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It’s common knowledge these days that social media is important for businesses. What is less clear is how businesses should be handling their social media marketing (SMM). To begin with, let’s start by defining our terms. Tweeting from the convention floor or posting candids of your office to Facebook is easy enough for most business owners, but it isn’t the same as executing a social media marketing plan. Today, we’re going to talk a bit about how to move away from random social media posts to an organized SMM plan.

Where Should I Start?

The first question to ask is: where do your users live? Not literally…metaphorically. Will they be interested in your business on Facebook or Linkedin? Should you tweet or create Pinterest boards? If your business is visually interesting and business-to-consumer oriented, Facebook and Pinterest are probably a safe bet. If you’re business is technical and business-to-business oriented, maybe Linkedin and Twitter are a better fit.

What’s the Point?

Just as you engineer your paid and organic search engine visits end in a specific action, your social media marketing plan should have similar goals. Are you posting about a fun company culture? Your goal should be social engagement (retweets, likes, comments). Are you sending out a coupon code or new product? Your goal should be social sharing and referral traffic. Are you posting about a new blog article or a site redesign? Your goal should be improved click-through from social media.

What to Post?

This is hard to generalize, but a good rule of thumb is that a social post should be short, engaging and have a visual component. Social posts don’t have to be as complex as say, a case study, but they shouldn’t just be random photos either. Here are a few types of posts to keep in mind:

1. Scheduled: social posts can be scheduled along with other business development. If you’re going to be publishing case studies on a regular basis, they can be social posts as well.

2. Opportunistic: If you have a social media professional in-house, or outsource to one of the social media marketing companies, they should be alert to events and imagery which effectively represents your brand. A fund raiser, kick-off or even just a Friday can be an excuse. You shouldn’t wait for the holiday parts to create some photo, video or other rich content to post.

3. Offers: if you sell retail or offer discounts, these can be the easiest to produce, but make sure they don’t take over! Unless your company has diehard followers, they may not want to hear about your special offers as much as your sales team thinks they do. Make sure you’re coming up with a good blend of informational posts, and company culture posts before you post another coupon code or special offer.

What’s the Bottom Line?

A social media marketing plan should put your social media accounts to work for you. Start by choosing which avenues make the most sense for your business. Set goals for what you’d like to get out of your SMM strategy before you jump in, and lastly, ask questions of your users and followers. Social media is made to be interactive, so get your users to react to your content, share your offers and click through to your website. If you don’t give them something to act on and talk about…they won’t.