A 5 Step Social Media Marketing Strategy for Startups in 2022
A strong social media strategy is key to helping Challenger Brands win. It’s the bridge between your brand and customers to efficiently build trust, bolster reviews, and overtake the market leaders.
At 5&Vine, we believe that how you do anything is how you do everything. We apply this thoughtful approach to developing scalable social media strategies.
5&Vine’s 5 steps for a Challenger Brand social media strategy:
Assess the competition
Build your Challenger Brand social media strategy
Implement your strategy
Track social media performance
Evolve your strategy
Pt. I will focus on the first two steps and Pt. II will focus on the final three.
Part I – Assess the competition
Before you do anything, you need to assess your competition’s social media. This will help you codify their approach and determine opportunities where you can engage like a Challenger.
The questions you should be asking are:
What social channels are our top competitors on?
How often are they posting?
What types of posts do they share?
What formats do they use? ex. photos, graphics, infographics, videos, GIFs, interactive content.
How can we categorize the types of posts they rotate through regularly? ex. product, lifestyle, influencers, community user-generated content (UGC), blog promotion.
What role do influencers and real customers play in building brand credibility?
What posts get the most engagement? Are there similarities between them?
By answering these you will start to notice patterns, strengths and weaknesses, and opportunities emerging for your brand.
Often, you’ll see common social media channel archetypes surface.
Common Social Media Channel Archetypes
It’s also helpful to take a look through the profiles of real people that are highly engaged on your competitor’s social channels. What other brands do they follow? Are they similar to your perceived target demo, or are there any surprising finds about who they are and what they care about?
Successful Challenger Brands leverage insights from a concise competitor analysis to inform their own social media strategy.
Part II – Build your Challenger Brand social media strategy
Your brand’s priority social media channels will be the ones where your target audience is most active. It’s better to pick a few core channels and engage thoughtfully on those rather than post infrequently across many.
We also recommend prioritizing the features and tools best suited to engage your audience and amplify your message. On Instagram, for example, that might be Stories, Live, Highlights, IGTV, Reels, or Shopping.
Note: Even if you’re not going to use them, we advise owning the handles across all standard channels (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter) so no one else can take them.
When building your social media strategy, take these five core elements into account:
Structure your social media strategy to enable brand goals
Choose a consistent visual direction
Create conditions for community to thrive
Connect your website content to ensure clarity and add value
Choose the the best influencers & partnerships
1. Structure your social media strategy to enable brand goals
Is your existing social media community reflective of your target audience or are you looking to appeal to a different audience? Are you building from scratch or pivoting to connect with a new customer segment?
How can you strengthen product and brand stories to provide more on-ramps to the business based on customer targets?
What are the questions that prospective customers will have? How can we address these at the top of priority social channels? This can be as a Highlight on Instagram, pinned post on Facebook or Youtube, or an opening video on Youtube.
What taglines, messages, or hashtags connected to brand goals do you want to amplify?
We maximized athlete partnerships via an Instagram Stories video series to showcase Fresh N’ Lean’s connection to nutrition, training and perseverance, and connect the brand to high-performance living.
Hashtags we’ve used throughout campaigns include: #FuelYourJourney, #FeedYourPotential and #IAmPotential.
2. Choose a consistent visual direction
No matter the platform you’re using, you need to decide on a visual brand identity. To do so effectively, you’ll want to consider:
What elements of our visual brand do we want to incorporate into our social? ex. specific colors, fonts and icons.
What categories of posts will we feature consistently? What format will they be in, and which ones should we create templates for to add consistency to the grid?
How often do we want to share each post category on our feed?
Then, continue to ask:
What will the starting and ongoing grids look like? Should they be different and, if so, how?
Should we break images into multiple parts to drive a particular aesthetic? Reference the “starting” image from Paragon below for an example.
Paragon launched their Instagram with a starting grid that broke a brand announcement into multiple tiles. This immediately connected the brand identity on their website to social media.
We designed their ongoing feed to consistently feature graphics that incorporated their colours and fonts to balance the photos and videos. When sharing photos and videos, we purposely chose ones that had colour like greens, yellows and blues to complement the brand colours.
We determined that their posting categories should be:
Product (their personalized vitamin packs and hair testing kit)
The science behind Paragon
Influencers and press
Defining the categories of posts made content preparation easy. Rotating through the categories ensured we were sharing content that touched on all aspects of the brand and kept it interesting for followers.
We made sure to add Instagram Highlights that addressed customer FAQs as soon as they landed on their Instagram, the science behind their product, and specific features of top-rated products so that new followers could find the info they were looking for.
Starting Ongoing Stories Highlights
3. Create conditions for community to thrive
Social media can help your brand create a loyal and engaged community. It can give your customers a platform to connect with others that embrace your brand’s ethos and share their point of connection. An effective way to do this is through UGC.
Our client Mama Earth Organics had incredible UGC from farmers, artisans and real customers that wasn’t being leveraged in their social media presence. We shifted their strategy to be UGC-first, which led to the added benefit of having excellent photos and Stories to engage their community.
Mama Earth’s Instagram following increased 22% in 3.5 months, and customer UGC across all channels more than doubled. Customers saw that their posts were being reshared with the community, and which encouraged them to tag them more!
Another way to nurture authentic community is by leveraging tools specific to each platform, and making founders and the CEO a part of the conversation.
Other ways to create a community include: showcasing customer testimonials in creative ways and showing members of your own team on social media to connect with real customers.
Haute Hijab engaged 5&Vine as their Fractional CMO and Marketing Agency to architect and strengthen their “Can’t Ban Us” campaign launch strategy and mobilize their community.
The campaign helped shine a light on the prejudice that has held Muslim women back in sport, and highlights the determination that has enabled them to overcome. It features athletes like Noor Alexandria Abukaram, a cross-country runner disqualified for wearing a hijab, and Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir, a woman banned from playing basketball in the WNBA for the same reason.
For their community engagement strategy, we recommended CEO Melanie Elturk take to Instagram Live to interview the lead athletes of the campaign. As these interviews were real-time, Haute Hijab could see live comments from their followers and answer questions, opening up groundbreaking conversations about Muslim women in sport. These were saved to IGTV for new followers to discover later.
Haute Hijab’s transparent approach to community-building via social media helped the campaign resonate deeply with their audience.
When Haute Hijab launched the Can’t Ban Us campaign, they also added Stories Highlights for press coverage, showcasing the product and sharing real customer reviews so it was easily accessible for followers.
Haute Hijab’s founder and CEO Melanie Elturk is purposely the face of the brand. She detailed all of the product features and leveraged the Instagram Stories Q&A tool so she could reply to anything customers asked about the new hijabs.
Highlights Q&A Stories Tools Customer UGC in Stories
4. Connect website content to ensure clarity and add value
Sharing content from your website and blog can help drive traffic and engagement to your site while also adding depth to your posts. Some helpful questions when choosing content to boost your social are:
How can you amplify website and blog content for social media to add value?
What complex topics should you be breaking down into bite-sized pieces for social media that invites new followers to interact with the brand without getting overwhelmed?
We leveraged social media to take complex information on HTMA hair cell analysis for client Paragon from the blog to make it digestible and not overwhelming for their social audience.
5. Choose the the best influencers & partnerships
Influencers and social media go hand in hand. There’s no doubt influencer marketing and partnerships are impactful for a brand, and for good reason. They build creative credibility and are an opportunity to have ongoing relationships.
It’s a misconception that you need to have a big budget to make an impact with influencers. We recommend creating a list of “goal influencers” and defining what makes them the best fit for your brand. You can then use this list as guidance to find people with various following sizes that still fit your goals.
Fresh N’ Lean is based in Anaheim and is a sponsor of the Anaheim Ducks NHL team. Their focus on #DucksCamp, the team’s pre-season training, has a strong brand connection to the importance of proper training and nutrition required to compete at the highest level.
However, Fresh N’ Lean didn’t always have a big NHL team to boost brand awareness. We started by defining what we wanted in an influencer – people who are exceptional in their sports and driven to be their best athletes. Then, we scouted and saved the best profiles as goals to work towards.
We also recommend looking for brand accounts in your industry with a similar following size to you that you can partner with for cross-promotion.
What was most helpful was connecting with smaller athletes for products in exchange for posts. This strategy was core for years, until Fresh N’ Lean had the opportunity to sponsor The Ducks. The lesson? Don’t let budget hold you back. There’s always a way to connect with influencers related to your industry!
This concludes Part I of 5&Vine’s Process for Developing a Winning Social Media Strategy. For Part II, read here.