“Social Media Marketing (SMM) is a form of digital marketing that utilizes social platforms and networking websites to promote an organization’s products or services through paid and unpaid means.”
In 1929, Frigyes Karinthy, a Hungarian writer, put forth a concept called the Six Degrees of Separation in his short story titled “Chains.” The construct propagates the notion that everyone in the world can be linked through a maximum of six social connections. Fast forward 68 years, Andrew Weinreich introduced Six Degrees in 1997, the world’s first social networking site. The platform used the six degrees of separation concept as the foundation to allow its users to connect.
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Six Degrees folded in 2000 (although the website is still live), and many other social media platforms emerged with evolving features such as Friendster, hi5, LinkedIn, MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter to name a few. Marketers seized this opportunity of the rising social media popularity among internet users. They started promoting their brands on social media, thus introducing social media marketing to the world.
Table of Contents
What Is Social Media Marketing?
Social Media Marketing (SMM) is a form of digital marketing that utilizes social media and networking websites to promote an organization’s products or services through paid and organic means. It is a platform where marketers can interact with customers, resolve queries and complaints, announce new products and services, get feedback and recommendations and build their communities.
“Social media is not just a spoke on the wheel of marketing. It’s becoming the way entire bicycles are built.”
~ Ryan Lilly, writer and author
SMM involves activities such as establishing a presence on social networks, spreading brand awareness, engaging prospects and customers through content, driving traffic to the website, and so on. Social media marketers use social media to first, be present on popular social platforms, find and reach out to customers and potential customers and then, to promote products and services and engage audiences to increase conversions and ROI.
Social Media Platforms
“Social Media is about sociology and psychology more than technology.”
~ Brian Solis, Digital analyst, speaker and author
In a world with a population of over 7 billion, 3 billion+ people are active on social media. In this section, we will look at eight social media platforms that are crucial for brands.
Representation of Popular Social Media Marketing Platforms
Note: MAU is the abbreviation for Monthly Active Users.
MAU: 2.38 billion (as of March 31, 2019)
Age Group: 18-45+ years
Industries (B2B and B2C): E-commerce, retail, Banking, financial services and insurance (BFSI), Fast-Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG), entertainment, fashion, real estate, news, health, sports
Regardless of whether you are a B2B or a B2C brand, you’ve got to be present on Facebook. It combines the best features of almost every social media platform and there’s a high possibility that your audience is on it as well!
Businesses can use Facebook to share content, engage with customers, run ads or even use it as a platform to provide customer support.
MAU: 321 million (as of February 2019)
Age Group: 18-45+
Industries (B2B and B2C): News, technology, e-commerce, retail, entertainment, travel, sports, health, telecom, BFSI
Twitter allows you to express your opinions in 280 characters. Known for pioneering the use of hashtags, Twitter is the go-to social media platform for users to share their thoughts, reach out to brands and celebs, and consume news and snippets of information.
Brands primarily use Twitter for customer service because it’s a platform that customers have come to use extensively for timely brand interactions. For example: see how Wendy’s responds to customer complaints and how they project their brand image.
Twitter users tend to be more tech-savvy, so Twitter has become a hub for information discovery. Therefore, B2B and B2C brands should definitely use Twitter to publicize their content.
MAU: 303 million (as of May 2019)
Age Group: 25-45 years
Industries (Mostly B2B): Legal, BFSI, technology, manufacturing, marketing, education, employment
Being present on LinkedIn is mandatory for a B2B organization as it offers a multitude of opportunities to grow your business. Although B2B brands dominate LinkedIn, B2C brands also use it even though just to discover prospective employees.
For individuals, LinkedIn is a great platform to showcase expertise and establish themselves as thought leaders in their niche. Brands can use LinkedIn company pages like Facebook pages while keeping the tone professional.
MAU: 1 billion (as of March 2019)
Age Group: 18-35 years
Industries (B2C): E-commerce, fashion, retail, food and beverage, beauty, travel, photography, entertainment, real estate
Instagram is a mobile-based visual platform that lets you share images and videos. Instagram’s popularity has risen in recent years and is expected to grow even bigger as consumers continue to embrace vertical videos, live videos, and stories. Instagram launched a vertical video platform called IGTV that allows you to share videos that are longer than a minute in length.
If you sell physical products, then you should definitely try Shopping on Instagram. It’s a powerful feature that many experts claim to be the future of social commerce.
MAU: 1.9 billion (as of February 2019)
Age Group: 18-55+ years
Industries (B2B and B2C): Almost any industry that can create video content for marketing
YouTube is an online video-sharing platform that allows you to view, share, and upload video content. The exponential growth of video marketing has led brands to create and share video content on YouTube extensively. If you are contemplating joining YouTube, here are three facts for you to consider:
- YouTube is the second most popular search engine after Google
- It is owned by Google
- If your competitor is already on YouTube, it can be challenging to stand out
MAU: 265 million (as of December 2018)
Age Group: 18-45 years
Industries (Mostly B2C): Art, DIY, craft, beauty, fashion, e-commerce, architecture, food, photography
Pinterest is a great visual platform for individuals and brands to seek inspiration for artistic endeavors and to promote DIY activities. You will find a plethora of ideas in the form of pins (images) and boards (a collection of images) about a topic. Although Pinterest was heavily popular among women in its early years, a shift has been observed in its usage in 2016 where women users have dropped from 83% – 60%.
Brands can create business accounts on Pinterest as well as run ads to reach out to their target audience.
MAU: 287 million (as of January 2019)
Age Group: 18-35 years
Industries (Mostly B2C): Health, fashion, food and beverages, live events/concerts, retail
Snapchat is another mobile-exclusive visual platform that became famous for its short content visibilty. The images and videos posted on Snapchat disappear after 24 hours. Snapchat is the most popular social platform among millennials and gen Z users. The platform is also known for its face lenses (filters). Since the content is short-lived, Snapchat is suitable to create content that is raw and genuine.
Besides building a brand organically, organizations can run ads to reach out to a wider audience.
MAU: 1 billion (as of June 2019)
Age Group: 10-29 years
Industries (Mostly B2C): Entertainment, Fashion, Drama, almost any industry that can create interesting video content
A lot like Snapchat and Instagram, TikTok is mobile-exclusive. This app, however, is primarily video oriented and caters to a much younger audience so marketers can choose it to specifically target Gen Z users. Influencer marketing and paid promotions are just beginning to imerge. It, therefore, holds tremendous potential to drive low-cost viral campaigns.
Representation of Social Messenger Apps
Along with the growth, as chatbots are becoming ubiquitous, let’s look at the top four messenger apps brands could use to grow their business.
MAU: 1.5 billion (as of January 2019)
WhatsApp started as a chat application to communicate with personal contacts, has grown into a massive app being used globally every minute of every day.
Anticipating the communication between consumers and small businesses, WhatsApp introduced WhatsApp Business that enables SMBs to create business profiles, provide customer support, automated messages and quick replies so that you can communicate with your customers even when you snooze and organize chats for easy discoverability.
WhatsApp Business API offers medium and large-scale businesses greater flexibility for customer communication.
2. Facebook Messenger
MAU: 1.3 billion (as of January 2019)
Facebook introduced the chat option in 2008 and released it as an independent app on Android and iOS in 2011. With Facebook Messenger, brands can now communicate with customers, build chatbots, or deliver ads to its Messenger app.
Brands are using Facebook Messenger to deliver content, provide customer support, and to keep buyers updated throughout their purchase journey.
MAU: 1.08 billion (as of January 2019)
WeChat is a messaging, social media and mobile payment app. Apart from using WeChat as a communication app, it allows users to book transportation, transfer money, deliver personalized content, and engage customers.
MAU: 260 million (as of January 2019)
Similar to the apps mentioned above, Viber also entered the market as a standalone chat app and started selling stickers as a revenue stream. Viber has now evolved into a product that allows brands to interact with customers through promotions and customer service.
Viber offers chatbot APIs to enhance customer support and can be integrated with CRM platforms.
How to Create a Social Media Strategy
“Social media will help you build up loyalty of your current customers to the point that they will willingly, and for free, tell others about you.”
~ Bonnie Sainsbury, Digital business strategist and Marketing advisor
In this section, we will look at how you can go about creating a social media marketing strategy for your brand that will get you results.
Representation of the Steps to Create a Social Media Marketing Strategy
Step 1: Run a Social Media Audit
Before you set goals and create a social marketing plan, it’s always a good idea to start with analyzing what has worked for you in the past. Visit the analytics/insights sections of your social media brand accounts and notice the audience demographic characteristics, locations, what type of content has worked and so on.
Similarly, visit the referral traffic sources in Google Analytics (or the analytics tool you’re using) to understand which platforms are most useful to drive traffic to the website.
A competitor analysis will allow you to track what is currently working and evaluate their strengths and weaknesses in terms of social media. This will help you shape an effective social media strategy for your organization.
Step 2: Set Goals and Define Metrics
What is your brand’s goal through social media? Is it to increase brand awareness, generate leads, provide customer support or increase brand engagement and reach? However, having goals is not enough. Define metrics that can identify whether you have achieved your goals or not.
For example, if you’d like to increase brand awareness, your metrics would ideally be the social media following you would amass in a defined period. Give it a number and a time frame.
Step 3: Research Your Target Audience
The social media audit step would have already given you some insights into your audience. The next step is to define audience personas that represent typical user traits such as their industry, job designation, content preferences, demographic, psychographic characteristics, etc.
The competitor analysis will also help you understand the platforms that your audience prefers spending time on. For example, if a competitor has a significant following on Facebook compared to other platforms, you can assume that your audience is more active on Facebook.
Step 4: Define the Content Strategy
Your social media marketing also works as a distribution medium for your content experiences. Your content should strive to entertain, inform, engage and persuade your audience.
The content strategy should be based on your goals and the target market. Identify your audiences’ major challenges and figure out how you can solve them through your content. This forms the basis for your content strategy.
Formulate a content calendar that partially automates your social media posting so that you don’t feel creatively thwarted when it comes to posting every day.
Hack the News Feed Algorithm: To increase the reach of your content organically, you need to figure out how to hack the news feed algorithm. What I mean by that is, at any given point of time, every social media platforms favors a particular content format over others.
For example, it’s native video content on Facebook currently. So, to thrive on this platform, you need to create video content as it will fetch better reach compared to text, link or image posts.
Step 5: Define the Paid Social Media Strategy
The problem with growth hacks such as the one mentioned above is that they are often short-lived. If you’re looking for sustenance, you need to create a flexible framework that can be tweaked to adapt to the changing rules. That’s why let’s talk a bit about your paid media strategy.
The organic reach on most mainstream social channels is dwindling. If you’ve set audacious goals, you may have to invest in social media paid ads. Social media ads help you drive traffic to your website, boost app downloads, generate leads, increase awareness and engagement, and directly generate sales through various types of ads.
Based on your goals, set a budget and plan campaigns that outline individual campaign budgets, the intended audience targeting, campaign goals, format of ads, and bidding strategies.
Step 6: Monitor, Measure, and Optimize
Once the wheels are turning, you need to monitor your social media activities constantly. Track what’s working and focus on doing more of that. Retire the activities that aren’t working.
Most of the social media learning comes from experimentation, so don’t get discouraged if some of the activities don’t bring you any results. You need to keep modifying your approach until you hit the sweet spot.
Social Media Best Practices
“Engage, Enlighten, Encourage and especially…just be yourself! Social media is a community effort, everyone is an asset.”
~ Susan Cooper, Social media strategist
This section shares the top five social media marketing tips that will help you get the best out of each platform.
Representation Social Media Best Practices
1. Follow Social Media Best Practices
No, we’re not stuck in a recursive loop here. Following social media best practices simply means treating each platform’s guidelines meticulously.
For instance, each social media platform has recommended image size and resolution for different types of images. Designing images as per the guidelines ensures that your followers have a seamless social media experience.
Similarly, if you are running paid ads, do not violate terms of services of the platform as you risk losing your ad account.
2. Implement a Communication Policy
To be coherent, define your social media tone and voice. It should go hand in hand with your brand image. That means if you are B2B corporate brand, steer clear of informal slang that could put you in a negative light. Audience research will always help you decide how to communicate with your followers.
**Be unambiguous and transparent in your communication. Remember Osmo Wiio’s second law of communication:
“If a message can be interpreted in several ways, it will be interpreted in a manner that maximizes the damage.”**
3. Optimize Content Creation Through Themes
Many brands post content under themes such as #MondayMotivation, #WednesdayWisdom and celebrities use the #FlashbackFriday hashtag, that is usually trending on those days. Find your day and stay consistent.
Ideating themes that are relevant to your brand would significantly optimize your content creation process and increase audience engagement. You can go a step ahead and create 2-3 different design templates for each theme saving you plenty of time in the process.
4. Invest in Influencer Marketing
Humans tend to conform to the masses or imitate the behavior of the people they admire or revere. Influencer marketing combines these two phenomena through social selling and by involving brand advocates.
Social media users have grown resistant towards traditional forms of advertising, and therefore influencer marketing relies on celebrities or thought leaders from specific niches to promote brands in their niche.
Since these influencers have a significant amount of following, brands prefer investing in influencer marketing as they can reach their goals while not coming across as pushy or gimmicky.
5. Do What Works for You
There’s no dearth of advice such as post multiple times throughout the day, be present on every conceivable social media platform or let interns manage your social media accounts.
Just because these tactics worked for others doesn’t mean that the same should work for you. If your organization works in a highly niche technical industry, it is apparent that you can’t create content at the same bandwidth as a brand operating in the publication or B2C domain.
Social Media Benefits
“I use social media as an idea generator, trend mapper and strategic compass for all of our online business ventures.”
~ Paul Barron, Editor in chief and CEO of the Foodable Network
From the points mentioned above, it is obvious that social media marketing offers enormous benefits to brands. Let’s look at five such benefits brands can derive by using social media.
Representation of the Benefits of Social Media Marketing
1. Stay Top of Mind
We’re in an age where the online community is drowning in a sea of information. People have FOMO (fear of missing out), and brands are trying hard to be noticed. The adage out of sight, out of mind couldn’t be any truer.
Social media allows brands to send out regular content to stay top of the mind.
2. Get New Content Ideas
The information overload, when used wisely, can work in your favor. With the help of social media, you can get new content ideas through news, updates, competitors’ content, and so on. Brands are relying on newsjacking and pop-culture references to create content that their audience would enjoy.
Another way brands can get content ideas while boosting engagement is through crowdsourcing. User-generated content has become a staple for organizations to increase content frequency while making the audience a part of their content creation.
3. Online Reputation Management
Your customers will speak about you whether you are on social media or not. Don’t let your customer suggestions, queries or complaints fall on deaf ears. Social media when used proactively can be an excellent customer service and engagement platform.
Also, you never know when a PR disaster would knock you out cold. In such scenarios, along with the website and email, social media is the fastest mode of communication to manage the crisis. You can significantly put out the fire by responding and resolving the complaint as fast as you can.
4. Expanded Paid Ad Capabilities
Social media platforms enable organizations to run ads with precision targeting. You can find the exact audience segment that would want to buy your products.
With features such as remarketing, you can reconnect with past website visitors or reactivate a dormant user base. The lookalike audience feature lets you to find new audience segments that shares similar characteristics to your existing customers.
5. An Effective Revenue Generation Medium
Social media is an important touchpoint when guiding leads through the marketing funnel. Along with that, lead generation ads have proven to be an effective way to source new prospects.
Social Media Tools
“We don’t have a choice on whether we do social media, the question is how well we do it.”
~ Erik Qualman, Author
Social Media Marketing requires you to be active almost all the time and across multiple channels. To be efficient and omnipresent, there are multiple automation tools that let you manage your social media accounts from one place even when you’re on the go. There are multiple tools available that businesses can use to schedule posts, track performance, monitor mentions and engage with users. We’re looking at three popular tools available right now:
Representation of the Social Media Marketing Tools
Buffer is a social media management tool and has been around since 2015. It is used and trusted by industry professionals as it allows them to manage multiple social media accounts, measure performance, have multiple people access one account, get recommendations and integrate with your most used apps.
Supports: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest
Plans: $15/month to $99/month
Hootsuite is another widely used social media management tool that lets you schedule posts on over 20 social media marketing platforms. It offers features that help you curate, schedule and boost content, while also analyzing it to determine the best time to post with real-time updates to keep a track of brand mentions and audience engagement.
Supports: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube, WordPress, Pinterest.
Plans: $29/month to $599/month
3. Sprout Social
Sprout Social offers all the common tools that other social engagement tools have. It also offers some other features that let you schedule posts, monitor competition, track keywords, and more. It also had a smart inbox that lets you view and respond to all the messages received across platforms, which enables social media managers to engage in conversations, respond and organize messages.
Supports: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn
Plans: $99/month to $249/month
With the right social media marketing platforms and analytics provided by each of them, you can reach your target audiences like never before. Making the digital space a small world filled with opportunity and success.
We hope this primer on social media marketing has helped you understand the fundamentals of social media and inspired you to delve deeper into the more intricate aspects of it.