Social media marketing is the next big thing for most businesses and online companies looking to make a splash globally. If you are not in the loop yet, you are definitely missing out on what could be your ticket to more customers, enhanced reach and of course, greater revenues.
For a new entrant to the world of social media, it’s crucial to have a good sense of what social media is all about, why it’s essential for every size of business and how it fundamentally works.
That’s exactly what this guide to social media marketing does for you. I hope it will be of great help!
Definition (and Meaning)
Social media marketing essentially refers to marketing initiatives on social media sites with an aim to generate enhanced website traffic, views, customer feedback and in some cases, direct sales. This usually takes place on social networking platforms that are most popular globally.
TechTarget defines social media marketing as –
“Social media marketing (SMM) is a form of Internet marketing that utilizes social networking websites as a marketing tool. The goal of SMM is to produce content that users will share with their social network to help a company increase brand exposure and broaden customer reach.”
While different people may choose different words to define social media marketing, what it simply boils down to is this – the process of generating online traffic or attention through social media platforms. Over the last one decade, the popularity of social media has tremendously increased, and so has the number of users. What sets social media marketing apart from other forms of marketing is the word ‘social’. While using different social media websites, users interact and engage with one another in a social context – conversations, commentaries and other annotations.
Different Social Media Platforms (or Channels)
Those networks that are at the top of the list include –
Social Network No. of Active Users/Month
Facebook 1.28 billion
Twitter 255 million
LinkedIn 187 million
Google Plus 540 million
YouTube 1 billion+
Pinterest 40 million
Instagram 200 million
Companies usually create their own pages and profiles on these social networking websites. This helps them directly communicate and interact with their prospective and loyal customers without any hassles. The underlying personal touch to all such interactive activities is what works towards building the company’s online brand and scales up customer retention figures. Also, members and followers can share and repost or retweet all comments and information about products, services and company news. It enables greater reach and traffic in turn for the company’s specific service or product.
Why Your Business or Company Needs Social Media
According to a report published by Buffer App, as much as 93% of marketers use social media for business growth.
Here are some more surprising stats you should be aware of –
> 83% of B2B marketers invest in social media to increase brand exposure; 69% to increase web traffic; and 65% to gain market insights. (Social Media Today)
> 87% of small businesses say social media helps their businesses. (Vocus)
> 40% of small businesses feel that social media is amplifying word-of-mouth referrals. (Hubspot)
> 46% of online users depend on social media when making a purchase. (Nielsen)
> 27% of total US internet time is spent on social networking sites. (Expertan)
But let’s go beyond these stats, and understand the numerous benefits of using social media for online marketing.
The biggest benefit lies in instant recognition and awareness of a particular brand through specifically tailored online marketing campaigns. Social media networks offer unique platforms for showcasing company products, philosophies, history and of course, news, views and opinions. Effective use of social media leads to the creation of a distinctive brand presence or authority, while substantially lowering costs of marketing as compared to the huge expenses involved for traditional advertising. It increases the overall inbound traffic to your website.
Social media marketing provides you with an excellent opportunity to enhance customer service experience and build genuine relationships. Moreover, it offers you invaluable customer behaviour insights and inputs for future growth and progress.
Researchers have found that social media works way better as compared to conventional advertising with regard to generating higher traffic volumes and conversion rates. Higher conversion rates equate to greater sales and profits in turn! Having a potent presence on social media networks is, therefore, crucial for creating a niche in the minds and hearts of customers.
How to Plan a Social Media Marketing Strategy
Now that you’ve understood what social media marketing means and why your business can’t ignore it, it’s time for putting together a strategy for the same. Working out a social media strategy is essential because it allows you to easily manage the resources and the processes while maximizing the results from your efforts.
Key elements of a social media strategy include –
Goals (and Objectives) – There’s simply no point in using social media if you don’t want to achieve something specific. It’s important to clearly understand what it is that you want to achieve. You may want to popularize your brand, build relationships with customers or generate leads. Apart from the fact that your goals have to be realistic, you should also feel free to extend your goals as you keep progressing.
Selection of Networks – No two social networking websites are similar. Each social media platform is different in terms features, best practices and audience reach. And there’s no need to be on each one of them unless you don’t care much about success. Depending on the goals you plan to fulfil, you should pick only those social media networks that match your target market demographic. The amount of time you can invest and the resources you’re equipped with also factor in while selecting social networks for your specific requirements.
Creation & Optimization of Accounts – Once you’ve finalized the social networks you’ll use, accounts have to be set up. Apart from completing your business profile completely on each social network, you should also make sure that the each one of your profiles looks professional and goes well with your brand’s message. At the same time, you should also optimize the profiles for your most important keywords for better search.
Content Posting – It requires answering what, how and when. The ‘what’ part refers to types of updates including text, links, pictures and videos you’ll be sharing. ‘How’ points to deciding upon the frequency of posting which can be multiple times a day or a week. ‘When’ is about the time at which you’ll post the updates. Both in terms of best days and best time to post, every popular social network has its own best practices.
Monitoring/ Analytics – At the end of the day, what matters the most is whether you’re getting a good ROI from your social media efforts. It’s important to keep track of those activities or social platforms that are working in your favour and which aren’t so that you can tweak your plan for improved results. A social media strategy with a good measurement system in place helps you identify the emerging trends/patterns, be relevant and gain the upper hand in a niche or industry.
While developing a social media strategy for the first time, it’s recommended that you focus on a single metric or goal to keep things simple. Also, you should avoid overselling on social media. Most importantly, you should commit yourself to creating and sharing high quality content to drive engagement among users quickly.
Tools You Can Use
Social media marketing is also reliant on several analytics and other data that helps companies pitch the right products and services to various customer divisions. There are various analytical tools that help companies find out about shared content, online activity of targeted customer bases and of course, overall feedback and online responses to their marketing campaigns. Your options include both free and paid.
Here are some very useful tools you can check out –
Twitter Tools – SocialRank, ManageFlitter, Topsy etc
Facebook Tools – LikeAlyzer, Fanpage karma
Monitoring Tools – HootSuite, SocialMention, Mention, SocialBro etc
Content Tools – BuzzSumo, Beatrix, Feedly, Paper.li, Bottlenose etc
Graphics Tools – Piktochart, Visually, Canva, Compfight etc
Analytics Tooks – Rival IQ, Klout, SharedCount, Quintly etc
There are many other tools which make it easier to analyze, engage and monetize the audiences on various social media platforms, thereby helping companies pitch suitable solutions or products across varied demographics quite seamlessly.
Social media marketing outstrips conventional advertising/promotional platforms by a wide margin. Companies and organizations can benefit immensely from engaging in well thought-out, quality social marketing campaigns for the long haul. After all, even paid marketing initiatives on networking sites are a pittance compared to the traffic, customer reach and sales volumes generated as a result!
Embrace social media marketing, embrace the future!