How to Make a Social Media Plan in 5 Steps [+ Free Template]

Creating a social media plan is essential for success on social networks as it allows you to save time and avoid mistakes when posting on platforms. To make one, set campaign goals, define your audience, and analyze the competition. Set your campaigns up for success with strong branding and detail the strategies you will use to fuel your campaign. To help you get started, we’ve included a free template you can customize to make your own plan.

Download our free social media plan template and use it as you follow the steps on how to create a plan for your small business.

1. Set Your Campaign Goals

Many small businesses make the mistake of launching into social media marketing without a plan. This often results in wasted time and effort, discouragement of not seeing results, and can even damage your brand if done poorly.

As such, the first part of making a social media plan is establishing your marketing goals. You can approach this by thinking about what you want to achieve in your business. For example, do you want to drive sales, build a community of followers, generate leads, or some combination of other goals?

Having detailed goals allows you to create well-structured social media campaigns, measure how well you’re doing, and can serve as a benchmark for optimizing future campaigns. There are two components in the social media plan template for goal setting: marketing targets and key performance indicators (KPIs).

The marketing target is simply what the objective aims to improve or establish while the KPIs are measurable indicators of your progress toward these targets. For example, if your marketing target is brand awareness, a good KPI for this is page followers or post reach. Below are some common marketing targets and the KPIs you can use to measure them.

Improving brand awareness requires more people to find out about your business, and you get your message across to potential customers. Key metrics for measuring brand awareness include the number of followers, page mentions, and post reach.

A goal appropriate for nearly every social media plan is to increase the number of people who interact with your brand, and the frequency of these interactions. An engaged audience speaks volumes about the quality of your content. Some KPIs to consider are the number of likes, comments, shares, and mentions.

One of the fundamental objectives of any form of small business marketing is driving up sales and conversions. More sales mean more revenue from your social media campaign. You can easily track this with conversion rates, which are available on most social media business page dashboards.

Generating and nurturing leads are crucial to social media marketing. You can keep note of potential leads and their information to make it easier to interact with them. Lead generation can be measured through the number of emails or information collected from social media, participation in online events, or clicks on lead-generating posts and social media advertisements.

Driving traffic to your website is one of the many benefits of social media marketing (SMM), so companies use posts to direct their audience to their website’s content. You can track this with clicks on your social media posts or using tools like Google Analytics, which shows how much website traffic your site received from social media platforms.

2. Define Your Audience

The next step in making a social media plan is to define your audience. This is crucial because it will then direct your strategies and content. When defining your audience, consider information about your ideal client or customer, such as age, location, gender, language, and interests.

If you have existing campaigns, look into the demographics of people who engage with your content the most. Looking into relevant reports and statistics can also shed light on the target audience of your particular industry or niche. Likewise, any data you can gather about your current customers can help you define your audience (or offer insights as to why your customer base isn’t a match for your ideal audience).

Finally, creating a customer persona is one of the best ways to get to know your audience. This is a tool often used by marketers to define a business’ ideal buyer for lead generation or conversion. Learn how to create a customer persona and use our free template as your customer profile for your business.

3. Analyze the Competition

Conducting an analysis of how your competitors use social media can show you areas of opportunity and help you avoid mistakes and ineffective social media strategies. Here are the steps to conduct a competitive analysis as part of creating your social media plan:

Keywords are simply search queries people enter on Google and other search engines. Your main keywords can be found by boiling down your business offering or services into simple words or phrases. For example, if your business is a salon in Manhattan your keywords can be “New York salons” or “where to get a haircut in Manhattan.”

You can find more keywords by conducting keyword research using paid and free keyword research tools. One of the best is Semrush, which you can use for free for up to 10 queries a day to find the right keywords to use on your social media profiles and in your content. With more relevant keywords, you can narrow your definition of competitors.

Using the keywords you discovered, use these to search on Google or social media to find the top brands you would be competing with. Make sure to include the platforms where you plan to build an online presence, such as Facebook, Instagram, or Pinterest. Take note of where these competitors are marketing themselves and how they are doing it.

Another method for finding competing brands is to look at similar businesses your audience follows online. Facebook Audience Insights and Twitter Analytics are good tools to show you what businesses your audience follows on these platforms. Skim through the pages and list what brands are in your industry.

This is the part where you find out what your competitors are up to on social media. Here are the best questions to ask.

  • What social media platforms are they on?
  • How many followers do they have?
  • How fast are they growing?
  • How often do they release content?
  • What is their engagement rate?
  • What hashtags do they use?

Based on this information, try to figure out what they do that work or doesn’t work. Incorporate these insights into your social media plan to ensure you get the best results for your campaign.

Keep in mind that this can be time-consuming, especially if you have a lot of potential competitors. If you do, narrow your list to the top four or five brands you feel are your top competitors and focus on those.

For example, if you own a local restaurant with a burger-based menu, a large international chain like Mcdonald’s is technically a competitor, but is probably not your top competition, logically speaking. Instead, look for competitors that have cuisine similar to yours, have a good local reputation, or would likely have customer profiles identical to yours.

4. Establish Your Branding

Building an effective and cohesive brand for your business signals to people that you are professional and serious about engaging your audience. You can do this by preparing the visuals, tone and voice, and core message that make up your brand identity.

Graph showing factors that make a good brand.

Cohesive branding can be achieved with brand colors, fonts, and other visual elements. Make sure to establish these elements early on so you can incorporate them into all of your content. This starts with your logo, the cover and profile images you use on your Facebook business page and other social profiles, and any other relevant visuals for your business profile.

The voice is your brand’s personality, such as inspirational, friendly, playful, or professional. The tone adds flavor to the voice and refines it–like witty, casual, authoritative, or approachable. Fill this section of your social media plan template by adding adjectives of your brand’s personality, traits, and, generally, how you want it to be viewed by your audience.

Simply put, your core message is the message to the public that aims to convey your brand’s value. This covers what your business offers and its unique edge over other competitors. It can be a simple one-liner like Yellow Leaf Hammock’s core message “Hand-woven hammocks spreading ‘the good life’ around the globe.”

5. Build Your Content Strategy

Your content strategy outlines where, when, and what type of content you will post in social media campaigns. If you have already done the previous steps, building a content strategy will be easier since you will be guided with sufficient information. There are three parts to your social media strategy: social networks, content format, and posting frequency.

Social networks are the platforms you choose to build an online presence on. It’s important to understand that each social network has its own niche. Based on the audience and competitor components of your plan, you can distinguish which networks your audience spends the most time in.

Here are some of the most popular social media platforms for marketing:

  • Facebook: Best for increasing brand awareness and community building
  • TikTok: Great for posting entertainment content and influencer marketing
  • Pinterest: Excellent for inspiration content and increasing website traffic
  • Instagram: Ideal for ecommerce and posting visual content
  • LinkedIn: Good for business networking and business-to-business (B2B) marketing

To learn more about these platforms, primary demographics, costs for advertising, and additional information, check out our detailed guide on the most popular social media marketing platforms for businesses. With so many to choose from, start with the one or two social platforms that best match your audience.

Once you have selected your social networks, the next step is familiarizing yourself with the unique features offered on each platform. You can use these to diversify your content across different pages. For example, you can post live videos, stories, or polls in addition to your text and image copy.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to posting frequency. How often you should post on social media depends on different factors, such as the platforms where you’re posting, the industry of your business, your page reach, and even the quality of your posts. However, you can start predicting the frequency of your posts by using top similar brands as your reference, then going off from there.

Infographic of how often you should post on social media.

Implement your content strategy with confidence and precision by creating a content calendar. A content calendar provides an overview of your social media content organized by date. Content calendars help marketers plan posts, keep track of their campaigns, and optimize their strategies.

They can be as simple as a list of posts and the date posted, or more complex, such as outlining who is responsible, what assets (e.g., images or videos) should be posted, different post variations for different channels, and so on. You can create a simple content planner using a spreadsheet or with a free tool like Trello, but there are low-cost social media apps that will do even more.

For example, for $18 a month, you can plan and schedule posts in advance on six different social media platforms, up to 30 posts per profile, using Later. You can use a 14-day free trial to see if it’s a good fit for implementing your social media plan.

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Having a system in place to ensure your plan is implemented effectively, efficiently, and consistently can help you grow your brand’s online presence faster. This is where having the right tools for managing your profiles and automating posting comes in. Having the right tools can make promoting your business on social media easier without compromising quality.

Many social post automation tools are available, such as Later and Sprout Social. Both give you the ability to manage your social accounts, get insights to improve campaigns, and save time by putting everything into one dashboard. Sprout Social even has social monitoring tools that will alert you to conversations about your brand. Alternatively, you can hire a freelance expert to manage your social marketing on Fiverr for anywhere from $5 to $500.

Thinking that achieving success on social media on your own might take too much time? Get an all-in-one solution for social media marketing and advertising from the experts at Lyfe Marketing, which tops our list of the best social media marketing agencies for small businesses.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are good social media goals?

Some good examples of social media goals are improving brand engagement, driving sales and conversions, and boosting website traffic, as these goals are easily measurable, and you can set time-based goals. One way to set good social media goals is to follow the SMART method. SMART is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-specific.

What social media marketing is the best?

Facebook is the largest social media platform that offers an array of versatile content that any size of business can benefit from. However, other popular platforms like Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, and TikTok are still worth looking into. Our guide to social media marketing offers an in-depth overview of the 10 most popular social channels, including audience demographics and use cases for each.

What is a successful social media campaign?

A social media campaign doesn’t have to go viral to be successful, but ultimately it should influence people to act. This could be to buy something, visit a business’ website, sign up for email updates, or simply engage with the post by liking, commenting on it, or sharing it. Social media campaigns have different objectives, so success will be measured in terms of its specific KPIs.

Bottom Line

Promoting your business on social networks is less daunting (and less guesswork) when you have a thoughtful plan in place. Creating a plan starts by understanding your campaign goals, target audience, and competition and is set up for success by implementing strong branding and a content strategy that sets your business apart.

Consistency is a key factor to success on any social media platform, and in most cases, that means posting daily. Take the pain out of getting on all your social channels day in and day out by scheduling your posts in advance using Later for as little as $18 a month. Take advantage of Later’s no-risk 14-day free trial to learn more.

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