Social media marketing (SMM) is a form of internet marketing that uses social media apps as a marketing tool.
These social media platforms enable brands to connect with their audience to:
- build a brand;
- increase sales;
- drive traffic to a website; and
- build a community of followers to share and engage with content.
Producing relevant content that users will share with their own networks helps brands increase their exposure. It also extends their reach toward fans, potential customers and even potential employees when used as a recruitment tool.
Social media marketing also enables organizations to get customer feedback while making the company seem more personable. Social media enables organizations to create relationships with their audience. It gives end users a platform to ask questions, voice complaints and generally be heard. It also gives brands the opportunity to respond, adapt and adjust business processes or products.
Some popular social media apps include Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Pinterest, Instagram and Snapchat. Each platform has elements that makes it attractive to use. And when a company uses several in combination to deliver a multichannel message, consumers can see those messages on their preferred channels.
Learn how to craft a multichannel marketing strategy here.
5 pillars of social media marketing
When developing marketing programs, one key area that marketers care about is how to deliver their messaging. Social media helps spread those messages to the right people at the right time, through both free and paid means. Social media also enables brands to learn more about their audience’s personal, geographic and demographic information. This enables organizations to customize their messaging and content for the best engagement.
1. Social strategy
With any marketing campaign or activity, an appropriate strategy should be laid out in advance. Organizations need to determine the goals of the program, the channels that will be used and what types of content will be shared. Here are some examples:
- Determine goals. Using social media for marketing should align closely with business and other marketing program goals. Some goals that businesses can use to measure success include increasing brand awareness, driving website traffic and leads, and increasing revenue.
- Select social media platforms. There are many social platforms available, but it doesn’t make sense for businesses to use them all. Organizations need to know their audience and choose the platform(s) that best fit their demographic.
- Content mix. Each social platform has a unique flavor for distributing content — including video, imagery, links and direct messaging. So brands need to identify which content their marketing persona is most likely to engage with.
2. Planning and publishing
After establishing a strategy, it is time to begin publishing. This can be as simple as posting a new blog post, sharing information about an upcoming event or posting a new product video. But being consistent is the key to an effective SMM program. To build an audience, organizations should post frequently to their page. Posting relevant content consistently will keep the audience coming back for more.
Content that organizations post to social media should align with other marketing promotions. Tools such as Hootsuite, HubSpot and Sprout Social enable marketers to schedule their posts at the appropriate time.
3. Listening and engagement
Businesses that create activity on social platforms can see growth in interaction and conversations about the brand and products. Users will comment on and share posts, tag the company in their own posts, and even begin communicating through the instant messaging functionalities. These types of interactions are ideal because there are notifications in place to alert social media managers. This enables them to practice good customer service, which in turns boosts the customer experience.
People on social media may also discuss a brand, product or service without tagging or speaking directly to a company. There are several social media listening tools available to stay plugged into the conversation, such as Brandwatch, NetBase Quid and Sprinklr. Free tools such as Google Alerts can also notify marketers when their company is being mentioned.
4. Analytics and reporting
As more content is published and the audience expands, it is a good idea to continuously measure performance. Questions to ask include the following:
- Which posts are getting the most engagement?
- Where are a brand’s followers from?
The success of any marketing program is dependent on its data and analytics outputs. A marketing team can use this information to make more informed decisions on future campaigns and take advantage of what works.
Each social platform has its own analytics data, but there are other tools that can collect data from many channels into one location. This enables marketers to evaluate the overall success and failures of their marketing campaigns.
Much of social media marketing is free — with the exception of resource time and specialized tools. Building an audience and publishing content on free social media sites is a great way to achieve marketing goals, but as the program grows, so does the budget.
Paid marketing features can be very valuable to organizations. They can target their advertisements at audiences based on many factors, including demographic information, retargeting and behaviors.
There are tools to help manage social media marketing at volume, but using the native ads functionality to begin is enough to promote posts, capture leads and ensure messages get in front of the right audience.