Part 4: Build your social media strategy step-by-step

This is the final post in a four-part series looking at developing a social media strategy. This post covers metrics and monitoring (stage 7), fine tuning (stage 8) and pulling it all together into a strategic plan.

Part 1: the social media planning cycle, listening (stage 1) and setting goals (stage 2).

Part 2: general strategies (stage 3) and identifying target audiences (stage 4)

Part 3: selecting the right tools (stage 5) and implementation tips (stage 6).

Stage 7: Monitoring the right metrics

There is no shortage of metrics you could use to measure the success of you social media activities: number of followers or members, number of likes or retweets, number of comments and so on. In his very insightful blog post on social media metrics, Kevan Lee cuts straight to the chase: there is no right or wrong metric to track. Instead, each organisation needs to work out which metrics are right for them. Does the metric you are looking at tell you what you need to know to make decisions? If not, you're looking at the wrong metric.

Ideally you want to directly measure whether the behaviour, knowledge or belief objective you identified in stage 2 is being achieved. In some cases this is straightforward. For example, if your behaviour objective is to reach a target number of comments per month on LinkedIn then your primary metric is going to be the number of comments (see left hand column in the diagram below). But you may find that some supporting metrics help you understand better what is happening. Some of these may relate to your behaviour objective too, such as number of members in the LinkedIn group, and others may relate to your knowledge and belief objectives, such as those in the right hand column below.

Once you have the right metrics in front of you, you need to interpret them in order to evaluate your social media activities. In the example above, if you are not achieving your target number of LinkedIn comments - your primary metric - you need to find out why. The first place to look is your supporting metrics - do they explain what's going wrong? If not then it could be something you haven't thought of yet: starting conversations with social media users focusing on your knowledge and belief objectives may help you identify what is holding you back.

Stage 8: Fine tuning

Once you have tracked appropriate metrics and interpreted them you can fine tune your social media strategy. Social media moves fast, so frequent fine tuning will be necessary. Following the strategic approach I've outlined doesn't rule out trial and error, but does suggest it should be accompanied by careful monitoring and evaluation.

Your social media strategic plan

Congratulations! Having completed the 8 stages of the social media planning cycle you now have the structure and content of your social media strategic plan. You might want to add a section on your budget (don’t forget to include staff time). Also, a crisis communications plan which fully integrates social media with other communications methods may be needed for some organisations.

Some people like to create a glossy strategy document, but much more important is having a document you’ll continually refer to and fine tune over time. Also, going through this process builds the ability of you and your team to think strategically – a key skill for anyone in today’s fast-paced social media environment. Happy posting!

Part 1: the social media planning cycle, listening (stage 1) and setting goals (stage 2).

Part 2: general strategies (stage 3) and identifying target audiences (stage 4)

Part 3: selecting the right tools (stage 5) and implementation tips (stage 6).

Juliet Corbett is an experienced education management professional and consultant. If you need any help developing your social media strategy do get in touch.

I always welcome feedback - debate and conversation sparks innovation! Please contact me via Twitter or LinkedIn.

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