Social media marketing is the use of social media platforms to connect with your audience to build your brand, increase sales, and drive website traffic. This involves publishing great content on your social media profiles, listening to and engaging your followers, analyzing your results, and running social media advertisements.
The major social media platforms (at the moment) are Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, YouTube, and Snapchat.
There are also a range of social media management tools that help businesses to get the most out of the social media platforms listed above. For example, Buffer is a platform of social media management tools, which can help you achieve success with your social media marketing. Whether you want to build a brand or grow your business, we want to help you succeed.
A Quick Overview of Social Media Marketing
Social media marketing first started with publishing. Businesses were sharing their content on social media to generate traffic to their websites and, hopefully, sales. But social media has matured far beyond being just a place to broadcast content.
Nowadays, businesses use social media in a myriad of different ways. For example, a business that is concerned about what people are saying about its brand would monitor social media conversations and response to relevant mentions (social media listening and engagement). A business that wants to understand how it’s performing on social media would analyze its reach, engagement, and sales on social media with an analytics tool (social media analytics). A business that wants to reach a specific set of audience at scale would run highly-targeted social media ads (social media advertising).
As a whole, these are often also known as social media management.
The Five Core Pillars of Social Media Marketing
Planning and Publishing
Analytics and Reporting
Before you dive right in and publish something on social media, let’s take a step back and look at the bigger picture. The first step is to think about your social media strategy.
What are your goals? How can social media help you achieve your business goals? Some businesses use social media for increasing their brand awareness, others use it for driving website traffic and sales. Social media can also help you generate engagement around your brand, create a community, and serve as a customer support channel for your customers.
Which social media platforms do you want to focus on? The major social media platforms, mentioned above, are Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, YouTube, and Snapchat. There are also smaller and up-and-coming platforms, such as Tumblr, Tik Tok, and Anchor, and social messaging platforms, such as Messenger, WhatsApp, and WeChat. When starting out, it’s better to pick a few platforms that you think your target audience is on than to be on all platforms.
What type of content do you want to share? What type of content will attract your target audience best? Is it images, videos, or links? Is it educational or entertaining content? A good place to start is to create a marketing persona, which will help you answer these questions. And this doesn’t have to be fixed forever; you can always change your strategy according to how your social media posts perform.
To help you create a great social media strategy, here are our long-form, step-by-step guides on creating a social media strategy and social media marketing plan.
Fortune Magazine uses social media to grow its brand.
“The main objective we have is to grow our brand. Social is a place where we can own our brand and promote it.
We pay a lot of attention to Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ to promote our content and to break news, basically to get our stuff out there.”
Franchises and Social Media Editor, Fortune
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2. Planning and Publishing
Social media marketing for small businesses usually starts with having a consistent presence on social media. Close to three billion people (3,000,000,000!) use social media. By being present on social media platforms, you give your brand an opportunity to be discovered by your future customers.
Publishing to social media is as simple as sharing a blog post, an image, or a video on a social media platform. It’s just like how you would share on your personal Facebook profile. But you will want to plan your content ahead of time instead of creating and publishing content spontaneously. Also, to ensure that you are maximizing your reach on social media, you need to publish great content that your audience likes, at the right timing and frequency.
There are now a variety of social media scheduling tools, such as Buffer Publish, that can help you publish your content automatically at your preferred time. This saves you time and allows you to reach your audience when they are most likely to engage with your content.
Car Next Door schedules content to maintain a presence across a range of social media platforms with minimal time and fuss.
“Anytime I or someone else in the team publishes a new blog post or another piece of content I’ll add it to the queue in Buffer. If it’s evergreen content (which it almost always is) I’ll schedule it a few times over the next 3-4 months in different formats – a link directly to the post, with a graphic we’ve made in Canva, with a different caption, etc. The rest of the slots I’ll fill up with reposts of photos or videos our members have shared, recent media coverage of Car Next Door, and curated content that will be of interest to our audience.”
Social Media Manager, Car Next Door
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3. Listening and Engagement
As your business and social media following grow, conversations about your brand will also increase. People will comment on your social media posts, tag you in their social media posts, or message you directly.
People might even talk about your brand on social media without letting you know. So you will want to monitor social media conversations about your brand. If it’s a positive comment, you get a chance to surprise and delight them. Otherwise, you can offer support and correct a situation before it gets worse.
You can manually check all your notifications across all the social media platforms but this isn’t efficient and you won’t see posts that didn’t tag your business’s social media profile. You can instead use a social media listening and engagement tool that aggregates all your social media mentions and messages, including posts that didn’t tag your business’s social media profile.
1Password engages and connects with their customers through social media.
“Today, it’s more important than ever to meet customers where they are. We live much of our lives on social media and expect the brands we use to be there too. Our customers are as global as our far flung friends and family and the same tools that help us stay in touch with our loved ones, help 1Password stay engaged with the people who interact with us.
Engagement is more than just marketing. It’s lending a helping hand when things go awry, keeping the conversation going when problems are solved, and spreading the good word about what we’re up to and where folks can come say hi.
The conversations we have on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Instagram, YouTube, Reddit, and in our 1Password blog comments, allow us to truly engage and show folks that 1Password is not just an app, but a group of passionate (and sometimes goofy) humans working to make the web safer for everyone.
Social Interaction Lead, 1Password
Along the way, whether you are publishing content or engaging on social media, you will want to know how your social media marketing is performing. Are you reaching more people on social media than last month? How many positive mentions do you get a month? How many people used your brand’s hashtag on their social media posts?
The social media platforms themselves provide a basic level of such information. To get more in-depth analytics information or to easily compare across social media platforms, you can use the wide range of social media analytics tools available, such as Buffer Analyze.
Foster Coffee Co. uses social media analytics to guide their content decisions.
“One of the things that I really like about Buffer is how I can build out as far as I want into the foreseeable future, but really start to tailor campaigns if we see certain trends within the industry. We can get ahead of that and it’s really easy to customize the publishing schedule afterwards.
We want to know our top performing posts for the year, we want to know what content was in those posts, so that way we can build a better model moving forward of content that generates more engagement.
Because as we know, the more engagement we can get online, the more that’s going to translate to a possible sale, or somebody walking through our doors, or checking out our website and maybe making a purchase that way”
Marketing Associate, Foster Coffee Co.
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When you have more funds to grow your social media marketing, an area that you can consider is social media advertising. Social media ads allow you to reach a wider audience than those who are following you.
Social media advertising platforms are so powerful nowadays that you can specify exactly who to display your ads to. You can create target audiences based on their demographics, interests, behaviors, and more.
When you are running many social media advertising campaigns at once, you can consider using a social media advertising tool to make bulk changes, automate processes, and optimize your ads.
Buffer uses social media advertising to promote blog posts and reach a wider audience.
“We use Facebook ads to promote our blog posts. Facebook’s powerful targeting options mean that we have been able to show our ads to only people that we think would be interested in our content. And the results have been great. We have been getting a sizable amount of traffic each month for as low as eight cents per click!
We also use Facebook ads, Pinterest ads, and other social media ads to increase our brand awareness and engagement on the respective social media platforms. Many other companies also use social media ads to drive leads and sales.
Content Crafter, Buffer
Social Media Marketing Resources
Social media platforms are always evolving. When Facebook first started, people can only share text updates. Now, there are so many content formats such as images, videos, live videos, and Stories.
Hence, social media marketing is always changing, too. We want to help you stay up-to-date with all the latest changes and strategies to succeed on social media. Here are a few resources to get you started:
Social Media Marketing Blog
Buffer’s social media marketing blog covers the latest social media strategies and tools for Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and more.
Social Media Marketing Guide
The complete beginner’s guide to creating a social media marketing plan, for those brand new to social media and looking for a straightforward way to start.
Social Media Listening and Engagement Guide
Here’s why we think social media listening and engagement is so important and how you can overcome the challenges to developing a successful strategy.
Social Media Analytics Guide
There’s a wealth of information and insights in your social media data. Here are seven simple, quick, and actionable social media analytics tips.
Social Media Advertising Guide
There’s so much to learn with social media advertising. It’s difficult to know where or how exactly to get started. Here’s everything marketers need to know about advertising on social media.