How to Create a Social Media Marketing Strategy (That Really Works)

Janie S.
Janie S.
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Social media is a powerful tool for businesses, allowing them to create relationships with their customers, generate leads and boost their brand recognition. But if you don't have a clearly defined social media marketing (SMM) strategy, you won't be able to take advantage of the platform effectively.

Crafting a winning SMM strategy should be the first order of business for any company dipping its toes into social media. We'll look at the different steps you need to go through when creating your SMM strategy to maximize the impact of your social media efforts.

We'll supplement this with a few examples of successful social strategies to help you understand the concept better and get a feel for what works in the real world.

Table of Contents

What is a Social Media Marketing Strategy?

A social media marketing strategy is a plan of action for using social media platforms to achieve specific business goals. It can be as simple or complex as you need it to be, but having one is essential for ensuring that all your social media efforts work together cohesively to achieve your targets.

Common social media goals are increasing brand awareness, conversions, higher community engagement, driving website traffic, etc. If you plan on joining and using multiple social networks, you need a strategy that cements exactly what you are doing and why.

Having an SMM strategy helps ensure that all of your social media activities are serving the purpose of achieving your business objectives.

The Benefits of Creating a Social Media Strategy

While it may seem like an unnecessary step, having an SMM strategy brings many advantages to the table. Here are some of the reasons why a good strategy is worth creating:

  • It helps you stay focused and on track with your goals: It's easy to get side-tracked on social media. You might find yourself wasting time on activities that don't really help you achieve your objectives. A solid strategy ensures that all of your efforts are focused on what matters most to your business.

  • It allows you to measure success: Measuring the success of your social media campaigns isn't always easy, but having a well-constructed strategy makes it much simpler. You'll be able to track the progress of your campaigns more accurately and make necessary adjustments along the way.

  • It makes you more efficient: A SMM strategy can help you be more efficient with your time on social media. You'll know what needs to be done and when while being held accountable for completing the tasks on time.

  • It helps you plan ahead: An SMM strategy allows you to plan and be more proactive with your social media presence. It reduces the risk of finding yourself in a situation where you don't know what to post or how to respond to customer questions.

9 Steps For Building a Successful SMM Strategy

When the time comes to create your social media marketing strategy, there are a few key steps you should follow. We've arranged them in chronological order, but feel free to adjust them depending on the specific needs of your business.

1. Set Business Goals

The first step should always be to identify your business objectives. What do you want to accomplish using social media? These goals will shape the rest of your strategy and guide you in making decisions down the line.

Examples of goals could include:

  • Drive more website traffic
  • Increase brand awareness
  • Generate leads
  • Foster customer loyalty
  • Improve customer service
  • Form partnerships
  • Gain social proof
  • Create a community around your product

The above are great starting points, but you should refine them to make them SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound). You need a measurable goal so that you can track the progress of your SMM campaigns. For instance, instead of simply saying, "increase website traffic," you could set a goal of "increasing website traffic by 10% within the next six months".

2. Establish Your Target Audience

We know that social media marketing revolves around creating quality content. But who is that content for? The answer should be clear: your target audience. Many marketers make the mistake of creating content they would like to see instead of content their audience needs.

Take the time to identify who your target audience is, creating detailed buyer personas if necessary. What are their interests? Where do they spend time online? Ideally, you should already have answers to these questions. If not, now is the time to start digging in and doing some research.

Once again, you can be as detailed as you'd like - the more information you have, the better. An example of buyer persona could be:

  • Demographic: 25-35 years old, female
  • Education: College educated
  • Location: North American urban dweller
  • Interests: Health and wellness, running, cooking
  • Online Habits: Active on Instagram and Pinterest
  • Problem: Needs an easy way to track her health goals
  • Buying Concerns: Price, convenience, reliability

A niche is a specific group of people with shared interests and needs. Social media makes it easy for like-minded people to find each other and connect, so consider targeting a niche that aligns with your product or service.

3. Choose Platforms and Create Accounts

The pre-planning work is done — now it's time to decide which platforms you'll be using. Consider the audience you've identified and narrow down your platform options to those that make the most sense. Here's a breakdown of the most popular platforms and their specs:

Social Media Platforms User-Insights Table

Data from January 2023

It's always best to start with fewer platforms and focus your energy on creating quality content. You can always add more platforms down the line once you've mastered the basics. Otherwise, you won't be able to give each platform the attention it deserves.

Once you've chosen your platforms, create accounts and fill out your profile information. This is your chance to make a great first impression. Your handle (i.e., username), profile photo, cover art, and bio should all be consistent with your brand. Take the time to make sure everything looks professional — don't rush it.

You may also want to optimize each post for the platform you're using. Each platform has its own quirks, so consider how you can leverage those to your advantage. For example, hashtags are super important on Twitter and Instagram but not so much on LinkedIn.

4. Peek at Competitors

Most prominent social networks have a severe copycat problem. It's not uncommon to see companies copying each other's content, posts, and even campaigns. In most cases, the copycats don't get any traction, so why take the risk? Analyzing your competitors can prevent you from inadvertently recreating their content.

Start by exploring what your competitors are doing, then think about how to do it better. What type of content resonates the most with their followers? Which hashtags do they use? Who is interacting with them? Take note of all these insights and develop a plan to differentiate yourself from the competition. You can also use your competitors to refine your target audience and find new overlaps.

Seeing all your competitors' strategies side-by-side can be a great way to spot growth opportunities. For example, if everyone posts infographics, but no one posts videos, you've just identified an opportunity to stand out by creating video content.

5. Create a Schedule and Workflow

Next, it's time to create a content calendar and workflow. Content calendars are great for tracking what you're posting, when, and where. Map out your timeline, decide who will be responsible for creating each post, and assign due dates, so everyone is on the same page. These editorial calendars will help keep you organized and ensure consistent content creation.

There are many rules and formats you can adhere to when creating your content calendar. They mainly pertain to:

  • Frequency: How often should you post? Different platforms have different expectations — Twitter has a much higher frequency than LinkedIn, for example. The time of day may also play a role in the success of your posts. It’s important to start slow and focus on posting regularly. Discipline is important. It's no good if you immediately set out to post something every day, only to find that you can't take the pressure after a few weeks and give up. Better set the frequency low and realistic so you can comfortably manage it. You can always plan additional posts in advance instead of taking away your own motivation. Over time, you can continue to ramp up your post frequency.

  • Style: What type of content should you be posting? Visuals, videos, and quotes tend to perform better than plain text. However, this is often a question that depends on the platform and audience. Consider using different visuals, such as Gifs, memes, and videos, to engage with your audience and adapt depending on what performs best over time.

  • Type: Social media content generally falls into one of three categories: informational, promotional, or interactive. Informational content is geared towards teaching your audience something new; promotional content is designed to promote a product or service; and interactive content is meant to engage, amuse or inspire. Several rules exist concerning the ratio of each type of content you should be posting. The 50-30-20 rule is a great place to start: 50% engaging, 30% informational, and 20% promotional content. Here again, your best competitors can provide good clues about your niche.

You'll quickly realize that following this calendar to the letter can be difficult. That's why creating a workflow that works for your team is essential. For example, who should approve each post? Who will be responsible for creating visuals or editing videos? Knowing who does what will help ensure the timely creation of content and avoid missed deadlines.

Identify which tools you need to manage your workflow. Social media management software can be a great addition to your toolbox, as it helps streamline the content creation process and automate tasks like posting across all your channels at scheduled times of your choosing. Visit our Best Picks to learn more about the best social media management software.

Vista Social Homepage

Vista Social's Scheduling Capabilities

6. Craft Content

After preparation comes implementation. Once you have your calendar, workflow, and tools all set up, it's time to start crafting content.

Quality over quantity is key here — focus on creating helpful, interesting, and engaging content that your audience will appreciate. If you create content with the sole purpose of getting likes or shares, you may see some results in the short term, but long-term success requires a more strategic approach.

I know I've mentioned competitors many times now, but if you don't have a plan for what to post, get inspired. It's not about copying, it's about gaining an idea of topics and interests of users until you have more ideas of your own. Until then, see what your competitors are doing, where they're getting a lot of attention, and what their followers say about it in the comments.

You should also keep your brand's voice in mind when crafting content. The words, images, and videos you post should be consistent with your overall branding so followers can immediately recognize your brand. This digital identity will create a sense of familiarity that will keep users returning for more.

Social Media Brand Voice Infographic

Make sure you also include a call-to-action (CTA) in your posts every now and then — this could be anything from asking followers to share your content, leave a comment, or encourage them to visit your website or shop. Don't be shy, as this can drive your engagement and lead generation tremendously in the long run.

Finally, here are the main types of content posted on social media nowadays:

  • Industry news
  • Testimonials
  • Behind the scenes
  • Tutorials
  • Contests/giveaways
  • Events
  • Fun facts
  • Product demonstrations
  • Live Q&As
  • Polls and surveys
  • User-generated content (UGC)
  • Memes
  • Entertainment

Each content type has its own advantages and disadvantages, it makes sense to test a lot here and have a good mix.

Furthermore, each content type can be used differently. Memes and entertainment content, for example, often generate a lot of engagement and buzz, while UGC and behind the scenes content can build trust in your brand. Adapt your content to it but don't lose your face in the process. A vulgar meme might get your law firm attention but could hurt your reputation and trust.

7. Monitor Vital KPIs

Surprisingly, the number of followers and likes you get are considered "vanity metrics." In other words, they aren't necessarily indicative of the actual success of your campaigns. That's why it's important to monitor key performance indicators (KPIs). These will give you a much better indication of how well your social media strategy is performing and help you adjust accordingly.

Some common KPIs include:

  • Engagement rate: The percentage of people who like, comment or share your posts versus your total number of followers.
  • Net sentiment: The total amount of positive or negative sentiment expressed in comments and reviews.
  • Click-through rate: The percentage of people who click on a link within your post.
  • Conversion rate: The number of leads generated or sales made that result from your social media efforts.
  • Time spent: How much time people spend reading or watching your content.
  • Cost per lead or conversion: If you use paid ads, this is the amount you spend to acquire a new lead or make a sale.
  • Audience growth rate: The rate at which your audience grows over time.
  • Social share of voice: The amount of conversation and engagement your brand generates compared to competitors.

Using these metrics is a great way to identify what works and what doesn't, so you can refine your strategy and get the most out of it. You should also consider setting up social listening tools and review management as you grow. These will help you keep track of conversations related to your brand and products, allowing you to stay ahead of any product and customer service issues or general complaints.

8. Engage with Your Community

Many business owners are used to simply posting content to their website and leaving it at that. But with social media, that's not enough — you need to engage with your community to build relationships and trust. It's a two-way street that requires you to give and take.

Start by responding to comments, questions, and feedback ASAP. This will let your followers know that their voices are being heard and that they can count on you when they need help or advice. Additionally, don't be afraid to start conversations of your own — ask questions, share relevant content, and initiate discussions with your followers.

You should also consider joining relevant industry groups, participating in conversations, and sharing content your target audience finds useful. Reddit is a great place to start, full of various communities and topic-specific forums.

Finally, don't forget to interact with influencers in your space — many are open to collaborations, so develop relationships with key people and see what you can do together. Also, look into sponsored campaigns or giveaways in order to further increase brand awareness and engagement.

9. Track, Test, and Tweak

If you already had a social media account before you developed your strategy, now is the time to go back and review what you've been doing so far. If not, you should conduct periodic audits of your accounts to ensure you're on the right track.

It's important to track your progress over time, so you can identify what works and what doesn't. A/B testing is also helpful. It involves testing different versions of your content to see which one performs better. You can use this data to optimize your social media strategy and maximize the ROI.

Finally, don't be afraid to tweak your approach as needed. Social media is an ever-evolving space; what works today may not work tomorrow. Experiment and try new things, as this is the best way to stay ahead of the competition.

Examples of Successful Social Media Marketing Strategies

To better understand how to craft a successful social media marketing strategy in the form of targeted campaigns, let's look at some real-world examples. These companies have successfully leveraged social media to reach their specific goals.

Shot on iPhone - Apple

Apple made a genius move with their “Shot on iPhone” campaign. In an effort to promote the iPhone 13's stunning camera and macro lens capabilities, Apple launched an initiative that encouraged users to share pictures of small things they had taken with their iPhones. The campaigns were a massive success and quickly went viral.

Not only did every picture with the hashtag #shotoniphone promote the new iPhone, but winning customers felt like part of the brand. Apple would reward them by using their photos in advertising campaigns, billboards, and social media. This campaign demonstrated the quality of the new iPhone while creating an emotional connection with its customers.

shot on iphone announcement

Shot on iPhone Announcement

Various Influencer Campaigns - Nike

Nike has always understood the power of social media marketing. To promote its products and campaigns, the company often partners with elite athletes like Lebron James and Serena Williams. On Instagram, their bio contains links to further information on their influencers.

While you may not be able to afford such expensive campaigns, you can still consider working with influencers and micro-influencers who have lesser reach but are more cost-effective. It will help you to get your message out there while giving those influencers a platform to talk about their own experiences with your brand.

Nike Instagram Post Campaign

Kevin Durant Promo on Nike’s Instagram

Spotify Wrapped

Music lovers everywhere can't get enough of Spotify's Wrapped campaign. Every year, the streaming platform creates a personalized "year in review" for each user, letting them know who their top artists were, what genres they dove into, and more. Easily shareable, it's no surprise that Wrapped has gone viral.

This campaign is a great example of how data can be used to create compelling content that resonates with the audience. By offering users insight into their listening habits, Spotify can engage their users and keep them coming back for more. Anybody who sees their friend's results might download the app to see what they get.


Businesses, big and small, can benefit from a great social media marketing strategy. By following the steps outlined in this post, you can create a plan that will help you reach your goals. Don't hesitate to draw inspiration from successful campaigns, but the most effective companies usually bring something new to the table.

With the right social media management tool, hard work, dedication, and a little luck, your brand might also go viral. Most of those who “got lucky” challenged it for a long time before anything happened at all and were eventually rewarded for their persistence. Take your time with your social media marketing strategy, work on discipline, improve by learning along the way, and be patient to succeed in the long run.


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I make sure that companies don't forget who they are and what they stand for. Social media marketing is more than posting a vivid picture or video every now and then. Consistency and strategy are the drivers of any successful brand.