Clients often ask for a quick social media strategy to reach their audience and build a loyal following of thousands of fans, followers, likes and retweets. The perception is that, because social media platforms are so dynamic and hold so much attention, it’s easy to build that following. In reality, it’s the opposite. That same dynamism and constant engagement makes it even more difficult to draw attention to your brand.

We’d love to say that there is a one-size-fits-all strategy for reaching your audience on social media, but the truth is, there are only guidelines. The rest is about knowing and understanding your social media platforms and audience.

Before you think it’s all free – we’re sorry to say it’s not always. Sponsored posts and advertising on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are valuable revenue streams for those platforms. However, there are ways that you can ensure successful social media usage without breaking the bank, provided you tick the boxes below:

#1 Pick your platforms

Not all platforms work for all businesses. To be consistent across a multitude of platforms requires time and dedication, and no one wants to see your brand on a platform where there has been no activity.

Our advice: Have a strategy in mind. What do you want to say? Who’s your audience? Which platforms does the audience use? Decide that, and then choose the platform that best fits that strategy. Rather be great on two platforms than average on four. And always consider capacity. Social media platforms are hungry beasts!

#2 Know your audience

When it comes to social media, understanding who your audience is and how your it consumes content is key to growing your community. Does your audience want to read articles, want advice or want to be entertained? This will determine what kinds of posts you publish and who your target is per post.

Our advice: Analyse the insights, and learn to read what they tell you. They’re vital to understanding  when your audience is online and what posts they really enjoy.

#3 Have a plan

In PR we call it “spray and pray”. That’s when you send out a press release to every media outlet, regardless of whether it will interest them or is relevant to the publication. This doesn’t work well in PR and it won’t work for social media either. You don’t reach or grow an audience by posting irrelevant and therefore, seemingly uninteresting content. Those people posting pictures of cats? They have a plan. Those random lists of celebrities? That’s also a plan. There should always be a plan and strategy behind the kind of content you post and when you post it.

Our advice: Involve your team in building a social media strategy that says what you want to say about the various aspects of your business. Plan a content calendar a month in advance that will give structure, and don’t be afraid to dedicate certain days to certain topics – this will give people a reason to keep coming back.

#4 Generate original content 

Original content is key to capturing an audience. The better the original content, the more engagement it’s likely to get and the further it will go. Travel portal TravelStart is a great example of a brand that invests in building great content for consumption.

Our advice: Think about what you as a brand can offer an audience that no one else can. This may be tough, but once you figure out how to deliver content that stands out above the rest, you will see that audience grow. You don’t have to empty your pockets for great content, you just have to be strategic.

#5 Create a community

The power of a social media network lies in the communities you create. If you get it right, a community will stand behind you, will vouch for you, will promote you without you ever needing to make a big effort. Work at building your community by giving people things to talk about, that they can engage in and can even tangibly walk away with.

Our advice: Make sure that your social content comes across as authentic and personable, and not as bland corporate-speak. People want to be part of a community where they feel like they’re interacting with people, that they’re being heard and considered in what you post.

#6 Be responsive

Speaking of being heard, social media platforms are great places for people to ask questions, give compliments. People also use them to voice concerns and complain. If someone says something nice, say thank you. If they complain, hear them out and find a resolution. If they ask a question, make sure you answer. Building your audience means showing them that you care enough to pay attention to them.

Our advice: Always pay attention to your networks. Make sure to respond to your community. It doesn’t have to be immediate, but make sure you respond within at least 24 hours. A happy community is one that feels the brand cares about them.

#7 Invest in social media

You knew this one was coming. As with anything these days, investing in something generates greater returns. If you commit to a social media budget, you’ll have wider reach and a chance to grow your audience in a more targeted way. Don’t be scared off by the word “invest”. What you put in is what you get out, you don’t have to have deep pockets to make your investment work for you – this isn’t the stock market after all.

Our advice: Start small and hone your targeting. Commit a nominal amount to start with. Once you start to see results, you can measure the return on your investment and decide whether you have the appetite to commit more resources.

But begin by getting steps 1-6 right, first. That will strengthen your investment and generate much better results.

Plus: Amazing results with any budget? Of course you can. See some of our most recent social media success stories.