Social media has long been disrupting traditional media. Its proliferation and popularity have made it a necessity for businesses today.

Globally, there are 2.56 billion social media users, which translate into 34% penetration. On top of it, 1 million new users are added every day.

According to a survey conducted by MarketingSherpa, 85% of US consumers use social media and 58% of them follow a brand through social media, while 71% of consumers are likely to recommend a brand to others if they had a good social media experience with it.

Given the statistics, social media can prove to be quite useful in giving a boost to your brand. The return on investment is especially higher for start-ups whose budgets don’t allow them to leverage traditional media.

Often, companies succumb to the pressure and just jump in the world of social media without doing any homework, which can prove to be disastrous. Social media is like any other traditional media and to truly harness its power, you need to have a well-thought-out and a comprehensive strategy; just having a page on Facebook or an account on Twitter won’t do much good.

Here are some tips that can help you chalk out a productive social media strategy:

1. Define your goals

A social media plan without a well-defined objective is just like an arrow in the air without a target. First, analyze the needs of your company and then decide your way forward.

For example, if you are launching a new product, your goal could be increasing awareness about it among the masses. In case you are a well-known brand, you campaign goal could be to retain customers. Just defining a goal isn’t enough either. You need measurable goals, hence, you need to set parameters that will indicate when you hit the target.

Let’s say, if your goal is to increase sales, you should define a number. A timeframe is as important as the goal itself. Attaching a deadline will keep your time and resources focused.

In short, your goals should be smart, measurable, and relevant i.e. consistent with the company’s mission.

2. Identify the right social channels

Before you decide the type of channels you need to use for the growth of your brand, you have to define your target audience. You should be aware of your consumer’s demographics, psychographics, and lifestyle; the more specific you are, the more relevant your message will be.

Next, you need to identify the channels where your potential consumers are likely to hang out. For example, if you are a B2B organization, then LinkedIn Discussion Groups would be the most appropriate channel.

Each channel has its own particular strengths. Facebook can act as a viral traffic driver since it is rich in multimedia and comes with free and paid marketing solutions. The platform is helping more than 50 million small businesses to connect with their customers.

However, you have to be subtle with your marketing since avid Facebook users don’t like to be hit in the head with advertisements. An e-commerce website can benefit the most out of Facebook.

Twitter, on the other hand, is ideal for brief communication and is used for branding purposes. A study conducted by Lithium found out that 78% people expect brands to reply within an hour on Twitter. Bloggers can also leverage Twitter to drive traffic to their blogs.

Instagram is also becoming a powerful tool in case you have to target a younger audience; its engagement per user stands at 4.21%, which is 58 times higher than Facebook’s.

3. Develop your content strategy

Once you have decided the channel you are going to use, you need to plan the type of content you would like to promote, whether it should be a video or image or just text. For your information, you can increase retweets by 150% if you add inline images instead of just text.

The key to creating quality content is the value it provides. For example, if you are a healthy cereal brand, you can provide your audience with tips and tricks related to health. Plus, you can share recipes and some inspirational quotes that your audience would like to share with their friends and family.

The idea is to invite conversation and boost engagement and you can easily do that by creating posts that ask for your audience’s opinion and ideas.

4. Create a publishing plan

If you want to learn how to make viral content, then you need to keep in mind the timing. There is a whole science behind the right time to post. Studies point out that the best days to post on Facebook are Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Since people tend to be happier on weekends, funny and upbeat content is likely to get more traction during this time.

Also, you will get more clicks if you post at 3 pm and more shares if you post at 1 pm. As for Twitter, users are more likely to check their feed during their commute. Hence, the best time to post there is around 5 and 6 pm. A video posted on Instagram at 9 pm will get 34% more interactions than at any other time.

5. Track using analytics

Your strategy is as good as the results it delivers. Hence, you need to keep a tab on the analytics, which is quite easy these days. Facebooks give you a detailed analysis of your audience; you can easily track your audience reactions through the insights tab.

Also, it shows you engagement per post; Twitter provides similar features as well. With the analytics option on the top right of the page, you can check stats such as followers, impressions, and mentions. Apart from the sites, there are a lot of tools such as Buffer and Followerwonk that give you a detailed analysis. Our favorite is MissingLettr.

A robust social media strategy can do wonders for you if implemented correctly. It helps you target your audience effectively, plus it is cost effective and gives a high return on investment. The best part is that you can get instant feedback from your customers and keep a tab on your progress in real time, unlike traditional media.

Alycia Gordan

Alycia Gordan is a freelance writer who loves to read and write articles on healthcare technology, fitness and lifestyle. She is a tech junkie and divides her time between travel and writing