Your online presence is a representation of your brand.

It’s not enough to simply be present on your social media platforms – you have to be engaging.

This means taking your strategy beyond the last-minute posts you publish while standing in line to pay for your lunch.

It requires a thoughtful plan and strategy to ensure your content cuts through the noise online and helps build real, meaningful relationships with your audience.

Whether you are just sitting down and hammering this out for the first time, or you have attempted to put pen to paper on a strategy before, we’ve got you covered with the six key steps to creating connections that convert on social media.

Step 1: Set Your Goals

What are you trying to accomplish with your social media efforts? Without knowing the answer to this question, you really can’t move forward.

Are you looking to drive more sales?

Do you want to increase brand awareness?

Do your followers need or want to be educated on different aspects of your business product or services?

These are all questions you should ask yourself as you identify the goals of your social media marketing strategy. Write them down, and then look for opportunities to apply them through the various calls to action you include in your content plan each week (more on that in a bit).

Step 2: Be Realistic and Track Your Progress

The absolute last thing you want to do is create goals that are not obtainable. If you do that, you will quickly become discouraged, and find yourself stuck in a continuous loop as you restart the process over and over again… or abandon it all together.

Make sure your goals are realistic, attainable, and measureable.

Don’t forget to plan on how you will measure your results. Set specific benchmarks for metrics like follower count, reach, engagement rate, website traffic and email list sign ups. Then find a reporting tool you like to track your progress and compare your results on a monthly or quarterly basis.

While most social media channels (like Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn) have their own insights, there are also a number of external platforms (like HootSuite, SproutSocial and Google Analytics), which offer reporting tools that take an even deeper dive into your key metrics.

Step 3: Identify Your Target Audience

At the very least, you need to have some basic information about the audience you are looking to attract and speak to. When you narrow in on your niche (with specific details such as age, location, interests, habits, etc.), then it becomes much easier to target the right people and connect with them on a more authentic level.

We’re not saying you have to create a detailed customer persona detailing exactly what your ideal client eats for breakfast each morning. But take some time to think about whom you want to attract, and what excites and interests them. What challenges do they face on a daily basis? How can you help them solve these issues?

Without the answers to these questions, your content can become too general, resulting in poor ROI.

The more specific you can be with your posts, ads and blogs, the more conversations you are going to start. And the more comments and engagement you attract with your posts, the stronger your reach and the higher your conversion rate will be.

 Step 4: Choose Your Channels Wisely

Once you know your target audience, you can begin to predict which social media channels they are populating, thus telling you where your business should be posting.

Remember, you don’t have to be everywhere at once. The key is to narrow in on the platforms that are working for you, and then start building upon that.

Not getting the results you were expecting on Twitter? For small businesses targeting a local audience, Twitter can be too ‘noisy,’ making it difficult for you to make the meaningful connections you’re looking for.

Instead, you may want to focus on Instagram and/or Facebook, which tend to offer a more personalized experience for your audience, while presenting the opportunity to zero in on a local audience through ad targeting, location check-ins and appropriate hashtags.

Step 5: Keep An Eye On Your Neighbours

While we don’t encourage getting lost in the comparison trap, there’s always something to be learned from the small business owners around you – whether they’re in the same industry as you or not.

Consider what’s working (and not working) for your competitors, as well as other brands you follow and interact with. Is their content informative, humorous, personal, or outrageous? What kind of engagement rates are they getting? Take a look at their total follower count, and compare that number to the number of likes and comments on their posts. If they have 1,500 followers but are only getting an average of 50 likes per post, something is missing. Is there an opportunity for you to fill that gap?

Think about what you could be doing differently or more effectively than them, and focus on that.

Step 6: Create Weekly Content Plans

Finally, you’re ready to start creating real, compelling content for your audience.

There are a number of weekly content plan templates available online, but even a basic layout in Microsoft Word or Google Docs will do. Look to map out your content for each day of the week, highlighting specific calls to action and creating the copy and supporting imagery and video for each post.

By mapping out your content plan at least one week ahead of time, you can take the time to be thoughtful and strategic about every post. Make sure your content is aligned to your brand voice, and don’t overextend yourself. The key is to post consistently, and focus on quality over quantity.

Don’t bombard your audience with five posts on Wednesday and nothing for the rest of the week. Spread your content out and schedule posts ahead of time so you know they’re going live when your audience is most actively online.

Remember, what you don’t post is just as important as what you do post. The last thing you want to do is turn away prospective clients because they think you’re too “loud” or too “salesy.”

Of course, an important part of creating your strategy is setting aside the appropriate budget and resources to drive the results you’re looking to see. It’s important to put forward a realistic budget that will help you launch your new plan, and also maintain it over time. Make sure you are giving yourself enough time each week to manage your plan, or consider assigning the role to someone else who has the skill sets needed to help generate creative content.

Struggling to find the time to craft meaningful content that converts? That’s where we come in. Get in touch to learn more about our social media marketing packages.