How to Build a Social Media Strategy That Actually Delivers Results

I bet you want a quick solution. A social media strategy that is fast, painless and makes you rich. “Show me the money” you scream in true Jerry Maquire fashion. All you need is a bulletproof social strategy. A bit like the genius strategy Chandler from Friends invented when he concocted a story about being transferred with work to Yemen. It was brilliant as it meant he didn’t have to tell Janice he didn’t want to be in a relationship with her. It was excellent…until he actually had to buy a ticket and go to Yemen as she wanted to wave him away. On second thoughts, maybe that wasn’t so smart.

Man looks skeptical at the mention of a quick social media fix. You need a strong social media strategy

Unfortunately, here is the cold hard truth. There is no easy social media strategy that will drive you followers, engagement and fortune. As Chandler discovered, to get results there are no shortcuts.  

At this point, many of you will leave and find another article or YouTube video that promises you fast results. If so, good luck and see you in three months when you realise, we were right. For everyone else, strap in. We will guide you through what you need to do today when developing a social media strategy and what you need to consider in the future. AI is changing social media and digital marketing and any good strategy needs to consider its role.

What is a social media strategy?

A social media strategy is a multi-faceted document that details your objectives and the indicators used to assess whether you have been successful. A key element of your strategy is tailoring it to the specific platforms you are on. This is a key reason why most online social media strategies are poor. They are generic for any platform and account. Understanding the platform and your niche is key. Moreover, they do not account for the changing nature of social media algorithms. That’s why the best strategies are fluid and not intended to be written once every five years gathering dust.

Yep. This means you can’t just do this activity whenever you next remember. If you do, you will end up like Chandler’s mate Ross. Making the same expensive mistake over again and again. Except you won’t even have the pleasure of a wedding day and honeymoon. 

A social media strategy covers multiple platforms

How to create a social media strategy

A social media strategy should be more than a checklist. Ultimately, the question you need to ask is why are you looking for a strategy in the first place. When it comes to social media, the reason for needing a strategy can be typically broken down into the following:

  • Increasing followers
  • More engagement
  • Increasing influence and income

In truth, for most people, the reason they want to create a social media strategy can be aligned with all of the above reasons. So, what you need is a specific approach for your niche that deep dives into a specific platform, aligned with where you are in your social media journey. 

A social media template will help you complete your task of creating a strategy document. Yet, understanding the core principles behind it will help your strategy become a reality. 

9-step social media strategy template

If you are looking for an overview of how to create a strategy document, it should look something like this:

  1. Pick a platform: Concentrate your efforts on the social media platforms that offer the highest potential for reaching and engaging with your target audience effectively.
  2. Select your niche: Your niche should be very specific. For example, health is not a niche if you are looking to grow. But easy vegan recipes using humour is.
  3. Understand your target audience: Go beyond simple demographics and perform a psychographic analysis of your target customers. Get to know who they are not what they are.
  4. Conduct a social media audit: If you already have an account, analyse your numbers. Look at what is driving engagement and growth.
  5. Perform a competitor analysis: Learn from others. This should be accounts in your niche. They don’t need to be business rivals but rather competitors targeting the same audience. Look at how they are growing and why.
  6. Identify the best types of content: The best type of content is specific to your niche. Investigate what is trending and how you can replicate it
  7. Identify resources: Growing on social media takes time, effort and expertise. If you intend to do it, do it properly. Identify whose role it is and what they will be doing
  8. Select your frequency: How often you post will depend on your resource commitments. In the beginning, you will likely have to post a lot. So, posting three times a week won’t work.
  9. Set your goals and measure: Outline KPIs based on where you are today and how you will track them. If you have 2,000 followers yet only a 0.5% engagement, focus on improving those engagement levels first.

These steps tell you how to complete a social media strategy document. But they don’t tell you how to make that strategy effective.

There are several generic steps to creating a social media strategy template. However, it's the detail for each platform that you need to make it effective

Developing an effective social media strategy: The principles

To generate real value from your social media strategy, it should be broken down into four core principles. These are:

  1. Understand your platform
  2. Identify how you will get followers
  3. Develop an engagement-first strategy
  4. Understand the algorithms

Understanding each of these is critical to ensure your strategy template doesn’t just become another document that is filed under “admin”. 

Step 1 – Understand your platform. How each major social media platform compares and differs

This is perhaps one of the most overlooked parts of social media. If you want to grow on Instagram for example, you will need to follow different steps to growing on LinkedIn. Despite, what you may hear, growing on social media is not all about the content. So, you will need to understand how each platform differs and when you should use them.

Instagram social media strategy

Instagram is all about the visuals. In recent years it has moved past being a platform where you only upload pretty photos and instead is now a video-first platform. These videos, known as Reels, are short in nature and intended to capture people’s attention quickly. Moreover, they offer a great way to grow online organically. In that respect, it shares many similarities to TikTok albeit with some key differences.

When should you use Instagram?

Instagram has many use cases and remains one of the best all-around social media platforms. If you want to showcase products, and services or become a thought leader it’s a great choice. For example, imagine you are a biotech researching psychedelics for therapy. Firstly, it’s easy to assume you don’t need social media. After all, you are a research company. However, studies show online visibility can increase the share value of a company so social media is critical. Secondly, if you do want to tell the world, you may think Instagram is a poor choice because you have nothing physical to show. Yet, you couldn’t be more wrong. 

Psychedelic therapy has grown 1233% in online interest in the US. That’s a rapidly growing audience who are seeking information. By creating Reels, you can inform people about how therapy works, and what you are working on and engage a new audience. 

So, Instagram is a great platform if you want to:

  • Showcase products, services or your own thoughts
  • Have flexibility. The platform enables you to engage in multiple ways. This is great for those looking to bring more creativity. This can help create closer relationships which can be achieved by showing personality through the visual elements of the platform

Algorithm preferences

Instagram algorithms are fast changing and we expect this to continue with advancements in AI in social media. Yet at a high level, they favour:

  • Short videos known as reels, engage users quickly
  • Users with large followings. Therefore, you need to learn how to get more Instagram fans

A woman creating Facebook content. But should it be a part of your strategy?

Facebook social media strategy

What makes it different?

In our opinion, this is not the best platform to grow your audience. We previously investigated Instagram vs Facebook and found the same content by the same people gets considerably less reach and engagement on Facebook. However, the platform is great if you have an existing group with members or can easily get your customers into a Facebook group. The benefit is that a Facebook group offers a captive audience where you as the owner of the group is seen as the leader. This in itself generates influence.

When should you use Facebook as a central part of your social media strategy?

If you already have a Facebook following or have the ability to get many customers into a Facebook group. For instance, imagine you sell nootropics specifically methylene blue. Whilst methylene blue has grown 300% in search interest in the US, people are not specifically searching for it on social media. It’s still too niche for the Instagram algorithms to understand what it is and who wants to see it. Therefore, creating an entire Instagram or TikTok account dedicated to methylene blue is perhaps not the best idea. 

Consequently, you may want to use a Facebook group to drive awareness of your product. It’s a captive audience that is interested in nootropics and allows them the chance to ask questions. However, as always on social media, avoid the hard sell. Instead, focus on providing information and value.

Algorithm preferences

Facebook is about connections and community first. As a result, their algorithms do not favour new content creators who post content from their page. Instead, they help drive traffic to groups where discussions are held.

TikTok logo. TikTok is increasingly becoming more popular, forming a key part of many companies strategy for social media

TikTok social media strategy

What makes it different?

TikTok is similar to Instagram in terms of it being focused on short videos. However, there are some key differences. For example, the platform is more limited as it does not allow you to post photos and the text fields are smaller.

However, this should not deter you. It means you can be laser-focused on creating videos, which are the future of online marketing. Moreover, TikTok offers you the opportunity to grow quickly and organically making it a great choice for those looking to build online authority.

When should you use TikTok as a central part of your social media strategy?

TikTok is a great choice for those who want to create short videos while talking directly to their audience. Unlike Instagram, music choices are more limited. Therefore, it has become the go-to destination if you want to create short videos outlining your views.

Whilst many fear TikTok is only for young consumers, the data shows otherwise. Research by the Pew Research Center shows more 18–29-year-olds use Instagram than TikTok. Both platforms therefore offer access to a wide range of people. 

A good use case for TikTok is showcasing a surprising product. For example, you may have a health brand that has branched out into pet longevity. In the US there has been an 182% surge in search interest in dog supplements. Using TikTok offers a great opportunity to showcase how the supplement works and its impact on a dog. 

Algorithm preferences

TikTok’s algorithms are unique in the sense they favour what’s trending over account size. For that reason, having a great understanding of what’s happening in your niche becomes even more powerful. Moreover, it offers opportunities to compete with large influencers on a more even playing field.

LinkedIn social media strategy

What makes it different?

This is like asking what’s the difference between Cliff Richard and Eminem. After all, they are both musicians.  LinkedIn is all about the corporate world. Yet, whilst it may be more boring it’s a place where decision makers congregate. For many, this makes it a powerful platform to grow.

When should you use LinkedIn as a central part of your social media strategy?

This is especially useful for companies that have a B2B business. For example, you may have built a state-of-the-art continuous glucose monitor (CGM). In the UK search interest in CGM’s has grown 200% over two years. So, you would like to target end users but you realise it will take time and effort to drive sales via SEO.

So, you decide you would like to sell via the NHS. Ok, this is not a great example because getting the NHS onboard can take so long your CGM will be outdated. However, you are tempted by the large contracts on offer. LinkedIn therefore becomes a brilliant place to network with NHS decision-makers and influence their decisions.

Algorithm preferences

LinkedIn’s algorithms prioritise individuals over business accounts. So, this is the right platform if you personally want to grow your influence in the business world. Whilst you can create a company account, this is unlikely to get significant reach or engagement.

YouTube shares similarities to SEO. Therefore you may want to consider integrating it within your wider digital strategy

YouTube social media strategy

What makes it different?

YouTube is all about long-form video content. This makes it a great platform to create content around how to do something or explain a complicated concept. Moreover, SEO principles are used more widely on YouTube, which is perhaps not surprising given it’s owned by Google. 

When should you use YouTube as a central part of your social media strategy?

This is great if you have strong video creation skills in-house. Moreover, it is perfect for businesses who are in a field that attracts a lot of questions and lacks clarity. For example, this article is about creating a social media strategy. Many of you will have already watched a YouTube video asking how it should be completed and how to grow on a specific platform. This makes it ideal to create such content. 

Algorithm preferences

The platform like many others focuses on user preferences, history, and video performance. It looks at past video enjoyment, subscribed channels, and related video patterns. Therefore, to get seen the real focus should be on understanding your niche and doing keyword research. In many ways, YouTube is like SEO. Therefore, it’s a great platform if you have those skills in-house.

X (formerly known as Twitter) social media strategy

What makes it different?

Like when Prince decided he wanted to be known by a symbol, many people still refer to X as Twitter. So, will I. Yet, as a platform, it still retains its distinctive look. The focus is on short, sharp text updates. If your brand thrives on timely interactions and you have the capacity for quick, concise updates without prior approval, Twitter is an ideal platform.

When should you use Twitter as a central part of your social media strategy?

Twitter should be used if you want to capitalise on trending topics or live events. For instance, search interest in NMN has increased by 480% in the UK. Yet it’s not a topic that is changing in real time. Therefore, preaching about the benefits of NMN on Twitter is unlikely to get you much engagement. However, if you are working on a large health programme that is creating a lot of debate and is changing on a weekly basis, it may be a great option.

Algorithm preferences

The Twitter algorithm prioritises trending topics and events. This factors in your location and past interactions. It builds a profile based on your tweets, engagements, and followed topics. Engagement metrics like retweets, replies and likes influence tweet prioritisation. Moreover, content such as images, videos, GIFs, or polls also affects recommendation.

Step 2: Identify how you will get followers

Now you have picked a platform, it’s time to understand how you get followers. For transparency, addressing this topic and covering all the above platforms is too vast for an article like this. Therefore, it’s important to deep dive into how you can attract more followers on a platform-specific level. 

For example, how you get more fans on Instagram is vastly different to LinkedIn. Moreover, understanding where you are in your social media journey is critical. An account that has 1m followers is able to get new followers with content that is vastly different to an account with only 300 followers.  

Yet, there are some broad principles you should follow to get more followers:

  • Identify a niche. Spend time on this. For example, if you are an online fitness platform, fitness is not a niche that is specific enough. Find something that aligns with your brand that you can deep dive into. This might be at-home workouts. Moreover, when you find your niche ensure it has a sizeable audience.
  • Create your social brand and analyse how it stands out. You need a unique voice
  • Find what type of content is getting the most reach on your chosen platform. For example, on Instagram, Reels are more effective than posts
  • Identify accounts that have grown quickly and recently. Algorithms change constantly so what helped someone back in 2011 won’t necessarily help today
  • Avoid the temptation to use growth hacks like buying followers. This will not get you the results you want.
  • If possible, leverage influence. However, not all influencers are equal. So, they may not be influential at all if they have purchased followers.

Addressing all of the above in your social media strategy is important to ensure your strategy delivers results.

Step 3: Develop an engagement-first strategy

Getting great engagement is perhaps more important than focusing on getting followers. Engagement helps you understand how loyal your following is. Therefore, it’s better to have an account with 5k loyal followers than an account with 50k followers who hardly know who you are. 

However, how to get engagement will depend very much on the platform you choose. But it is likely to be highly aligned with how well:

  • You have found and focused on a niche
  • Create content aligned to that niche
  • Create content aligned to where you are on your journey

Moreover, you will need to understand:

  • The type of content that is working for similar-sized accounts
  • What is trending
  • How you can create your own USP on trending content

Again, it’s critical to deep dive into your chosen platform before completing your strategy. On Instagram getting more engagement and more views on Reels takes time and effort. This is true for other platforms but how you do it will change. 

Step 4: Understand the algorithms

In 2022, Elon Musk asked his Twitter followers if the platforms algorithms should be open source. Sensing a unique opportunity to finally understand how the algorithms work, 82.7% (1.1 million people) screamed “yes”. Perhaps more surprising is why 17.3% rejected the opportunity. I guess some people really do like hard work!

Unfortunately, like every other social media platform, Twitter did not make their algorithms publicly available. So, what’s the point in including this in my social media strategy you may ask?

The point is you need to evaluate how the platform works and how it is changing. With the advancements in AI on social media, the speed of change will only increase. Each platform has its own unique preferences so building a bespoke plan for different platforms is important. That’s why a generic social media strategy does not work.

On Instagram, the current algorithms favour short video content. Yet, how that content is preferred can differ wildly from TikTok.

Future proofing your AI social media strategy

Future-proofing your social media strategy: How AI will change your direction of travel  

AI is fast changing everything we do online. Social media is no different. For many these developments have been prophesied as easy hacks to grow quickly on social media. However, as discussed previously, it is unlikely Ai will be used directly to obtain social media followers and engagement. So, from a social media strategy perspective, it’s more important to understand the types of AI tools that you can use today and going forward. 

Moreover, there are things coming up on the horizon that may change how social media works and how it will be used. It’s important to factor this into your social media strategy planning.

The metaverse may change the entire landscape

In 2021 Mark Zuckerberg announced the introduction of Facebooks parent company Meta and the launch of his vision for a metaverse. The metaverse is basically a virtual world where people are represented by avatars. Think of it like a video game except there is no game. Instead, it’s a place where you can do everything from shopping to socialising.

So, imagine you are a health tech company that specialises in sports injuries. Rather than posting videos on Instagram about how to recover from a calf muscle strain, you can pop into the metaverse and talk to an expert who will show you a demo of your avatar. 

Pro tip: From a social media strategy this is one to watch and perhaps something to add as a long-term vision.

SEO and social media converge changing your strategy

AI is disrupting how SEO works and understanding how is important for anyone who reaches customers through their website. However, what is less documented is how SEO will be impacted by social media.

In studies they have found 31% of people now use social media to search for answers to their questions. Therefore, it’s important to understand how you can leverage this traffic. For example, you may have a health clinic that offers cryotherapy. Searches for cryotherapy in the US have declined 37.5% meaning you could be getting less traffic from traditional search. This of course hurts your bottom line. But that doesn’t mean nobody wants cryotherapy. Instead, you need to find other avenues to attract more of that smaller audience.

One way is to consider how you leverage social media. This should be a part of your social media strategy. Optimising your account for cryotherapy could be helpful to ensure you attract people interested in your services.

Pro tip: Optimise your account with the keyword and content so people can find you.

Digital eco-system

Digital marketing eco-system

You may have heard it’s important to be on more than one platform. You may have also heard you can just share the same content everywhere. Sounds great doesn’t it – getting millions of followers on multiple platforms. “Show me the money” you scream again. Ok, calm down Jerry.

At this point I’m also hoping you have heard the phrase “if something is too good to be true, it probably is.” In this case, it is. 

Being on multiple platforms is important but not because it is a quick fix to getting millions of followers. Getting lots of authority on multiple platforms takes time and effort. Yes, I know that sounds boring but it’s the truth. To do that you should master at least one platform before branching out. As discussed above, you will need to understand each platform and how it works. 

However, growing on multiple platforms will become more important than ever. Platforms from Instagram to Google will use social indicators from other platforms to determine how authoritative you are. This will become a key source of growth.

Pro tip: In your social media strategy outline how you will grow on one platform and then move to another.

A social media strategy with value

Too often social media strategies are devised simply because people think they need one. It’s nothing more than a box-ticking exercise that offer little to no value. However, when done properly it can form a key part of your online growth.

For any strategy to be successful, you need to focus on platform specifics. In fact, build a bespoke social media strategy for different platforms identifying everything from how their algorithms work to how you can get more followers. Social media platforms are constantly changing how they work and so should you. Your strategy should be constantly evaluated and adapted. It should look at how AI is changing the game. If you don’t it’s likely your social media strategy will just become another dusty document you complete and forget. 


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