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7 steps to creating an effective social media strategy

There is no doubt that, when it comes to building brand awareness, social media is key. So, why are so many businesses still posting blindly and hoping for the best? The key is creating an effective social media strategy.

Published on:

Jacqueline Smith

People and Culture Manager

social media comment sign lit up as a neon light

While there’s definitely no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to a social media strategy, there are several steps you should take to make sure you’re getting it right for your brand and your audience. From finding the right metrics to identifying your target audience, read on for our seven-step process. 

1. Audit your current social media activity and presence

The world of social media with its. ever-changing and evolving platforms can be overwhelming and difficult to stay on top of. What’s often needed is to take a step back and assess the overall picture to help you stay in control and focus team efforts. 

By conducting an audit of your current social media activity you’ll gain an in-depth understanding of how your existing social media channels are performing, allowing you to see exactly how and where you need to improve. The main areas we would recommend analysing as part of your social media audit are:  

  • Set-up and basics: are your channels set up correctly? Do they look the best they can and make use of all optimisation opportunities? Are you using them to the best of their functionality and potential?
  • Strategy and planning: do you have all the documents and processes in place to make social media work for your business? Do you know who is responsible within your teams and what their roles are? Are you making use of software and tools for effective planning and scheduling?
  • Content: are you adhering to best practices on the channels? What types of content performs best?
  • Branding and creative review: do your social media handles make sense for search and are they reflective across platforms? Are you using the most appropriate logos for your profiles? Are you sharing high quality imagery which represents your brand and audience accurately? Are you talking in your brand’s tone of voice and adapting it for the specific platform and audience? Are you showing a cohesive brand across platforms?
  • Community and audience: what types of customers are interacting with you the most? What platforms are they most active on?
  • Reach and engagement: are you hitting the right audience for your brand? How does your audience’s behaviour differ from one platform to another? What content do they want to see? How are they mostly engaging with you? Which platforms are driving the most traffic to your website?

Don’t forget at this stage to also complete checks for any duplicated or old social media accounts and make sure you have access. You may find you need to close down pages (and you might need to contact the platforms themselves), merge pages, update them, amend them and so on. A spreadsheet of all your social media accounts can be helpful for keeping track. 

You may also want to consider analysing your competitors’ social media presence and activity. What platforms are your competitors present on? How do they use each channel? What sort of content and messaging are they using? Are they seeing success and growth? Where is your opportunity to shine?

While it’s great to measure your success based on your own growth, you’ll also need to know how you compare to your competitors in order to gain insights into what works within your industry as a whole and to highlight any areas of improvement. 

  • Determine your competitors: you should already have a vague idea of who your competitors are, but if not, use Google or other keyword tools to search for keywords your customers use to find your business, and find other companies competing for the same keyword. Remember to only ever compare your social strategy against businesses who are actively using social media too, for the most accurate comparison. 
  • Gather your data: a spreadsheet is always a clear way to keep everything in one place. You’ll need to research what social media platforms they’re using, how many followers they have and what type of content they post along with whether they use any platform-specific features such as Instagram Stories or Facebook Shopping. You’ll also want to look at their audience growth, engagement and what types of hashtags or keywords they use. A great free tool to use here is Social Blade, which offers an in-depth look at various metrics, so you can get a clearer picture of your competitors’ social presence. 
  • Analyse their activity: take a look at the specific way they use social media. How long does it take them to respond to comments or questions? When did they last post and what is their posting frequency? By deep-diving into what they’re posting about and how they conduct themselves on social media, you’ll gain a much clearer picture of your industry as a whole, along with what works and what doesn’t.

Think of auditing your social media as a kind of x-ray. Once you know what you’re dealing with, you’re better equipped to fix, improve or recommend a plan of action. It will also provide the best environment for any further social media or content activity to thrive. 

2. Set goals and objectives for your social media activity

Before you get started, you’ll need to outline exactly what you’re hoping to achieve with your social channels for your business. This is where you should be setting SMART goals:


S – Specific – When it comes to setting goals, being clear about what you want to accomplish is key. For example, instead of simply stating that you want to ‘increase Twitter followers’, assign a target such as ‘increase Twitter followers to 10,000’ to work towards.


M – Measurable – for each goal you specify, make sure you know how you’ll be measuring your progress and success as well as the key metrics you’ll be looking out for.


A – Achievable – with social media goals, you’ll want to choose those that are challenging but at the same time realistic and achievable.


R – Relevant – ensure your social media goals support and align with your overall business objectives.


T – Timely – when you’re setting goals, make sure you’re including a deadline to keep everyone accountable. Add in specific milestones along the way to make sure you’re staying on track.

Your objectives, as mentioned above should be aligned with your overarching business strategy. Often, for social media they are about driving brand awareness, getting your audience engaged and over to your website, where it then becomes this channel’s responsibility to convert leads. Of course, organic social media activity can be strengthened by a solid paid social media strategy. Having the two work together will be what ultimately drives growth and success in all stages of the marketing funnel. 

3. Decide your social platforms and their purposes

“The essence of strategy is choosing what not to do” – Michael Porter

While it can be tempting to throw everything at your social media strategy and see what sticks, it’s a much better idea to take a look at what’s working for you and adapt your strategy accordingly. Following your audit, you should have an overarching view of your industry landscape, where your customers spend time and what type of content they like to consume. From there, you can determine exactly which social platforms you’re going to use. While having an active presence across multiple platforms is great, there’s no point in wasting time on a platform you know your audience isn’t active on. Remember that each social platform is tailored towards a different purpose, type of content and audience, so always make sure it’s right for you and what your goals are. 

You may also need to adapt your strategy to include a few of the platforms you ultimately want to be active on due to resources available to implement. For example, you may decide your audience is active and there are opportunities for your brand on Instagram, LinkedIn and TikTok. But you also recognise TikTok may need further strategisation and will require a lot of time and energy to get it right. Therefore your strategy could take a phased approach – looking to see success first on the more ‘traditional’ social media platforms before branding out to the more complex ‘younger’ platforms such as TikTok. 

Clearly defining the purpose of your chosen social media channels will make it easier to decide what content to create and what key messaging you should share. You may find it helpful to create your platform purposes in terms of mission statement, such as this example for an eCommerce business:

  • We will use LinkedIn to provide value to businesses and individuals in the form of longer-form content and thought leadership positioning.
  • We will use Twitter for interaction and engagement: sharing product and company updates, along with relevant industry news.
  • We will use Facebook for connecting with your audience, sharing helpful advice and starting conversations.
  • We will use Instagram for engagement, inspiration, visibility and connecting with your customers.

4. Define key messages for your social media activity

Crucially referring to your overarching brand strategy, where you’ll have defined key messages for your marketing activity and communications, you can adapt this to suit the specific social media environment. For example, one of your business goals may be to prove knowledge and experience of the market. This may translate into the key message ‘we are the experts’. Other examples include ‘we support you’ for building relationships or ‘you can trust us’ when driving authority signals. 

You’ll also want to remind yourself of your social media objectives here and how your key messages relate to and potentially cross over between them. Drawing up a key messages matrix to define this and act as a reminder will prove helpful when crafting your content and copy later down the line

5. Determine your target audience(s) 

Your business should certainly have a good idea of your target audience from your business proposition, but you can use your social media native analytics to perform an audience analysis; collecting the most valuable data from your current social media audience such as demographic data, locations, language, attitudes, interests and behaviour. Cross referencing this will let you understand if you are hitting the right people with your social media messages and activity. 

By creating detailed customer personas you can look to further understand and define your different customer segments and their needs in order to design your social media strategy accordingly. These buyer personas of course will take the form of fictional, generalised representations of your ideal customer. To do this, think about what their problems might be, and how you can fix them along with what might cause them to resist or keep them from adopting your message or carrying out your call to action. Similarly, you can also improve on this technique by additionally:

  • Interviewing customers to discover what they like or dislike about your products or service.
  • Looking through your database of contacts to uncover trends about how certain leads or customers find and consume your content.
  • Using forms on your website that capture important persona information such as job role or which social media plaforms your customers regularly use.
  • Taking into consideration your sales team’s feedback on the leads they’re interacting with most (what generalisations can they make about the types of customers you serve best?).

Now you can define who these people are; give them a name or group title to help you remember. Think about what services and products they want from you and what social media platforms they’re using. Again, you can then create mission statements around how you will communicate and reach these audiences, which you can refer back to when creating content. 

6. Establish your social media content pillars

A lot of businesses make the mistake of starting their social media strategy with this step, but by following all of the above before, you’ll know that the content you’re creating is tailored to your objectives, platforms and audience. 

Your content pillars are, simply put, the things you have to talk about. The topics in which you are the experts and consistently share content for. Examples could include ‘locality’ – aligned to an objective about reaching a more localised audience, therefore you will look to share local knowledge and content which will interest this audience. Another might be ‘people’, where you champion your staff and share customer success stories. 

But, what content formats perform best on social media right now? How can you best present your content pillars to your audience to gain the most engagement?

  • Video content: Video popularity and success on social media is not a new thing, but short-form video skyrocketed in popularity in 2022, with many brands starting to experiment with it particularly on Reels, Stories and TikTok.  
  • User generated content: Modern word-of-mouth marketing comes in the form of UGC. 39% of consumers like to see brand social content that features real customer testimonials (or product demonstrations).
  • Educational content: Provide value to your audience by going further than just dropping links or general advice – this won’t gain much traction. Publishing legitimately useful advice in a friendly, welcoming way – coming from a place of experience, knowledge and expertise within the industry. 

7. Identify KPIs and performance metrics for reporting

While there are so many metrics you can track, from generating leads to establishing online authority, the metrics you choose will massively vary depending on your goals. Here are some examples:

  • If your goal is to improve brand awareness, then you’ll want to track metrics such as reach, impressions, engagement, follower growth and mentions.
  • If your overall goal is to increase conversions, you’ll be looking at clicks, click through rate, traffic to your website site via social media source, and of course conversion rate.
  • If you’re aiming to use your social channels to build and manage an engaged community, then you’ll want to track metrics like engagements; including reactions and shares. You should also be tracking your customer response rate and timing for your community management and customer service side of social media activities.

It’s a good idea to use a tool such as Brandwatch or SproutSocial to set up templated reports which you can use to track performance regularly and consistently. You’re looking for percentage growth and improvement over time. Of course if you have set goals, you’ll be able to see how close you are to achieving them during your social media strategies lifetime. 

You’re now ready for implementation

You’ve nailed down your objectives, got your platforms sorted out and have created your content, all that’s left is to roll out your strategy across your various social channels.

A great way to do this is to invest in the previously mentioned social media management tools like SproutSocial, Later or Brandwatch. These make it super easy to visualise your social feeds and make sure that you’re sharing a range of content types and formats. 

Make sure you measure, monitor, analyse and amend

The key to growing a successful social presence is to continuously monitor your progress. When it comes to social media, it’s all about testing and re-visiting; just because you’ve done all of your research, it doesn’t mean there are any guarantees. Your social media strategy should be constantly evolving and it’s important that you continue to tweak and edit your strategy to best suit your audience and what works best for you.

Our top tip? Make sure that you’re being driven by your data – it’s there for a reason!

Key takeaways: 

 In short, these are the seven steps to follow for building a successful social media strategy:

  1. Audit
  2. Objectives
  3. Platforms
  4. Key messages
  5. Audiences
  6. Content 
  7. Reporting

Most importantly, remember that a successful social media strategy is aligned to an overarching business and brand strategy. It becomes very difficult to come up with a successful approach if you don’t have a good idea and understanding of your business, its audience, and what you want to achieve overall – not just on social media. 

Jacqueline Smith

People and Culture Manager

About the author

Our employee engagement expert Jacqueline has ten years of digital marketing experience specialising in social media and content marketing. 2023 saw Jacqueline embark on a new career path of people and company culture. The ideal opportunity arose which allowed her to do just this as well as remain at the best place she had ever worked - Hallam! She manages our agency career progression and is the voice of our... Read more about Jacqueline

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