During the past year, I have had the pleasure of assisting clients, in numerous industries, in developing Social Media strategies and tactics. The clients included both small businesses and large corporations, government agencies and even a golf and country club.

These initiatives included developing thought leadership, driving web traffic, developing brand awareness, launching new consumer products, introducing new B2B technology services, developing a customer support channel, exposure for a new book release and lead generation. The social media platforms used involved Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Google Plus+ and Pinterest.

With all of these varied set of assignments, a common success formula emerged. I have compiled these “learnings” into these five easy steps:

Determine the Goal for your Campaign

As with any marketing initiative, it’s important to understand your goal or desired outcomes so that everything you do around that campaign contributes to its overall success. Regardless of the goal you set for your campaign, make it measurable. That way you can look back on your campaign and see how it has performed.

Your goal will influence the entire set up of your campaign. When you have established a solid goal, you will be in a better position to develop specific social media content and target audience strategies.

Describe your Target Persona 

No matter what your goal is, you will need to identify the right people to target in your campaign.
Social media marketing is no different from any other type of marketing – your target marketing needs to be specific, because you can’t make everyone happy.

When you know your audience, you can speak directly to them, in their language, using social media. For example, in blogging you can use the appropriate keywords and images that will relate to your target audience. In Twitter, knowing your target persona means you can add hashtags to your tweets and reach the right communities.

Decide on Social Media Platform(s)

There are a number of social networking sites that you can choose from. Concentrate on where your target market is ‘hanging out’ and how can you communicate and connect with them best. Consider the social media platform as a vehicle that will drive the campaign to your goal.

Here is a quick summary, in order of popularity:

Facebook is your social ‘business casual’ platform and a good platform to promote visual campaigns. It offers the best opportunity for community building with customers. Facebook use to be B2C, but is changing rapidly and becoming a B2B vehicle.

Twitter is the fastest paced platform and the best vehicle for interacting in real-time. It is amazing for both B2C and B2B specific markets.

Pinterest is a viral platform for sharing stories via pictures. It can be a good platform in creating a personality to your campaign. If you do lots of blogs, Pinterest seems to be amazing to direct referral traffic to your website, but beware of the bounce rates.

LinkedIn is the #1 B2B social networking tool and is perfect for aiming your messaging at specific B2B market segments

Use Google + if you want to drive traffic to your website. It attracts more networking-focused individuals – in terms of professional networking.

And of course YouTube is the best platform to create a featured video channel.

I recommend using multiple social media platforms with an integrated strategy for a successful campaign. Whatever platform(s) you decide to engage for your campaign, the key is developing the appropriate posts in order to optimize each platform.

Develop a Content Strategy

One of the most common questions you’ll ask yourself is “What do I say?” Your goal and your target persona will help in determining the key messaging and content for your campaign.

Ideally, the majority of content you share should be content or information that you have created. A successful integrated approach is to setup a blog and/or YouTube channel to produce this content and share it on your social media platforms. Additionally, I recommend you use ‘curated content’ to create awareness of your key campaign messaging and enhance your audience’s social media experience. The more interesting the content the better the engagement you will get. People respond to good content – that’s what you want!

Part of your content strategy should be the design of a social media process (In sales it’s called a sales funnel) that gets your target to take a positive step towards your goal. Landing pages are the best way to accomplish this. Social media traffic is fundamentally different than search traffic, therefore social media landing pages must be thought of differently than search landing pages. Remember that social media is not meant to be a sales pitch.

Another key element of your content strategy is to define your frequency of content delivery and response to social engagement. Set a daily time frame to focus on your campaign’s social media posts. Remember quality of content is better that quantity… I do both.

Analyze and Optimize

Optimization is critical to the success of a social media campaign. Setting and forgetting your social media campaign is a recipe for disaster. Watching and reacting to your campaign performance in real-time will let you improve the performance of your campaign as it happens.

Focus on those specific metrics that are directly tied to the overall goals of your campaign. If something isn’t working, you will be quickly aware of it and you can adjust your approach and engagement tactics. When you boil it down, social marketing optimization is about improving the performance of content, links, calls to action, platform choices, etc. Therefore, this might involve adjusting the messaging, posting additional content on topics that are resonating with your audience, posting at different times, changing the platform mix or adding new visual content.

In summary, your real-time optimization efforts will let you improve the performance of your current campaign. However, your real-time analysis can also yield more actionable data for the long run. As a result, when it’s time to run your next campaign, you’ll be miles ahead.

In addition to the above five steps, the most important factor is your commitment.

If you are not 100% committed to social media, your campaign will not succeed.