What is social media marketing?

What is social media marketing?

Social media marketing (SMM) constitutes a facet of online marketing that employs social media applications as promotional tools. These social media platforms provide a means for brands to:

  1. Establish and cultivate their brand identity.
  2. Enhance sales figures.
  3. Direct web traffic towards their websites.
  4. Foster a community of followers who actively share and engage with content.

Creating pertinent content that users are inclined to share with their own networks facilitates brands in elevating their visibility. This approach also broadens their outreach to encompass fans, prospective customers, and even potential employees when utilized as a recruitment instrument.

Furthermore, social media marketing facilitates organizations in soliciting customer feedback while imbuing the company with a more personable image. It empowers organizations to forge connections with their audience, granting end users a platform to pose queries, express grievances, and, on the whole, feel heard. Additionally, it affords brands the chance to respond, adapt, and refine their business practices or products.

Notable social media applications encompass Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Pinterest, Instagram, and Snapchat. Each platform possesses distinctive features that render them appealing for various purposes. When a company combines several of these platforms to deliver a multi-faceted message, consumers can encounter these messages through their preferred channels.

5 pillars of social media marketing

When crafting marketing strategies, a crucial aspect that captures the attention of marketers is the method of conveying their messages. Social media serves as a powerful tool for disseminating these messages effectively to the appropriate audience, whether through organic or paid channels. Moreover, social media platforms empower brands to gain insights into their audience's individual, geographic, and demographic characteristics. This valuable information equips businesses to tailor their messaging and content for optimal audience engagement.

There are five pillars of social media marketing that will lead to a successful program.

1. Social strategy : 

In any marketing endeavor, it is essential to establish a well-defined strategy in advance. It is imperative for organizations to ascertain the program's objectives, decide on the communication channels to be employed, and determine the types of content to be disseminated. Here are a few illustrative instances:

  1. Defining Objectives: The use of social media for marketing should be closely aligned with an organization's overarching business and marketing goals. Some measurable objectives for businesses may encompass enhancing brand recognition, driving web traffic and lead generation, and augmenting revenue.

  2. Platform Selection: While there is a multitude of social media platforms available, it is impractical for businesses to utilize all of them. Hence, organizations should have a clear understanding of their target audience and select the platform(s) that align most effectively with their demographic.

  3. Content Variety: Each social media platform possesses its distinctive characteristics for sharing content, such as video, images, links, and direct messaging. Consequently, brands must discern the content types that resonate most with their marketing persona.

2. Planning and publishing : 

Once a strategy is in place, it's time to kick off the publishing phase. This could involve straightforward actions like publishing a fresh blog post, disseminating details about an upcoming event, or sharing a new product video. However, the crux of a successful social media marketing (SMM) program lies in maintaining a consistent presence. To cultivate an audience, companies need to regularly update their social media pages. Consistently delivering pertinent content will encourage the audience to return for more.

The content that organizations share on social media should align with their overall marketing efforts. Tools like Hootsuite, HubSpot, and Sprout Social empower marketers to schedule their posts for optimal timing.

3. Listening and engagement : 

Companies that actively engage on social media platforms can witness an increase in engagement and discussions surrounding their brand and products. Users will react to posts by leaving comments, sharing content, mentioning the company in their own posts, and even initiating conversations through instant messaging features. These types of interactions are particularly valuable since they trigger notifications that alert social media managers. This, in turn, empowers them to provide excellent customer service, ultimately enhancing the overall customer experience.

Furthermore, individuals on social media might initiate conversations about a brand, product, or service without directly tagging or addressing the company. To keep abreast of these discussions, various social media monitoring tools like Brandwatch, NetBase Quid, and Sprinklr can be employed. Even free tools such as Google Alerts can be used by marketers to receive notifications when their company is being discussed.

4. Analytics and reporting : 

As content production increases and the audience grows, it's essential to consistently assess how well you're doing. Some key inquiries to consider are:

  1. Which posts are receiving the highest levels of engagement?
  2. Where do a brand's followers originate from?

The effectiveness of any marketing strategy relies heavily on the data and analytical insights it generates. By leveraging this information, a marketing team can make more informed decisions when planning future campaigns and capitalize on what's proven to be effective.

While each social platform provides its own set of analytics, there are also tools available that can aggregate data from various channels into a single location. This allows marketers to comprehensively evaluate the overall successes and shortcomings of their marketing initiatives.

5. Advertising : 

A significant portion of social media marketing doesn't come with a direct cost, except for the investment of time and the utilization of specialized tools. Starting by building an audience and sharing content on free social media platforms is an effective approach for meeting marketing objectives, but as your campaign expands, so does the financial requirement.

Paid marketing options offer substantial value to businesses. They allow for precise targeting of ads based on various factors like demographics, retargeting, and user behaviors.

While there are tools available to assist in managing large-scale social media marketing efforts, commencing with the basic functionality of native ads is sufficient to promote posts, generate leads, and ensure your messages reach the intended audience.

Advantages and disadvantages of social media marketing

Social media marketing is now an integral part of the sales and marketing strategy for every business, serving as an extra avenue for disseminating content and messages to a much broader audience compared to a self-built contact list. Although implementing a social media marketing program offers various benefits, it also comes with its share of drawbacks.

Advantages of social media marketing

  • Reach a wider audience. There are more than 3.6 billion users across all social media channels. A single post share can exponentially increase brand exposure.
  • Improved customer satisfaction. Organizations don't just market to customers on social media, they also interact with them. This can improve customer service and create one-to-one relationships.
  • Cost-effective tool. When executed correctly, the cost of managing a social media program can be low. Once the knowledge, team and program strategy are in place, marketing teams find it easy to use with very little overhead.
  • Increase website traffic. Social posts are a great way to drive traffic back to a brand website. Promoting blog content, landing page offers and more can entice users to click through and engage further with a brand.
  • Gain better insights. Using the analytics and reporting features from each social media platform gives insight into who page followers are, what content they are interested in and how they like to engage with a brand.

Disadvantages of social media marketing

  • Time-consuming process. A lot of time can be spent on social media campaigns to ensure they are effective. Marketing teams also need to constantly fill the calendar with new content and respond to inquiries. This can make it difficult for small marketing teams to tap into the full capabilities of SMM.
  • Need qualified resources. It takes the right person or team to run a social media marketing program. Social media marketing programs don't benefit from entry-level employees. Instead, skilled and seasoned social media marketers are key.
  • Have to wait to see ROI. SMM is a long-term investment. Social media platforms yield a high ROI, but not in the form of immediate results. The success of an SMM program isn't determined by one piece of content, but rather several over long periods of time.
  • Competitor's market research. Posting to social media is a public forum and everyone can see the content, including the competition. There is no workaround for this.
  • Brand reputation is vulnerable. SMM can open a brand for public embarrassment and bad press. Negative reviews can be plentiful as customers take to social media to vent frustrations. And because of the public nature of the platforms, anything a company says or does will be seen and reacted to. Brands should expedite response times to mitigate this risk.

How to create a social media marketing strategy

Here are the steps a company needs to take to build an effective social media marketing strategy:

1. Identify social media goals that align to the business goals

Start by setting goals that will act as not only a guide for how to use social media, but also a benchmark of data to measure against. Use a SMART goal format to find out what is realistic to accomplish. Examples of goals include the following:

  • increase traffic to website
  • drive more leads
  • increase revenue
  • grow audience

2. Research and define the target audience

It's important to know who the target market is, what they care about and why they need a company's products or services. Social media platforms are rich with data about users, so this exercise can be done without a substantial market research project. Knowing demographic information and who follows the social channel are great starting points.

It's also important to know that different platforms attract different users. Knowing what social channels a company's target audience is on enables them to choose which channels to invest time and resources into.

3. Perform a competitive assessment

Understanding the actions of competitors empowers marketing teams to discern the effective strategies and areas where competitors are struggling. This not only yields valuable insights into the industry but also opens up possibilities to launch products or messages effectively.

Additionally, social listening tools can assist brands in configuring various monitoring channels to keep an eye on competitive content and relevant industry keywords.

4. Create and curate relevant content for the channel

Knowing the goals, audience and competitive landscape will help determine the type(s) of content that brands need to create. Engaging content comes in different forms and media. It can be company generated, curated from elsewhere to share industry news or other thought leadership pieces.

Businesses should publish content frequently and consistently to develop an engaged follower base. Brands can post promotions to increase engagement. They can also create posts that show a more relatable and human side to the organization.   

5. Be timely with posts and responses

Posting when convenient for a business isn't always convenient for customers. Taking advantage of the best times to post for engagement is information that can be collected from analytics. Then organizations can schedule posts ahead of time using available publishing tools. Timeliness of the content is also important as the news cycle moves fast.

Another element of being timely on social media is response time. If customers engage with a brand on social media, they also expect a quick reply. A brand can build authority and respect with its clientele through these one-to-one relationships.

6. Gain buy-in and support from others in the organization

Marketing departments need to engage other departments and stakeholders within an organization. Marketing can learn a lot from sales to inform future social campaigns, but sales can also benefit from marketing's reach. Sales and marketing alignment is great, but senior stakeholder support is also a necessity.

Supporting other departments' efforts is a common sign of a strong social media program. Every department in a company can benefit from social support, but HR is usually the next best place to partner with. Social media can be a recruitment tool and brand builder for prospective employees.

7. Measure and optimize

The last element of building a successful social media marketing program is to measure what works and what doesn't. Organizations should monitor the following:

  • posts that get top engagement;
  • followers that continue to buy; and
  • ads that yield the highest ROI.

Businesses that benefit from social media marketing

Organizations that roll out an effective social media marketing campaign will see many benefits. Here are some examples of businesses that can benefit from social media marketing programs:

Small businesses and startups

Social media marketing is a great tool for small businesses and startups. It is a way for new businesses to build some awareness around their offerings. Using social media to sell products and services to a new market can be an entryway into building a customer base.

Direct sales companies

These types of businesses are very entrepreneurial and grow through communities. And social media can help build communities, tapping into friends, family and beyond.

These started out as Tupperware and Mary Kay parties in homes. But social media apps are paving the way for new waves of direct sales companies such as LuLaRoe and Thirty-One Gifts. Party hosts no longer must host parties in their homes. Instead, they can host virtual parties using social media apps where consultants are able to show off their wares.  

Real estate

Real estate companies benefit from social media by promoting open houses and showcasing images of properties for sale. Features such as Facebook Live and Instagram stories show video footage of these properties in digestible formats for users to consume.

B2B companies

B2B marketing teams are better able to identify who their target prospects are -- and when done correctly -- can show up in the right person's newsfeed.

The data presented about users on social media platforms helps paint a picture of who the audience is. And using the social media advertising tools, businesses can get the right message in front of that decision-maker at the right time.

What's Your Reaction?