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8 steps for the perfect social media strategy | Acumen Connections

8 steps for the perfect social media strategy

This social media marketing strategy will set the world on fire in 2021. Learn it to get ahead

row of people standing next to each other looking down at phones

Goodbye and good riddance, 2020.

The year wasn’t all bad. It reminded us that home is where the heart is — and where the entire year is. It marked the year when our lives turned online. It was the year that uprooted and planted us on social media. Throughout the year unlike none else, we used social media to interact with loved ones. To keep up on news coverage. And to burn hours on mindless entertainment — AKA TikTok.

Marketers took notice.

There’s no shortage of what we’d like to leave behind in 2020. But what we haven’t left behind is our obsession with social media. Us marketers plotting our road maps for the year ahead have this knowledge in mind.

It’s impossible to predict a perfect road map for 2021. If we learned a lesson, it’s that anything can happen. But some social media strategies were more effective than others in the last year. If it worked in the most unusual of times, there’s a decent chance it’ll work under more normal conditions, too. I’ll break down these strategies in a style that helps you refocus and build the perfect social media marketing strategy. Let’s get into it.

Give people what they want a human connection.

Overnight, the world turned upside down. Everything changed. Teams scrambled to rewrite everything from team meetings to large-scale projects. Efficiencies swept into focus.

Human connection became an afterthought. It’s not all a fault. In a scramble to rewrite the playbooks, marketers left human connection on the sidelines. It happens to the best of us.

Some companies facing 4th down looked to the sidelines and found human connection. Others did not. Those who looked to human connection achieved great successes during the pandemic. Those who did not were sacked for a loss.

People want to feel a connection to one another. It was the first thing taken away when the shutdown started. Searching high and low, consumers have gravitated to their favorite brands for human connection.

What’s common among pandemic success stories is they all amplified human experience. And here’s a secret: It’s still working. As long as the pandemic rolls on, I expect this trend to carry on.

Don’t fear. It’s not too late.

Prepare for the shift. Become purpose driven.

Consumers want to engage with brands that meet their needs authentically. Marketing efforts have become more digitally efficient. That’s OK. Marketing teams need to balance efficiencies with human values to spur real connections.

Us marketers have become experts at search engine optimization. With the digital shift brought on by the pandemic, there’s more competition in SEO. What we’re left with is an off-balance scale leaning more in favor of SEO, and less on human connection. Remember, your audience is people and not robots.

Speak to people, not robots. Write for people, not robots. Market to people, not robots.

Good companies will recenter their focus back to engaging with people. To those who don’t know how to, a good starting point is answering a one-word question: Why?

  • Why does my company exist at all?
  • Why do we do what we do?

Have your answers? Great! Now answer this.

  • Who are we built to serve?

Companies will often limit purpose to why it sells its products or services. Identifying a clear why helps drive purpose and boosts enthusiasm. A purpose-driven company articulates its why every day in everything it does. Purpose-driven companies know why they exist and who they are built to serve. They are better positioned to pivot when times call for one.

Speak like a human. Converse naturally.

Some days, I scroll on Twitter for hours.

I can’t even begin to count the number of brands blasting out self-serving promotional messages. I scroll past before I consume the full message. I rarely, if ever, connect with these brands. There’s one great exception to this rule: McDonald’s.

McDonald’s reminded everyone that there is, in fact, a human working behind-the-scenes of its Twitter account. In the now-famous tweet, McDonald’s writes: it’s always “when is the McRib coming back” and never “how are you doing person who runs the McDonald’s account.”

a tweet from Mcdonalds

I love this, and I think about it almost every day. I do now wonder how the person who runs the McDonald’s account is doing. Coincidentally, I am also thinking about the McRib.

Well played, McDonald’s.

I mention this anecdote because I think it highlights the secret to establishing a human connection. Start by being human. Anyone can blast out promotional messages. But using social media to harvest human connection, that’s a different story.

Remind yourself that you are human. Use that in your social media strategy.

Know when it’s your time to speak and when it’s not.

Zoom meetings are hard for me. I never know when to speak and when not to.

Unintentionally, I’ll dominate the call without recognizing that I have. Or worse, I’ll cut someone off. It’s taken this year for me to realize that flaw is not limited to only Zoom.

There were times I churned out social media posts or content that I felt my audience needed to hear. Just because everyone is talking doesn’t mean I have to. Listen and learn from your audience. Know what your following expects to hear from you. Then, answer my question.

  • Does my audience even want to hear from me right now?

I’ll answer that for you: sometimes, but not always.

It’s okay to post less. It’s okay to share less. Less is more.

It’s hard to learn someone’s story and not feel a connection to them.

Storytelling pulls people together. It’s a fundamental human experience to feel a deep connection to a story. Good stories resonate.

Quick! Think of your favorite commercial on TV right now. I’ll share mine. I like the Progressive Insurance commercials with Dr. Rick. He “helps people become less like their parents.” People guilty of things like:

  • Helping a stranger back out of a parking spot.
  • Offering unsolicited advice at the hardware store.
  • Putting too many pillows on the couch.
  • Making noises while sitting down.
  • Not knowing how to open a PDF.
progressive insurance commercial

Funny, aren’t they? These examples work so well because they are rooted in authenticity. Everything feels natural. And that’s part of what makes them so relatable. Good stories are authentic, told with natural words and at a natural pace.

Our brains are wired to give attention to good stories.

Make your brand like a person. People connect with people.

Companies have misunderstood what content audiences want.

Your audience wants content that’s lighthearted, relevant, and fun. Think about when and why you use social media. I tend to check social media when I need a break from the stress of work. I’m looking for stuff that’s uplifting and fun. I want to give my attention to posts that make me happy. Your audience is seeking the same.

People will give their attention to companies who build uplifting content and build content that represents who they are. People want to share what they feel represents who they are and what they believe. If you’re struggling in this area, consider this bit of advice. The best way to get someone to care about your needs is to first care about their needs.

Something to remember: People operate on feelings and emotions over facts and rationale.

Tiktoker 420doggface208 riding on skateboard while holding cranberry juice

Don’t know how to mirror what your audience is saying? Amplify their voices.

People connect with companies that confirm their sense of self and who they are. It’s not always easy to build content that confirms a sense of identity. Some brands have turned to their audiences for this, utilizing user-generated content.

Users create posts featuring your brand. Your brand shares that content with your audience to boost your credibility. People react well to user-generated content because it’s authentic. Studies suggest people are twice as likely to view user-generated content as more authentic. It’s also shown to improve brand trust.

It’s unlikely for user-generated content to appear out of the blue. To prompt your audience to create for you, offer something of value in return. Often simple recognition is enough to get people creating.

Oh, and as for the example above? That’s TikTok rising-star doggface208 — real name Nathan Apodaca. He captured a vibe of himself longboarding “Dreams” by Fleetwood Mac while enjoying Ocean Spray cran-raspberry juice. Ocean Spray gifted the newly minted internet sensation a new truck to show its appreciation.

Users have called it the cranberry juice commercial. It kind of is. This viral sensation resulted in unprecedented free exposure for Ocean Spray — and a record sales jump, too. Thousands joined in on the fun. User-generated content can come free of cost.

Whatever you make, make it simple.

Companies need to better understand why people use social media. People don’t read social media. People browse it. Skim it. Swipe through it for a minute or two in passing.

To win at social media, do something that grabs people’s attention. Know that the best social media is fun to watch and easy to consume. Complex isn’t going to cut it.

Here are two tips worthy of a call-out.

  • Social media is a light medium. Write casually.
  • Create something that compels people to tell their friends.

Simplifying what you write isn’t easy. It’s hard work to take a complex passage and break it down to its simplest form. But that’s what you should do. Make your social media posts easy to read. If you don’t, there’s an easier post to read beneath yours.

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Evan Pflugradt

Evan Pflugradt

Hi, I’m Evan. I write common sense columns on marketing, branding, and other business-related subjects. I’m an expert at finding good parking and a novice at writing bios for myself. I’m a past journo turned marketer, working for Acumen Connections. Before joining Acumen Connections, I worked the digital desk for the USA TODAY Network in Florida. Tweet me @evpflu.