Being a successful freelancer requires having a tight grip on social media channels. But social media success is elusive and requires prompt and focused action. The STAIR framework will help you remember the steps that you need to take in your social media marketing activities.


Simon is giving a webinar on Social Media Marketing this Thursday — sign up here!

As aptly noted by Tess Whitty, "social media marketing can either be a phenomenal waste of time or it can be an excellent source of contacts and insights, depending on how you use it." The pitfall: It's easy to Facebook all day and pretend you're "doing marketing." But it's much harder to actually make use of it. As in many things in life, focus is key here. If you know what exactly you want to achieve and how you are going to try to achieve it, you can concentrate your actions without becoming a social networking addict. The STAIR framework that we present here is anything but complex, but keeping its steps in mind throughout your SMM activities will help you avoid the pitfall of haphazard and de facto pointless socialization. So what are these steps?

1. Suppose

You can't have all the data you need in the very beginning. That's why you will be inevitably making assumptions about a lot of things. What are this things? First, it's your target audience and customer profile:

  • What is their physical location: country, state, city?
  • What are they doing: industry, product, service?
  • Who are they: occupation, age, gender, interests?

Second, it's the ways you suppose they can be engaged:

  • Which of the social networks are they more likely to use?
  • What kind of language (formal/friendly) will they like more?
  • Do they know anything about translation, or will you have to open their eyes?

Many of your assumptions will prove wrong, and that's fine — you will be able to refine them in the last step. What is important is to define a focus from the outset — otherwise all your efforts will be too dissipated to have any valuable effect.

2. Target

Now that you have made your assumptions, it's time to define your posting/engagement targets. Once again, the clearer you set them, the easier it will be for you to reach them.

  • What kind of content will you publish/share?
  • How will you find/create the content?
  • How often will you post it?
  • On which social channels?

Just as your assumptions made in the previous step could turn out false, so your targets may prove misguided. Here as well, the point is not to make the right guess from the first try but to focus on what you are going to do in the next step.

3. Act

Once the assumptions and targets are clear, you can start implementing them:

  • Find and create relevant content,
  • Publish and share it,
  • Engage with prospects and colleagues.

The advantage of having the prerequisites defined in advance is that you won't be making random actions that will do nothing but waste your time. Having your assumptions and targets in mind, on the other hand, will let you complete your social media marketing tasks in just one to two hours a day. That's not that little, but it's much less than the time that disorganized socializing adds up to.

4. Inspect

This is perhaps the most important part of the process. It gives you insights into the effectiveness of each of the three previous steps and lets you refine them in the next one. Here's a quick cheat sheet for finding the analytics sections in each of the big three social networks:

  • Facebook page insights: Go to your business page and over to the Insights tab.
  • Twitter analytics: Click you profile image and select Analytics from dropdown menu.
  • LinkedIn profiles: Hover over Profile menu item and click Who’s viewed your profile.
  • LinkedIn company page: Hover over your profile image in the top menu, select Company page, go to Analytics tab.

A more advanced way is to use Buffer analytics — this way you can track how your posts are doing on all the social networks you use. What kind of analytics can be useful? Here are just some examples:

  • What types of posts were the most engaging?
  • What times of day/days of week had the best stats?
  • Where did your audience come from?
  • Did any of your posts/comments bring harsh criticism your way?

Sometimes you will see an unusual pattern (spikes, plunges) in a certain chart, which might give you a totally new insight into your social media activity. Try to make sense of it for the next step.

5. Refine

Finally, sit down with all the data and insights you gathered in the previous step and refine your assumptions, your targets and/or your actions. The exact period of time it takes for a single "flight" of the STAIR is individual. We suggest starting with anything from one week to one month, depending on how actively you plan to engage into SMM in this cycle (the more active the engagement, the shorter the period). What can be refined? As usual, many things, including (but not limited to):

  • Target audience definition,
  • Content type,
  • Posting schedules,
  • Ways/modalities of engaging with the audience.

The key is to keep your finger on the "social pulse" and make sure your social media activity does not turn into a mess with no clear goals or ways to measure its effectiveness.

Simon is giving a webinar on Social Media Marketing this Thursday — sign up here!