With the broader shift towards eCommerce over the past year, and the expanded usage of social media as a means of connection, on various fronts, as you’ve no doubt heard repeated over and over again, it’s now imperative for all businesses to have a social media presence in order to maximize their online presence and boost brand awareness – and thus, sales as a result.

But it’s one thing to say ‘go build a social media presence’ and another thing altogether to do it. That’s even more so the case in the current environment, because the competition for attention online is increasingly fierce, and it can be difficult to get your brand presence to stand out, and to establish any sort of following in social apps.

It can be disheartening to put time and effort into your social profiles to only gain a few followers each week, and it can feel like there’s no point. Because it’s not just creating a Page and posting a few pictures that goes into building a social media presence, there’s research required, planning, and you need to have some direction in that effort.

So where do you start, and what are the key elements that you need to factor in?

Here’s a quick overview of three key planning points that you need to tick off on your social media strategy list, which will help to ensure that you’re putting your best foot forward in each app.

1. Ensure your social profiles are filled out and complete

This likely goes without saying, but it is a crucial point. In order to get your business presence to show up for all relevant queries, and to give people all the information they need to connect, and buy from you, you need to ensure you’ve filled out every field of your business profile, on every platform, including phone numbers, email info, hours of operation, etc.

  • This is particularly important on Google My Business. Google remains the key way that most people search online, so you need to ensure that Google has all the relevant information for your company and offerings. Check out this overview of how to complete your Google My Business profile.
  • You should also double-check all your profile and background header images to ensure they align with each platform’s size requirements, which will then mean that your visuals look crisp, and professional, on all devices. Here’s a listing of the current platform visual dimensions.
  • You also need to know what searches users are conducting to find businesses like yours, so you can then include relevant key terms and hashtags in your presence, which we’ll look at in the next point.

2. Conduct competitor research and establish performance benchmarks

It’s one thing to read general advice guides about what you should be posting, when you should be posting, what works best on each platform, etc. But many of these guidelines are overall pointers based on broad engagement trends – when formulating your own digital marketing strategy, you don’t want to assume that something will work, you want to know, as best you can, what’s relevant for your specific target audience, and how you can meet them where they’re looking.

For this, you need to conduct research in your local or niche market, and understand which of your competitors are seeing good response on social, what they’re doing to achieve that, and how you can build your approach along similar lines.

  • First, you need to establish a list of direct competitors in your market or region. These are the businesses that are already reaching the people that you need to get in front of, and you can use the response that they’re seeing, and the tactics they’re using, to guide your approach.
  • Put together engagement reports for each of your competitors to get an understanding of how they’re performing over time. You can use tools like CrowdTangle, BuzzSumo, Twitonomy, SocialBlade and Followerwonk to put together benchmark data reports on each of their profiles, which will show you things like average engagement rates, Likes, video views, the types of posts that perform best, common hashtags and more.

3 Key Steps Towards Maximizing Your Social Media Marketing Approach

  • Once you have these notes, you can then rank each profile and presence by engagement, and examine the best performers to glean more insight into how they’re generating those results – while concurrently providing direction to the worst performers so you know what not to do. For example, if someone’s posting a lot, but their audience growth is low, they’re likely making some key mistakes in their approach.

This element does take time, but once you’ve established these performance benchmarks, you’ll then be building your strategy based on current, real-world data, so your own targets will be based on what your competitors are actually seeing, giving you a true comparison for your performance.

3. Research key content trends and interests in your sector

The next research element is broader content trends, in order to determine the right hashtags to use, the key topics of interest to guide your product and marketing strategies, and which platforms are of most relevance for your outreach – even if you’re competitors are not using them.

  • Data trends tools are invaluable for this element, and using Google Trends, along with newer, similar tools like Pinterest Trends and Snapchat Trends as well, you can get an idea of whether people on these platforms are actually engaging with content related to your niche, and what they’re increasingly looking for in regards to your products. Based on this, you may find entirely new opportunities that your competitors hadn’t even considered, and new platforms of focus for outreach (TikTok is also developing its Top Ads insights tool which may also help provide similar context).
  • BuzzSumo, again, is a great tool for content research – you can search for the top-performing content, based on social shares, by entering your target keywords, or you can enter in a specific URL, including those of your competitors, to see which pages people are looking up, helping to expand your understanding of what people not only want, but what they’re sharing in social apps as well. This will also give you a clearer picture of which platforms are most popular among your target audience (note: BuzzSumo also lists Reddit engagement, which could highlight additional opportunities).

3 Key Steps Towards Maximizing Your Social Media Marketing Approach

  • Hashtagify is a handy tool for researching hashtag popularity and usage, and based on these insights, you can formulate a stronger hashtag strategy based on actual usage and engagement. You can also use Instagram’s search tools to get an idea of not only how popular each hashtag is, but related hashtags as well, which will help you determine which tags are more relevant for each site.
  • Answer the Public uses insights from Google, and other search engines, to show you key searches related to any term that you enter, which can further highlight the questions that people are asking around your niche, again helping to guide your approach.

3 Key Steps Towards Maximizing Your Social Media Marketing Approach

Based on the information you glean from these sources, you can then formulate a more concrete strategy, built on true audience data, not hypothesis, which will then help you refine your posting approach to get your brand name in front of the people who are looking for related content on social platforms, so you’ll have clearer direction as to what you should be posting, what’s generating engagement, what types of updates resonate best, and the informational trends that can boost your discoverability.

Of course, some of these apps are paid tools, so it does take a level of investment, or partnering with an advisor who can provide such insights. But if you want to maximize your opportunities, you need to have a clear understanding not only of general trends and notes, but what, specifically, is working in your niche.

These research pointers are a solid starting point, and once you begin your investigation, you’ll likely start to see trends and patterns emerge that will then inform your process, and improve your broader understanding of what to post, what to promote, and how you can get your messaging in front of the right people via social apps.

And with the holidays fast approaching, now is the time to get a handle on your audience, and boost your marketing opportunities.

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