next, you’ll determine how to coordinate the content creation, publishing, and promotion process internally and across departments. Social media advertising, for instance, directs to a product or landing page, involving both the creative team for the ad and the web content team. Additionally, social media posts can also promote new content, such as video tutorials developed by your support team or seasonal offers, sales, and discounts. We recommend building a high-level map of planned content so you can prioritize and coordinate posts.

Step 7) Build a social media content calendar

Building a social media editorial calendar will help you maintain an overview of content creation and publications within the marketing team.

Social media calendar tools

Social media calendars are critical to your strategy so you can not only create engaging content, but also ensure it goes out at the right time. Here are some social media scheduling solutions that brands use for planning posts and coordinating with other marketing departments:

  • CoSchedule
  • Google Sheets
  • Google Calendar
  • Sprout Social
  • Trello
  • Asana
  • Loomly

How to choose the right social media posting cadence

Social media marketers face a difficult question: How often is too often when it comes to content? As much as brands aim for the right balance of engagement, your social media content cadence needs to be realistic. Like search engines, social media platforms have a unique algorithm that evaluates and rewards authoritative and engaging brands. Great news, you might think. True, but the reward system also factors in post frequency. We’ve written about a content formula to beat the Instagram algorithm before, but in general, realism and pragmatism need to guide your social content marketing strategy. You should ideally aim for posting:

  • As often as you can create new and engaging content
  • As often as your audience can interact
  • As often as it is relevant to your industry sector
  • As often as your competition

Benchmarks vary depending on a variety of factors. The best and simplest approach is to measure interaction and engagement levels to predict the most effective time of day and frequency for your audience.

Step 8) Establish which social media automation tools make sense for your company

Automating digital marketing tasks save you serious time and effort, especially with the high-volume nature of social media management. So, to help you focus on what matters most, we’ve compiled a quick roundup of three helpful automation tools:

  • SocialPilot packs automation and analytics features for businesses of all sizes. The scheduling and content calendar functions are especially useful to manage ad-hoc content creation. It also comes with a free content curation solution when you’re stuck for ideas.
  • CoSchedule aims to support small marketing teams with an integrated automation solution to push your content to social media platforms. With a strong focus on content and social performance, the tool helps keep your content fresh and engaging.
  • Sendible is a popular social media automation tool that manages campaign scheduling and campaign display on your dashboard. It’s customizable, featuring content creation tools based on the different social media platforms.

Step 9) Implement your social media strategy and workflow

Keeping up with social media can be time-demanding, so it’s important to have a workflow in place to ensure you can maintain quality and cadence over time. A social media workflow is simply the process of producing and publishing content for social media. It includes every step from content idea generation to reporting. You can experiment with different aspects, such as which platforms you prioritize and the pace of production.

Step 10) Collect data, learn, and iterate on the strategy

Finally, social media data analytics are vital to the progress and evolution of your strategy over time. Your data will provide valuable insights about brand perception and customer interactions. However, meaningful data will require time (like that 90-day benchmark from earlier) since you’ll want to collect a significant volume of data to identify and validate trends. Here are some ways you can apply your findings to create the next version of your social media strategy:

  • Optimize time to post and platforms for engagement
  • Adjust content creation and content type
  • Prioritize keywords to improve your social media SEO
  • Identify social media influencers and brand advocates to partner with next
  • See if there are metrics or benchmarks that aren’t relevant anymore

Implement Your Social Media Strategy With the Help of From Popular Pays Influencer Marketing Platform

At From Popular Pays, we understand the importance of content collaboration and performance tracking through every stage of your social media marketing strategy. That’s precisely why our software solution enables brands to connect with popular influencers and creators to bring their social media success to the next level. Ready to leverage influencer partnerships to create shareworthy content and outshine your competitors? Request your From Popular Pays demo to discover the benefits.

Other Social Media Articles You’ll Enjoy

Aana Leech
Aana is the former Head of Product Brands of Popular Pays

Related Articles

TikTok Influencer Marketing: A Guide To Help You Get Started
Pinterest Pro: Elizabeth Reyes
The Battle of Photos vs. Videos To Boost Social Media Engagement
Streamlined influencer and creator management
Our all-in-one platform simplifies influencer marketing and content creation, helping your brand increase ROI and drive business impact.
Book a Demo