Gone are the days when social media was a new concept.
Nowadays, browsing social media sites is often the first thing we do when we pick up our smartphones in the morning. While social media has its downsides, brands can use the concept of connecting with their audiences in ways they never thought possible.
Usually, this concept is through social media marketing (SMM).
Social media marketing (SMM) is the use of social media platforms to build a company’s brand, grow website traffic, and increase sales while connecting with customers. Any type of marketing of a brand or product that can be done on social networks falls within this concept.
Social media marketing involves publishing content to social media profiles, listening to and engaging with followers, and running social media ads with social media marketing software. Typically this is done using social media management software to schedule and publish various posts, maintain an online presence, and better manage workflows.
A company has its pick of social network platforms to engage with existing customers and find new ones while also using built-in analytics to track what’s working and what’s not.
There are five key pillars of social media marketing. Move your brand through all five pillars to ensure nothing falls through the cracks.
Before you can roll up your sleeves and start taking advantage of everything social media has to offer, you need to look at the big picture and cultivate a social media strategy.
“Some of the worst advice I hear is, ‘Start creating and posting content, and your page will grow naturally.’ While this allows marketers and social media managers to experiment on their brand’s social presence, there should always be a clear objective.”Carol Bustos
Group Digital Strategist, Healthcare Consultancy Group
Once a strategy is in place, it’s time to plan and publish! This means having a consistent presence on social media that aligns with the brand. Doing so helps both existing and potential customers discover you. It’s important to plan content ahead of time instead of creating and publishing simultaneously.
Publishing starts with a click as you share a blog post, a video, or an image on a social media platform. Don’t forget to take timing and frequency into consideration! For instance, you likely don’t want to have social media posts that go live in the middle of the night. You also don't want to share 20 tweets in one day.
Over time, your business and its social media following will grow as you continue publishing content. This also means conversations about your brand will increase, including people commenting on your posts, tagging you in posts from other brands, replying to Tweets, or messaging you directly.
It’s also possible customers are talking about your brand without tagging you. So, listening to, monitoring, and engaging with as many conversations as possible is essential. As you go about social engagement, keep an eye out for positive conversations but also negative ones. If a customer is taking to social media to complain about your product or services, take the opportunity to correct the situation or offer support.
“Social media marketing is a conversation with a mass audience. Imagine you’re giving a presentation to a room full of people on your brand. You'd take that opportunity to educate, entertain, and demonstrate what your brand is all about."Vincent Benedict
Marketing Coordinator at Certified Sports Guaranty
Next up are analytics and reporting, which take you into a deep dive of your data so you can see how your social posts are performing. Some social platforms, like Twitter Analytics, set this data up for you, so it’s easy to see what’s working and what needs to be tweaked. However, there are also external social media analytics tools that also provide comprehensive insights into your social media performance.
Some metrics that you can track are:
These metrics can answer questions like:
Carol Bustos, Group Digital Strategist at Healthcare Consultancy Group shares more about the importance of using analytics within a social media marketing strategy, "At conferences or networking events, I’d hear at least one marketer say they neglect looking at metrics because the task often takes the backseat. I’m fully aware of the multitude of daily tasks that an SMM has to juggle and that data analysis tends to become the least of their priorities.
"However, without looking at data, it would be impossible to assess KPIs, determine budgets, set goals, and craft a strategy to achieve those goals.”Carol Bustos
Group Digital Strategist at Healthcare Consultancy Group
It’s common for social media marketers to utilize social media analytics software to track progress toward specific goals.
* These are the five leading social media analytics software from G2’s Winter 2023 Grid® Report.
Over time, your brand may reach a point where it has the funds to grow its marketing efforts to include social media advertising. These ads make it possible to reach a wider audience than those already following your accounts.
These ads can also be cultivated based on who you want to see them, and you can create specific ads based on interests, behaviors, demographics, and location. To assist in these efforts, businesses often turn to social media advertising software to manage, buy, and place ads on specific platforms.
Anthony Astacio, Paid Social Manager at Quigley Simpson, shares more about the importance of knowing which platform is best for your brand. "Choosing the right platform can be determined in different ways. The first step is knowing what budget you have. Usually, more budget means more flexibility and opportunity to use multiple platforms. You also need to know what kind of creatives you have (typically videos and images) and your campaign's ultimate goal."
"If you’ve never run ads on social media before, it's best to test multiple platforms and see where your audience is and how they interact with your ads. Find out if they visit your site after seeing your ads and eventually make a purchase."Anthony Astacio
Communications and Social Media Specialist, ICF Next
Astacio continues to say," Find out if they visit your site after seeing your ads and eventually make a purchase. You may learn that people watch your videos more on TikTok, more people visit your website from Instagram, but most purchases come from Facebook ads. Using this data will help advertisers learn where they should put their money once they’ve understood the goals they’re aiming to accomplish.”
Putting in the time and effort to do SMM correctly can lead to several benefits. Social media marketing can:
When your team is ready to build a social media marketing program from the ground up, follow these specific steps to ensure its best chance of success. Not doing them could derail your social media marketing efforts.
The social media marketing goals and objectives need to be clear from the get-go. They can be simple and straightforward, like “be consistent and post once a day for a month” or “engage with at least two followers daily”.
These goals will help your team find their rhythm and cadence, eventually leading to insights into what works (and what doesn’t). From there, you can get more specific with the objectives within your social media marketing strategy, like “increase follower count by 10%”.
Tip: Consider the SMART goal framework for your social media marketing program.
Ignoring your audience is one of the deadly sins of social media marketing. It’s best to learn as much about your audience as possible. You’ll also want to get specific in order to craft the most relevant content possible. Try creating an audience persona using factors like age, language, location, average income, and potential pain points. Ask yourself who you want to reach and how you’d classify them as a group.
Your persona should also answer questions about your audience like:
Once you have these answers, you’ll be able to determine the type of content that attracts the kind of followers and customers you’re looking to gain.
Chances are good your competitors are already on social media with a well-thought-out strategy. Now is the time to see what they’re up to just by taking a look at their presence and how they’ve been performing. Think about running a competitor analysis to see what strategies are or aren’t working for them.
Doing so may open up an opportunity or two for your team to take advantage of. For example, if one of your competitors leans into Facebook but doesn’t have much of a presence on Instagram or Twitter, that’s where you should be.
Next, decide which social media networks to focus your efforts on. Take into account the data you’ve gathered about your target audience, in addition to platforms that are popular in your industry, and the bandwidth your team has.
Only create profiles and develop an SMM strategy on the number of platforms you can actively keep up with. Otherwise, you won’t have the impact or success you’re looking for. Consider starting small with one platform and going from there.
You’ve likely heard the phrase “content is king". Content reigns supreme, so consider your content creation initiatives. You’ll want to post diverse content, employing formats like articles, blogs, videos, and images, that your audience will find interesting and helpful. Then, you’ll want to figure out the best way to go about social media promotion.
The type of content depends on your brand and its services, but the content strategy you build may include:
The essence of social media is to be social, but many brand accounts seem one-sided. It isn’t because they don’t see the value of having conversations with their followers, but because they can’t. This is especially true for industries like pharma, healthcare, education, and politics. While working on brand strategies for social, marketing teams need to align with their leaders and legal teams early to agree upon a set of guidelines – and guardrails – for what their social team can do and/or respond to online.
The process of social media marketing isn’t a small feat – take advantage of tools that make it a little easier! To ensure all of your hard work and dedication is as successful as possible, try adding some of these tools to your tech stack:
Since most platforms come with analytics for SMM teams, take advantage of what they show you. Use this data to identify the posts that get the most engagement, determine whether you’re getting more followers, and further analyze your audience's demographics. Do more of what works and scrap or tweak what doesn’t.
Selecting the social media platform that will best support your business is key. Just like every marketing team has specific needs and expectations, every social media platform provides different functionality and offers unique opportunities.
With over 2.93 billion estimated monthly active users, Facebook is the largest, most established social media platform. Since its launch in 2004 by founders Mark Zuckerberg, Andrew McCollum, Eduardo Saverin, Dustin Moskovitz, and Chris Hughes, it’s become a helpful tool for business-to-consumer companies. Facebook Ads, or Facebook for Business, has advanced advertising features for users and is also extremely popular.
Brands use Facebook Pages to post updates, share recent content, announce new products, and engage with customers. Because “fans” of pages can post messages, Facebook gives brands an opportunity to respond publicly and display their commitment to their customers.
The audience on Facebook is an even mix of Gen X (users born from 1965 to 1980) and millennials (users born between 1981 and 1996).
Twitter, a platform meant for short messages and back-and-forth interactions, is an excellent tool for professionals just diving into their social media marketing strategy. With 330 million estimated monthly active users, it’s best for public relations, customer service, and community building. Founded in 2006 by Jack Dorsey, Noah Glass, Evan Williams, and Biz Stone, its audience is primarily millennials.
The key to Twitter is engaging and interacting with your target audience. Businesses and organizations use Twitter to share information and content, drive engagement, network, increase brand awareness, and manage their reputation. Additionally, tweeting about trending hashtags is an easy and effective way to increase visibility.
Instagram is a social media platform primarily used to share images and videos. It took the social media world by storm when it was founded in 2010 by Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger.
Since it’s best for high-quality images and videos, user-generated content, advertising, and influencer marketing, it’s where many brands go for their advertising efforts. With over 1.5 billion monthly active users and an audience of mostly millennials, Insta is an absolute must to factor into your strategy.
Once your business has an Instagram account, be sure to switch it to an Instagram business profile, which requires your organization to have a Facebook page. Instagram will then import the data from your Facebook page. A business profile also makes it easier for your audience to contact you, simplifies content promotion, and provides more in-depth insights.
Instagram is also perfect for smaller brands, specifically online stores and e-commerce websites. Many e-commerce stores take advantage of Instagram to increase traffic to their online store, improving sales.
Looking to make a big splash with a tiny video? Consider creating a strategy centered around TikTok. With over 1 billion monthly users, TikTok is great for boosting brand awareness by posting creative video content.
Founded in 2016 by Zhang Yiming, its audience is mostly Gen Z and millennials. Even though it’s relatively new to the scene, it’s one of the fastest-growing social media apps in the world, even surpassing Google as the most visited internet site – likely because it acts as a unique search engine for various topics.
of users feel a deeper connection to brands they interact with on TikTok vs. other platforms.
Think of LinkedIn as social media with a professional twist. With 310 million monthly users, it’s the only platform with clearly defined users: working professionals looking to grow their network. LinkedIn’s audience ranges from baby boomers (users born in 1946 – 1964), Gen X, and millennials. It’s ideal for business-to-business relationships, business development, and social selling.
As with all social media platforms, shared content on LinkedIn should match the audience. Valuable pieces like educational blog posts, eBooks, and how-to guides are excellent choices for your account. And don’t forget about one of LinkedIn’s biggest user groups: job seekers. Sharing your company’s open roles attracts those looking for a new opportunity. Even if they don’t end up applying, your intriguing content will hopefully turn them into a follower.
LinkedIn was founded in 2002 by Reid Hoffman, Jean-Luc Vaillant, Konstantin Guericke, Eric Ly, and Allen Blue.
YouTube is an often underutilized marketing platform. Founded in 2005 by Jawed Karim, Chad Hurley, and Steve Chen, it’s ideal for building brand awareness by posting your company’s long-form entertainment or how-to videos.
Its audience is primarily millennials, but with 2.2 billion monthly users, it has a wide audience across gender and age groups. Not only is it an incredibly popular platform, but its users also tend to stay on it longer because it features primarily long-form content. This makes YouTube the perfect platform for sharing educational content. Marketers can present content uniquely so viewers consume and share it quickly and easily.
Last but not least, Snapchat. When it was launched in 2011 by Evan Spiegel, Bobby Murphy, and Reggie Brown, it introduced shareable photos and videos that would expire after 24 hours. Its audience is primarily Gen Z (users born between 1997 and 2012), and the platform is great for building brand awareness through advertising.
One thing to note about Snapchat is that there isn't much competition in terms of social media marketing. While it has gained popularity among brands, it’s not nearly as congested as the major platforms like Facebook and Twitter.
You may think mastering social media is easy – think again.
Creating a winning strategy doesn’t happen overnight. It takes a ton of planning, calculating, and finding new ways to connect and resonate with your customers. Remember, what works on one platform may not bring success on another, so get ready to pivot as fast as your audience needs.
Stop missing brand mentions! Find the best hashtag monitoring software to find out how users are engaging with your brand's social media posts.
This article was originally published in 2022. It has been updated with new information.
Mara Calvello is a Content Marketing Manager at G2. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from Elmhurst College (now Elmhurst University). Mara's expertise lies within writing for HR, Design, SaaS Management, Social Media, and Technology categories. In her spare time, Mara is either at the gym, exploring the great outdoors with her rescue dog Zeke, enjoying Italian food, or right in the middle of a Harry Potter binge.
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