10 steps to building a social media strategy for networks

Posted: 11th May 2015

Imagine you’re a curator in a city museum. The gallery spaces are yours to conjure with. You have to attract and engage an audience of city dwellers and visitors. The range and scope of art works available are huge. Your job is, not just to display pieces, but to select and organise pieces that compliment each other, to demonstrate connections.

For anyone tasked with promoting a network on social media, it is helpful to think in terms of being a curator. Networks, like women’s business groups, online business directories, tourism clusters or community groups, often want to use social media. But the task can be overwhelming. So let’s start at the beginning.

What is a network?

In some cases it is an organisation with paying members that sets out to promote the interests of those members. Or it may have no membership fee but simply draws together parties with something in common. Like a tourism network. Here in Wales, for example, the tourism operators in the Brecon Beacons are keen to encourage more visitors to the area. Sites that promote the area benefit all providers. But there’s more to a network than external promotion.

A network also implies members can benefit from interaction within the network. Sometimes forming a loose organisation is about pooling resources or accessing resources such as a community forming a group to set up allotments for a village.

Either way, for the network to pull together and help each other, members need to see tangible benefits of putting resources into the network. Social media can help in a number of ways. Here are 10 steps to consider.

1. Assess resources of the network

2. What do you want to achieve?

3. Who do you want to engage with?

4. What will your role be?

5. Which tools?

6. What phrases will people use

7. Draw up list of contacts

8. What’s your post strategy?

9. What activities will support your strategy ?

10. Who will run this?

1. Assess resources (how many hours a week can be spent on this)?

This is very important especially if you have a volunteer running the social media activity. It is better to be realistic at the outset. If there is only 2 hours a week, then you’ll need to prioritise (never a bad thing). So now you know how long you’ll spend, next why are you on social media platforms?

2. What do you want to achieve?

  • Promote a common cause?
  • Awareness of the network?
  • New members for the network?
  • Sales for members?
  • More co-operation and activity within the network?
  • National publicity.

Which is most important? Pick one! You need to expand on your goal. For instance, a tourism group, may want to promote the area first, then individual operators second. So it’s good to have a clear marketing strategy in place before you launch onto social media. That way you will have decided on the brand image you want to convey and the tone of voice you want to use.

Once you know your goals, it is easier to work out who you need to engage with.

3. Who do you want to engage with?

End users, existing members, new members and/or the press? Who is most important? Pick one! It may be with the time you have available, you are better using social media to strengthen the relationships within the network which will encourage members to support and promote each other.

Don’t get diverted. Doggedly pursue your target audience, remembering that the whole point of social networks is that people know other people. Don’t forget it’s not just what a person knows but who they can put you in touch with. This is the ripple effect, most obvious on Facebook.

4. What will your primary role be?

Choose either Curator, Networker, Promoter or Go To person. Which role has the potential for you to make the biggest impact?

The Promoter

For example: if you run a local business network where members pay you to market their businesses then clearly your primary role is as a promoter. Promoting others is far easier than promoting your own interests. If you can do this with a light, friendly and personal touch as a trusted member of the community your posts will have much more impact.

To see a great example of a social Promoter, follow Diana Vickers of Best of Carmarthen, Best of Cardigan and Teifi Valley and Best of Pembrokeshire on Twitter. Her Twitter handle is @DianaVickers1.

The Curator

Here you bring together and share news, snippets, successes, events and reports from your members or sector. Two good examples are Organic Centre Wales’ Facebook page and WIRE (Women in Rural Enterprise)Facebook Group. The WIRE group in particular has members adding content taking much of the strain off the administrators. WIRE has a paid membership, so you tend to get better input when people pay to use your social networks.

In a tourism network there is huge potential for attractive and engaging images, short video clips and posts from behind the scenes. A curator will do some leg work to find out what’s available i.e. which members are already using social media platforms. Consider investing in running workshops to encourage others to start posting photos at least, say on Facebook where you as the curator can easily share them.

The Networker

The Networker finds useful and interesting people and information in any given room (real or virtual). This is less easy to see in action as the Networker is busy looking out for contacts and information and passing them onto specific members or the whole group e.g. Pembrokeshire Tourism regularly send out PR opportunities to members. This is a particularly good role where members pay to be part of your network. For the time pressed social media marketer, she can log contacts and information passed and use that evidence of tangible benefits, to help persuade members to renew.

The Go To person

The Go To person can either be the predictor of trends or the specialist. If you are bringing together creatives in Cardiff, then you need your finger on the pulse, not just of what’s hot in Cardiff but bring news of London, Paris, New York, Sydney, Beijing and beyond.

If you run a business network, and want to attract others, then as well as promoting events, you could curate guest posts from among your experts and bring the latest from the web on financial, legal and employment issues that affect your members. A sense of your role will influence what kind of content you post. Next you need to think about which platform you’ll use.

5. Which tools?

With so many to choose from. It’s easy to get overwhelmed. Will you use a Blog, You Tube, Facebook, LinkedIn or Pinterest? One of them or all of them?


To help you answer this, work out where your audience hangs out. Which is their favourite platform? Will you be mainly publishing original content or sharing others’ content? If you plan to write articles or want to share articles or content from your members’ blogs, then a blog for the network makes sense. Look into WordPress.com blogs. They’re easy to set up, free to use and have more and more plugins available enabling you to share video, add events and more.

You Tube

If you can see that short videos will work well, then consider setting up a You Tube channel where you can upload your content. Smart phones are making it easier and easier to shoot video and upload it on the fly. You Tube videos can be embedded in blogs, shared on Facebook and of course work very well with Google + (Google now owns You Tube which is the second largest search engine according to Social Media Today).


If you want to curate content, your audience is made up of consumers rather than businesses and most of your members use Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest, then consider Facebook as your main network. Tools like Hootsuite allow you to operate several different social media sites from one place. Think of it as mission control. You can write one post and share it across many platforms or edit and share it making it more suitable for the quirks of each different platform. Hootsuite is a great time saving tool.


If your members are mainly professional business people then consider LinkedIn as your main platform. LinkedIn groups are a good place to post topics, longer pieces and engage with like minds. We’ve focused a great deal on content, but how will your target audience find you? You need to give some thought to what people might be searching for.

6. What phrases will people use?

What phrases will people use when searching for what your network offers e.g. Rural business advice, eco tourism Ireland? Draw up a list for use in bios and posts. Google has recently made it harder for website owners to see which key phrases are bringing traffic but on social media sites you can quickly do trial searches to see what kind of people and content comes up. For example if you enter kayak Ireland in Twitter it will show you Twitter accounts of providers and tweets from kayakers and visitors interested in kayaking. By following those people, there’s a good chance they will follow you back and you can keep this as a live search helping you keep in touch with kayaking conversations. It’s good to give active searchers the best chance of finding you but of course social media allows you to go looking for people too. So who would you go looking for?

7. Draw up a list of contacts

Think about who you want to engage with e.g. Members, support organisations, sponsors, end users. Look up those already in your contacts lists. All the social media platforms make this dead easy. But there are others you may overlook. The members of other local networks (not in direct competition with yours). An often overlooked group is made up of people or organisations you want to emulate.

They may or may not be a network like yours or they may simply have the kind of vibe you want to emulate. So for instance if you’re trying to promote outdoor activity holidays in a particular destination, think laterally and look and see if there are any interesting outdoor equipment suppliers doing innovative things with social media. Here in Wales, Howies is an independent organic clothing company with a passion for the outdoors. Take a look at their Facebook page for a good example of tribe building.

Or if you want to be the Go To person for food, look into another sector like fashion. Follow some bloggers and see how they do things. I’m a firm believer in NOT re-inventing the wheel. Go and see what the pioneers have done to make your way easier and emulate what works well. A word on this. Of course, I don’t mean slavishly copy. I mean adopt good strategic approaches. Back to strategy again. So what’s your strategy in terms of posts?

8. What’s your post strategy.

We know social media can soak up huge amounts of time and in some cases yield few results. To make the process of posting quick and easy it helps if you pre-plan your content to some degree. Draw up list of types of content you want to share: e.g. Events, offers, news, images, videos, funnies,case studies, stories, inspiration. Decide on frequency of posts. Also have a ‘go to’ list of people who reliably post shareable content. It takes seconds to hit share if you can quickly pull up the relevant posts. As already mentioned consider using tools like Hootsuite to save time. And what about other marketing efforts?

9. What activities will support your strategy

If your strategy is working well then you’ll attract a good following of engaged people who like what you post. Bearing in mind social media is a fast moving sector, it’s a good idea to have a back up plan. What do I mean by this? Remember Friends Reunited? Yes they’ve disappeared without trace. Not having a crystal ball I can’t reliably predict which social media platforms will still be around next year let alone in 2020.

So it’s a good idea to invite your friends, fans, contacts and followers to join an email list. By signing up they give you permission to send marketing messages directly to their inbox. All the social media platforms collect email addresses every day. Shouldn’t you too?

If time is short this may just be a monthly nudge to go and look at your Facebook page or it may be regular event promotion or special offers. If Facebook should fall out of favour, that list will enable you to invite your fans to join you on another platform EyeWink, HandFall or some such yet to be invented platform!

Will you be aiming to get articles or features in local, regional or national press or perhaps you’re aiming to guest blog to connect with your target audience via other specialists? Bear in mind the resources you assessed in step 1. So now you have more idea of the task at hand, in whose lap will this task land?

10. Who will run this?

The personality of the person given this job is important. Some of us are chatterers. Some of us are not. Some have boundless enthusiasm for social media, some are suspicious. For the younger generation sharing everything from what’s on your plate to who you fancy is second nature.

For the older generation it’s all a bit cringe worthy. The best person to run your social media is someone who’s in about the same place as the majority of your audience or perhaps just a grade higher. If your members are in first grade with social media, get a second grader to encourage them to get their water wings on Facebook or Twitter.

If your audience contains profilic bloggers and tweeters then encourage such a person to run your social media activity. For those who have willing volunteers or deep pockets a team of social media elves is even better.

Someone who likes writing isn’t necessarily going to be the best bet. Pictures have great impact on social media as do pithy one liners. Who comes to mind?

That’s enough to get you started in the right direction. Here’s a summary of those 10 steps again.

1. Assess resources of the network

2. What do you want to achieve?

3. Who do you want to engage with?

4. What will your role be?

5. Which tools?

6. What phrases will people use

7. Draw up list of contacts

8. What’s your post strategy?

9. What activities will support your strategy ?

10. Who will run this?

Can’t we just get tweeting and people will come?

It is definitely a good idea to get started and learn from others as you go but if you don’t take time to plan out how you do it, you’ll get easily disheartened and give up.

If you’d like me to speak to your network about digital tools or provide some hands on training, drop me an email and let’s have a chat.

About Juliet Fay

Juliet Fay is a farm-based copywriter offering: 1) Training in sales writing, email marketing and Twitter. 2) Marketing consultancy for farm retailers. 3) SEO copy and articles for the rural business sector. Sign up to get rural marketing articles direct to your inbox, twice a month, http://www.onlinesalesmessages.com/subscribe-juliet-enews/