4 simple steps to build an effective social media strategy

Before I dive straight into how to refresh or create a social media strategy from scratch, I’d like to just clarify what I believe strategy in this context actually means for an organisation.


A “social media strategy” is a framework for learning, collaborating and sharing resource across departments and individuals within an organisation.

It’s important to have strategy documents to assist and guide people, but essentially a social media strategy should be a shift in an organisation’s mindset.



Step 1: Buy-in


This ONE instance asking for 'permission' instead of 'forgiveness' will actually help you (honestly never thought a day would come that I would say this). Before undertaking an organisation-wide social media strategy project you need to have your senior team and all key stake-holders on board.


A common knee-jerk reaction for someone who doesn't understand a project or idea is to immediately say no. You are going to need time, resource, and budget to make an effective social media strategy stick. It’s better to bring people along for the ride instead of just expecting everyone will understand and/or accept what you’ve created in the end. It may take a little bit more time at the beginning to ensure everyone is on the same page, but this groundwork will make your life so much easier when it comes to senior management sign-off and organisation-wide implementation.


Step 2: Breaking down the barriers


The approach I always take when undertaking a social media strategy project is to establish that I’m there only to help and make everyone’s life easier. Never point fingers, I love these collaboration rules from Content Design London and I feel they should be your banner when beginning your strategy work (these rules are for content collaboration but are transferable to any project).



Identify key social media accounts within your organisation. These can be departmental accounts addressing a specific audience or even employees that have a large personal following who post often about work. Meet with them and let them know what you’re undertaking. Tell them the reason you wanted to meet is because you value their opinion on social media strategy direction (because you honestly do).


These people will be your biggest advocates and will help foster the change you need within their areas, which in turn slowly starts to shift the mindset of your organisation from the ground up. It also helps if you organise to meet with them in small groups, there is something powerful about having everyone in the same room with a common goal in mind.

People who run departmental accounts feel protective of their channels (and rightfully so), and by making sure they have input on the overall strategy means they are more open and willing to making adjustments and updates to their channels if needed.


Step 3: Create a strategy


Believe it or not you’re half-way through your strategy development already! You have buy-in from the top, you’re starting to build a community of social media ambassadors across a variety of departments. Now you need to take the information you have and put it into a coherent set of documents (preferably documents that people will read).


Strategy documents are as strong as the sum of their parts. Most strategy documents will live on an intranet and should be easily accessible by everyone within your organisation. Every social media strategy is unique to you and your organisation, but at its core should have a set of documents or web pages that reflect the following in some shape or form.


1)   Social Media Strategy

  • Start with the overall social media mission of your organisation

  • Outline key contacts within the central teamIdentify primary and secondary social media channels

  • List of all the suite of strategy documents or web pages with a description and link to each

2)   Getting started

  • This is the first thing anyone within your organisation should read before creating a social media channel

  • State the time and resource requirements of running a channel and give an option with clear procedures on how to submit content for the central channels if they lack the resources to run their own

3)   Social Media Guidelines

  • This can be a downloadable document that is easy to read

  • Think of this as a resource or hand-out for your social media ‘ambassadors’ within their departments when they discuss their own channels

  • A guideline should share your organisations approach on social media,the requirements for managing an account, choosing account managers, community management tips and tone of voice

4)   Becoming Social

  • You’re now getting into the meat and potatoes of your strategy document suite; this one should again have the option to download it if hosted online

  • Start with a social media strategy template which helps departments identify their mission, goals, audience, content, reporting and resources

  • Work alongside your brand department to give a guideline for creating an account in terms of naming, bio and profile image

  • Tools for managing social media - listening and content management tools (this is where the extra budget from your senior management friends comes in handy)


5)   Content creation guidelines

  • Collaborate with your brand department to develop a set of social media specific guidelines for content creation across channels

  • This should include video and picture sizes, subtitle requirements, a content planning calendar template, free tools for editing and anything else you feel could help

  • Content creation tool requirements - phones, cameras, editing software (again budget)

6)   Social media reporting template

  • You would be surprised how many people don’t know how to create a social media report, and since it’s one of the most effective ways to help shape future content this is a must have

  • It can be as simple as a word document that outlines the key metrics they should look for in their analytics every month

7)   Social media policy

  • A social media policy may seem daunting, but it’s a line in the sand for anyone within your organisation that has a corporate or personal account. Chances are you’re not going to need this often, but when you do it’s going to be very important

  • A policy should state the do’s and don’ts of any channel, personal or otherwise, that has any tie with your organisation

  • Get started on the policy as soon as possible, it gives your senior management team something to sink their teeth into and it’s an effective way to bring them along throughout the rest of the process

Step 4: Implementing your strategy


Finish strong! Implementing a social media strategy across a large organisation is more than just sticking up resources online and hoping people will read them, let alone implement their own changes. This is where you get to build a social media community.


With help from your original ambassadors and internal comms team make a big deal about the work you have ALL done on the strategy. You have created something that will HELP your organisation be more efficient and effective on social media. Invite everyone and anyone who is interested to a kick-off meeting where you showcase the strategy in the first half (make your best effort to have representation from senior management). Make sure the second half is open to your ambassadors to discuss how they are making updates and changes to their channels. Giving a platform to those around you to showcase what they do is a powerful way to encourage buy-in across your organisation. Don’t hog the limelight!


You should endeavour to implement a similar meeting every 2 to 3 months, even just to get everyone around the table to talk social media and upcoming campaigns.


It’s near impossible to create a rigid organisational structure for collaboration; instead facilitating a space for collaboration to grow organically creates strong and impactful bonds between individuals.

Creating and implementing a social media strategy is a big project, give yourself enough time to do it properly. Most strategies from start to finish take anywhere between six to eight months! Also accept the fact that your work will never really be complete (and that’s fine), as you should be continuing to build on your core strategy to adapt to social media changes.


Good luck out there.


Thanks for reading all the way to the end! If you wanted to learn more about managing your social media I'm holding a set of social media workshops in a few weeks, more details here: 448socialmediacourses

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