Guide to Creating Your 2018 Social Media Plan

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The new year is here, and the biggest brands already have their 2018 social media plan laid out. But if you haven’t quite solidified yours yet, it’s not too late. This article is intended to guide you through the process of crafting a social media marketing plan for the coming year – providing you some helpful tips, tricks, and analysis that should ease you into getting started.

But before we begin, it’s important to note that coming up with a new strategy isn’t limited to improving on what you did last year. Equally vital to creating an effective social media plan is reviewing what you did—what worked, what was lacking, and what your data says about the direction you should take.

 Guide to Creating Your 2018 Social Media Plan

2017 Social Media Review

To try and see what the coming year holds, you need to take note of the significant developments 2017 brought to the world of social media. Here are some of the more noteworthy changes that came to the different social media platforms.

Everyone’s got a story to tell

Ephemeral content came into its own in 2017, with Facebook rolling out an option to syndicate Instagram Stories last October. This development has made brands’ utilization of Stories an extremely crucial aspect of any social media marketing strategy.

The ease with which you can syndicate Stories on different platforms is already great news for brands. The exponential reach brought about by this feature only adds to the power of short-lived, albeit, more authentic content.

Influencer transparency 

Influencer marketing isn’t going anywhere. Its effectivity as a strategy goes beyond the stat from Twitter analytics firm Annalect suggesting that 40 percent of people made online purchases after seeing a product being promoted by a social media influencer.

But because consumers are increasingly placing value on authenticity and transparency, Instagram rolled out its “paid partnership with” tag. According to Instagram, the feature ensures that the community easily recognizes when someone is paid to post content.

But more importantly for brands, the tag provides marketers access to data on influencers’ posts – making the previously tricky task of measuring influencer marketing ROI that much easier.

Twitter doubles up

In early November, Twitter raised its limit to 280 characters – giving brands and marketers more space to relay their stories.

And while visual content will continue to dominate social media, according to Social Flow, the small sample size has shown that users are like and retweeting longer tweets two times more than shorter ones.

What to Expect in 2018

Now that we’ve done a quick run through of some of the most significant social media developments in 2017, let’s move on to some predictions of things and trends you should take note of in crafting your 2018 social media marketing plan.

Erosion of Organic Reach

In the middle of 2017, it wasn’t too difficult to notice that you were seeing less content from the accounts you were following. The major platforms’ conscious decision to change its algorithms means that the days of free content exposure will continue to decline.

This means that paid social will no longer be an option for brand marketers, but a necessity. Brands will need to be more thoughtful in its use of paid social – taking everything from targeting and scheduling, to which content to boost into careful consideration.

This development is also seen to push a significant increase in outbound marketing, with brands reaching out to audiences rather than letting them find their content.

Ephemeral Content is new King

Stories have a raw, more authentic feel compared to carefully curated content – and this is a big reason why people have increasingly gravitated towards this kind of content. But apart from feeling more real, ephemeral content has a way of playing with people’s FOMO, inciting audiences to not only keep viewing them but to take fast action on any CTA.

The rise of ephemeral content brings to fore a number of possibilities for marketers. From re-purposing content to fit the format, to come up with special offers that are only available as long as the content is – there are a plethora of ways marketers can make ephemeral content work for them.

Strengthening of Ad Transparency

As previously discussed, Instagram took an initiative to ensure transparency with influencers’ sponsored posts. On a similar, but exponentially more serious note, Facebook is currently testing a feature that will let users see what ads an organization has purchased, and how they’ve been targeted.

Apart from being a response to consumers’ preference for transparency, the initiative is a response to the pressure put on Facebook to take responsibility for its role in shaping political discourse.

For its part, Twitter has also launched its transparency center, which allows everyone to know who is behind an ad, how long it’s been running while providing users a platform to give feedback.

Ad transparency will only grow as 2018 moves along. Marketers will have to be continually mindful of this as they craft their social strategies.

Creating your 2018 Social Media Marketing Plan

Conduct Social Media Audit

Again, before you come up with a plan, it’s integral for you to re-assess how you’re using social media and its effectivity. This way, you can see what works, what doesn’t, and what could use improvement.

Hootsuite’s social media audit template takes it to another level, helping you track things like:

  • Who is connecting with you
  • Which platforms your target market uses
  • Competitors’ social media comparison

It’s important to note that it’s better to focus on a couple of social media channels than to try and maintain an unfocused presence on every social network. So once you see where your audience is, and how they’re using the platform, you can begin to use that information to your advantage when crafting your social media plan. 

Establish goals and objectives

Before you come up with any plan, it’s important to clearly establish your goals and objectives. Having carefully and clearly defined set of goals not just allows you have a structure for your social media marketing plan, it also helps you to measure its success.

Oberlo has a number of valuable tips when it comes to setting social media goals. One of them goes against vanity metrics (likes, retweets) because unless your objective is to measure reach, it doesn’t provide any tangible insight into business growth. Instead, the drop shipping app recommends using metrics like leads generated, and conversion rate.

Get SMART

Oberlo also suggests the SMART framework when setting achievable goals, which is:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Relevant
  • Time-bound

Each goal you set should relate to all the above points. An example could be:

“Using curated images and videos of my latest products, and promoting it on Facebook through paid social for a period of two months, I want to get at least one sale per boosted post.”

Gather Social Media Inspiration

Not every organization is big enough to have a dedicated team of marketers to create and curate content for your social media marketing. One excellent way to get an idea of what could work for you is to look at other brands in your niche. Taking a look at what kinds of content your competitors are posting, and measuring how it performs, gives you an idea, not only of what works with the audience but also for how you can create content that can stand out.

Apart from your competitors, you can also look at your targeted audience to see how they’re engaging with different platforms and content. This way, you can get a good idea of what types of content resonate with them – helping you come up with similar ones, and boosting your chances of achieving your goals.

As well, industry leaders are a great source of inspiration when it comes to social media marketing. Because while you may not have the reach or the resources to emulate their success, there’s plenty of great ideas you can implement to your own strategy.

Determine Budget Allocation

After having a clear analysis of your past social media activities, the predictions for 2018, and gaining social media inspiration, you should have an idea of what strategies you should focus on in the coming year.

The next step is to find out the number of resources at your disposal. Just like having a clear set of goals is to the plan, having a complete understanding of how much is at your disposal when it comes to social media marketing is essential before you proceed to craft your plan.

It is good to create a presentation to the dedicated individual in your company/brand about your target plans the coming year, including your estimated expenses. In this way, it will help your company identify which to invest into and which strategies to debunk, in accordance with the budget your company is willing to allocate to your department.

Create a Social Media Calendar

While authenticity and transparency, as previously discussed, are important elements in social media marketing – one factor has remained crucial to any strategy’s success – consistency. And this is what makes having a content calendar an integral part of any social media marketing plan.

Answering the questions below will guide you in the creation of your social media calendar:

  • How frequently will I post?
  • What types of content will I post?
  • How will my posts inform and entertain my audience?
  • Do my posts help achieve my goals?

Meanwhile, tools like Hootsuite (which are free to sign up for) allow you to schedule social media posts in advance, automating the process of posting at specific times.

Once you fill up your calendar, take note of which type of content works best, and which times of posting get more engagement – this will help you improve your calendar as you move forward.

Test, evaluate and adjust

Though certain elements like consistency in posting persist, there are a number of variables in social media that can change without notice. This makes it important to integrate testing capabilities into the actions you take on social media.

Hootsuite suggests that following ways as simple means to test your plan’s effectivity:

  • Tracking number of link clicks on different platforms using URL shorteners and UTM parameters.
  • Using social media analytics to track success and reach of social campaigns
  • Tracking page visits driven by social media using Google Analytics

Analyzing your hits and misses and adjusting your plan accordingly will keep you from spending valuable resources on platforms and posts that don’t resonate with your audience.

Helpful Tools

Followerwonk

This is a tool that helps you dig deeper into Twitter analytics for growth on the platform. It tells you who your followers are, where they’re located, and when they tweet. Followerwonk also allows you to search Twitter bios to connect with anyone on the platform and helps you find new influencers in your niche. The tool then provides actionable visualizations that you can compare and share with others.

Followerwonk is just one of many valuable Twitter tools at your disposal. All you need to do is find out exactly what you need.

Facebook Page Insights

Essentially, this in-app tool helps you understand who among your audience is most engaged with your Facebook Page. From the most basic metrics like likes, reach, and engagement, to when your fans are on Facebook content, and what types of content are – Page Insights helps you determine the tastes and interests of your target market.

Canva

Canva has been called the easiest design program in the world. Available on desktop and mobile, the app provides you access to over 60,000 templates designed by the Canva community. Whether it’s an Instagram post, a Story, a social graphic, posters, or invites, creating beautiful designs has never been easier. Just tap on a design element to edit, and the rest is up to you.

Trello

Ideal for bigger teams, Trello allows you to work more collaboratively with its boards, lists, and cards that enables the team to organize and prioritize projects. Be it onboarding new team members, updating lead or project status, this free tool keeps everyone up to speed.

Takeaway

Social media is a continually changing landscape. As such, your social media marketing plan should keep with the times. Users respond differently to each new feature that different platforms roll out.

Keeping your finger on the pulse of these developments and subsequent reactions will allow you to tinker and optimize your social media marketing accordingly.

What kind of social media strategies did you implement last year? How are you looking to improve on them this 2018?

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