Introduction to Social Media Marketing
Not even sure what social media marketing is? In a nutshell, it’s a type of digital marketing that relies on you creating and then sharing content on social networks. The point of social media marketing is to reach your target market with your message by utilizing the strengths and audiences of each platform. This is accomplished by posting text, images and videos to answering customer questions and engaging with your community. You can also setup paid advertising if you think that would be useful.
There are endless ways to use the power of social media marketing to promote and improve your business. In this guide, we’ll introduce you to the basics and give you some strategies to start out with. Ultimately, your social media marketing strategy that will work best will need to be updated, and tweaked along the way.
In this post will tackle: how to create a social media marketing strategy, how to plan content, what it’s like to work with competitors, tips for specific social media marketing platforms, and how to track your performance so you continue to improve.
Planning Your Social Media Marketing Strategy
You can’t start marketing on social media without a plan. If you try to, your posts won’t be cohesive and you could end up turning potential customers away before you’ve even had a chance to win them over. Your first step is to outline your business goals, if you haven’t done that already. Your goals will guide you when developing a social media marketing strategy.
If you need help defining your business goals, start by answering these questions:
- What do you want to achieve via social media marketing? What message do you want to send your audience and what actions do you want them to take?
- Who is your primary audience that you need to target? What is their age, gender, and location, and what are their interests?
- What social media marketing platforms is that audience spending time on? How are they using those platforms?
- What type of content do you have and where will it be best shared? For example, images do well on Instagram and Pinterest and videos do well on Facebook.
As you answer these questions, more will come to mind to further define social media marketing goals. Keep in mind these goals are likely to change as your social media marketing improves, so plan to revisit these questions regularly.
Common Marketing Goals
There are so many goals that social media marketing can help with. You may want to start with one or two of the goals listed below and then work towards others down the road.
- Communicate and interact with your audience. Consumers today like to contact brands in a variety of ways, from email, phone and social media. If you don’t have a presence on social media, you’re missing out on opportunities to talk with your audience, solve problems and improve sales.
- Create a brand identity. If you’re currently developing your brand identity and voice, social media marketing is a great way to experiment with new ideas. You can gauge how your audience reacts to your brand and decide what is working well and how to improve.
- Improve brand awareness. If your a new business you need to get your name out there, and social media marketing is an excellent and free way to do just that.
- Increase conversions, meaning the number of people who move from spectators to actual customers.
- Increase your website traffic. One of the best ways to do this is by posting irresistible content to social media that people will want to click over to your website to experience.
As your social media audience grows, you’ll be able to make even more of an impact on these marketing goals. To start with, choose the goal that will solve your biggest hurdle and move on from there.
Conducting Audience Research
Conducting audience research is very closely related to choosing the right social media platform for your business. You need to have the right content for the chosen platform – otherwise, even if your audience has a huge presence there, you’re not going to reach them in any meaningful way.
Once you’ve chosen the most valuable social media marketing platforms, figure out who is using them. Then determine how that audience crosses over with your target audience. Here are a few guidelines to get you started:
- On Facebook, females between the ages of 18 and 29 are the most common users, and generally earn less than $30,000 per year.
- Instagram has the same gender, age and earnings demographics as Facebook, but appeals to more urban locations.
- Twitter users earn a bit more than Facebook – between $50,000 and $75,000.
- LinkedIn appeals mostly to men between the ages of 18 and 29, located in urban areas and earning over $75,000 per year.
Before you can effectively use social media marketing, you need a good idea of the specific audiences you want to reach. With a social media dashboard, you can track which users of different platforms are following and interacting with your brand. Even if you have a relatively good idea of your target audience, this will help you further define it.
Tracking the Right Metrics
The number of likes or follows your social media profile has will not tell you enough about how well your accounts are performing. You have to pay attention to more in-depth metrics like clicks, engagement, hashtag performance and reach, to name a few. Here we’ll break down each one to give you a better idea of what they’ll tell you.
Click rate refers to how many people are clicking to your content. When you post a link to a blog post, the click rate will tell you how many people are actually clicking that link. Some of these metrics you can track on your website or blog, but you may want to look at analytics to get a well-rounded view. By tracking clicks, you can figure out if your posts are working and determine the content that is interesting to your audience. This will also help you weed out content that isn’t performing well.
Engagement is the number of social interactions divided by the number of impressions, which tells you how much of your audience is actually engaged in your content. A large audience isn’t worth much if they’re not willing to interact with your brand. If you would like more in depth info here is a beginners guide to analytics.
Certain platforms fare better with hashtags than others. Hashtags are frequently used on Instagram and Twitter, but aren’t nearly as effective on Pinterest. For the platforms that hashtags do play a big role on it’s important to track performance. The performance metrics will tell you which hashtags are working for you. Which ones are users posting because they relate them to your brand? It’s possible that your audience has created a branded hashtag for you. You’ll also want to determine which hashtags are resulting in the most engagement.
Tracking likes is still important, and you have to look at both organic and paid. Each platform has its own characteristics, too. For example, it can be very difficult to get organic likes on Facebook, which is why a lot of people opt to advertise. On Instagram, organic likes are a lot easier to achieve, so you don’t necessarily have to pay for advertising. Tracking your likes and your likes growth will help you determine where you should advertise and where you should focus more organic strategies.
Reach refers to how many unique users view your posts. This will tell you how far your content is spreading and whether or not it’s actually being seen by your audience.
Sentiment measures how your audience is reacting to your brand, content and hashtags. It’ll tell you if people found your most recent social media campaign offensive or enjoyable. It’ll show how people are regarding your hashtags. Ultimately, it digs deep to find out exactly how people think and feel about what you’re doing on social media.
Overall, these engagement metrics will give you a larger picture of how you’re performing and guide you when it comes to making changes to our post strategy.
Checking Out the Competition
Before you launch into your own social media strategy, check out what your competitors are doing. This has two goals: first, you’ll get an idea for how people in your industry are connecting to their customers. Second, you’ll uncover where they’re going wrong and you can then use that insight to guide your own content. After seeing what your competitors are doing, you may have an entirely new take on the type of content you should create, so it’s a good idea to do this early in the planning stages.
When seeing the content your competition is posting, both on social media and on their blog, along with any other channels they’re using, pay close attention to the user comments. You’ll find the questions people are asking that your competitors aren’t answering. You can then address those issues in your own content, thus closing a gap that your competitors may not even know exists.
One key here is to look at smaller businesses. If you focus on big companies, like Amazon, you’re not going to gain a lot of insight – those types of companies have huge teams of people who are dedicated to customer insight. Instead, look for competitors at your own level and in your niche industry. Look for brands that are doing well, and then work to uncover how they’re handling their social media and what they’re not yet doing.
Setting Up a Profile on the Right Platforms
Knowing the differences between popular social media platforms is important. Here, we’ll break down a few for you to help you choose the right ones for your brand and goals.
The general mood of Facebook is casual and friendly. Audiences also expect brands to have a presence here, so if you don’t have a business page, people may assume you don’t exist at all. Facebook is sort of like the Google of the social media world. The main thing to know about Facebook is that its algorithm makes it incredibly hard to get noticed organically. In order to make the most of Facebook, you may need to advertise there.
Facebook is casual and friendly, just like Facebook, but the interface is much simpler and it relies on high quality visual content. This is a great place to go if you have photos and videos, and between the regular feed and the new Stories feature, there are all types of ways to post and connect with a variety of interest- and location-based audiences. While you can advertise on Instagram (you can setup ads through the Facebook ad platform), you should be able to make a good impact organically.
LinkedIn is ideally for professionals, but a lot of brands can find a way to connect with potential customers here simply by tweaking their voice to be more professional and less casual. By joining LinkedIn Groups, you can connect with other professionals in your field, which can lead to ideas or leads. This is also a great platform for posting job opportunities and networking with employees or other professionals. Recommendations can make your profile more powerful, so ask your best clients and customers to recommend you on LinkedIn.
Also image-centric like Instagram, Pinterest is ideal for retail businesses. You can showcase your products, present lifestyle photos and link every image back to your website. Since Pinterest’s demographic is mainly female, keep this in mind when developing your strategy. Some retailers can also take advantage of shoppable Pins, which makes it even easier for customers to make a purchase.
Twitter is a great place to broadcast short-form content and to link to longer content on your website or blog. This is a huge place to go for news, but there’s also a big presence of funny and informative content here. You want to post everything from brand and product information to more fun content. Since there’s a character limit on Twitter, you’ll want to make sure you can effectively convey your message in a small space, and you’ll want to include a link and a couple of hashtags to your posts as well. You can also add an image, which may catch the eye of your audience members.
YouTube is obviously the platform for video content, and you can maximize your reach with clever SEO strategies. The key to creating video content for YouTube is to not hope your content will go viral, which is incredibly difficult to do and impossible to plan for, but instead to create useful content that your audience will love. How-to videos are particularly effective, and they’ll also improve your Google search results.
Google My Business
Google My Business has evolved to become a type of social media platform. It can be used to post pictures and some comments. The best part about Google My Business is the reviews. Ask your customers for reviews. The more quality reviews you have the higher your GMB page will rank. Here is a simple tutorial on how to set up Google My Business. As a bonus here is a hack to get 5 star Google Reviews – don’t worry it is not sneaky.
Choosing the Best Types of Content
Now that you’re ready to plan your social media content, decide which issues you’re going to address and the mediums you’re going to use. You want to offer relevant, valuable information that your audience will trust and find useful. You can then share that content in a number of ways, including text-only blog posts that you link to from your social media accounts; long-form how-to guides (that you post on LinkedIn, for example); and visuals, including photos, infographics, slideshows and videos.
Consider video content, even if your brand doesn’t immediately lend itself to video curation. Videos are hugely popular right now, and there’s usually some way to package your content into a video. Product videos can help people make a more informed purchase decision. Live videos, which you can post on Instagram or Facebook, give people a behind-the-scenes experience they love.
Remember, you don’t have to constantly create brand new content just for your social media platforms. If you have a blog, all of your social media content can be a spin-off of your blog content. It can either stand alone as a social media post or link back to the original blog post (whichever is best for your current goals). You can also repurpose used content into new mediums. For example, turn a YouTube video into a shorter video for Instagram Stories, or take a LinkedIn article and turn it into an infographic for Pinterest.
Sharing Curated Content
Here’s the great news about social media marketing – you can curate content sometimes, which alleviates the pressure of having to always be creating your own content. Curated content isn’t taking the easy way out and it’s also not about promoting your competitors. It’s about sharing content that’s relevant to your audience, no matter where it comes from. If you have an idea for a blog post but another brand did it better, why not share their content and create something different from what’s already been done well?
There’s an even bigger perk here, too. By curating content, you may catch the eye of influencers in your field. They may want to chat, partner up on a project or share your own content. At the same time, your audience will view you as a one-stop-shop for all relevant information on a certain topic. Overall, everyone wins.
Creating a Dependable Brand Image
Social media allows you to showcase your brand image and voice in a variety of ways. To do this, though, your image should be consistent – it should be something that your audience recognizes and can rely on. With so much content going up across all your social media platforms, it’s important that you’re always thinking about the aesthetic and voice you’re presenting, and that it’s in line with your branding and your goals. The platforms you use are different and they’ll have some influence over what and when you post, but overall, your brand identity should be consistent no matter where you are. If it helps, develop content themes for each platform – this will help you to continually create cohesive posts.
One Last Thought
Today, it’s no longer acceptable to simply be present on social media – everyone else is, too! In order to compete and to get noticed by your audience, you have to be strategic when it comes to your social media marketing strategy. Having a plan and general understanding in place is an excellent start, and you’ll be able to build on it as you experiment and learn even more.