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How to Build a Social Media Marketing Plan: 5 Steps for Small Businesses

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You know social media is a valuable—and free—marketing resource, but you just can’t seem to get your social media marketing strategy off the ground.

Maybe your company has an outdated Facebook page or an inactive Twitter account, or maybe you posted pictures of last year’s holiday party on Instagram. But you’re really not using those resources to their full potential to effectively market your company.

Does this sound like you?

If so, you’re in the right place. We’ve put together a guide that any small business can use to develop a solid social media marketing plan!

Your social media marketing plan

This plan is intended to be used as more of a template, not a list of instructions. Read over these guidelines to establish a foothold, but then use them moving forward to develop your own evolving, unique social media strategy.

1. Create and build your profiles

If you haven’t already done so, you’ll need to create an online social media presence.

Here are the four staples to get started with, including links to create an account for each:

Be sure to keep your personal account separate from your business account, and use your company logo to make it clear that this is a business profile. (Save the pic of you at your Fourth of July BBQ for your personal profile.)

Each platform offers a useful guide for small businesses to help them get the most out of an account:

You don’t have to use all of these channels. In fact, as Hootsuite’s Evan LePage says:

“It’s better to use fewer channels well than to stretch yourself thin trying to maintain a presence on every social network.”

2. Develop your brand voice

Now that you have your profiles set up, it’s time to start posting.

We won’t go into great detail on what specific things you should be posting, because that could be a guide—or an entire course of study—on its own.

What you do need to figure out first is: What is your brand’s voice?

Is it playful, like Arby’s?

A playful Instagram post from Arby’s

Helpful, like Lowe’s?

A helpful Tweet from Lowe’s

Or authoritative, like The New York Times?

An authoritative Facebook post from The New York Times

You need to ensure that you present a consistent voice, so consider the answers to these questions before you go live:

  • Who is your target audience?
  • What kind of information do you plan to share with them?
  • What types of interactions do you hope to encourage? In other words, how will you measure engagement?

Sprout’s Alex York says, “If you mix your tone, brand strategy or just the way you talk, it can send different messages to consumers. Your ultimate goal should be to provide a consistent and enjoyable brand experience every time a customer interacts with you.”

Want some examples of businesses that do this well? Skyword showcases “10 Brands That Have Perfected Their Social Media Marketing Voice.”

Also, if you have the resources, it can be extremely helpful to have your marketing team create a document of brand guidelines that everyone at your business can reference.

3. Maintain your online presence

Once your accounts are up and running, and you’re posting regularly, you must stay consistent and active.

Have you ever gone to the Facebook page for a restaurant to check its menu, only to discover its most recent post is promoting Cinco de Mayo specials—from three years ago? Or checked the Twitter account of a local web design firm, to find they only have five posts and 12 followers?

You probably thought, “If they handle their social media presence this haphazardly, what kind of business do they run?” And that’s exactly what your followers will think about your business if you don’t post consistently.

Grace McDonald, President of Social Live LLC, writes that “Having an inactive social media account sends the message to your customers that you are either no longer in business or just don’t care about your online reputation.”

Staying active, fresh, and original on your social media platforms requires time, dedication, and creativity. To help, there are several tools designed to help with tasks such as:

  • Scheduling posts ahead of time
  • Viewing your scheduled posts on a calendar
  • Automating posts based on relevant content you find while browsing

Some examples of these automation tools include Buffer, Hootsuite, and Sprout Social. Check out a comparison of Buffer and Hootsuite here.

4. Explore sponsored posts

Let’s say you’ve gotten the hang of social media marketing, and things are going well. You’re sharing your company’s message, interacting with followers, and maybe even having a little fun.

But does it feel like there’s a cap on the reach of even your best posts? Have you seen posts from other companies reach thousands while yours are only reaching hundreds? If so, you might be ready to pump up the volume on your channels with paid posts.

All of the major social media platforms offer businesses an option to pay to have a post amplified, like an advertisement.

This way, instead of attempting to come up with a brilliant tweet and hoping it “goes viral,” you can ensure a tweet gets seen by many more people by paying to have it promoted.

Hootsuite suggests starting with unpaid posts as a way of beta testing for potential paid ads. If a post seems to get a higher than usual response from your regular audience, consider throwing some spend at it to see just how far it will reach.

Check out the resources below for information on how to get started with paid advertising on each platform:

5. Optimize your channels

Once you have the previous steps figured out, you should start optimizing your content for each of your channels.

What does this mean? Instead of copying and pasting the same block of text on each of your channels regardless of context, optimizing means tailoring content to the channel, and choosing the best outlet for specific messages.

For example:

  • Got a beautiful picture of your new product? Post it on Instagram.
  • Have some breaking company news you want to announce? Try Twitter.
  • Want to poll your followers? Go to Facebook.
  • Looking to hire? Look to LinkedIn.

Of course, these are simplified examples, and there are plenty of situations when you’ll want to post the same message across multiple social media channels. But, you need to consider the message you’re posting and choose the channel where it will get the most mileage.

But knowing how to optimize your message for each channel, rather than just copying and pasting the same blog or chunk of text in four different places, can really make your company stand out from the others.

Jennee Rasavong of the See Girl Work blog suggests that “Sharing content as is across your channels won’t work. Getting to know each social media audience is key, and customizing your sharing tactics will ensure you see higher engagement across the board.”

Make this social media marketing plan your own

There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all social media marketing plan. The cool thing about social media is that each individual and company can convey a unique personality and voice through their online presence.

So all the advice you read in this guide is a great way to get started, but the way you’ll adapt this plan to your business is totally up to you. Have fun, be yourself, and let the world know what makes your company great.

Jay Acunzo, host of the Unthinkable podcast, made this point in his keynote presentation at 2017’s Content Marketing World: If everyone is tweeting at the “ideal” time, you risk becoming lost in the crowd by strictly adhering to conventional wisdom.

As Acunzo says, “when we question conventional thinking using our own context, we make better decisions, faster.”

In other words, learn how the system works, then do your own thing.

More resources

Do you use social media marketing at your small business? If so, what’s your experience been like, and what would you add to this plan?

And, if you’re still looking for more resources, check out our sales and marketing blog, and subscribe to the newsletter.

Looking for Marketing Automation software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Marketing Automation software solutions.

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About the Author

Andrew Conrad

Andrew is a content writer for Capterra, specializing in church management and project management software. When he’s not striving for the perfect balance of information and entertainment, Andrew enjoys the great outdoors and the wide world of sports. Follow him on Twitter @CapterraAC.

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