It is no secret that social media is a big deal when it comes to marketing. A platform that gets to the intended audience at a fraction of the cost and has a mass reach that enables growth for small businesses is a more of a must-have than a nice-to-have.

However, the unfortunate bit is that true, impactful social media marketing is a confusing mess for many business owners. It needs a lot of massaging, a luxury that many entrepreneurs, already juggling the many aspects of their business, can’t afford. The options and methods of hacking marketing on social media sites are dizzying and may require a roadmap to navigate.

Big firms with deep pockets can afford to hire professionals who then take this task and run with it, but what happens to small business owners? One thing that can significantly ease the process is proper planning and execution guided by a social media strategy ; a document that simply captures any marketing activities and anticipated outcomes on paper. After all, people who document strategies, and in the process set goals, are more likely to report success.

There are certain tools that you’ll need in the making of this strategy, many of which are freely available online. Here’s how to get started.

1. A social media calendar

This is a chronological view of how you intend to plan and execute your social media activities. It helps the business by giving you an overview of what content needs to be published, what’s coming next and the blueprint of what content is needed at different times of the year. By committing to this calendar, you make social media marketing an intentional exercise with timely goals.

2. Analytics

Another very important tool needed is a suite of analytic information, otherwise known as analytics. These are informational panels provided by various social media platforms and are, in a nutshell, a representation of which audiences are available to you on the platform and how they interact with the content you put up online. These analytics are essential when it comes to targeting your audience and gauging the overall success of your activities. You can even use the data you get as milestones or goals that measure the success of your social media campaign.

3. Curation tools

Content curation consists of finding and collating material that’s relevant to your audience and social media goals. You can get this content from a variety of sources and share it strategically. This will, of course, be guided by your social media calendar and the analytics. The material is then disseminated through your social media channels to your intended audience. Content curation should feel personal, deliver value to your intended audience and not come across as promotional content. Curation tools, which are freely available online, help you with this process. A few examples of curation include Twitter lists, Pocket and email newsletters.