Does Your Social Media Plan Tell A Story?

A social media plan is a strategy document but also a selling document that usually takes the form of a written report and a presentation. One of the most effective forms of written and oral communication is story. Before a social media plan can help a brand sell, it has to be sold.

Below is an outline of the main parts of a social media strategy placed on a dramatic arc to ensure you are telling a compelling story to your client or boss. Take them on a journey of discovery of how your solution will help them overcome a problem or take advantage of an opportunity. Make their brand the hero against competitors to meet real business objectives. Show them the path from where they are to where they want to be.

Act 1 Introduction/Exposition: This is where you introduce the background of the brand, their history and mission. The client or your boss obviously knows this, but you are letting them know you know and making sure you are all starting from the same setting such as, “Open on a hundred year old company founded on the values of …”

Additional context comes in explaining the industry including latest trends and main competitors. Identifying the main competitor establishes the antagonist. Most businesses have someone they are trying to catch up to or keep from catching them.

Complete the exposition of the story by describing who the brand is trying to reach. A well-defined target audience is a key to success. Even the biggest brands with the largest budgets don’t have the budget to reach everyone and messages to everyone motivates no one. Understanding the perspective and motivations of the target is important as most clients are not themselves in the target market.

Act 2 Rising Action/Conflict: This is where you spell out the conflict of the story. There is usually an inciting situation – the reason they need a new strategy. Often the incitement is something getting in the way of business objectives or something that can help the brand reach those objectives.

Clearly identifying the problem or opportunity ensures that you and the client are working towards the same end goal. Making this a specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time bound business objective ensures from the beginning that your plan will be able to be measured for success against what the client cares about most. Don’t confuse this with strategies or tactics. Goals are long term changes you’d like to see, objectives turn goals into measurable metrics on a specific smaller time frame, strategy is the way you will meet the objectives, tactics are what you will use to implement the strategy.

Reporting the results of a social media audit adds additional context but also adds complications. The results of the social audit often reveals unexpected insights that conflict with current beliefs and/or strategies. The truth of these complications can raise tensions and anxieties as anticipation builds for a solution.

Act 3 Climax/Turning Point: This is where the climax or turning point of the plan happens. The high point of the plan and your presentation should be the reveal of the big idea that is going to solve the problem or seize the opportunity against the competitor.

Don’t just reveal it – sell it. Explain how the idea is more than creative. Point out how it is also a strategic solution. Describe how the research insights from everything before this part of the plan led to the big idea as the solution. This is the turning point, because the solution has been revealed and everything after this is result of that solution.

Act 4 Falling Action/Results: This is where the results of the research and insights and the big idea play out in specific social media actions. Recommend how the brand’s social media presence should change. Which social media platforms are ideal for the big idea, message and target audience? Which social media platforms need to be left behind? How does paid social media play a role?

Also explain how the social media idea integrates with current marketing efforts and other forms of traditional marketing promotion such as advertising and public relations. Show the full potential of the solution by explaining how social media can integrate with other areas of the business such as operations, R&D, human resources, customer service or sales.

The last action of the big idea should be examples. Paint a picture of what the strategy will really look like. Show the client sample content posts in each of the selected social media channels. Prove the solution works with a multi-channel social media strategy.

Act 5 Resolution/Denouement: The conflict is resolved. The client can now see the victory over the competitor. The final resolution is given and any remaining tension of not knowing how to solve the problem is released with a tying up of loose ends.

The final outcome includes a content calendar that shows when, where and how the plan will take place across the various social media platforms. A sample social media content calendar can be a great start.

Complete the path to their goal by explaining how success will be measured. This can be demonstrated through a social media metrics table that clearly links social media specific platform metrics to the business objectives established in the beginning of the plan.

The last loose end is cost. Let them know a how much the solution will cost. A social media budget template can help estimate these costs. The solution is made clear as the story ends and you have told the story of their future success.

Note that these five acts of a story shouldn’t appear in the actual plan and presentation as subheadings or defined titled sections. They merely guide what you cover, in what order and why to ensure you tell a story. A book or movie doesn’t stop in the middle of the action to alert the reader or viewer with a subtitles like “Conflict,” “Climax,” and “Resolution.”

What is the unique plot of your plan?

What Has Changed And Not Changed In Social Media.

The first edition of my book Social Media Strategy was published in 2015. When I went back to update the second edition I learned that many things have changed in social media, but some things have not changed. How should your approach to social media adjust based on new developments? What is the same that you may still be missing? Below is a summary of what I discovered in analyzing social media updates over the last three years.

What has changed in social media
Photo by Ross Findon on Unsplash

New tools, tactics and features have emerged.

One major development has been the rise of live video. Interestingly live streaming video has been around on the Internet since 2007 with services like Livestream and Ustream.

Live video came into real prominence with the launch of live streaming video mobile apps. In 2015 live video took the stage at SXSW with the launch of Meerkat. Periscope was only a couple of weeks behind. Then Blab and Facebook Live were launched. In less than two years Meerkat and Blab were gone. Periscope was bought by and integrated into Twitter. In 2016 Facebook launched Instagram Live. YouTube now has live streaming video and Twitch is the Amazon owned live streaming video app for gamers.

If you have not added live video to your social media activities start looking into it now. Brands today need to seriously consider live video for its reach, engagement and creative possibilities.

Influencer marketing has taken off.

Three years ago we talked about influencers in the context of brand evangelism. Loyal fans and employees where recruited and equipped to become brand ambassadors. Businesses developed relationships with customers and trained employees who voluntarily advocated for the brand. Marketers built their own communities of influencers with programs such as the Lego Ambassadors where super fans were rewarded with exclusives, perks, free products and trips.

Today this process has been formalized. Influencer marketing focuses more on finding people with a high level of influence and pays them for specific campaigns. Now influencer marketing agencies, networks and software like TapInfluence automates influencer discovery, payment and content creation. Micro-influencer marketing has also become a popular strategy where brands partner with people who have smaller followings but have a highly engaged audience in a relevant niche. Are you leveraging social media influencers? Influencer marketing is the fastest growing part of social media strategies.

Paid social media has gone from an experiment to a necessity.

Three years ago paid social media was called native advertising and it was a small way to support organic social media efforts and a way to reach new audiences. It was also available on only a couple social networks like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Today paid social media is a required part of most social media strategies to reach new audiences, but also your own fans on the most crowded social networks. The need for paid social advertising has increased as organic reach, or the percentage of followers or fans that see brand posts, has decreased significantly. Most top social networks now offer paid social media options including Snapchat, Pinterest, Yelp and even Reddit.

No matter how much paid social media grows, it is important to note that paying for reach does not replace the need for creating valuable content. Paid social media may buy exposure but it does not buy engagement and action that still requires quality content. The kind of content you create for organic social media posts.

Some social platforms faded away. Others became more important.

In the update of the book I removed significant sections on social media channels such as Google+, Flickr, and Citisearch. Other social media platforms and categories have been added. Snapchat has grown up to become an important part of many social media strategies.

Other niche social channels have become important for businesses in certain categories such as TripAdvisor for travel related business and Amazon Reviews for brands with e-commerce products. The entire category of Messaging Apps have grown in use and brands are now adding a presence on WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Kik, Viber and Line.

If you haven’t reviewed your brand social media accounts in a while it may be a good time to conduct a social media audit to ensure you are on the right platforms for your objectives and target market.

What has not changed is the need for a social media strategy.

You can’t succeed by chasing the latest platforms, tactics and features or simply increasing content on existing social accounts. Brands need a solid social media strategy that works for today and three years from now. This is a mistake brands make even after being in social media for years and why nearly half of marketers are unable to show the impact of their social media investments.

For marketers, advertisers and public relations professionals to succeed at social media, they must first start in a place rooted in their distinct situation and drive a strategy of choosing social platforms and creating content based on their business objectives and target audience. Integrating social with other business functions and adding the right tools and metrics will connect your social media actions to broader business goals from the beginning. Then social media will not be an end unto itself and real ROI can be found.

Because of this gap in business knowledge spending in social media has failed to meet previous expectations. The initial hype over social media is dying down and management will eventually stop paying for engagement that doesn’t lead to bottom line action. Another possible explanation is according to Buffer Social’s 2018 State of Social Report only 50% of companies have a documented social media strategy.

Social media knowledge is becoming an expectation in most marketing communication professionals jobs and social media professionals will need to expand their business knowledge to see the big picture and talk the language of management. As social media will inevitably change more tomorrow the need for a solid social media strategy will not change. What are the biggest adjustments you have made in the last couple of years?