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How to Write a Social Media Marketing Strategy.

By Callum McCahon

Born Social’s approach to social media strategy for Davids: The Strategy Cycle

If you’re a Goliath, you can rely on shouting louder than all of your competitors. If you’re a David, you need to be smarter. When you don’t have access to limitless resource, efficiency is everything.

At Born Social, we work with Davids. Over the years, we’ve spent a lot of time refining our thinking on the best way to approach social strategy for them. The result is what we call the Strategy Cycle.

If you’ve worked in strategy before, this probably looks somewhat familiar. It takes inspiration from Stephen King’s timeless planning cycle, and Mark Pollard’s fantastic ‘how to do account planning’ post. It’s nothing groundbreaking, but that’s because it works.

We’ve tweaked it to make it more specific to social media, but the fundamentals remain the same. What problem are you solving, how are you going to solve it, are you successful in solving it?

We’ve found it to be the best way to focus your social media strategy, driving ultimate efficiency from limited resources.

Here’s a run-down of how we use it.

Step 1: Identify the Business Problem.

The first step you need to take is defining the problem in a clear and compelling way. If a strategy isn’t solving a specific problem, it’s useless.

The implications of not starting with a clearly defined business problem are significant. Your social strategy becomes a vanity exercise, with no contribution towards your wider business goals. If you’re a David, that’s wasted resource that could be put to better use elsewhere, where the link to your business challenge is defined.

An error people will often make here is mistaking your ‘business problem’ for a social media problem. This doesn't work. Your business problem should not be rooted in social media.

Think about the factors that are standing in the way of achieving your business goal. Ask yourself why, over and over again. Finally, build a case that proves that this is the right problem to be solving right now.

“We don’t have enough brand awareness” is not a good business challenge, for example. Go one level deeper.

“We’re seen as a cheap alternative to the category leader.”

“Our product is only ever purchased at specific times of the year.”

These are strong, provocative, snappy business problems. They’ll inspire great solutions.

This is the most important step of the entire process. Don’t skimp on it.

Step 2: Set the Social Objective.

Once you have your problem defined, flip it into your social objective. These two statements should represent a clear logical progression - this isn’t the time to introduce a radical new concept.

Business Problem: “We’re seen as a cheap alternative to the category leader.”

Social Objective: “To challenge perceptions around our quality by educating on provenance.”

If an objective is good, you should be able to reel it off whenever prompted. It should be memorable and concise.

Use it as a reference against every piece of content that you make, every campaign you plan, any interaction you have with your audience. If it doesn’t help you to achieve your social objective, don’t do it.

Make it punchy, sharp, and memorable.

Word limit: 10. Go.

Step 3: Define the Audience.

Time to define your target audience. The key here is to get specific.

You’ve got an advantage with social media - there’s a wealth of data out there that can help you with this step. Do your research.

Avoid catch all phrases like ‘Millennials’ that won’t actually tell you anything interesting about your audience. Think about your audience on a human level. What do they enjoy? What are their hopes and aspirations? Where do they want to be, and how can our brand help them get there.

From a social perspective, focus on getting really specific about the social platforms they use, and more interestingly, how they use them.

Personas can help with your thinking here. One tool I’ve found particularly useful when going through this process is the mock Facebook Profile from Part & Sum. Have a play here.

I’d also recommend having a read through The Social Survey which we recently released, giving an overview of how people in the UK use social media.

Step 4: Insight Generation.

“Why is a Good Insight Like a Refrigerator? Because the moment you look into it, a light comes on.”

Jeremy Bullmore

Make no bones about it, great insights are hard to uncover. But when you do manage to find one, you’ll know about it.

A good insight is the bridge between our objective and our actions. Nothing more, nothing less.

Insights that don’t form actions are meaningless, just for show. If you’re a David, you can’t waste insights for the sake of a fancy pitch deck. They must turn directly into real actions.

We categorise insights into two areas: soft and hard. Ideally, you need a few of both.

Soft Insights:

These are the human truths. The cognitive biases. The revelations about the way your audience think. Step into the shoes of your audience. Talk to people. Keep asking why. Eventually, you’ll stumble across something that sticks. Make sure you write it down.

“Our category is suffering from the Wallpaper Effect. All of our competitors look the same, talk the same, act the same. The consumer therefore perceives no real difference between our competitors.”

Hard Insights:

These are the things that you know for sure about how the world of social works - predominantly about the structure of social media. These are usually based within cold, hard data. Maybe you’ll look at statistics about your current social audience, maybe you’ll dig deep on a new feature released by Instagram.

“Our engagement rate rose 1.4% when we compare March to February. This was due to a decrease in frequency of posting. Post less frequently, and we achieve a higher engagement rate.”

Be curious, and insights will come.

Step 5: Define Actions.

Next, you’ll need to define what we’re actually going to do in order to achieve our objective.

Similarly to your business problem and your social objective, insights and actions are tightly linked. It should represent a clear, logical step from one to the other. You shouldn’t be introducing any actions that aren't driven by the insights you’ve uncovered.

This should form the bulkiest part of your strategy. You’ll probably want to cover areas like:

  • Which platforms are you going to use?
  • What does content look like?
  • Are we going to run any specific campaigns?
  • How do you approach community management?
  • What’s your tone of voice on social?
  • How do you approach paid media? Influencers?

Your actions need to outline everything you are going to do. This should form a sort of checklist for when you go live.

Step 6: Measurement.

Finally, you’ll need to attach a measurable to your strategy. Otherwise how do you know whether your strategy is working towards your objective or not, or whether you are on track?

Make it specific - that means strapping a hard number and a deadline to it. You want to eliminate any grey area over whether you’ve hit it or not.

At Born Social, we work in six month cycles with regards to measurables, forcing ourselves to break out the default week-to-week ‘sprint’ of social media. This allows us to take a much more strategic, long-term approach, but pick a timescale that works for you.

Your measurable should be a direct articulation of the extent to which you are solving the business problem. They need to go hand in hand.


This is a cycle, not a timeline. That’s because it has iteration built in.

The beauty of social media is that learnings and insights come in thick and fast - so make sure you use them. Constant iteration is key with social media strategy. Once you’ve reached the deadline for the measurable, spend some time clarifying your learnings and going through the cycle again.

Maybe your business problem is no longer as pressing. Maybe the business problem remains, but you want to solve it in a different way. Maybe you have some fresh new insights that can inform some new actions. Things change quickly within social media - so make sure you build iteration into your process.

That’s how we approach social media strategy for Davids. It’s efficient, it’s focused, and it creates effective work.

I’d love to hear your thoughts - tweet us at @bebornsocial.