Taken in full, social media is an insatiable beast that never sleeps. It constantly craves content and requires it to be delivered in ever-more-novel ways. New platforms appear, fold and then pop back up again (looking at you, YikYak). The major platforms try to mimic the success of newer, cooler sites, with varying levels of success (RIP, Twitter Fleets). And by the time you figure out the viral challenge everyone is talking about, it’s probably already passé or possibly even banned (that’s gotta hurt, Milk Crate Challenge).

Keeping up with it all is exhausting. But here’s the good news: You don’t have to be active on every app, nor do you have to jump onto every trend. In fact, that could actually be counter-productive to your marketing efforts. Instead, be strategic and focus on the sites where your customers are most likely to hang out. “Before you sign up for any platform, it’s super important that you have a firm idea of what your ideal audience looks like,” says Melissa Newman, social media manager for ASI. Once you understand your audience, you can figure out which platforms will serve you best and craft a social media content strategy that works for you and your business goals.

To help you tame the social media beast, we’ve created this comprehensive guide packed with up-to-date tips and actionable strategies gleaned from other promo professionals who have thrived on the most popular platforms. From targeting your ideal audience to exploring the most popular social media platforms in-depth, these ideas will help boost your visibility and carve out a path to more clients and increased sales. Use these ideas in your journey to become a social media success story.

Who Is My Ideal Audience Anyway?

According to marketing software firm HubSpot, a user persona is “a semi-fictionalized representation of your ideal customer based on market research and real data about your existing customers.” Creating a persona helps you better plan content by focusing on the challenges, goals and demographics of your customer base. There are several ways to gather information about your audience, according to ASI Social Media Manager Melissa Newman: You can mine data analytics from Google and other sites, conduct market research either internally or by hiring an outside firm, and analyze what your competition is doing.

Creating user personas can be a tedious process, but it’s necessary. “Without this check and balance, the social media strategy and content calendar are driven by the whims and egos of internal stakeholders – and will fall flat,” says Joshua Feinberg, CEO of consulting firm SP Home Run Inc. “There’s so much competing for people’s attention – if you don’t knock it out of the park on relevance, value and playing the long game, your social media is doomed before you even start.”

user persona

Answer these questions to create your user persona:

1. What is your persona’s name? This will help you humanize the persona. It’s also a great way to keep track if you need to make multiple personas based on the market niches you serve.

2. How old is your persona? An age range or generational tag is fine.

3. What level of education does your persona have? Are they high school grads or do they have two-year, four-year or advanced college degrees?

4. What industry do they work in? Having a general idea of what’s going on in their industry – whether it’s a big annual event or an international headline that affects their productivity – is invaluable knowledge.

5. How large is their organization? Is it a small company with a handful of workers, a midsized business or a larger corporation with hundreds – or even thousands – of employees?

6. What are some details about their career? What is their job title, how is their job success measured, who’s their boss, etc.?

7. What are their goals and biggest challenges? When you understand their pain points, you’ll be better positioned to address them with your social media marketing efforts.

8. How do they prefer to communicate with other businesses? Is it a phone call or face-to-face meeting? Or do they prefer an electronic nudge via email, texting or a message on social media?

9. Where do they gather knowledge for their job? Are there certain conferences they attend? Or industry websites they visit?

10. Which social media platforms do they belong to? Figuring this out will help you determine where to invest your resources.

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