By Sherry Bonelli / Guest Column

With just a few changes and a little effort, your social media channels could become the highlight of your digital marketing plan, generating more leads, more interest in your company and more sales.

The wonderful thing about social media is that by spending just a little more time in the planning phases, you can see huge results. Your social media supports your other marketing activities, and because of that, you can see a big ROI in your organic and paid campaigns.

Here are a few recommendations for cheap and easy ways to improve your social media marketing and presence:

Develop a strategy

You must document your marketing strategy. According to CoSchedule, professionals who document their marketing strategy plan are over five times more likely to achieve success.

Start by including your main goals for social media channels and how each one fits in with your overall digital marketing plan. Jot down a few ideas about how you want your brand voice to appear on social media. This will ensure that whoever is making a post knows how to craft it so that it is made in your brand voice.

Next, think about how often you want to post per week. Remember that posts are very rarely seen on your fans’ newsfeed, so it’s better to post more than less to increase the likelihood that your fans will actually see your posts. Also remember to set aside funds each quarter for design devel­opment. Yes, you can re-share posts you like from other companies’ social media channels, but you always want to create your own, unique content.

You also want to create a social content calendar documenting any hol­idays, special events or other needed special content. Be sure to keep that calendar handy and add to it so you have two weeks’ content ready to go.

Most importantly, when you approach making social media posts, each post must have a purpose and a benefit to your business and your followers – that’s the key to better results.

Create content and landing pages

Give your social media a com­plete makeover by creating assets designed specifical­ly for your social channels. For instance, create a specific lead-capture landing page for targeted social media posts. By doing this, your call to ac­tion can take a 65-year old re­tired man to a different page with a different message than a page that aims to convert 16-year old teenagers.

Also, think about creating new design elements. Visual elements like infographics enjoy better than 40 percent engagement, according to a Venngage study, making them the content with the second-best ROI behind video. If you don’t have your own in-house designer, there are several tools on the market that allow you to quickly and easily make your own infographics.

Use video

If you’ve shied away from video, now is the time to start using it. Business­es that use video marketing generate 66 percent more qualified customer leads and 54 percent more brand awareness compared to those that don’t, according to Aberdeen Group.

If the thought of making a video sends you into a panic attack, start by repurposing PowerPoint slideshows – you can turn a PowerPoint into an MP4 file that can be uploaded to YouTube. But consider adding video to your social media plan at some point soon.

Why? Video is a great way for people to see your real business. These types of videos are almost like proof of the quality of your products and services. What types of videos can you easily include? Think reviews, expert interviews, office tours, unboxing videos – the possibilities are endless.

Test your campaigns

Most people push a post out to social media and just leave it there. You should try to test a couple of social media campaigns. These campaigns should connect to something specific like a special event, promotion or sale.

For each campaign you’re testing, create two posts, each with different images and text (but the same call to action). This will allow you to collect data to see which post gets the most engagement. Once you have a winner there, test your posts with two different calls to action to see which earns more engagement or leads. Always be testing!

Promote your posts

The social media game is changing. Like Google, social media is becoming a “pay-to-play” marketing strategy. Fortunately, social media paid advertis­ing usually costs less per lead and less per click compared to advertising on Google AdWords or display ads. With promoted social media posts, you can also be very specific in the audience you want to target. That makes getting your message in front of the right audience easier.

We’re at a point in time where every business needs to have some social media presence. Make sure your social media marketing is the best that it can be and always keep improving!

Sherry Bonelli, digital marketer and presenter/speaker, is the owner of early bird digital marketing, a full-service digital marketing agency in Cedar Rapids. Reach her at http://earlybirddigitalmarketing.com.