Social media has transformed the way consumers interact with brands. No longer a one-way relationship, people now expect a dialogue.

Social media is where this conversation is often initiated, developed and sustained, but just as starting a conversation with a total stranger might invite a wary response, so too does your organization need a plan of action.

We spoke to a consultant at a leading PR agency who explains why creating a playbook is essential for any planner getting started: “As an agency looking after several brands, it’s essential to understand who your clients are speaking to, especially if you’re drafting copy, writing press releases and much more”, she says.

“The social media playbook is essentially a bible of sorts for the brand in question.”

Building this playbook is the first crucial step for any agency planner looking to lead a brand’s storytelling in the most consistent, engaging and effective way.

Your playbook should include a clear strategy based around data-driven audience personas and detailed consumer journeys outlining both implementation guidelines and performance metrics.

Here’s where to begin.

1. Define your social media objectives.

Your client’s objectives will most likely change over time, but from the outset, you need clear targets to aim for and measure against. Firstly, it’s important to understand the main purpose behind your social media activity:

Is it to build awareness, provide customer service, generate leads or simply drive sales?

The answer to this question will have an impact on all other aspects of your playbook.

When it comes to ensuring a return on investment, she emphasises the need for a realistic and achievable action plan to work from, with a clear breakdown of your goals and objectives. ”

This has to be really clear from the beginning, whether it’s sales a client is looking for or if getting one blog post with X amount of links will be sufficient”, she says. “We need to know from the outset exactly what the client wants.”

2. Tailor your approach to your audience.

Developing audience personas underpinned by data-driven insights is a key part of the process. Social media is all about elevating your voice, so the message you put out there needs to be as relevant, timely and interesting to your audience as possible.

Your playbook should make everyone in your agency aware of exactly who they’re speaking to.

Agency planners can paint an accurate portrait of their audience to include in their playbook in a visual way, using detailed consumer journey maps that identify every micro-moment and touchpoint to best translate who this person really is.

This is a vital step to guide your messaging in the right direction and means your strategy is not reliant on assumption alone.

A PR Executive at the same agency explains how relying on assumptions to guide your messaging can be detrimental to both campaign performance and a brand’s reputation.

“Using GlobalWebIndex for a recent client, for example, we realized their messaging was quite off-key, which they’d missed by making assumptions on their audience”, he says.

“No matter what you do, you need to know who you’re talking to, whether it’s online or offline.”

3. Choose your platforms.

With the help of in-depth audience profiling, you can uncover which platforms and channels will work best for a particular group.

By analyzing their social media habits, including who they’re following and why, you can tailor your entire strategy in a way that works for them.

He describes how for a recent client, having first created a detailed persona of his consumer, he then analyzed their online behaviors to find out where best to target them, and how.

“We used GlobalWebIndex to find out what their behaviors were, how they were interacting with social media, and where exactly they were online.

This informed our entire communications strategy, both from an ongoing social media and content perspective, and in terms of our outreach strategy – Using the profiles we created, we could find the relevant influencers for each persona and the potential campaigns they could participate in.”

4. Identify the right influencers.

One essential way to gain insight into your audience is to listen. Countless social media conversations are happening at any given moment and influencers can provide an effective route for you to join the discussion.

These individuals or groups are essential to help you reach more of your target audience and a detailed playbook will help you to identify and build this network.

Outlining their approach, he explains: “We identify influencers whose content we know will appeal to a particular persona. When we approach an influencer, we ask for their media kits and audience insights to add to our own. Influencers have such a good relationship with their audiences, so they know what will work and what won’t.”

5. Make your storytelling clear and compelling.

Your social activity, in many ways, portrays the voice of a brand. While several people may be involved in crafting this voice, it needs to have a clear and consistent tone above all.

This may not be the same as your overall brand tone and it may also be nuanced for different audiences and platforms. Your playbook should set out clear guidelines, including the appropriate vocabulary and phraseology to use.

Joe McCambley, SVP of Content Marketing at POP highlights General Electric as a leading example of a consistent tone of voice. “One brand message infuses all the content they’re creating across all continents and all units”, he says. “That one message is that they are innovative.”

Your playbook should also include broader guidelines around your approach to content and storytelling.

This aspect of your social activity will inevitably evolve as you learn more about what your audience is interested in. Content and social media go hand-in-hand, so your strategy will inform every aspect of your social activity and essentially shape your desired status as a trusted source of valuable content.

6. Measure your success.

With a clear set of objectives outlined in your playbook, it’s important to continuously measure your social media performance against these targets.

By incorporating social media analytics and more holistic measurement solutions using custom research, you can collect the data that truly measures your performance.

Your playbook should offer direction as to which tools, metrics and KPIs will offer you the most value.

These KPIs help you to report as accurately as possible to your clients, offering them more transparency into your strategy while keeping your social media efforts on the right path.

A social media playbook is an essential tool for all agency planners. This not only ensures audience insights are shared across teams, but equally that a clear and measurable approach to social media is put in place.

Above all, this allows the brand to be represented to their audience with one single, engaging and consistent voice, making the interaction an engaging experience more likely to deliver the desired results.

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