Developing a Social Media Strategy That Fits Your BudgetIn today’s world, you need some type of social media presence to establish your site as a credible resource. It’s not hard to find case studies and white papers that discuss how to build a successful social media strategy, but most of these guides assume you have a decent amount of resources that can be dedicated to executing the strategy being described. If you have limited time and a tight budget, most of these strategies will be difficult – if not impossible – to implement effectively.

Now, social media marketing can be a great tool for growing your site’s traffic and reputation, but it is definitely not free. Even if you don’t plan to spend money on ads or to hire a dedicated social media manager, posting new content and monitoring your accounts for questions, mentions and messages takes more time than many people realize – and, in a lot of ways, time is more precious than money.

So, what should you do if you’re just starting out or if you’re looking for ways to revamp your current social media strategy to get a better return on your investment of time and resources?

Choose Your Networks Wisely

Before doing anything else, take some time to think about which social media sites are likely to be the best places to connect with your audience. Facebook may be the largest social network in the world with around 1.6 billion monthly active users, but if your site targets B2B users, you might want to focus more of your energy on LinkedIn. Likewise, sites that deal in tech news do well on Google Plus, while cooking sites are more popular on Pinterest. And, if you publish videos, you’ll almost certainly want to include YouTube in your plan.

If a social network is large enough (like Facebook), you may still want to create a business profile on that network and regularly update that page even if you don’t expect to get much of a reward for your efforts. Depending on the overall amount of time you are spending on social media, “regularly” may mean once a day or once a week.

Start by making a list of the social networks that you want to include in your strategy and then allocate a percentage of time to spend on each one. As an example, a site that publishes health content may want to put more effort on Facebook, have a fair presence on a few other networks, and keep a LinkedIn page for big announcements. So, its time allocation could look something like this:

Facebook:  40%

Twitter:  15%

Pinterest:  30%

Google Plus:  10%

LinkedIn:  5%

Don’t worry about being perfect here. These allocations will probably change a lot as you tweak your social media strategy and learn which networks work best for your site.

Determine Your Budget

This is something else that will adjust over time – and you may even need to modify it as you’re building out your overall strategy. The important thing is to be realistic about how much time you or your team can spend each day (or week) and how much time it will take to do everything you want to do. For instance, if you’re hoping to post multiple times a day on five different networks, you’re going to need more than just an hour or two a week.

In particular, factor in time for these activities:

  • Writing short messages to go with links you share to your site’s content
  • Looking for great content to share from other sites
  • Responding to questions, messages and mentions
  • Monitoring comments (especially important on Facebook)

Also, in your budget, you’ll want to estimate how much you’re willing to spend on monthly subscriptions for online tools that help you be more efficient, such as:

  • Scheduling tools that allow you to craft posts that will be published at a time you specify (Examples: Hootsuite and Buffer)
  • Monitoring tools that notify you when someone is talking about your site (Example: Mention)
  • Content discovery and/or curation tools for finding relevant content to share from other sites (Examples: Feedly and Buzzsumo)

You may be able to get by with the free versions of some of these tools for a while, but you’ll probably want to upgrade to paid versions of at least a couple of them (especially a good scheduling tool) eventually.

Set Measurable Goals

If you really want to know how well your social media strategy is working, set goals that you can measure on a monthly basis and keep track of them. Make sure that the goals are not only measurable, but also specific. Here are some sample types of goals along with some examples of how they can be measured from month to month.

Sample goals for growing site traffic

  • Get 500 traffic referrals from LinkedIn.
  • Get 2000 traffic referrals from all social media networks combined.
  • Increase social media traffic referrals by 5%.

Sample goals for building site reputation

  • Increase number of Facebook fans by 2%.
  • Get 100 repins on Pinterest.
  • Attract 3,000 new views on YouTube.
  • Acquire 100 new followers on Twitter.

Note that these will vary depending on the current state of your social accounts. That is, a goal of getting 100 new Twitter followers a month might be fine if you currently have 1,000-1,200 followers, but it’s not much of an achievement if you already have 100,000+ followers.

Create a Social Content Plan

A huge part of your strategy – and one that will influence all the other components listed above – is figuring out what types of material you are going to share on your social media accounts. There are lots of different schools of thought on this topic, so you may want to leave a little room when developing the strategy for your site for experiments to see what works well with your audience.

Here are some various types of content you may want to include in your sharing plan:

  • Links to new articles when published on your site
  • Links to older articles on your site, especially relevant seasonal content
  • Links and re-shares to relevant content on other sites
  • News and announcements about your site (awards, site milestones, new products or services, information about events you’re attending)
  • Promotional posts for your site (encouraging newsletter signup, promoting ebook, etc.)
  • Motivational material, including quotes

In addition to figuring out which types of content you want to share in general, you’ll want to note which items should be shared on each network. For example, you might be fine with sharing all of the above categories on Twitter, but you may only want to share company news and links to in-depth content on your site on LinkedIn.

Put It All on Paper

As you create or modify your social media strategy, it’s a good idea to document your plan, the time spent on each activity and your monthly results. This doesn’t have to be super formal, but it should be clear and organized well enough that others can review it and offer advice when asked. For goal tracking, you can set up a spreadsheet in Excel, Google Docs or some similar tool that is easy to update on a monthly basis. You may also want to set up another spreadsheet to track dates and notes for when you make a significant change to your plan or the tactics you use to execute it.

If you’re setting traffic goals, don’t get too discouraged if it takes a while before you start seeing any significant improvements. Sometimes it can take a couple of months (or more) to gain traction in this area. To shorten this time, experiment with promoting your content through paid ads on the social networks you’re focusing on, especially if Pinterest is one of your core networks. You can do this fairly inexpensively – for as little as $5 on most social sites – and using these types of promotional ads can be a great way to start attracting traffic for good content.