How to Create a Social Media Marketing Plan From Scratch

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When I went rock climbing for the first time, I had no idea what I was doing. My friends and I were complete newbies about ropes and rappelling and every other bit of jargon and technique that goes with climbing. We saw others doing it spectacularly well. We were thrilled at the thought of reaching the top of the climbing wall; we had no idea how to get there.

I’d imagine that a social media marketing plan could feel the same way.

If you’re starting from square one, it might feel equal parts thrilling and overwhelming. You know what you want to do and why. You can see that others have climbed the social media mountain; you’ve got few ideas how to get there yourself.

It’d help to have a plan.

We’ve shared before about different parts of a social media marketing plan—the data and research and personal experience behind what works on social media. Now we’re pleased to put it all into a cohesive, step-by-step blueprint that you can use to get started. If you need a social media marketing plan, start here.

Social Media Marketing Plan

Starting at the ground flour and building up, here is our overview of how to create a social media marketing plan from scratch.

Social Media Marketing Plan

 

I like to think of this plan like a roadtrip. Start out by pointing yourself in the right direction, then choose the way you’re going to get there, check in regularly to make sure you’re on track, and have some fun along the way.

Step 1: Choose your social networks

Step 2: Fill out your profiles completely

Step 3: Find your voice and tone

Step 4: Pick your posting strategy

Step 5: Analyze and test

Step 6: Automate and engage

Step 1: Which social media sites you should use

Social media is as homogenous from network to network as soda pop is from brand to brand. Sure, it’s all social media, but Google+ and Twitter might as well be Mountain Dew and Pepsi. Each network is unique, with its own best practices, own style, and own audience.

You should choose the social networks that best fit your strategy and the goals you want to achieve on social media.

You don’t have to be on them all—just the ones that matter to you and your audience.

Some things to consider that can help you choose not only which social networks to try but also how many to try.

Time – How much time can you devote to a social network? Plan on at least an hour per day per social network, at least at the start. (Once you get going, tools like Buffer can help you save a bit of time.)

Resources - What personnel and skills do you have to work with? Visual social networks like Pinterest and Instagram require images and photos. Social networks like Google+ emphasize quality content. Do you have the resources to create what’s needed?

Your audience – Where do your potential customers hang out? Which social network has the right demographics?

For the latter part of this decision, you can reference the audience research and demographics from surveys like those conducted by Pew Research. For instance, Pew has complete data, collected last fall, of the demographics for Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and LinkedIn. Here is a side-by-side comparison of Facebook and Twitter demographics.

(Click to enlarge.)

Pew research - social networks

Step 2: Fill out your profiles completely

One of our monthly checks here at Buffer is to visit each of our social media profiles and make sure that our avatars, cover photos, bio, and profile info is up-to-date and complete. It’s a key part to our social media audit. A completed profile shows professionalism, cohesive branding, and a signal to visitors that you’re serious about engaging.

Profiles will require two parts: visuals and text.

For visuals, we aim for consistency and familiarity with the visuals we use on social media. Our avatar on Twitter matches our avatar on Facebook. Our cover photo on Google+ is similar to our cover on LinkedIn.

To create these images, you can consult a social media image size chart that will show you the exact breakdown of dimensions for each photo on each network. For an even easier time of it, you can use a tool like Canva, which comes with prebuilt templates that set the proper sizes for you.

Canva options

For text, your main area to customize is the bio/info section. Creating a professional social media bio can be broken down into six simple rules.

  1. Show, don’t tell: “What have I done” often works better than “Who I am”
  2. Tailor your keywords to your audience
  3. Keep language fresh; avoid buzzwords
  4. Answer the question of your potential followers: “What’s in it for me?”
  5. Be personal and personable
  6. Revisit often

Step 3: Find your marketing voice and tone

The temptation at this point might be to jump right in and start sharing. Just one more step before you do. Your foray into social media will be more focused and more on point if you come up with a voice and tone for your content right off the bat.

To do so, you could spend time coming up with marketing personas and debating the finer points of your mission statement and customer base. These are all well and good. However, for a social media marketing plan just getting off the ground, you can make this process a bit easier. Start with questions like these:

  • If your brand was a person, what kind of personality would it have?
  • If your brand was a person, what’s their relationship to the consumer? (a coach, friend, teacher, dad, etc)
  • Describe in adjectives what your company’s personality is not.
  • Are there any companies that have a similar personality to yours? Why are they similar?
  • How do you want your customers to think about your company?

At the end of this exercise, you should end up with a handful of adjectives that describe the voice and tone of your marketing. Consider this to keep you on track: Voice is the mission statement; tone is the implementation of that mission.

MailChimp has created a standalone website simply for its voice and tone. Here’s an example of how they implement these qualities into their communication:

MailChimp voice and tone

Cultivate a voice that delights your customers, then your customers will be thrilled to spread the love about you.

Step 4: Pick your posting strategy

What’s the ideal amount to post per day? How often should you post? When should you post? What should you post? The solid gold, ironclad answer on questions like these is:

It depends.

So much of the social media experience is about your individual audience and niche. What works for you might not work for me, and you never know until you try (we’ll get to trying in step five).

That being said, there is some pretty good data and insight about where to start. Here’s what we’ve found to be good jumping off points.

Social Media Posting Strategy

What should you be posting?

Images are ideal.

The push toward visual content has plenty of anecdotal evidence—as you browse the streams on Twitter and Facebook, you’re likely to see images all over. There’s data behind the reason why. Image posts get more views, clicks, reshares, and likes than any other type of post. And it’s not even close.

On Facebook, photos get 53% more likes, 104% more comments and 84% more click-throughs on links than text-based posts.

Same goes for Twitter. In a study of over two million tweets from verified users across a number of different industries, Twitter found that photos have the greatest effect on retweets.

  • Photos average a 35% boost in Retweets
  • Videos get a 28% boost
  • Quotes get a 19% boost in Retweets
  • Including a number receives a 17% bump in Retweets
  • Hashtags receive a 16% boost

Twitter stats

Now that you know what works, you can place these different types of updates into a consistent strategy. One of my favorite systems is the one used by Buffer’s co-founder Joel Gascoigne. It works like this:

  1. Start with the basic five types of updates we all post: Links, images, quotes, reshares, plain-text updates
  2. Choose a “staple” update, a single type that will make up the majority of your shares
  3. Create a 4:1 ratio of sharing: for every four “staple” updates, publish one different type for variety

The 4:1 sharing system

This way your followers know what to expect from you, and you can hone your sharing to a specific type, making it easier to perfect and to experiment.

(Note: You might won’t want to post the exact same updates across each of your social networks. Consider composing your updates in a unique way to complement each network’s own best practices, culture, and language.)

How often should you be posting?

There’s been a lot of interesting data out there about how often to post to social media. Some of the factors that might impact your specific sharing frequency may include your industry, your reach, your resources, and the quality of your updates. The social network you’re using will have its own best practices, too.

If people love your updates, you can typically always get away with posting more.

For a specific number, here’re some guidelines we’ve put together based on some really helpful research into how often to post to social media.

How Often to Post to Social Media

When should you be posting?

There are many neat tools to show you the best time of day to post to Facebook, Twitter, and more. These tools look at your followers and your history of posts to see when your audience is online and when historically have been your best times to share.

So what’s someone to do who’s just starting out on these social networks, with no audience and no history?

Again, this is where best practices come in. Perhaps the most helpful (and adorable) infographic I’ve seen about timing comes from SumAll, which compiled timing research from sites like Visual.ly, Search Engine Watch, and Social Media Today to create its awesome visual. Here’s an overview of what they found in terms of timing (all times are Eastern Time).

  • Twitter – 1-3pm weekdays
  • Facebook – 1-4pm and 2-5pm weekdays
  • LinkedIn – 7-8:30am and 5-6pm Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday
  • Tumblr – 7-10pm weekdays and 4pm on Fridays
  • Instagram – 5-6pm weekdays and 8pm on Mondays with a sweetspot at 6pm
  • Pinterest – 2-4pm and 8-11pm weekdays with weekends being the best
  • Google+ – 9-11am weekdays

SumAll When to Post to Social Media

 

Step 5: Analyze, test, and iterate

Remember how we talked about social media sharing being a very individual, specific endeavor? Your stats will likely start to bear this out.

The more you post, the more you’ll discover which content, timing, and frequency is right for you.

How will you know? It’s best to get a reporting tool. Most major social networks will have basic analytics built into the site; it’s just a little easier to seek and find this information from an all-encompassing dashboard.

These tools (I’ll use Buffer’s analytics as an example) can show you a breakdown of how each post performed in the important areas of views, clicks, shares, likes, and comments.

Social Media Stats

Which social media stats are best? We’ve gained some insight from looking at each of these main statistics and the composite engagement stat on a per-post basis. The resulting stat gives us a great look, over time, of how our social media content tends to perform, and we can then test and iterate from there.

Here’s one way this analysis step.

Set a benchmark. After two weeks or a month of sharing, you can go back through your stats and find the average number of clicks, shares, likes, and comments per post. This’ll be your benchmark going forward. You can come back and update this number at any time as your following and influence grows.

Test something new. We’re open to testing just about anything at Buffer. We’re in the midst of some tests right now on our Twitter account. Do Twitter-optimized images gain more clicks than non-optimized images? Does capitalization matter? We’ll often hear about someone’s new strategy or get a new idea and then test right away.

Did it work? Check the stats from your test versus the stats of your benchmark. If your test performed well, then you can implement the changes into your regular strategy. And once your test is over, test something new!

Social Media Analysis

Step 6: Automate, engage, and listen

The final piece of a social media marketing plan involves having a system you can follow to help you stay on top of updates and engaged with your community.

To start with, automate your updates. Tools like Buffer allow you to create all the content and updates that you want to, all at once, and then place everything into a queue to be sent out according to whatever schedule you choose. Automation is the secret weapon for consistently excellent sharing, day after day.

Your plan doesn’t end with automation, though. Social media requires engagement, too. When people talk to you, talk back. Set aside time during your day to followup with conversations that are happening on social media. These are conversations with potential customers, references, friends, and colleagues. They’re too important to ignore.

One way to stay up on all the conversations that are happening around you and your company is to create a system for listening. Tools like Mention will send you an alert every time you’re mentioned online, and you can rely on custom searches and email alerts for mentions on specific networks, too.

What would you share with someone new to social media?

Coming up with a social media marketing plan is a great step toward diving in to social. If social media looks thrilling and overwhelming all at once, start with a plan. Once you see the blueprint in front of you, it’s a little easier to see what lies ahead.

  1. Pick your networks
  2. Fill out your info
  3. Find your voice
  4. Choose your strategy
  5. Analyze and test
  6. Automate and engage

Bingo!

How did you develop your social media strategy? I’d love to keep the conversation going in the comments. If you know someone who could use this, feel free to pass this along. If you can use it yourself, let me know how it goes!

Image sources: Will Scullin, Twitter, SumAll, Pew

  • Ann Mullen

    Great job with this, Kevan. I have a question for you. From research to publish, how long did you spend on it? While I don’t write copy more than 1500 words max and yours is almost 2500 words, I am sure that you have spent more time on this; but I am trying to see if I am too slow or my boss is expecting miracles.

    • http://blog.bufferapp.com Kevan

      Hi, Ann! Thanks for the comment! It’s great to hear from you. :) This post came together for me in maybe 4 or 5 hours? I’m probably cheating a bit, though. So much of the content and research on this one was pulled from other posts that we’d already written. I spent 8 hours on a post shorter than this one the other day. Funny how much it varies from post to post!

      How much time do you spend with posts? I’m always curious to learn how others do it. :)

      • Ann Mullen

        Kevan, some of my articles take 4-6 hours from beginning research to post perfect (or something approximating perfect). I get all the research I can stand (sometimes 50-75 pages) and begin whittling it down, several times. Somewhere in all that I might find the hook.

        Often I don’t see the hook until I have it published for a few days. That’s why I like your idea of letting an article percolate, but I am definitely out of time before that. Sometimes finding the pictures that say what I want is a long time search.

        These are not fluff articles, although I am getting to the point where I am going back to the time when I knew next to nothing and educating myself. Yours are not fluff articles either.

        In fact that might be what my readers need even if that’s not what my inbound marketing savvy boss wants.

        • http://blog.bufferapp.com Kevan

          Thanks for sharing, Ann! Really interesting to see inside your process. I think that the research-heavy, non-fluff articles are quite valuable as they stand out from a lot of the other content that’s out there to consume. Just my 2 cents. Would love to know what you think!

          • Ann Mullen

            Kevan, can we continue this using email?

  • http://blog.mindjet.com MichaelDeutch

    Thanks for all the amazing posts!

  • http://findhandmade.com.au/ StallHolder.com.au

    Have taken o board your “show don’t tell” concept for descriptions – very powerful and is an actual demonstration instead of unproven self promotion – way better!

    • http://blog.bufferapp.com Kevan

      Thanks! Hopefully the visuals will grab folks who are skimming for the highlights. :)

  • Jing Jing

    Great tips Kevan. Thanks!

  • Jo Harrison

    Great article Kevan, I so needed this a few years ago when I first started out! :)

    • ritadshreve

      my Aunty
      Allison recently got a nice 6 month old Jaguar by working from a macbook.this website C­a­s­h­f­i­g­.­C­O­M­

    • http://blog.bufferapp.com Kevan

      Hi, Jo! Thanks for the comment! Haha, I probably could have used this, too, when I started!

  • http://www.sandramreed.com/ Sandra Reed

    Great information!

    • charlesjdion

      like
      Jacqueline implied I’m taken by surprise that a mom can earn $8130 in 1 month
      on the computer . see post C­a­s­h­f­i­g­.­C­O­M­

  • http://www.wallstreetsurvivor.com Bryan LeBlanc

    Thanks for the info, super helpful!

  • http://www.searchrak.com rakesh kumar singh

    Hey Lee ! Awesome walk-through about social media marketing & its plan. Thanks man to share here !

  • http://www.digitaladblog.com DigitalAdBlog.com

    Really great infomation, Thanks!

  • http://www.claredreyer.com Clare Dreyer

    Awesome article! Thanks!

  • http://xmediadigitalsolutions.com.au/ David Walter

    Great article! Lots of good information. I will definitely share your article with my clients, they’ll love it too! http://www.xmediads.com

  • achutank

    Kevan you are a real dost man :-) thank you for sharing this learning

    • robertlfrisch

      as Thelma
      explained I cannot believe that a stay at home mom can make $7420 in four weeks
      on the internet . more info here C­a­s­h­f­i­g­.­C­O­M­

  • http://www.trickscollector.com/ Muhammad Tehseen

    What time zone mentioned in the Time is Everything Photo?

    • http://blog.bufferapp.com Kevan

      Hi Muhammad! The time zone in that graphic is Eastern Time.

      Hope that’s what you’re looking for!

      • http://www.trickscollector.com/ Muhammad Tehseen

        Yeah,Thank You very much

  • http://www.smartwebsolutions.com.au/ SEO and Web Design Guy

    Excellent plan, you make it look so easy.. just follow the bouncing ball..

  • Jeff Doubek

    Thank you Kevan, those graphics alone are worth their weight in gold. Nice work!

    • http://blog.bufferapp.com Kevan

      Hi Jeff! Thanks! Hope the graphics made things a little easier to scan/read. :)

  • leehill

    Great information, i think it may be helpful to include some information on how/what each social network should be used for.

    Twitter is whats happening now and is less personal, with Facebook you are inviting people into your personal circle of friends, I also think syndicating the same message to all your accounts is not the best approach. I know lots of my clients struggle to grasp what content they should post where.

    Is this not available as a downloadable PDF? Would be helpfull.

    • http://blog.bufferapp.com Kevan

      Hi there! Yes, great addition! Each social network definitely has its own use/style. Thanks so much for bringing this aspect to light. :)

      It’d be really awesome to turn this into a pdf. Thanks for the validation on that. I’ll see what we can get around to!

  • http://www.zapstitch.com/ Tejaswi Raghurama

    this is a gold mine! thanks for the powerful insights. Sure to implement at out startup. Will post our results here :)

    • http://blog.bufferapp.com Kevan

      Awesome to hear! I’d love to know what your results are. :)

  • http://www.probloggingsuccess.com/ Jane

    Thanks for sharing these awesome tips Kevin. I do agree with you about the timing. I used to post without caring about the timing – and for me since I live in India, I usually have to post at off times for my target audience :)

    I then started using the scheduling features via third party platforms – I surely did see an improvement in clickthroughs and engagement.

    • http://blog.bufferapp.com Kevan

      Hi Jane! Really glad to hear you found a system that works! Yes, timing can be crucial! :)

  • Jamie Teasdale

    This is quite the article. You chalked in full of value, Kevan. Nice job! @PlanPromotePros finds that the research and development of a content marketing plan is time intensive, especially for someone who isn’t a marketing wiz. Planning each year is one of the best ways to take bite-sized chunks into marketing strategies, but rarely will small businesses take the time or know the steps. This post should be used as a rule of thumb each year at the planning retreat. Well done!

    • http://blog.bufferapp.com Kevan

      Hi, Jamie! Thanks for the awesome comment! Yes, we’re big fans of planning, too – just got to find/make the time to do it!

  • Vicki Cato

    Thank you for the valuable information.

  • Jason Vitug

    Another great post indeed. So many ways to improve.

  • David Weightman

    Awesome marketing plan. Thanks for the share. I’ve been learning this stuff for years but reading articles like this is still important and necessary. @David

  • http://hubskills.com/ Partha Bhattacharya

    When you say, you don’t have to be on them all, I hear with great attention. Here is an advice that’s really helpful for me. Thanks Kevan.

    • http://blog.bufferapp.com Kevan

      Thanks, Partha!

  • http://nexus6google.com/ Manish Balyan

    Valuable Information A complete guide to Social Media Sharing.

  • theresaSuttons

    my best friend’s half-sister makes $64 every hour on the internet . She has been without a job for 7 months but last month her pay check was $19649 just working on the internet for a few hours. hop over to here.for a work detail go tech tab.

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  • http://www.atmdepot.com/ ATM Machines

    Interesting but I’ve found that I get the most likes and comments on Facebook when I share between 9pm – midnight.

  • Muhammad Jamil

    Nice share :) And goog job for Kevan Lee http://www.opsional.com

  • Leah Koch

    This is great info, thanks Kevan

  • http://www.nimbusinbound.com/ Steve Katz

    This is so well written Kevan! i love how you guys integrate your own graphics, which could act as stand alone content pieces for social postings to this post! I definitely agree that voice and tone and considering the “mindset divide” for various channels is so important!

  • TonyaD

    Another great post! Thanks :)

  • Samantha VanSchoick

    loooovvveee the cat/timing illustration.

  • Sally Green

    Brilliant – thank you, there is nothing like a plain an simple plan, off I go to engage a literary festival!

  • http://4ubrand.blogspot.com/ Frank Gainaford

    Well I think you are missing a few pieces such as PURPOSE< AIMS and OBJECTIVES which need to be defined and well documented before tackling your list.

    Do not get me wrong here and throw the baby out instead of the bath water, your list is great, but there are other things that need to be cleared up first, like why do you want a social media presence, and what will a social media presence do for your business.

    A plan needs to have goals, aims and objectives which are all derived from inspecting the purpose of the issue at stake. So first define the purpose of having a social media presence then get on with your plan and implement a social media presence that will fulfill your purpose.

    • http://blog.bufferapp.com Kevan

      Hi Frank! Great point. There are absolutely several other considerations you could make to form a plan. I love your ideas! Thanks for adding to the discussion here. :)

  • preciousbwallace

    Start working at home with Google! It’s by-far the best job I’ve had. Last Wednesday I got a brand new BMW since getting a check for $6474 this – 4 weeks past. I began this 8-months ago and immediately was bringing home at least $77 per hour. I work through this link, go to tech tab for work detail

    ✒✒✒✒✒✒ Jobs7000.Com

    ================================

  • Megan Medaris

    Awesome article! I would add that step 1 ought to be buyer persona development. It’s impossible to make useful decisions about what, when and where to post without a thorough understanding of your customers. Thanks for all the great content Kevan! Your posts are always a pleasure to read.

    • http://blog.bufferapp.com Kevan

      Hi Megan! Great point about buyer persona development. Definitely a good one to consider for those who have the time/resources to do it well!

  • https://www.max-profits.com/ Max-Profits

    Brilliant post Kevan,

    I couldn’t help but mention how awesome the cat wearing watches visual was.

    This is an excellent tools for anyone beginning to use social media, and even seasoned vets have a lot to gain by reading this. I don’t think enough people test to see which methods within their strategy are working best and that they can really maximize their impact on social media by doing so.

    • http://blog.bufferapp.com Kevan

      Thanks! All credit to SumAll for the awesome cat visual. Really glad you liked our post here! :)

  • http://www.keydifference.com/ Linda Joseph

    Amazing tips, really helpful….Thanks for sharing your ideas

  • cheryl moody

    Kevin, these posts are so informative! Are you following your own advice and repurposing this content into ebooks, slideshare, or at least a downloadable PDF? Great stuff – keep it coming!

    • http://blog.bufferapp.com Kevan

      Hi Cheryl! Thanks for the comment. We’ve definitely got some ebooks/pdfs/slideshares in the works. Feel free to keep an eye on our SlideShare page, if you’d like! http://www.slideshare.net/bufferapp

  • Traci Davis

    Very well rounded article! I am often concerned with all the time I spend doing my projects…am I going to slow? This reaffirms that social media simply takes time to do it right!

    • http://blog.bufferapp.com Kevan

      Hi there, Traci! Yes, you’re spot on! These things do take time. Best wishes to you!

  • findingenvirons

    A social media strategy for me meant narrowing the social networks to Facebook and Twitter (owing to time). Once I got going, I started seeing more and more observations and contributions where your kind of marketing plan is detailed. Your post here has a lot of enlightening detail for someone getting started. Thanks!

    • http://blog.bufferapp.com Kevan

      Great one! Yes, being choosy about your social networks is fantastic advice. I know I’ve tried to bite off too much, too fast, and the results are never great. Thanks for bringing this perspective to the table!

  • Gin Dorsey

    I’ve left this sitting in my email box, until having time to read it. Shame on me for losing three extra weeks! Most helpful information on the web, for this self taught (and still teaching) social media maven. :) Thank you!

    • dash

      word! i’ve let this sit for quite some time as well. I’m Amp’d to get started to Really putting in the Right type of marketing so I can see what works for my site!!! Overwhelmed but Truly Excited at the same time: BitterSweet Feeling.

  • dash

    wow, I’m so amazed at how simple you guys make it look.. i’ve been a fan of many outlets for marketing but this top almost all of them. I’m still nervous as I am starting out my new website 2ubevision.com and kind of feel overwhelmed since I’ve been layed off for almost a month now. I got totally drawn in though by when the best times to post are on each platform and for you to say stick to the ones that will define who your real audience are is awesome.

    For that I think i’m going to create a instagram and tumblr and pinterest page.

  • Duchon Filipo

    A great step-by-step process! Definitely will be using this during my internship. Thank you for this!

    • http://blog.bufferapp.com Kevan

      Awesome! Thanks, Duchon! :)

  • http://kimberleeonline.com/ Kimber Lee

    Great post! Full of awesome information. I’m going to try the posting times suggested.

    • http://blog.bufferapp.com Kevan

      Sounds great, Kimber!

  • Taylor Yates

    This is so helpful! As a blogger, social media is key, but lately I’ve just felt like I don’t know where to start. Thank you for the tips!

    Taylor
    acupoftay.com

    • http://blog.bufferapp.com Kevan

      Really glad to help, Taylor! Let us know if you have any questions!

  • Stephanie Mickle

    Dear Kevan, thank you, thank you, thank you for speaking plainly.

    • http://blog.bufferapp.com Kevan

      Thanks, Stephanie! It’s great to hear this one could be helpful for you. Do let us know if we can help out further!

  • Angel

    Interesting Topic. Thanks.
    This gonna help me for my thesis.
    I wonder if you can help in other questions on the same topic?

  • Devashree

    This is an excellent write-up. Could you also share tips on how to increase followers on Social Media?