How to Develop an Effective Facebook Strategy

It seems just about everyone has jumped aboard the Facebook gravy train – most not very successfully. The issue is that most businesses have failed to develop an effective social media strategy. In fact, according to www.emarketer.com (Dec 2010), it  is the second biggest mistake people make when deciding to pursue social media as a strategy.

Too often, people jump in and develop a Facebook page without giving a lot of thought as to what they want to achieve or whether it is suitable for their market.

The good news is that it is not too late to start.

The question then becomes, how do you develop an effective strategy?

Here are some steps you can help put you on the right path:

1. Determine Your Business Goals and Objectives

There is little point developing a strategy without knowing what you want to achieve. Begin with the end in mind. Some objectives might be:

  • Generate 10 leads per month?
  • Number of new customers or sales?
  • Number of people who filled in the “more info” form?
  • Percent reduction on customer support calls?
  • Increase brand awareness?
  • Change brand perception?
  • Launch a product?
  • Obtain a minimum of 500 entries to a consumer promotion?
  • Increase engagement to 50%

Work out how you can measure these objectives. Understand who will be involved in social media. Is there someone who could make a good spokesperson or does this cut across several departments e.g. marketing, customer services or sales. Can part of this be outsourced?

2. Understand and Define your Target Audience

The key here is understand the target audience. Sometimes there is more than one and different social media channels work better with different audiences.

3. Research, Research, Research

Find out where your target audience hangs out. This could be Facebook, Twitter, blogs, or even forums. Create a list of possible channels where you can potentially engage with people. Research these channels. Is your brand being talked about in any of them? Are any of your competitors successfully playing in one of these channels. Is there a way that you can successfully play in this field as well? Are there any groups or opinion leaders that you can target?

4. Listen and Follow Conversations

Start subscribing to various conversations and listen to the conversations. Understand who is getting better traction? What sort of comments attract the most attention? Are certain views favoured over others?  What problems do they have? Is there any you can solve? What are their pain points? Make a note about what conversations work – you will need this when developing a content plan. You can use some tools like Google alerts or Twitter search to find and stay on top of conversations.

5. Refine your Goals and Objectives

It may seem strange to do this again, but once you have listened to conversations, you will need to revisit your goals.  Some of the goals you set may need to be refined. This is because Social Media is not just about you, it is also about your audience. Consider your audience. What are their needs and wants that you uncovered in research? How can you add value. Remember the 80/20 rule – provide value at least 80%-90% of the time.

If you goal is to generate more leads, its time to think about what things your target audience is most interested. How can you provide value. Is there something you can give that will tempt your prospect to trust you and give your their email address or contact number? If you want sales, maybe you want to also get an email address so you can remind potential customers about your products. Unless you are big brand that already has a “trust” account, you might need to be creative and look for ways in how you can build trust.

Once you have given people something of value, you’ve earned the right to give your business a little plug. You will find you can build more trust and will pick up business because of this. This business may come from your followers or even your referrers.

6. Develop a Social Media Plan

Map out your approach to providing content. Do you have some samples of giveaways? Remember your give-aways do not have to be tangible physical products. They could be apps, discounts or ebooks. What topics were “hot” in your market. Are there any evergreen topics of interest? Use these topics to start a conversation. Its amazing what you can do with a little thought and creativity.

For example, if you are in financial services, can you lead and moderate a conversation about interest rates or the economy. Pick topics of interest and stimulate discussion.

Next step is to develop a 12 month timeline. Identify topics, events, product launches, and promotions that might be relevant to your target audience.

Your plan should look something like a media plan where you can see everything on a single page.  Think of it like a calendar of events. Once this is done, you can then add it to your overall marketing plan so you can get a broader overview of all the marketing activity that you undertake. You plan might then show TV advertising and product launches and have little symbols for when different social media channels might become more active. This might spark ideas on how you can leverage multiple platforms.

7. Develop A Content Plan

Having a plan in place means you don’t have to be overwhelmed and deliver every piece of content right away. Develop ideas for content around these things that you can provide and what platforms you can use to achieve your goals. You can develop content bit by bit and optimize your content with you targeted keywords. This will help build traction and traffic to these channels.

Some content ideas include:

  • Promotions
  • Product Launches
  • eBooks
  • White Papers
  • List of your you top 10
  • Feedback on products or services
  • Feedback on product ideas and packaging or even logos
  • Market statistics
  • News
  • Interviews
  • Photos
  • Little known facts e.g. the amount of fish fingers sold is enough to cover the surface area of Australia (I made this up but you get the idea)
  • Snippets of market research
  • Results of customer surveys

8. Join the Conversation & Implement Your Plan

The plan you developed will hold you in good stead to have a successful social media strategy. Some of the ideas may not always work out as expected but you can learn and refine. Some tips are to:

  • Be positive and helpful.
  • Express your point of view rather than just rehashing other people’s content.
  • Be patient – it can take a little time to get traction
  • Be flexible and alert – some topics like changes in government policy or laws can come out of nowhere. You may need to flexible and add this to your content plan.
  • Keep other relevant stakeholders informed on your plan – you may end up needing additional support to respond to comments and strengthen relationships.

9. Measure Results

Use the goals and objectives that you developed earlier to evaluate the success of your social media strategy and measure if it achieved what it set out to. Try and understand what worked well, what didn’t and how you can improve your campaign.

10. A Final Note

If this seems like a lot of work, it can be. Fortunately, you can outsource this component and have a social media strategy and content plan developed for you.

Once you have your plan, your options for implementation are then to:

  • Implement the plan yourself
  • Outsource content development and implement (the consultant provides recommendations and content and you post)
  • Fully outsource implementation of the plan with monthly updates and regular alerts if there are any key issues

Depending on your business, we generally recommend that you take a proactive role in social media. If there are multiple stakeholders or spokespeople, then social media training on how to monitor and respond to conversations may be appropriate.