How we built a social media strategy in 4 weeks

Building a social media strategy takes time and consideration. If you rush the process you could miss something important, causing you to waste more time and effort later on. However, you shouldn't agonize over every detail either.

In this article we're going to show you the key steps in building a solid social media strategy for higher education, and how you can get it done in less than a month.

Words On Brand used the following process between September and August, 2022 for our client Modul University Vienna.

Week 1

Identify a broad goal for all channels

If you've been thinking about revamping your social media channels for a while, this one should be pretty easy. In most cases the goal will be as broad as...

'To turn the social media channels into a one-stop-shop for prospective students'.

That's it. You can go into how you're going to achieve that by channel and audience group later.

Prepare a draft road map

You can do this after your kick-off meeting, but it may be wise to sketch out a rough plan before approaching top management. See how your proposed road map works with everyone else's and finalize it accordingly.

Make sure all meeting attendees (see below) and other relevant stakeholders get a copy of the finalized plan. If known, make a schedule of placeholder meetings with the names of people required to contribute. This will save time and emails later on.

It's also important to define any resources that may need additional planning. These could be anything from engaging a videographer or copywriter, to working with student ambassadors or faculty.

Connect with stakeholders

Now it's time to get buy in from top management and relevant team leads. Organize a short and well structured call to make sure everyone knows why you're revamping the social media strategy. There's no need to go into specific goals at this stage. This meeting is to collect support and inform everyone of your draft road map.

Week 2

Define a purpose for each platform and KPIs

With your buy in from top management and your broad goal in place, it's time to start thinking about what purpose your social media channels serve. It might be safely assumed that the purpose of all channels is to increase brand awareness and contribute towards applications or registrations.

You could break this down further by channel and audience. If your focus is mainly on mature students, LinkedIn would be your focus channel. If you want to capture leads before they leave high school for undergraduate programs, Instagram and TikTok may be your best bet.

It is critical you have a clear idea of what success will look like by platform. To do this you need to set up measurable Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). For example, a KPI for Instagram could be to have less direct messages about study information and more views on Reels containing that same information.

Now you have your KPIs in place and you know the function each of your channels will play in your strategy, you can better analyze your competitors and yourself.

Perform a competitor analysis

To understand how your social media channels can be improved, you need to know how you shape up against your competitors. Frequently, marketers select too many competitors and begin comparing apples to oranges. Instead, pick a maximum of three competitors and analyze them in areas relevant to your broad goal. With our goal from above in mind, you could use competitor analysis to answer the following questions:

  • How easy is it for students to find information via social?
  • Are the posts utilizing links, videos, explainers etc.?
  • Is there a distinction between information offered, study level and channel?
  • How integral is the student experience to their social media content?

After looking at two or three other institutions, you may find that you are not as good as School A, but you're performing better than School B. The trick is not to replicate School A, but to identify its level and imagine what that would look like for you.

Perform a SWOT analysis

At the same time as conducting a competitor analysis, you need to asses your current social media strategy too. Performing a SWOT analysis (standing for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) will give you an excellent snapshot of where your current social media stands. We won't go into how to perform a SWOT analysis here, but if you do need help Sprout Social have a comprehensive guide on the subject. Here are the broad strokes:

Strengths: Identify what you're doing well and would like to build on.
Weaknesses: Be brutally honest about what you're not achieving.
Opportunities:  Look at what could be optimized or done better.
Threats: These could be external too such as algorithm changes or migrating users.

Week 3

Turn the results into SMART goals

Now you have the combined results of your competitor anaysis and your SWOT analysis you have everything you need for a 360 view of your social media channels. How do you relate these findings back to your broad goal, and how do they become actionable tasks? That's where SMART goals come in (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-based).

To get started, take your strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities and see them as ways towards your goal. Threats are things to just be aware of at this stage.

Strength: We have strong engagement on Instagram Reels.
Weakness: We get a lot of Instagram messages asking for info found on our website.
Opportunity: The info asked for could be more visible in Reels.

Then use your competitor analysis to inform how this might be done better. For example:

School B uses Reels and Highlights to silo their information for new students.

Therefore, the SMART goal for this objective would be:

Specific: To increase the number of informative Reels and engagement on those Reels.
Measurable: A reduction of Instagram messages and more interactions on posts.
Attainable: Prepare a scratch list of 20 Reel ideas and shoot over 2 weeks.
Relevant: Contributes to Instagram being a one-stop-shop for new students.
Time-based: Informative Reels will be ready for posting by strategy launch date.

Week 4

Break SMART goals down into work packages

Now you have a set of SMART goals by channel all feeding in to your broad goal. Each piece of content will contribute to your strategy. It's time to start planning how these content pieces will be created. Here you need to break the SMART goals into achievable work packages. Using our Instagram Reels scenario as an example:

Scratch list of 20 Reels ideas: Marketing team and student ambassadors.
Shooting Reels: Student Ambassadors with Marketing.
Copywriting: External writer.
Editing and posting: Marketing team
Due date: 3 days prior to strategy launch.

Launch, monitor and iterate

Soon enough it will be time to post the first piece of content from your new strategy and... nothing will happen.

It will take a while before anyone realizes your strategy has been updated (if they notice at all), which is why it's important to keep an eye on your KPIs. Make sure you have regular contact meetings with management and stakeholders to let them know how things are going.

Most importantly, you need to set up a process of improvement by iteration. Keep what works, optimize what could be better and ditch what doesn't work at all.

Like we said at the beginning, building an effective social media strategy takes time (although it can be done in 4 weeks). Be patient, keep experimenting and the results will come.

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