You probably don’t require any more persuading that social media is one of the most potent marketing channels on the planet. Every year, millions of people sign up to use platforms, like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn, providing businesses like yours with massive opportunities.
Here are some statistics that show why social media marketing is so important:
- Social media use among US adults has grown from 5 percent in 2005 to 79 percent in 2019
- Facebook served 1.5 percent of the world population in 2005; today it serves 30 percent
- More than 89.1 percent of young people engage with social media in developed countries
- Over 65 percent of women and 75 percent of men in the US use YouTube
Platforms like Instagram and YouTube are taking over the world. Billions of people already use these services daily, and billions more will follow as developing countries hook up their populations to the web.
Today around half of the world’s 7.7 billion population has access to the internet. That figure will rise by two or three billion over the next ten years. Social media, therefore, has a long way to run.
If you’re not using social media to market your business already, you are missing out. People love social media, even when they don’t realize that they are using it.
More than 50 percent of people check Facebook more than once per day, with nearly 80 percent of users interacting with the platform daily. The numbers are even higher for Whatsapp, the world’s second most popular messaging app.
YouTube has stunningly high daily activity rates, as does Instagram, with more than 30 percent of users logging on to consume content multiple times per day.
As a marketer, you should take note. Social media is compelling. People check their accounts repeatedly.
For businesses like yours, social media offers a near-perfect platform on which to sell. Universal uptake, combined with the addictive nature of the services, provides companies with a robust advertising resource. Thus, with the right approach to social media marketing, you could multiply the profitability of your business.
The purpose of this tutorial is to prepare you to create a powerful social media marketing campaign of your own. You’ll learn how to take advantage of the tools available to you.
By the end of this guide, you will have a complete idea of what social media marketing is, how to get started, and how to check that your campaign is performing as you hope. We will cover a range of topics, social media platforms, and definitions.
But first, what is social media marketing?
What Is Social Media Marketing?
If you go hunting around the internet for social media marketing definitions, you’ll come across gems like:
Social media marketing is a tool for gaining brand awareness and website traffic using social media.
If there was ever a statement of the obvious, that was it.
It turns out, however, that social media marketing is much more nuanced than many commentators on the subject give it credit. I prefer the following definition:
Notice the difference here. Not only do I point out that social media should be tailored to each member of the audience, but I also say that it must drive engagement and sharing – two critical pillars of constructing a brand.
Take another look at the definition. Notice that it says nothing about sales, nor anything about return on investment. It leaves the door open for advertisers themselves to fill in the blanks, based on their goals.
Talking explicitly about multiple platforms is also deliberate. All platforms require a slightly different strategy. A social media marketing campaign designed for Facebook will not translate well to Whatsapp.
The most crucial aspect of any social media marketing campaign is how compelling it is. You need to create content that people want to consume and share.
Fortunately, social media platforms are very helpful in this regard, providing advertisers with all the information that they need to construct appealing niche marketing strategies.
Remember, every business on social media wants their content to go viral. Predicting what will and what won’t, however, isn’t possible, no matter what guru “X” might say. Your best bet is to adopt proven methods and then view any viral effects as a bonus.
Social media marketing is chock full of terms that you might not have come across before. Here are some helpful definitions you can use to decipher the gobbledygook you might encounter online.
Content is a generic word that refers to whatever you post on or upload to social media. Content on LinkedIn, for instance, might be an article you wrote. On Instagram, it could be images of your products.
Context is the idea that where you place your content is just as relevant as the subject matter itself, if not more so. For instance, suppose you bury a bunch of product images in a lengthy blog post on your website. The chances are that only a few dozen people will see it.
If, however, you post that same picture on Instagram, then you will get more likes and shares.
The same is true if you want to tell a joke. Put it in a post on your Facebook page, and your audience might miss it. Dump it in a Tweet, and everyone can see the punch line immediately.
Hashtags are something that social media platforms use to filter content. People on social media will often put hashtags at the beginning or end of their uploads: short snippets and single words preceded by the “#” symbol.
Marketers use hashtags all the time to help people find their content. If you sell clothing, for instance, and you upload images on Instagram, you might include hashtags like #dress, #black, #women’s clothes.
Remember, the better your hashtags, the more likely people are to share your posts.
Speak of the devil.
Sharing on social media is when a user takes some content and sends it to another person on the network.
Sharing is the primary currency on social media. Without it, you must pay for every impression, which gets very expensive after a while.
Sharing is also vital for creating “social proof” – the idea that people are much more likely to listen to the recommendations of their peers than they are regular company marketing. In general, the more shares you can encourage, the more potent your advertising campaign will be.
Engagement is a broad measure of the number of people interacting with your content online.
Typically, businesses use standard metrics to measure the level of engagement that they receive. Recommendations, likes, comments, and shares are all indications of the success of a post.
How to Get Started with Social Media Marketing
Embarking on a social media marketing campaign is an enormous endeavor.
First, you must define your audience: the people you intend to target.
Then you must create compelling advertising that will appeal to the people you want to target more than your competitors.
After that, you must choose from hundreds of possible social media platforms and decide which you’re going to target. As you might imagine, it can all get very complicated, very quickly.
What follows is a step-by-step guide designed to introduce you to the world of social media market gently.
You should note that you don’t need to know everything from the outset. Even a cursory understanding of the landscape will allow you to begin creating effective advertisements and reaching your customers.
Step 1: Determine What You Want to Achieve
The first step in any social media marketing campaign is understanding what you want to achieve.
Not all businesses, for instance, want to generate direct sales. Some merely wish to inform customers of upcoming products or make them aware that they exist.
Your social media marketing goals should chime with the broad objectives of the firm. The better you understand them, the more targeted your approach will be.
Step 2: Marshal Your Resources
Creating a social media marketing campaign requires you to marshal your resources. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Who will create the content for your social media marketing campaign?
- Who will administer the content and manage the platforms that you target?
- How will you respond to user feedback on your posts?
- Do you require public relationship management services to reduce the risk of negative publicity?
- Will your social media marketing be a form of customer service or just advertising?
The answers you give to these questions determine the resources that you’ll need to assemble before you begin your social media marketing effort. You can either provide for these services in-house or outsource them to a third party. Third-party agencies, for instance, can create content, manage your social media campaigns using the tools provided, and help you manage your PR.
Step 3: Create Customer Personas
Learning about your audience is critical in any marketing endeavor, but on social media, you have much more information at your disposal, allowing you to create hyper-targeted advertisements.
First, find out which customer characteristics you can collect on the social media platforms you wish to target. Then describe your target customer in terms of those factors. Remember, on social media, you don’t have to restrict yourself to age, gender, and income. You can factor in a host of additional personal characteristics, from a customer’s political persuasion to their favorite places to visit on holiday.
The more you understand your audience, the more you can craft social media advertising that they will love.
Step 4: Pick A Platform
There are hundreds of social media platforms running the gamut from the mighty Twitter to micro players, like Fab, that cater to specific niches or industries.
If you’re just starting on social media, don’t feel the need to target every platform. Instead, pick a couple of popular ones that serve a broad audience and learn those – at least to start.
Most businesses begin with Facebook. It is the largest social network in the world and provides access to practically every demographic. In short, if you have customers, they’re almost certainly on the platform.
Some businesses in the retail, hospitality, and travel industries might find Instagram a better outlet for their first foray into the social media marketing space. Instagram eschews text in favor of bright, beautiful images.
Similarly, B2B enterprises and companies in the recruitment industry might find LinkedIn the best place to advertise. Thus, it all depends very much on the nature of your company.
If in doubt, stick with Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
Step 5: Start Generating Content
Once you know what you want to achieve, what resources you need, and your customers’ characteristics, it’s time to start generating content.
The type of content that you create will be intimately related to the platforms you choose to use. LinkedIn favors technical articles, while Instagram users want beautiful images.
When creating content, your focus should be on the kind of content that your audience wants to consume. Traditional direct advertising should take a back seat.
The best content is that which helps you to open conversations with your audience. On social media, the aim is not to spam your customers with advertising materials until they eventually submit and buy from you. Instead, it’s to foster productive relationships that you can carry forward profitably into the future.
Many firms, therefore, seek to create “authority” content. The idea here is to make content that creates the perception that you are an expert in your field, and you understand what you are talking about. You build confidence, which then inspires audiences to purchase your products.
Another approach is to create entertaining content. Social media users don’t want dry advertising material that doesn’t add value to their lives. They want content that makes them laugh, smile, or evokes some other kind of emotion.
For instance, you might want to post jokes to Twitter, if you think that your audience has a specific sense of humor. Alternatively, you could use Facebook video snippets to show entertaining ways in which people use your products. Whatever you ultimately produce, make sure that it is compelling.
Step 6: Integrate Marketing Efforts
Social media marketing isn’t a standalone endeavor. It is something that you should integrate with the rest of your marketing efforts.
Here are some examples of how you might do this:
- Create social media channels that enable customers to contact customer service reps or request callbacks
- Provide social media handles (hyperlinked icons) on all your blog posts on your website
- Couple social media content creation with your search engine optimization strategy
- Target journalists and other critical influencers with your social media posts
- Integrate traditional poster and billboard advertising with hashtags from your social media campaigns
- Share social media content between sites like Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook
- Repurpose content from your website for social media audiences
- Display your social media information at events, exhibitions and trade shows
Step 7: Focus on Generating Quality Content
A lot of executives go into the social media marketing space, imagining that it will be a little bit like SEO. The answer, they see it, is to spam as much content as possible to gain some traction in the community.
Social media users, however, are not the same as Google ranking bots. Unlike bots, they care about the quality of the content that you provide. Users don’t like investing their precious time in dull or unhelpful commercial messages.
Focus, if possible, on creating high-quality content, not the volume of material. Most companies just starting like to post original content once per week, so they don’t saturate their audiences. Ideally, you want to create a situation in which your customers look forward to getting the next update from you. If you post too often, you could create fatigue, leading your customers to filter out your content.
Remember, the goal isn’t merely to have millions of followers. For most businesses, it is better to have 1,000 highly engaged followers than a million people who really couldn’t care less. The more engaged people are with what you’re doing, the more they will share your content with friends.
Step 8: Learn from Your Audience
When it comes to creating an effective social media marketing campaign, your audience is your greatest resource. Their actions will provide you with feedback that you can use to make your content better in the future.
Learning to give up control is vital. Audiences should lead your efforts, not the other way around. The more that you can let your followers dictate the conversation on social media platforms, the more emotionally attached they will become to your brand.
Companies that stop learning on social media often find that their campaigns begin to flag. Always listening to your audience and acknowledging their needs is a crucial component of generating loyalty in a highly competitive marketplace.
How to Measure Performance
Measuring the performance of your social media marketing campaign is so important, it pays to go into it into more detail about it.
In this section, you’ll find out the following:
- How to measure the effectiveness of your social media campaigns
- Which metrics to monitor
- How to calculate various metrics
- How to interpret those metrics once you’ve figured them out
Social media marketing campaign metrics generally fall into one of two camps.
There are “ongoing analytics,” which measure the success of your marketing campaign over time. And there are campaign-exclusive metrics, that chronicle the effectiveness of a specific marketing push.
Effective social media marketing campaigns usually make use of both. You want to track the performance of your marketing drive, but you also want to check the day-to-day ups and downs to see whether different interventions improve performance.
Let’s say that you are a company that sells sunglasses. How would you go about measuring performance?
Step 1: Link Your Metrics to Your Campaign Goals
Remember, in the previous section, how we discussed the importance of choosing your campaign goals? Well, therefore. You need to be clear on the goals that you have for your social media advertising so you can judge if it is successful.
The metrics you choose depend heavily on your initial goals. Some brands care about engagement, while others want to drive traffic. Many want a combination of objectives.
If you are feeling a little confused, that’s okay. Here is a list of common objectives that your company might have along with the corresponding metrics:
- Awareness. Use metrics such as exposure, reach, volume, and amplification (how many people share your content per person who receives it).
- Engagement. Engagement attempts to measure how excited people are about your posts. You want to track things like the number of replies, retweets, comments, and participants. You can also use dynamic measures, such as the frequency of user participation or the length of their engagement with your branding materials.
- Driving traffic. Many companies use social media as a tool to drive traffic to their websites. If you share URLs, for instance, you’ll want to keep count of the number of people who click through to your website or product pages.
- Generating advocates. Companies love creating fans: brand ambassadors who use social media to talk about the virtues of a product with their friends. You can do things like track contributors and influencers and see how often they share your posts.
- Market share. You might be using social media to increase market share relative to your competitors. If so, then track a set of metrics, like volume and comments, and compare them to your rivals. You may also want to follow the overall candor of those interactions. Perhaps how customers engage with your brand is more favorable than how they interact with your competitor’s outreach.
Step 2: Use Tools That Enable You to Measure
Once you know the metrics that you would like to track, the next step is to find tools that allow you to measure them. Collecting data manually is time-consuming, unreliable, and unnecessary.
Most social media channels want to make life as easy as possible for advertisers. The majority, therefore, provide what they call “analytics” – tools that you can use to collect data on your campaigns automatically.
Not sure which tool to use? No problem! If you’re stuck, just hop onto Google and search for analytics tools related to the platform that you want to use. You’ll usually find a combination of on-platform and third-party products that will provide you with all the data streams that you need.
In almost all cases, it is much better to set up analytical tools before you begin your social media marketing campaign. Going back and evaluating archived content can be time-consuming, complicated, and technically challenging.
Setting up practical measuring tools can take time. Social media platforms are prone to spam, often by bots. After you launch your advertising, take some time to weed out anything that looks like spam. You want to make sure that the data you collect is reliable before you move on to analyzing it.
Step 3: Create Data Reports
Reporting data you collect is the most crucial part of the measurement process. The goal should be to find out whether your campaign is effective, both against internal benchmarks and compared to your competitors.
Decide on the frequency of reports.
First, decide on how frequently you would like to receive reports. If you operate a high-volume business, then you might want to collect statistics weekly. If, however, you only sell to a handful of customers every day, then quarterly reporting might be the better option to smooth out random, short-term fluctuations.
Your reporting schedule should also reflect your ability to collect data and take it on board. Weekly reports are not much use if you don’t have time in your itinerary to act on them.
Snoop on Your Competitor’s Performance
Social media platforms and third-party providers offer tools that enable you to snoop on your competitors, just like you can for SEO purposes. You can set up these analytical tools to analyze the performance of your rivals and see how your campaign stacks up. Ideally, you would like your return on investment to be higher than your competitors, putting you at a competitive advantage.
Visualize the Data
A string of numbers isn’t much use to anyone. You can eyeball it all day long, but you probably won’t gain much insight.
Smart social media marketers, therefore, use visualization tools that allow them to see how their campaign performs over time. Graphs and charts can help a lot and provide you with the ability to identify step-changes.
Going back to the sunglasses example, let’s say that you post on Facebook about the importance of wearing sunglasses to protect the eyes. You could generate 10,000 views, 100 comments, and 1,000 shares. Let’s say the next week; you put out a different post on how your sunglasses don’t get damaged. This time around, you generate 100,000 views, 5,000 comments, and 40,000 shares.
Here you can see that the second post is not only reaching more people (great for brand awareness) but also generating better engagement. Individually, people are more likely to share and discuss the post.
Step 4: Review and Repeat
The final step in the measurement process is to review how you measure your performance carefully.
Often, marketers discover that they are not capturing all the relevant critical metrics until several weeks into their campaigns. Sometimes, they find out that some of the measures they are using the overlap and don’t provide independent insight of their own.
You might find, for instance, that a high proportion of your sales conversions come through retweets on Twitter – far more than you get through your regular Twitter posts. Thus, it could be that retweets are the key metric to track, not overall impressions or volume.
Notice here that the choice of metric also affects the type of advertising you conduct. If retweets are the goal (because that’s what leads to conversions), then your focus becomes on making your content as shareable as possible, something that could lead you to make changes to the content itself.
If you decide to include new metrics, you can go through the same process we outlined in the steps above, tracking them week-to-week and month-to-month. You can also remove statistics that don’t complement your goals or fail to add value, streamlining your analysis.
A Note on Different Platforms
Different platforms offer different types of services, outreach options, and audiences. Here’s a quickfire summary of what you need to know about the big players.
With 2.4 billion users and growing, Facebook is the world’s largest social media platform.
Facebook uses Business Manager, a tool that allows business users to manage their advertising campaigns. It offers options for targeting specific customers, choosing devices you advertise on, and reaching people in your local area.
Instagram is now home to more than a billion active users, making it one of the biggest social networks in the world.
Instagram is famous for influencer marketing. Most companies focus on creating compelling images related to their business and then amplifying their reach using a relevant influencer.
Instagram Stories are another powerful tool that enables you to connect with customers. The feature lets you create coherent sets of images that form a narrative.
YouTube is also in the social media billionaire club, with more than one billion monthly users.
Businesses use YouTube for explainer videos, to provide information about topics that interest their customers, and to generate authority.
Hopefully, you can now see that social media marketing is a little bit like a scientific experiment. You create a campaign using data and then measure and test its performance using metrics you collect using digital tools. By taking the approach we’ve discussed here, you can multiply your returns on investment.