If you’re on social media to increase your visibility, have your voice be heard or reach new people, you need a social media growth strategy. The biggest mistake that people are STILL making in 2020 is not taking social media seriously. Either they don’t think about it at all and just post for the sake of posting (staying ‘active’) or they’ve been on social media for years and just never stop to reflect. Do you ever analyse what kind of content you’re posting is working well or performing badly? Have you recently checked whether the content you post actually aligns with your goals and encourages your audience to engage in a productive way?
When I say I’ve created this guide for beginners, I don’t mean that it’s only suitable for those who are starting social media accounts from scratch. I’m saying this is a guide for everyone who hasn’t taken the time to think about their social media accounts from a strategic perspective.
Let’s invest a few minutes to read my guide and find out how to re-calibrate your online presence and optimize your social media accounts. Trust me: you’ll benefit from those minutes for years to come. Every entrepreneur or business needs to build structure; a foundation for their content. That foundation is your social media strategy.
Identify your goals and approach social media as a tool, not the goal itself. It’s easy to get obsessed, but writing down your mission will help you build a productive relationship with social media platforms.
Step 1: Answer These 3 Fundamental Social Media Questions to Get Started
Now, before you get into the specifics of designing a growth strategy for Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or other social media platforms, I want you to check where you are right now. There are three questions that you should already be able to answer before you start thinking about implementing a strategy:
What do you want to achieve with the content you’ll be posting on Instagram: WHAT IS YOUR GOAL? The goal can’t just be growth itself, right? You must have a bigger picture in mind where Instagram, Twitter etc. play a role in helping you get there. Identify the bigger goals and approach social media as a tool, not the goal itself. It’s easy to get obsessed, but writing down your mission will help you build a productive relationship with social media platforms.
How will your content provide value to your audience? It’s totally fine for an average social media user to use the platforms selfishly and just post whatever they want. But if you’re looking for growth, you’ll have to start thinking from your audience’s point of view. What kind of content can you create that will somehow inspire or satisfy your audience? And most importantly: what exactly is your target audience? What do they want from you?
What is your (brand) identity? Before you start, make sure you know what to write in your Instagram or Twitter bio, for example. See if you can explain what you do in one sentence or a few keywords. What will you call yourself? Using myself as an example: I am a digital storyteller with a passion for travel that researches and writes about internet culture. If you’ve already established your goal, this should be relatively easy to do. What also helps is having a mission statement. What is important to you and why is it important for your audience too? How exactly can you help or inspire them? Tell them.
Step 2: Determine which Social Media Platforms Suit You Best
Now that you have a better idea of what kind of useful content you can create and who you’re trying to reach, think about your preferred platform(s). Consider which of your social media accounts (if you already have them) are most successful. Depending on your goals, some platforms are going to be more suitable for your audience than others.
Which platforms and why?
Determine which platform(s) are best suited to your goals and which platform(s) will help you reach your intended audience. Do you have enough time to spend on multiple platforms? Which of these platform can actually add value to your relationship with your audience? What kind of relationship do you want to have with your audience? Those are the kind of orientation questions that will help you decide.
Instagram: Popular among Millennials and Gen Z and younger members of Gen X. Instagram is a highly visual platform that is particularly great to develop your image as an entrepreneur/brand.
Facebook: Popular among Baby Boomers, Gen X and older Millennials to share life updates, opinions and interesting links. Facebook is a particularly great platform if you want to use social media to drive traffic to your website.
Twitter: Popular among Millennials, Gen Z and younger members of Gen X to share opinions and discuss current events, politics, and celebrity culture (including memes). Twitter is a particularly great platform to join current discussions.
LinkedIn: Popular among Millennials and Gen X professionals that are usually highly educated. LinkedIn is a particularly useful platform to share industry insights and professional updates/achievements.
TikTok: Popular among Gen Z and younger Millennials to create informative or comedic video content that engages with current trends and popular songs. TikTok is a platform that is particularly useful for creatives to tap into internet trends and meme culture and engage with a younger demographic.
Step 3: Count Your Successes and See What Already Works
Now that you’ve identified your goals, audience, and preferred platforms, take a moment to look at your successes. Also have a look at similar accounts and see which posts are performing exceptionally well. Analyse them and determine what’s different about those successful posts; what made them blow up? Does timing have to do with it? If you have a business account, definitely take a look at your posts’ statistics and check when most of your followers are online.
Most social media networks will let business accounts view basic information about your page’s performance and your audience. To find these statistics, look for terms like ‘insights’ or ‘analytics’. Here are a few important insights to regularly check:
Metrics: Statistics you need to regularly check
Audience: Most social media networks will let business accounts view basic information about their audience. Important things to know are the biggest age categories (i.e. 25-34) and gender distribution (i.e. 55% female, 45% male). This information lets you understand your audience and their phase in life a little bit better.
Reach: How many people are you reaching on average and through which channels? Are you reaching a lot of people via their feed (these people will be following you already) or via the hashtags and/or location that you added (potential new followers)?
Non-followers: When you look at your total reach, what is the percentage of people that don’t follow you yet? Are you actively working on reaching a new audience? If the percentage is low, reassess the hashtags you are using (i.e. on Instagram and TikTok) and consider spending some time on following relevant people to improve your online presence and visibility. Are there other effective channels that could refer new potential followers to your social media site, like a website or YouTube channel?
Follower growth: Check whether your account has experienced any growth (or loss) in followers every 1-2 months. See if the loss or growth corresponds with an increase or decrease in post frequency or something else you recently changed or added to your social media growth strategy.
Shareability: Which posts are being shared a lot? Those posts are clearly proving useful or at least entertaining to your audience, enough to make them want to share it with a friend or in their stories/timeline. Shareable content is also the optimal kind of content if you’re looking for growth: your audience is sharing your content with friends and those friends are potential new followers. What can you do to improve the shareability of your posts?
Step 4: Determine Posting Frequency to Maintain and Optimize Your Online Presence
Don’t get me wrong, this one isn’t necessarily about quantity. There is no social media ‘rule’ that will ensure success as long as you post something everyday. For some people, the best schedule might be once or twice a week. Posting every day could be too frequent for some people because they can’t ensure the same quality if they’re posting everyday (like me).
Then again, another person or business may be able to optimize their engagement by posting articles on Facebook twice a day. That’s something you will have to judge for yourself. You can, for example, also try to post multiple stories on Instagram at least 4-5 days a week to ensure a consistent online presence while only posting to your feed once a week.
One thing is true for everybody: the quality and relevancy of your content should ALWAYS be the priority. But posting consistently IS, however, about novelty and recency. New content will always be prioritized by virtually every platform and that’s why consistency is crucial. You will have to regularly post to (at least) maintain the relationship to your audience and (ideally) grow your online presence.
So, for this step, the most important thing to do is determine what kind of posting frequency and schedule for your content types will lead to the optimal kind of engagement with your audience.
Create Structure for Your Content
Design a structure or rough content guide for yourself. You can choose to work with a content calendar, depending on how serious you are about your growth strategy. In order to post consistently, it helps a ton to know what your themes or niches are (or ideally, if we’re talking about a business: your singular niche). What are the main types of content that you’d like to post every week?
Step 5: Teach Yourself to Take Risks and Make Mistakes
The next step is to actually implement your new social media growth strategy and allow yourself to experiment and take risks. Check to see what worked after a few weeks.
The internet is a living creature that spawns new trends and morphs into something different every year (well, every minute). That includes any successful social media platform. You have to adapt. The only way to adapt is to take risks, don’t overthink, and allow yourself to make mistakes. That’s the only way to find out what content works, what doesn’t work, and what kind of content has the potential to reach a new audience (and could even go viral).
While the core of your strategy should remain the same (your goals and identity should remain unchanged), you HAVE to pay attention to the ever-changing digital climate if you want to keep your content relevant and part of ongoing and emerging conversations. Is your target audience moving to a different platform? Don’t stay behind and be an early adopter.
Step 6: Find and Support Your Community
This is a critical step for freelancers and other independent entrepreneurs: find your community. When a friend or a content creator you love posts a great piece of content that is relevant to your audience as well, give them a shout out! Mutual support is crucial to build an uplifting community on Instagram where you help each other’s worthwhile content to be seen by a new audience. They will hopefully reciprocate by similarly engaging with your content. The same rule still rings true for social media: surround yourself with the right kind of people.
Summary: Social Media Growth Strategy
- First establish your goals (decide on a mission statement) and understand your brand identity (write a streamlined bio/info section).
- Decide in what way(s) you will provide value to your audience. What’s in it for them and why should they follow you? Write down the answer.
- Choose which social media platform(s) is most suited for reaching your target audience.
- Look at your existing content and see what worked and didn’t work. In other words: check your metrics.
- Determine your most important content types so you can decide on a suitable posting frequency. This will consequently help you create a content calendar.
- Implement your new social media growth strategy and allow yourself to experiment and take risks. After a few weeks, check what worked and didn’t work.
- Surround yourself with the right people and amplify their voice by sharing their content. Mutual support is crucial and they will hopefully do the same for you.
When you’ve gone through all of those steps, I can guarantee that you will be perfectly prepared to start using social media as a productive tool. If you’re interested in creating a new social media (growth) strategy but need a helping hand, you can always contact me or explore my work with me page for more information. Happy posting!