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Social Media Strategy: How Much Time Does a Good Strategy Really Take?

Jul 31, 2014 11 min readSocial Media Marketing
Photo of Kevan Lee
Kevan Lee

Former VP of Marketing @ Buffer

I have a blog post to write. This blog post, to be exact.

And in the course of researching, outlining, writing, editing, and writing some more, I also have other hats to wear. Email marketing. Social media strategy. Blog promotion, blog design, and anything else that should happen across my plate.

I’m sure you wear a lot of hats, too.

How do you find time to put them all on?

One of my tasks that I’m currently optimizing is implementing a social media strategy at Buffer. In the midst of writing posts like these, I’m also curious to see how much time it takes to put a social media strategy in place.

Does juggling social media management along with an armful of other task sound familiar to you? If so, I thought it might be helpful to detail what I’ve found so far and to show what all’s involved in the way that we go about managing our social media strategy at Buffer.

A top-notch social media strategy starts with an awesome, anytime schedule! Take Buffer’s dashboard for a spin. Fill your queue—for free—in minutes!

The wheel of social media strategy

It’s interesting to note that a social media strategy and a social media plan have a lot of crossover.

You can think of it this way: A strategy is where you’re headed. A plan is how you’ll get there.

When I think about the time involved in implementing a social media strategy, I can’t help but include the essential parts of our plan, too. In fact, I think that strategy can be boiled down to a simple three-part idea:

Once you come up with the strategy, you’ll need to implement it, to measure it, and to think on it again.

Here’s how this process might look.

The Wheel of Social Media Strategy

I’ve run across ideas like this before. For instance, Amy Porterfield’s social media strategy suggestion is to assess, implement, and monitor. Others call it organize, act, and regroup.

Put another way:

  1. This is what we want to do
  2. This is how we’re going to do it
  3. This is how we did

Then, repeat.

That’s how I choose to view our social media strategy at Buffer. And now for the all-important follow-up question: How long does this process take?

The time it takes for a good social media strategy

I took my time-tracking seriously this week—so serious, in fact, that I used Harvest‘s time-tracking software to see exactly how long these things take. I wanted to see exactly how much time it takes to put a solid social media strategy in place.

Here’s what I found:

Social Media Strategy Timesheet (1)

Essentially, the time breaks down like this:

Every Monday, revisit your strategy to make sure you’re on the right track and focusing on the right areas

Time: 1 hour

Monday through Friday, implement the strategy. Schedule, create, and post updates. Engage with the community.

Time: 2 hours

Every Friday, check your metrics. See how you’re doing on your goals, and identify areas for growth.

Time: 1 hour

Total time: 12 hours per week

Depending on the scope of your business, your time could be greater or smaller than this. You may have an team of dedicated social media staff who can give 40 hours per week or more. Or you may have a small footprint in social and not need as many hours. The above times are simply my experience; feel free to use them as a guide and benchmark for your own social strategy.

As far as what my time looks like specifically, here’s a taste of what’s involved at each step of the process: planning, implementing, and measuring.

1. How to create a social media strategy

A good social media strategy begins with a good think.

What do you want to use social for:

  • Sales?
  • Loyalty?
  • Awareness?

These are the three main areas that Jay Baer identifies as potential focus points of a social media strategy. As Baer puts it: What’s the point of your social media marketing? Pick one of the above, and focus your efforts on that single objective.

The best social media strategies are those that focus (at least initially) on a more narrow rationale for social.

In thinking about this question of “What’s the point?” we’ve found that the answer may sometimes change as your marketing goals ebb and flow. I’d encourage you to revisit this question often. Don’t be afraid to shift gears and aim for a new objective.

For instance, you may find that it’s best early on to focus on awareness, especially if your business is fresh out of the box. Once you’ve built sufficient awareness, it might make sense to transition your focus to loyalty or sales. Your strategies can grow up as your business grows up.

Once you’ve defined your core focus for social, you can then have a clear picture of which success metrics to track. Amy Porterfield has a great way of breaking this down, according to the three main social media strategies:.

If you choose sales, you’ll want to track click rates, social e-commerce sales, and conversion rates.

If you choose loyalty, you’ll track engagement, sentiment, and influence.

If you choose awareness, you’ll track growth, engagement, shareability, likes, and subscribes.

One final piece to the puzzle (many social media strategists would even advise to begin with this step) is to listen to your audience. Listening will reveal a number of key factors like which social networks you should be on, how your audience uses social media, and what are their pain points.

These basic factors will be hugely helpful to discover as they’ll help set your focus moving forward. For instance, I’m often guilty of assuming that all social networks are generally the same when in fact they are entirely unique and individual and deserving of their own specific messages and plans. This image by Social Rank is a fun reminder that each social media site comes at content from a different perspective.

social media donut

How can you go about listening to your audience?

You can begin by asking. Surveys are great tools for gathering insight into your customers and fans. If you’ve yet to implement your social strategy, you can send out a survey to your email list. If you’re already on social, you can ask questions of fans or link to surveys from your updates.

Beyond surveys, you can listen to your audience by tracking mentions of your brand, discovering the communities and groups based on your niche, and in watching your key social metrics to see how they grow (for instance, if you find yourself banging your head against a wall to get new followers, it could be that your target demographic simply doesn’t hang out on that network.)

Once you’ve listened to your audience, chosen a focused goal, and identified your success metrics, it’s time to move on to the next step: Implementation.

2. How to implement a social media strategy

I like to think of the implementation of a social media strategy as having two prongs:  Creation and Community.

When you think about it, what kind of input will you be having on social media each day? You’ll be publishing new updates, and you’ll be responding to others. (And sometimes the two might even overlap.) Both prongs should fit with the strategy you’ve chosen.

Two-pronged Social Media Strategy

Perhaps the best way to talk about implementing a social media strategy is to show you a bit about how we do it here at Buffer. Here is our system for sharing on Twitter and Facebook (we have strategies for LinkedIn and Google+, too; feel free to ask about them in the comments if you’re interested.)

A social media strategy for Twitter

Our goal with social media is loyalty—with a twist. We’re interested in driving engagement and positive sentiment, two of the hallmarks of a loyalty strategy. We’ve also added a dash of sales to our mix. It’s not sales in the traditional sense; rather, we’re aiming to sell the value of the blog posts that we share. In this way, we’re also interested in boosting clicks back to the blog.

Our posting strategy

  • We schedule 14 posts per weekday and 10 posts per Saturday/Sunday
  • Our posting schedule is spread out throughout the day in order to connect with our global audience
  • Our bread-and-butter post type: Visuals
  • The majority of updates we share come from content in our blog archives
  • We share one post each day from Buffer’s content suggestions
  • We retweet a Buffer team member or Buffer community member once-a-day
  • All new posts are shared multiple times that day and scheduled for further shares over the next two months
  • All updates are in keeping with Buffer’s values of positivity and helpfulness

Practically speaking, I’ve come up with a few fun ways to make this posting strategy as smooth as possible. Let’s start with how we share our new posts.

Whenever a new post goes live, I will use Buffer’s custom schedule to create 13 posts spread out across the following timeline (inspiration from the timeline came from this awesome post by Garrett Moon on KISSmetrics).

Social Media Schedule

Each update is unique, with either a new headline, snippet, or image. For the first two updates, we perform a bit of an A/B test on the headline to see which one gets a greater click response. We continue to monitor headline performance on later tweets, too, in case one performs better than our original. We’ll change the headline on the post according to the data.

After posting updates according to the schedule, I like to borrow a tip from our repurposing efforts and come up with as many tweetable parts of the post that I can. These posts are added to a dummy Buffer account that I’ve set up as kind of a storage unit or backlog of useful tweets. When I’m in a pinch to fill our main queue, I can quickly and easily pull from this backlog and drag-and-drop into the Buffer Twitter profile.

As for sharing from our archives, we’ve found a couple helpful ways to do this.

  1. The first is a method created by our cofounder Leo. He’ll go to a random page on our blog (i.e., and share from each of the evergreen articles on that page.
  2. The other method I use relies on Buffer’s analytics. I’ll take any previous updates that earned a “Top Tweet” badge and drag them into my backlog, dummy account to easily share again later. (We’re big fans of reposting content here at Buffer.)

Our engagement strategy

  • Reply to every mention of Buffer
  • Engage the community with weekly chats

Replying to every mention is a very noble goal that I’ve personally tried to maintain on my own Twitter. It’s hard. Fortunately, we’ve got an army of Happiness Heroes and a Community Champion who invest time in responding to each and every Buffer mention that’s out there.

We use a service called Sparkcentral as kind of a command center for our Twitter outreach. It lets us collect and organize every Buffer mention, whether via direct reply, hashtag, or search.

The second part of engagement is a weekly #bufferchat, organized by our Community Champion Nicole and featuring a new guest host each week. These have been great opportunities to interact directly with our Twitter audience and to create valuable resources that we can share and refer to later.

A social media strategy for Facebook

Our posting strategy

  • We schedule 2 posts per day
  • Our posting schedule varies by day, according to the times when our fans are online
  • Our bread-and-butter post type: Visuals/Text
  • The majority of our updates come from content in our archives
  • All new posts are scheduled for the day of publish and again one week later

Our Facebook posting strategy will continue to evolve as we learn new things and try new things. For now, we’ve found a bit of success mixing visual posts and text-only posts. The text-only posts started as an accident, and the reach numbers have encouraged us to keep at them. Here’s an example.

Facebook text post

Much like Twitter, new Buffer blog posts get scheduled according to the guide referenced above. We’ll post new articles to Facebook on the day of publish and again one week later.

The rest of the Facebook queue is an ongoing list of posts from our archives, mostly pulled via the Leo method of visiting a random blog page and Buffering what looks interesting.

Our engagement strategy

  • Respond daily to comments
  • Ask fun, open-ended questions of our fans

Our method of responding to Facebook comments used to include a pair of daily drive-bys from the Content Crafters team. Our Community Champion Nicole now takes on the role of responding (and is able to drive by a bit more readily).

To help engage with fans on Facebook, we started asking a fun question each day, sometimes social-media-related and sometimes just whimsical. We’ve found it to have a great effect on making our Facebook page feel more welcoming, and we’ve even noticed the unintended effect of increased reach on the posts that go live after we’ve asked a question.

Facebook questions

3. How to measure a social media strategy

Find your key metrics. Set some goals. Revisit often.

Find your key metrics. Set some goals. Revisit often.

Click To Tweet

To recap from above, depending on what focus you’ve taken with your social media strategy, you’ll likely have a few success metrics in mind that you’d like to track. Here’s the breakdown once more.

If you choose sales, you’ll want to track click rates, social e-commerce sales, and conversion rates.

If you choose loyalty, you’ll track engagement, sentiment, and influence.

If you choose awareness, you’ll track growth, engagement, shareability, likes, and subscribes.

At Buffer, we’ve taken to tracking our social metrics according to a neat method first proposed by Avinash Kaushik back in 2011. This theory of engagement breaks the metric into four parts that can track across all social networks:

  • Conversation
  • Amplification
  • Applause
  • Economic Value

Our friends at Moz introduced us to this tracking method, and they’ve shared the way they go about measuring these metrics and setting goals for growing engagement and traffic back to their site. Here’s a peek at what their weekly reports look like.

Moz social media tracking

Another way to look for key metrics with your social media strategy is to approach it from a growth perspective. We’ve used the following grid to help guide our product growth here at Buffer, and in some cases, you can apply the same ideas to the metrics you pay attention to on social.

In the grid below, the key points to focus on are “low conversion, high traffic” and “high conversion, low traffic.” For instance, tweets with high numbers of impressions and low numbers of clicks might be ripe for growth.

decision matrix for growth

Over to you: How much time do you spend on social media each week?

The three parts to a social media strategy—planning, implementing, and measuring—take time.

Fortunately, it can be a manageable amount of time if you have a plan in place and the right resources at your disposal. I’ve found that a weekly schedule that involves each strategic step helps to keep things on track and in place as we strive to meet our goals.

What’s been your experience with a social media strategy? How much time do you spend each week?

It’d be awesome to hear from you from you in the comments.

Image sources: Mukumbura, SocialRank, Moz

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