All the best things start with a solid plan: a mouthwatering meal starts with a recipe; a beautiful building starts with a blueprint, and a great trip starts with an itinerary. The same goes for social media marketing.

A social media marketing plan (or strategy) is like your business’s roadmap to success on social, mapping out carefully-chosen activities over time — the “who, what, when, where, why and how” — to help ensure that what you’re doing is functioning to support your goals, reach your target market and uphold your brand messaging.

Read on to:

  • Learn about the benefits of a social media marketing strategy and begin to create your own
  • Define your social media marketing goals (You can’t reach ‘em if you don’t know what they are!)
  • Craft (or review and perfect) your business’s brand messaging
  • Nail down the details of your target market and target audience(s)
  • Understand target audience segments
  • Create audience personas and a social persona for your business

Note: This material is an excerpt from our free and available now social media marketing course for business owners called “Intro to Social Media for Business Growth”. Check it out once you’ve read the below to begin putting your plan into action with some best practices social media marketing tactics and start growing your brand online today!

Is strategic planning hard to do? 

Every business should have a social strategy — brand-new or well-established; product or service, B2B or B2C. And in a perfect world, that strategy would take the form of a detailed, custom Strategic Social Media Marketing Plan — a big, long document based on tons of research (ie: business, audience, industry, competitors and keywords), an audit of all past and existing social media marketing efforts, and then tactics (activities) chosen in response to that research and those audits presented in a phase-based roll-out plan, matched with perfectly-defined measures of success.

But you’re busy — moving and shaking, coming and going and growing your business — and likely don’t have the time or resources to invest in that Big Plan. Guess what? No problem!

It’s not hard to do!

If you can commit just a little time and a little thinking, you can develop a simple social strategy for your business that will guide you to success — growing your brand on social media in a meaningful and measurable way.

And you should. 

Because if you can’t make that commitment and instead choose to forge ahead without a plan, it’s possible to make some serious missteps — wasting a lot of time and money on social media marketing tactics that simply won’t work.

So let’s do it! 

Next we’ll look at your goals, target market and brand messaging — three of a good social strategy’s most important, foundational pieces. They’ll help to inform the things you choose to do on social media moving forward, and how you’ll measure success.


First and foremost, you’ll want to define or review your goals. Think about the following:

  • What are your business goals?
  • What are your social media marketing goals?

Those social goals should support your broader online and offline marketing goals, which should in turn support your broadest business goals.

Goals? What goals?

When asked about business goals, most business owners will (rightly) say: I want to make more money! Of digital marketing goals, many will say: I want to get more customers and make more sales. And of social goals?

  • Get famous; become an influencer
  • Find customers
  • Make sales

And those are great goals, though they can be difficult to qualify and quantify, and may be hard to attribute to social media specifically. So secondary goals help to define what things might be done in order to — ultimately — achieve those broader goals, and what measures of success might be monitored to track your return-on-investment (ROI).

For example, secondary goals might include:

I want to…

  • Reach my target market
  • Build brand awareness
  • Grow my following
  • Get engagements
  • Drive website traffic
  • Develop thought-leadership
  • Increase conversions, etc.

Measures of Success 

They say the best, most achievable goals are SMART: “specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-based”.  That “measurable” piece is critical: How will you measure whether or not your social media marketing efforts are helping you to achieve your goals?

Piece of cake. You set “measures of success” based on your secondary goals (the more-specific, easier-to-measure ones). And measures of success are just that — things that can be measured. In social, they can include things like:

  • Page Likes and Account Follows
  • Check-Ins
  • Social Reviews/Recommendations
  • Engagements Performed (ie: the things you do (follow an account, like a post, leave a comment))
  • Engagements Received (like Reach/Impressions, Likes/Reactions, Comments, Shares/Retweets and Clicks)

To be sure, social media marketing in the absence of a commitment to regular monitoring and measuring success can be a recipe for disaster. In the Measuring Success Chapter, we’ll learn more about how to do it.

Phew! That’s a lot to think about — try not to feel overwhelmed.

Start by defining some of your primary and secondary goals so that you can keep them in mind as you consider your target market, brand messaging and — later — the best tactics to choose to grow your business on social media.

Target Market:

Your goals and your target market are intrinsically linked. How? Think about all of those social goals you might set:

  • Get famous
  • Find customers
  • Make sales
  • Build brand awareness
  • Grow my following
  • Get engagements
  • Drive website traffic
  • Develop thought-leadership
  • Increase conversions, etc.

Achieving those goals requires two parties — you (of course) and the people (individuals (B2C) or other businesses (B2B)) who are going to help make you famous, buy your product or service, follow, engage and evangelize your brand. The people you need to reach your goals. That’s your target market.

And understanding their unique characteristics is critical to success. It’ll help you to know what, when, where and how to say what you need to say in order to get them to buy from you!

Your target market can be the people or businesses you want to sell to or the ones most likely to buy from you. Sometimes they’re the same, but not always. How do you know? If you have customers already, think about the common characteristics of the best ones. Don’t have customers yet? Make a guess, or look to your competitors — who’s buying from them?

And remember: while eventually anyone could be a customer, for now you can’t plan to speak to (and sell to) everyone through social media marketing. So keep your target market narrow and specific. It’ll help make reaching those people on social much easier — turning target market members into an active, buying customer base.

Yes, but who are they really?

B2C vs. B2B

Next we’ll look at defining your target market. But first make sure to apply the right analysis based on your business type, because defining a target market is a bit different for a B2B business than a B2C one.

Have a B2C business? 

If your business sells to consumers (end-users), this task is a bit easier. You must simply define your ideal customer, and spend the bulk of your social media marketing efforts (and dollars) targeting that person.

You’ll imagine your best or dream customers and consider their common characteristics, demographics, preferences and pain points. You’ll get really specific  to create a clear picture of who these people are, and then go further — dividing them into subgroups (segments) and creating personas for them.

Have a B2B business? 

If your business sells to other businesses, then defining your target market requires an additional step:

First, look at the characteristics of your ideal business customer. For example:

  • Business type; industry
  • Geographical location
  • Years in business
  • Company size/employees
  • Company earnings

And then, because in all marketing but especially in social media marketing, it’s about making meaningful connections, you’ll look at the people behind those businesses.

Think about the primary decision-makers in the target businesses you’ve identified as ideal for your marketing, and apply the same analysis to them that one would do for a B2C target market: common characteristics, demographics, preferences and pain points.

This can be a little more complicated than a B2C target market definition as a business can have many decision-makers — like a stakeholder group or a Board of Directors. But if you think about it, chances are they’ll have many shared characteristics.

Pain Points

Whether yours is a B2C or B2B business, one of the most important things you’ll consider in your target market analysis is pain points. What problem does your business solve for your target market? What value do you provide? It’s probably the thing that all your target market members have in common, and the single most important consideration when creating social content that will engage, motivate and persuade them. More on that later.

Target Market vs Target Audience

Understanding your target market will help you to create social media marketing content (and all marketing and advertising content, for that matter) that will really appeal to them. But you can take it further, by considering your target audience.

What’s the difference?

These terms – target market and target audience – are often used interchangeably and there are many (usually  conflicting) definitions. For our purposes, we’ll look at it like this:

  • Your Target Market: All the people or businesses who might buy or use (and love!) your product or service and brand — your ideal customer(s)
  • Your Target Audience: All the people to whom you should target your marketing and advertising efforts to turn them into customers and/or brand evangelists

Your target audience is part of your target market, and can be both broader and narrower depending how you look at it.


For example, your target audience is all the people you hope will see a particular social post or social ad and be motivated to act (buy!), as well as the following two very important groups:

  • The Influencers → The people who might influence your ideal customer’s purchasing decisions (like their spouse/partner, children/parents, friends, colleagues, and peers etc.)
  • The Fans → The people who might not be in either group but who still might like, follow, and engage with your business on social media, thereby helping to “spread the word” about your product, service or business (ie: evangelize your brand)

Your ideal customer (target market member) might be a man in his 50s, but because his buying decisions can be influenced by his spouse, children, friends, boss, employees and more, those people can join him in your target audience. In that way, the target audience is broader than the target market.


Conversely, your target market can be divided into target audience segments (subgroups), thus becoming narrower. And that’s important — audience segmentation can make social posts and social ads much more impactful. For example:

Perhaps your target market includes people of all genders, all ages, all interests and all incomes from all parts of North America. It’s very hard to create digital marketing and advertising material to appeal to all of them at once. So you can (and should) segment them.

This is a lot to consider when you’re just getting started on social media. (Even big, established organizations with huge marketing budgets struggle to get their heads around it.) But it’s worth some thought — having well-defined audience segments should be a long-term goal.


It’ll mean that, eventually, you can create social media marketing content (posts, ads and more) that speaks to the right segment in the right place at the right time to meet your immediate goals.

Want to grow your customer base among women aged 19-45? By looking at the characteristics of that target audience segment, you’ll be able to make good guesses about what social network (likely Instagram, for example) and what content will work best to convert them into fans and then followers and then leads/prospects and finally paying customers!

In the meantime, just make sure that you’ve defined your target market (complete this lesson’s worksheet). That will be enough for now to help you ensure that your brand messaging is on point and that your social posts and engagements are targeted to the best people to grow your brand on social — that is, to reach your social goals.

Developing Personas 

Social media is an inherently conversational place. It is, after all, about making connections. And as a business, you want to make connections with the people inside your target market. But how does a business have a meaningful conversation with a person? (Or, even harder if you’re B2B, how does a business have a meaningful conversation with another business?) It’s tricky! Developing business and audience personas can help to make that conversation easier:

1 → Create a social persona for your business

2 → Create a social persona for your target market

3 → Introduce them to each other!

Create a social persona for your business. 

Start by imagining your brand or business as a person. It might be you, the business owner, or someone imagined. What are they like? Be specific.

  • Age, gender
  • Interests, likes
  • Conversational style — how do they speak and what language do they use?
  • Are they corporate, professional and always in a power suit with a briefcase in hand? Or are they relaxed, sassy and everyone’s best friend?

On social media, keeping this persona in mind when creating content will make that content feel more human, authentic, approachable, and trustworthy.

Note: Your business’ persona can (and should) be a bit different depending on where you are. For example, LinkedIn lends itself to a more buttoned-up approach while Instagram tends to be more casual. But your social persona (or social-network-specific variations of your social persona) should combine with your website and other online and offline content (including brand messaging) to convey exactly what you want to convey about who your business is and what it stands for. 

Create a social persona for your target market.

Then imagine your target market as an individual person — and nail down the same details: their age? gender? preferences? style? The Target Market Worksheet asks you to define some of those things, but now picture an actual person in your head. Note: Eventually you will create personas for each of your business’s target audiences (segments). 

Introduce them to each other! 

Once those personas are defined (yours and theirs), imagine them having interactions on social media. It can help a business to overcome that sense of being too corporate and cold, and create more opportunities for meaningful social conversations between your business and your future customers.

Brand Messaging: Telling your business’s story

  • What do you do?
  • Why do you do it?
  • Who do you do it for?
  • What problem does your business solve?
  • What sets your business apart?

That’s your business’s story. 

And you tell your business’s story on social media, in part, through brand messaging. What’s that?

Brand messaging “refers to the underlying value proposition conveyed and language used in your content. It’s what makes buyers relate to your brand by inspiring them, persuading them, motivating them, and ultimately making them want to buy your [service or] product” (Pardot).

And “key messages” are the main pieces of information you want people to hear, know and remember (including your USP (unique selling proposition) — the thing that makes you stand out from your competitors). Usually key messages combine to convey the brand message.

Whatever you call it — your story, your brand message, your collection of key messages, your USP — it’s important (really, it’s everything). And there are countless opportunities to share it on social media.

You convey your story on social through your:

  • Business name; handle
  • Tagline
  • Logo
  • Profile and cover images
  • About; Bio
  • Mission Statement, and
  • Every single other thing you do, including:

– What you say (write, post, publish and share)
– How you say it
– Where and when you say it
– What you don’t say
– Who you follow, engage with and support, and more. 

It’s critical that your business has a great story, but it’s even more critical that your story (whatever it may be) is well-defined, well-written and shared in a consistent and complementary way on social — that everything you do, say, write, post, publish and share upholds your brand messaging.

The goals you nailed down in the previous lesson, and the target market, audience segments and audience personas you’re working to define, are a huge part of the brand messaging exercise.

Your brand message should speak to your target audiences and it should function to support your goals. The best brand messaging achieves that by being relatable, inspiring, persuasive, and — ultimately — motivating. Motivating? Yep, motivating people to connect with, trust, remember and support your business.

Voilà! Putting it all together.

If you complete a thorough review and reworking of your Brand Messaging, it’ll mean you’ve done good work on three of a social strategy’s most important parts — goals, target market, and brand messaging. And it’ll mean you’re now set to make smarter choices when it comes to deciding exactly what you’ll do on social media. For example:

  • What social networks should you choose?
  • What kind of branding should you apply?
  • Should you pursue organic or paid social?
  • What should you post about?
  • What kind of engagement should you perform?
  • When and how often should you post and engage?
  • Should you run social ads?
  • Should you use social media management tools?
  • How will you monitor social success?

If you ask those questions with your goals, target market and brand messaging in mind, the answers will become clearer.

Let’s get to the good stuff!

Note: Strategic social planning should go much further. To truly have a clear path to success, you should (in theory) perform that deep-dive business, audience, industry, competitor and keyword research we mentioned, as well as an audit of all past and existing offline, digital and social media marketing activities.

But we know you want to get to the good stuff now. So click here to access our free course for business owners looking to get started in social media marketing to grow their brands online, “Intro to Social Media for Business Growth”.

And get in touch with Stir’s expert Social Media Marketing Strategists if you need help. We live and breathe this stuff!

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