In the marketing world, social media is still somewhat akin to the wild west. It’s a new frontier, continually expanding, and while we’re doing a pretty good job defining the rules as we go along, the problem is that the lay of the land keeps changing. Users come and go, your followers are incredibly savvy, and viral sensations pop up at irregular intervals to distract from more important messages. The pioneers never had to deal with things like this.


So how can your company approach social media in a way that sends the right message and ultimately improves your bottom line? The short answer is this: strategy! As for developing a successful social media strategy, here are six steps that will get you there.


  1. Set a goal.

As with any business endeavor, it’s wise to know why you’re doing something, who you want to reach, and what you hope to get out of it. It’s also important to define what success looks like. So, ask yourself: what do you hope to achieve with your social media presence? Whether it’s more followers, more sales, or something else, come up with some target numbers as well as some stretch goals.

  1. Go where your audience is.

Where are your customers? That largely depends on the age of your target audience, as well as other factors, but if you already have social media profiles set up on the major networks, you know where your numbers are highest. Go there first, whether it’s on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest, Linkedin, Google+, Snapchat, or wherever.


  1. Pay attention to competitors.

Your competition is also using social networks to their advantage, but what exactly are they doing? What are they doing right, what are they doing wrong, and how can you do it better? Imitating their strategies may be tempting, and criticizing their tactics is easy, but the best approach is always to be original in your message. This allows your business to stand out without associating any negativity with your brand.


  1. Content, content, content.

Just like location, location, location are the three rules of real estate, content, content, content are the three rules of a successful social media strategy. Or more specifically, quality content is essential. Offer your customers and followers something of value, whether it’s educational content, helpful blog posts, great images, videos, infographics, or anything else.


  1. Don’t just post — respond.

Sending out messages is of course important in any social media strategy, but communication is a two way street. Engage with your audience and keep the conversations going. And, shape them in a positive way, especially if any comments or feedback is negative.


  1. Watch your data.

How are your messages being received? Look at which ones garner the most likes, the most clicks, the most comments, and the most retweets, shares, or repins. Also, look at your cost per click numbers and which messages have the best conversion rates. Do your best to emulate what’s working, and retool the messages that are less successful in their reach. Finally, look at your numbers on a regular basis, as they are continually in flux.


The rules for social media may seem loose, but if you’re hoping to meet your social media marketing goals, then strategy is key. These six steps will help you get there. Plus, for a more graphic and condensed list of social media strategy musts, check out this helpful infographic from The Whole Brain Group.