There are few methods of online advertising which are as frequently lauded as social media marketing, or SSM. There are also few that are less understood by the layperson, who frequently can’t picture what a “social media expert” might be doing.
The truth is that every social media platform around can be taken advantage of in order to drive people to your business. With a wise choice of platform, it can be one of the most essential pieces of your revenue stream although if you choose poorly you can waste a lot of money and time.
Let’s hop right into the mess and help you make sense of it, things are a lot easier than they appear at first glance.
Defining Social Media Marketing
While the first thing that comes to most people’s minds when they think of SMM is inevitably going to be paid ads on platforms like Facebook it can be a little bit more complicated than that.
Social media marketing is integrating your business with specially made content in order to spread organically through social media and find more customers. It can also include listening across platforms to users and customers.
This means interacting with customers, designating types of content for different platforms, and increasing engagement with your brand across the spectrum.
Most people don’t need to be on every social media site, but knowing which ones to use for your business is essential for forming a complete strategy to tackle this useful but difficult subject.
Platforms for SSM
There are a ton of social media platforms available, and suiting them to your own business is one of the best ways to get started.
A word of caution, however: launching across all platforms often isn’t feasible without specialized software and it may not even be beneficial in all cases depending on what you’re selling. Instead it’s best to start with one to three platforms to get going and then expand onto others if you think that they may be suitable for your business’ style and products.
Almost any business is going to benefit from Facebook engagement, provided that they use savvy copy and the methods which are best suited for what they’re doing.
There are a few different methods available on Facebook which you can use. The platform itself is varied and flexible enough to allow for both organic engagement with potential customers, as well as professional, paid advertisements.
The following are both viable ways to draw customers on Facebook:
- Paid Advertisements-Paid advertisements are pretty much ubiquitous on Facebook, as most of us have noticed while scrolling down our feeds. They can also be amazingly well targeted, which increases both the chance of someone clicking and the chances of conversion.
- Pages-Pages are great for both branding and directly engaging your customers. Depending on your branding they can either be entertaining or informative, but regular updates with key information about the product are usually the key to being successful. Paired with paid ads to form an initial user base you can actually snag a lot of people who become future customers by promoting your page.
Facebook is useful both for raising brand awareness with its enormous user base(2.2 billion users at the end of 2017) and for actually selling your products. It should be a part of almost any social media strategy, at least as of 2018, largely due to the ability to laser focus ads and the fact that it’s simply bigger than any other platform available.
Twitter’s 140 character limit has some advantages and disadvantages when it comes to getting engagement going. If you can consistently make contact with customers in an amusing way it can promote engagement.
Wendy’s Twitter account is a perfect example of this.
Others take a more straightforward and professional approach, just announcing new content added to their page on to it.
The real value of Twitter is in monitoring what people think of your brand.
Twitter can be your ears in a serious way, especially with the frequency of hashtags and the tendency of some users to easily praise or complain about whatever is on their mind.
Twitter probably should be used by most businesses, although local businesses might not have as much use for it.
Instagram is, of course, primarily designed to share pictures. It can be used in a number of ways, especially if you have a product or service which lends itself well to a visual format.
Others simply use it to gather followers and post pictures of their booths at conventions or wherever else they might show up.
Instagram is also one of the best places to pick up “influencers” for products which lend themselves to that sort of thing. In that case, you’d find someone with a large number of followers in order to promote your product.
For local businesses a key strategy is using Instagram to issue promotional codes so that you can see just how many customers you’re picking up from social media. You can use other platforms for this as well of course.
Instagram can also be almost perfectly synced with Facebook, expanding its use.
Just like Twitter, it’s also a good place to listen.
While YouTube might not be the first thing which comes to mind for most people as social media, since a lot of us don’t engage regularly with it, it can be a great place to build followers and to develop a brand.
There’s another benefit to YouTube: it’s the second largest search engine on the internet and people often search for remarkably specific videos when they’re using it.
All of this adds up to something which can end up being a cornerstone of your marketing, but it’s generally more time consuming to put together videos for YouTube on a regular basis than any other form of social media engagement.
LinkedIn is the golden key when you’re working with B2B products and services. While the user base isn’t nearly as large as most of the platforms out there, you’re able to directly connect to other businesses and those in the position to make big purchasing decisions.
The platform also allows for paid ads, but again your best bet is to only bother for business to business products and services.
There are a ton of social media sites out there, and each can have its own use depending on what you’re trying to accomplish.
If you think your business lends itself well to a certain medium, live video for instance, then you’ll want to keep an eye on what’s happening there.
Some uses are pretty obvious: Medium, for instance, is a great place to build personal branding for a single person venture, while Quora can be used to show your expertise in a subject as well as post some relevant links to drive traffic to your own page.
Creative uses abound for pretty much any platform, however, and making the most of them with unique strategies has gotten more than one person ahead of the curve.
Your Key: A Comprehensive Strategy
Like any form of advertising, your best approach is going to be to map out a strategy before you even begin to enact it. Then stick to it, making only the tweaks you need in order to ensure things are as effective as possible.
Social media is only going to be as effective as your planning when it comes down to the brass tacks.
Staying Goal Oriented
You’ll want to have some definite goals for your social media marketing. A certain amount of engagements, higher sales, or anything which is quantifiable.
This is an area where people often fall short, preferring to rely on nebulous, qualitative goals such as “raising brand awareness” without having an actual goal tied to numbers and data behind it.
While SMM is a bit less number-driven than most other forms of marketing, but you still need to have hard goals to make sure you’re making progress and not just spinning your wheels.
Assess Your Current Social Media
If you already have some of your social media in place, then you’re going to want to take a look at things and see how you’re using it already.
There are plenty of people out there who have Facebook pages for their businesses which are nearly dead, with infrequent updates, or Twitter accounts which only get used weekly.
Take a look and see how things are being used, how many followers you have, and that sort of thing. Take averages of your numbers.
You want as much data as possible on what your current engagement is and how many sales you’re getting through your advertisements.
Get a Focus on Your Target Audience
If you’re already marketing, you should have a tight hold on who you’re selling to in order to proceed. It’s one of the core principles of marketing in general, and since the audiences differ so much on different social media platforms it’s going to determine how you proceed in a big way.
Your profile should include at least the following:
- General age range
- Income range
- A list of probably hobbies
You may have a wider appeal than you know, but figuring out who is buying your product is the key.
We’ll cover what to do if it turns out your product or service has a hidden appeal in just a moment.
Decide on Your Platforms
Facebook and Twitter are pretty much a given.
The rest will depend largely on your style of business and the manpower behind them, a small business with a social media manager will have more time to work than a single person operation offering web design, for instance, but both will have much less time than a large corporation with a group of full-time hires for their SMM.
You should have a decided goal for each platform. If you can’t think of a purpose for an account… then chances are you don’t really need it.
For example, a freelance writer might go with the following:
- Facebook: Well targeted, paid advertisements for webmasters and a page to share articles on different types of content writing to show their expertise.
- Twitter: For directly contacting businesses to inquire about work and for brief releases of new articles on their main webpage.
- Medium: Diverse articles on different topics and with different tones to serve as both a secondary portfolio and to show a range of tones and different types of content.
- Quora: Showing off various bits of knowledge, and possibly linking back to their page if they have a relevant article.
Pretty simple, and not too much work for a single dedicated person after all.
The more manpower, the more easy it is to feasibly run on multiple platforms.
Schedule and Release
Once you have your platforms picked and some solid goals behind them, it’s time to make yourself a content schedule.
Then you’ll need to stick to it, otherwise your plan isn’t going to do anything.
Scheduling should fit into what you can feasibly accomplish, and you may wish to wait until you have a few weeks to a month of content prepared before you begin releasing it in case something comes up.
Analyze Results, Assess Goals, Tweak Plan
Now you’re going to want to take a look at the results you’ve gained. Did you hit your goals? Overshoot them? Break even?
What was your ROI for paid advertisements?
Did you find an unexpected customer base?
All of these questions should be able to be answered in a relatively short amount of time. From there you can change your plan to suit the new data.
Make this a regular part of your week, even a couple of hours looking at the information can make a big difference in your approach, and don’t be afraid to change things up as you go.
You may want to shift slowly however if you’re facing radical differences in the data. All marketing plans take a little bit of time to work and it’s imperative that you give things time to cook before you decide to turn up the heat.
Social media marketing can be as complicated or simple as you want to make it, but it’s becoming more and more vital of a strategy as time goes on. Without it, you may end up hopelessly lost in the modern, digital world.
Remember that many people access the internet through mobile devices now and most of the top-performing apps are social-media oriented. Almost any business will benefit from a good approach to social media, and there have been cases of modern start-ups absolutely thriving through their creative usage.
Whether it’s formal information or incredible engagement with customers, the question is can you afford to not get involved with this style of marketing?