For many of us, social media seems like living on a whole other planet. Between followers and newsfeeds, live streaming, regram, retweet, boosting posts… what does it all mean? And how can you use this to your advantage? Can you start your own digital marketing agency and use social media marketing to its fullest potential without allocating a large budget?
So, what is social media marketing?
Well, social media marketing is the use of social media platforms as a way to reach your audience (both current and potential) in order to increase website traffic, brand awareness, and sales.
These metrics can be achieved by creating custom content for your business and interacting with your audience through these social media platforms. The key difference between social media marketing and regular good ol’ marketing is the rapidness in which these platforms allow you to reach your consumers, bringing in a new audience you wouldn’t have been able to reach.
Posting on these platforms is mostly free (unless you want to “boost” or “promote” your content – these are the actual terms used by social media platforms and yes, they mean specific things), but they give you the tools to be creative without having to hire an agency.
With cameras in our hands 24/7, we can be in charge of our own marketing and content with little to no outside help – that’s super affordable and you’re the director.
Now, what are the types of social media marketing? Or are they all the same?
No, not all types of social media marketing are the same. The main platforms are TikTok, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and LinkedIn. Each utilizes their own “types” of content, for their own purposes:
- Social Networking
- Photo Sharing
- Video Sharing
Social Networking is exactly what it sounds like – networking with people who may be interested in purchasing from you, who may be able to help with your business somehow, or who may simply be interested in your business and what you’re doing. This is the primary component or “type” of social media for LinkedIn and Facebook, but they are also utilized by Instagram and Twitter.
Blogging and microblogging. Well, I think we’re all familiar with what blogging is – essentially blogging is amateur journalism, e.g., casual op-eds or long-form thoughts for public consumption. And microblogging is the, um, well… the miniature version of blogging. This is a huge part of LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. Again, Instagram and Pinterest utilize microblogging, but only tangentially.
Photo sharing is the core of Instagram, its original purpose and still its main “type” of social media. Ditto for Pinterest (text only recently became significant on Pinterest). It also has become a considerable portion of Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.
And then there is video sharing. Video content, on all platforms, has the highest rate of engagement. Video sharing, is the sole “type” of social media for TikTok, the newest kid on the social media playground. Their ascendance is a testament to how well video content is received and its high demand. Video content is already about half of all content on Instagram, but Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and LinkedIn are half of that or less.
PRO TIP: If you’re just starting out, do not bite off more than you can chew. Be selective with the platforms you start off with, based on what you know about your customers. For example, if all your customers ask for your Instagram handle, let your entree into social media marketing by focusing on Instagram specifically and grow from there.
But if I’m a small business or a startup, how can I use social media marketing to my advantage?
The great thing about social media is that its F-R-E-E. And actually, I think social media marketing is more impactful for small businesses and startups. For example, Nike could delete their Instagram today and I doubt their profits would be incrementally affected. For the rest of us though, there are four easy steps you can follow to tailor social media marketing to work for you.
For small businesses or startups, you need to start by knowing your audience. Who are your customers, and what do they respond to? What do they care about? To take it a step further (for those who are particularly ambitious), do some keyword research. All you have to do is Google, “best keywords for (enter your product/service here)” and you’ll get suggestions for words to use within your content that will work in your favor for the algorithms that be. PRO TIP: the same concept works for finding relevant hashtags!
Once you know all that, then you can create content based on those parameters, that showcases your product/service. This encompasses any images, any video, and any accompanying text (blogs, captions, hashtags). And don’t be afraid to let loose creatively here. There is a lot of content out there on the internet, and anything that sticks out is more likely to get attention or engagement.
But creating and publishing content is not enough. One of the main components of social media is well, being social. To make the juice worth the squeeze, you need to interact with people on these platforms. Be engaging. Comment on other people’s posts – “like”, “retweet”, “share”. Your business should have a personality of its own, and your social media profile and activity should be reflective of that. Over time, you’ll notice that people will join your audience and engage with you.
It is the interaction that makes social media special – and so important – too small businesses and startups. Social media platforms (whichever ones you choose to be active on) allow you to interact with people and showcase your business. By interacting with them, and displaying your brand, you will grow a sizable audience of loyal customers from markets traditionally beyond your reach.
So, you’ve done your research. You created your content. You’re building your audience and engaging with others. The last essential ingredient here is consistency. Have a schedule and stick to it. Everyone loves familiarity, and your audience will become accustomed to hearing from you on certain days, or at a certain time. Consistency breeds loyalty. Even if you cannot post every day, post regularly (every other day, once a week, however, works for you) and you’ll see your audience look forward to your content. We’re all creatures of habit, so make the habit a good one.
There you have it. A simple, foolproof plan to get your sea legs and start your own social media marketing. As you move forward, stay true to your brand, and don’t give up. It is a competitive market, but with these four steps, you’re guaranteed success.
The more time you have to dedicate to social media marketing (it is a 24-hour beast), the faster you’ll see results. But even for those of you who cannot dedicate a whole lot of time, dedicating a little time consistently will yield success.
Slow and steady, right? Godspeed!