Ready to Get Started with Marketing on Social Media? Here’s What You Need to Know

Social media marketing concept

If you’ve got a service or a product you want to sell, you’ll need to market it. Nowadays that almost always means promoting it online. And that almost always means social media marketing.

At its most basic, social media marketing refers to the practice of using social networks to raise brand awareness and sell more stuff. You need to do it simply because it’s where everybody is. There are approximately 3.6 billion social-media users worldwide; for business purposes, that’s pretty much everybody (except your one friend who won’t shut up about not being on social media). 

Social media marketing is also cheap relative to traditional promotion, and can be highly effective if you know what you’re doing. To that end, we'll explain how social media marketing works and how you can implement it on your own.

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How social media marketing works

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On a more granular level, a social media marketing strategy allows you to promote your content in ways that are accessible and engaging. It’s a vital tool for building up a strong, trusting relationship with your target audience. This close social engagement will give your consumers insight into your company’s value proposition, its mission, and identity.

Social media marketing can also help your business in other ways:

  • Increased brand visibility and reach.
  • Cost-effective strategies. You pay nothing to create and manage a social channel. And while you’ll likely want to pay for advertising, the costs are lower than traditional media, you’ll only pay when someone sees your content, and you’ll get extensive metrics to measure how well your ads are working.  
  • If your content is compelling enough, it can drive traffic to your website and generate more leads.
  • Engaged social networks will give you a leg up on your competitors for new product promotion. Word of mouth works, and if you have enough support, and you can tap into the zeitgeist in some way, your posts could go viral.

How to get into social media marketing: The five things you should know

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If you’re learning social media marketing and you plan to put a product campaign into action, there are five core tenets.

1. Strategy

Always start here. Your strategy will cover critical factors like your overall company goals, strengths, and weaknesses. It will also help define your target audience and demographics, your competitors, the kind of content you want to share on social channels, and the social channels you plan to use. Just as in any other form of marketing, you want to clarify all of these things before you do anything. 

2. Planning and publishing your content

After your strategy comes your social media plan, which maps out the specific, concrete steps you need to take to carry out the strategy. This plan will include a list of the tools — e.g., software to publish and manage social posts — you’ll use to put those steps into action, along with the resources you’ll need. You’ll also draft a timeline of deliverables.

3. Engagement

Engagement refers to community management and maintenance, specifically how you plan to listen to what your audience is saying via social media and how you’ll respond to them. To make this process easier, you may need to invest in some social listening tools.

4. Analytics and reporting

Social networks provide extensive metrics for tracking engagement, interaction, and return on investment. You’ll want to identify the ones that will be most valuable and track them religiously. That tracking will inform your daily approach and help you adapt and tailor your strategies.

If you’re working at a company, all these analytics will enable you create comprehensive reports you can hand to your higher-ups when they ask you what they’re getting for all the money you invested in digital marketing. 

5. Advertising

Because ads are how social networks make money, it’s in their interest to ensure that paid posts are more effective than “organic” posts (anything you post without paying). So you’ll need to advertise, and set a budget for it. Paid posts and influencer campaigns meant to complement your day-to-day social activities will almost always increase your brand reach further than it can go with organic. 

Social media marketing goals

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As with any marketing effort, you want to set specific goals for your social strategy. The SMART framework provides a neat framework for crafting them. It calls for setting goals that are:

  • Specific in scope
  • Measurable in success
  • Attainable for your current business size
  • Relevant to your business or product, and
  • Time-bound, with a clear, strict deadline

Your goals could be around something simple like website traffic. Essentially, you’ll be tracking how many hits you get to your website via redirects on social media. Better yet, track conversion rate, which tells you how many social media referrals turned into actual sales.

Social media also has powerful potenttial for raising brand awareness and shaping brand identity. The engagement metrics you get from social channels tell you which messages are resonating, which are falling flat. And paying attention to how audiences talk about your brand online can help you understand how they perceive you, how that perception aligns with your desired identity, and what you may need to do to get them more aligned. 

Listening is absolutely crucial, and too often overlooked. The brands that have the most success on social channels don’t just post stuff to their audiences; they also pay close attention to the conversations happening among those audiences. That can provide invaluable insights into marketing, product design, and shifting consumer preferences. It can also help you craft messages that will feel authentic to your audience. 

Social media marketing tips

Finally, here are a few tips you should consider for social media success:

  • Put a social media strategy in place before you start posting content. I said that before, but bears repeating: creating a concrete roadmap is crucial.
  • Develop a consistent brand image across all your social platforms. This enables audiences to recognize your brand and helps you build its identify. 
  • Use your social channels for curated content promotion. This means sharing videos, blog posts, and other forms of media that you create — plus content created by others that has value to your audience.
  • Use social platforms to track your competitors. You’ll want to watch how they engage with their communities and what seems to be working for them. Then differentiate yourself.
  • Measure your social media success. Some of the best tracking tools on the market: Hootsuite, Sprout Social, and Hubspot

For more info on how to integrate content creation with social media marketing, especially audio and video content, you can check out Descript’s blog, too.

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