STOP! Don't start with Social Media until you have applied a SWOT analysis

One common mistake many businesses and social media marketers make (myself once included) is that they go in to social media all guns blazing with no specific strategy or plan. There is a misconception that social media is easy; we do it in our personal life so how hard can it be to apply for our business? Turns out it can be quite hard. Social media requires a lot of time and attention and, just like any campaign, requires an achievable set of goals and a well thought out plan of action. There are many different frameworks a business can use before implementing a strategy to meet its goals. One type of analysis framework which can be used in almost every situation is a SWOT analysis.

What is a SWOT analysis?

A SWOT analysis is a cost and time-effective way to analyse your strategy and requires no gimmicks or special technology. It is simple. A SWOT analysis is traditionally used by businesses to distinguish internal and external factors which might affect a business or its campaign. The SWOT framework is made up of four key components: Strengths and Weaknesses (internal) and Opportunities and Threats (external).

Before starting your social media SWOT analysis, it is important you have a clear understanding of your objectives. You need to know what you can offer your potential audience and how to successfully interact with them. Going ahead with social media marketing with no strategy or analysis is the same as an actor going on stage without even reading the script; you need to know what you are going to say and when you are going to say it. By executing a SWOT analysis, you can gain a clear understanding of what you can offer your potential audience, what you can use to your advantage, what you need to avoid and what you can improve on.

Strengths

Your strengths are probably the easiest component of the SWOT analysis to recognise because every business should know its strengths. When you kick off your social media campaign, don't be afraid to use your strengths to your advantage - let the audience know exactly what you offer. This can be done by updating your biography, your opening posts or even a well-designed banner image which can give a glimpse into what you do.

Other strengths to consider are your team, technology and creatives. For example, you might have a team member who's a social media whiz, a strong website you can link your social posts back to, or high quality imagery and content with strong brand recognition. To help drive the importance of social media through the business it can also help to have a senior management team who believe in social media marketing and understand the benefits of it. Never underestimate the strength it can add to a campaign if they are amplifying your marketing through their own networks.

Weaknesses

Weaknesses are more difficult to measure than strengths as you have to look at these with your rose-tinted glasses taken off. Unless you are honest about your weaknesses, they are difficult to fix and can easily damage your social media plan. Just like strengths, these weaknesses can be anything from having a lack of experience or resources within the team, unengaging content, poor brand recognition or a lack of high quality graphics.

It can be argued that identifying your weaknesses early on is more important than recognising your strengths. Winston Churchill once told us "never let a good crisis go to waste". With this attitude you can identify what questions need answering, thus helping to turn these weaknesses into strengths.

Opportunities

When it comes to social media, the opportunities are endless and it is vital to be aware of them for growth. As a social media marketer, it is your duty to constantly look for these new opportunities and expand your online presence. Businesses can be guilty of focusing too much on their current strengths, forgetting about new potential audiences or simply being too afraid to try something new - this fear then becomes a weakness.

Social media opportunities might include a new social media platform you are yet to utilise, an untapped target market, a rise in followers, breaking news or hashtags which you can take advantage of. Another major opportunity within social media is the use of influencers. If an influencer within your market has thousands of followers, and high engagement and reach rates, it is a good idea to form a relationship or partnership with this influencer, allowing you to extend your reach to a much larger audience. If you identify these opportunities early on, you can exploit the benefits when they appear.

Threats

Just like any business environment, the threats are always there and out of your control. Whilst any threat could potentially disrupt your campaign, being clear on them can have a positive impact. A potential threat could include negative press in the news or a disgruntled customer. With the way social media works in the modern world, all it takes is one bad tweet to completely undo your positive image. Ensure you have identified your threats early on, this way you can avoid any damage or public embarrassment. Another threat is your competitors - if they have a strong social media plan and following, they can easily eat up your potential.

Now you're ready.

Time and effort spent on your SWOT analysis can be key to whether your social media campaigns and strategies are a success or not. You get what you put in. It is also important to be aware of change and flexibility whenever you conduct a SWOT analysis. It is helpful to remember that every strength could be a potential weakness, every weakness could be a potential strength, every opportunity could be a potential threat and every threat could be a potential opportunity.

To learn more about how you can use a SWOT analysis, or any other planning frameworks to successful implement any campaign or business activity, attend the IDM's Campaign Planning course, hosted by expert David Hearn, where you will gain a greater understanding of implementing a successful campaign from start to finish.

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