Social media has become a powerful tool for digital marketers. Both large and small brands use it to drive all parts of their business, including sales, marketing, customer service and online sales.
Marketing departments everywhere are looking to improve their social media marketing skills. This is a form of internet marketing that uses social networking apps such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram as marketing tools.
In a 2020 Sprout Social study, 89% of respondents said they buy from brands that they follow on social. The study also showed that marketers aren't using social data to its fullest potential. Customers are there, but there is still opportunity for marketers to get better at using this tool.
Who uses social media for marketing?
While any business can benefit from social media marketing, there are several types of businesses tailored for marketing on social platforms. Some platforms such as Facebook and Instagram cater to B2C crowds, while LinkedIn is prime for B2B buyers. But any business can use any platform since it's all about where the buyers are and how they prefer to consume content.
Being talented at content creation and building an audience of followers is something that many direct sales businesses have mastered. Companies such as Pampered Chef, Park Lane Jewelry and LuLaRoe use social media to showcase their products. LuLaRoe was also recently featured in a four-part documentary on Amazon Video. The company has hundreds of thousands of social media followers, but its popularity has declined over the years due to questionable business practices.
Creating an effective social media marketing strategy can be a challenge. It is a skill that should be as thoughtfully planned and executed as any marketing campaign or tactic.
Social media marketing tips
When social media marketing first began, junior employees managed these accounts. It was commonly believed that someone just needed to be a serial social media user to be a good social media marketer. And in those early days, younger employees understood social media. Now, the average social media manager is nearly 40 years old -- with a lot of marketing experience.
Good social media marketing managers also need to be good marketers. It's necessary to understand how a tactic such as social media can be built into an engagement strategy, increase sales and retain loyal customers.
Here are 12 social media marketing tips to help businesses get the results they want.
1. Define goals and objectives
Marketers can start improving social media marketing success by defining goals and objectives for using the platforms. It's best to align this strategy's goals with those of the business as well. Having these goals in place will also help measure the success of the social media marketing efforts.
Businesses should use SMART goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely. Write them down and look to use them as a guide when executing all campaigns. These could include the following:
- increasing web traffic from social media by 25% in the next six months;
- converting 15% more leads next month from LinkedIn; and
- gaining 100 new followers from the next campaign on Instagram.
Being sure that the goals align with the marketing strategy will help showcase where social media is having an effect.
2. Identify the target audience
It's beneficial for organizations to compile data around existing customers. From this information, it becomes clear who is buying and how they are interacting with a brand online.
Once marketers define the target audience, they should research what channels customers are likely to use. A company in the fashion industry is likely to reach their target audience though Instagram. A SaaS company whose buyers are more business focused will look to LinkedIn. Each social channel attracts a different audience, so businesses should invest time where the target audience spends its time.
3. Select the right platforms
While different audiences use different social media platforms, it's not an ideal strategy to roll out social media marketing programs on all social channels -- at least at first. Marketers should start with a few social media channels to master. Major platforms for businesses include Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn. But others such as Pinterest and YouTube also have a place when it comes to advertising or promoting offerings. Each has a unique place in the market and use cases.
For example, Twitter is a great place to share thought leadership and gain real-time information, but it limits posts to 280 characters. LinkedIn is the home for all business professionals, so this is a good place to target decision-makers. Facebook and Instagram excel at visual storytelling using images, videos and reels, and live feeds. After growing a follower base and scaling operations on a few social channels, organizations can think about expanding into new territories.
4. Develop or align with a content strategy
The content that businesses publish on social media should be carefully thought out. Marketers shouldn't just post something to post something. Social media is one channel where brands can disseminate their messaging. When a prospect or customer gets similar messages and promotions across channels, this is known as a multichannel marketing strategy.
Creating timely and relevant posts is always a good idea, but organizations should ensure that content published on other channels can be repurposed for social media. When a new blog comes out, businesses should promote it on social media -- multiple times. Marketers should sprinkle promotional content at various times over several weeks to get the most return. The same goes for new offers and gated content. When a new promotion begins, marketers should be sure to share that content. And when a new webinar is scheduled or a white paper is published, businesses should run a multi-week promotional campaign to get more eyes on it.
5. Publish content consistently
The worst thing a social media manager can do is be inconsistent. If time and resources are going into a selected platform, it should be taken seriously and have a consistent flow of content. People follow a brand or a page because they like the content that is shared. Posting consistently not only strengthens the brand, it also builds customer loyalty. Followers will hopefully share and talk about the brand, creating more word-of-mouth marketing opportunities.
Creating consistent content fills up the posting schedule. But when the posting schedule dries up and there is a lull in new content, it is good to look back at what has worked in the past, recycle the most relevant posts and put a new spin on them. This is also a good time to be personable with the audience to create and enforce one-on-one relationships.
6. Use visuals to tell a story
While text posts are a great way to share information, images and videos increase engagement. Instagram and Facebook have built-in features to create videos without the use of expensive production equipment. But these tools should be used with caution. Marketers should be sure that videos posted on a company page are of professional quality.
There are many graphic design tools available to help produce quality imagery for social media. It always helps to have a creative eye, but tools such as Canva and Visme make it easy to create images in the right size for social platforms.
7. Monitor conversations and create relationships
Followers tend to engage with brands directly on social media channels. This is a great opportunity for social media managers to create strong relationships with their audience. Sometimes consumers reach out with negative reviews, but often they have a wonderful experience to share with others. In either case, and with many others, a brand is more respected when they respond and engage.
It's also good to use social listening tools to track, analyze and respond to conversations online. Sometimes users don't direct message or write to a brand, but they write about a brand. It's helpful for businesses to have social listening tools in place to learn where people are and what people are talking about.
Some helpful tips for building these relationships on social media include the following:
- responding to comments and direct messages;
- retweeting and reposting relevant content and successes;
- using social media for customer service inquiries and responding to reviews and complaints; and
- responding in a timely manner.
8. Use scheduling and automation tools
Between responding to the community, building relationships and creating new content, marketers have their hands full. There are ways to save time though, and that is by using scheduling and automation tools.
Tools such as Hootsuite, Sprout Social and Sprinklr enable marketing teams to plan, schedule and monitor their social performance. It may be best to plan out future posts -- creating them and scheduling them ahead of time. This frees up social media managers to spend less time on creating individual posts to align more with the content strategy.
Other automations such as chatbots exist for social media tools, which can send out automated messages when someone reaches out to a brand. These messages can direct users to FAQs or other support services while they await a reply from the company.
9. Monitor trends
It is essential for marketers to keep abreast of trends in an endlessly changing social media landscape. Each social media platform continues to optimize its presentation of content -- changing algorithms and posting rules often. Staying on top of these changes enables marketers to get their content in front of the right users with the right tactics.
Outside of the technology aspect of changing social media trends, there are also content trends. Today, TikTok defines many trends that marketers and advertisers use to be more relevant and relatable with an audience. Other trends include the following:
- live video content;
- messaging apps to communicate with customers;
- augmented reality;
- Instagram stories and Facebook Reels; and
10. Follow the competition
Another way to stay ahead of the curve is to monitor the competitive landscape. By watching what the competition is doing, marketing managers can see if they are on pace with what the market is doing. Marketers can also see how the competition uses their own channel to engage with an audience.
If a competitor has more followers and more engagement, it would be good to see how their strategy sets them apart. Marketers should complete a competitive analysis to help identify what is working and what isn't.
11. Use analytics
Each social media platform has its own native analytics. Who follows a page, what posts get engagement and the ideal time to post are all metrics that can be tracked to inform better social media marketing strategies.
Using analytics will also help identify any changes to the primary audience. This will reveal information about which platforms a marketing team should use to engage with their target buyer personas. It can also provide information about what products and services the consumer is interested in.
Learn more about analyzing data here.
12. Promote and advertise
Social media advertising can boost the effectiveness of social media marketing programs. Targeting on social media is advanced and enables campaign managers to micro-target the audience. Explicit and implicit details are used for this targeting. Marketing managers can also use social media tracking pixels on brand websites to build out a wider audience.
Marketers can advertise on social media to increase website traffic, convert readers into qualified leads, and sell products or services.