Starting from Zero: Building a Social Media Presence from Scratch

Are you a brand new organization? Or do you have a brand new initiative that needs its own digital presence? There are a lot of reasons that you might be starting your social media presence from scratch and the work may seem daunting. Here I’ve broken it down into 4 steps.

Step 1: Align Your Social Media Goals with Your Larger Goals

The very first step in an organized digital strategy is defining your “why,” but it’s a step many organizations ignore or rush past. But if you don’t nail the answer to the question, everything that comes after it will lack the most basic driving principle you have: the reason why your brand actually matters. 

Why is it that your organization exists? What problem are you trying to solve? “In the end, content marketing and social media marketing are just different ways of solving your customer’s problems,” according to Inbound Rocket. Look closely at your organization’s needs and strategize about how social media can meet them.

When you are setting your goals be S.M.A.R.T. Your goals for any digital campaign should be:

  • Specific: What exactly are you hoping to achieve? Greater membership? Higher website traffic? More donations?
  • Measurable: Make sure that you can measure how well your goals have been attained. Have analytics set up in advance of a campaign so you can measure as you go.
  • Attainable: What is a realistic achievement? Be ambitious, but setting goals that are impossible to achieve will only dismay your team.
  • Relevant: Make sure that your campaign actually addresses your larger goals.
  •  Time-bound: Set dates for the beginning and end of your work. And benchmarks in between.

Step 2: Identify Your Audience… and Your Competition

Low social media engagement is most common among organizations who create content for people who are not their ideal target audience. Create audience personas that take into account who the audience for you organization really is.

Audience personas help you understand who it is that you’re speaking to. In developing audience personas, you discover what their unstated needs and desires are, and the places in their life that your brand might be a natural fit. This helps you understand not only 1) who to target but 2) how to craft content that is specific to specific audiences and channels. To create personas, you can do things like conduct audience interviews or perform an organizational audit.

Compile a list of your primary competitors or other organizations doing similar work to yours. “Identify which social networks they are active on and analyze their content strategy,” according to Inbound Rocket. “Things to look into are: their number of fans or followers, posting frequency and which time of which days, are they posting lots of visuals and what type of visuals, are they participating in popular hashtags and how are their fans responding to their postings? How are they reacting to the engagement of their fans?” Steal all their best ideas.

Step 3: Choose Your Social Networks and Set Up Your Profiles Completely

A very useful way to evaluate a digital channel is to look at it through the lens of the 3 Ms: Is it meaningful to your audience? Is it manageable for your team? And is what happens there measurable for your campaign?

You don’t need to be on every platform. Just the ones where you audience spends time.

Nothing is less professional than a half completed profile. You've seen those egg photos. Choose great photos. Invest in them. Good imagery is half the battle.

Put together a great bio. “Accurately explain who you are and what your company does,” writes Inbound Rocket. Think about your unique value proposition and how you set yourself apart. “Personify your brand. A lot of social networks are more lighthearted than their official company website counterparts. Don’t worry too much about writing a formal biography; this is the place to show off the fun side of your brand... Try using specific words that your ideal customer would use to describe themselves. Although keywords on most social networks are not directly searchable, viewers will immediately know that you are a relevant account for them to follow or like.”

Step 4: Get Your Social On

With Twitter, you'll need to build a following of people who need the information that you have to offer. That will take time.

1) Follow people that might want to follow you. You can find these people in a few different ways. They might be following organizations like yours on Twitter. They might be tweeting things related to the problems that your organization addresses or asking questions about those topics. You can answer their questions. You can start conversations. You can follow them and hope that they follow you back. 

2) Enter conversations that are already happening on Twitter about issues that you have great content for and link back to your great content. 

3) Be a place on Twitter that people who share your concerns can get information, so link to your own content, certainly, but also link to other interesting stuff that you find. 

4) Have buttons on your site that make it easy for people to follow you on Twitter. And have buttons on your site that make it easy for people to share your content on Twitter. 

Facebook is more of a broadcast platform than Twitter. I would suggest putting up little teasers for pages from your site with nice pictures on a regular schedule. Have buttons on your site that make it easy for people to share your content on Facebook. Make it easy to follow you on Facebook. Eventually, you might want to do a little paid advertising on Facebook. 

You can publish articles directly on LinkedIn that will be shared with people you are connected to. They are also visible to people you don't know if they search the keywords that you mark your content with. So publishing teaser articles with links back can be a way of reaching some folks. 

Be your own PR person. Brainstorm about what kind of websites, or even print publications, might be a good fit for articles written by you or places that might be responsive to a press release. Reach out to publications that already serve the audience that you want to reach. Give them guest posts that link back to your site or your social profiles. Offer to do an interview about your area of expertise.

There are big online publishers, such as Forbes or the Huffington Post (and others), where you could write about your ideas and expertise. If your organization has a wide online presence, it will feed back into your social media presence.