It’s safe to say that social media has revolutionised the world of digital marketing.
Think about it: a myriad of free platforms now exist wherein brands can effortlessly communicate with their customers.
4.20 billion people were actively using social media as of January 2021, the equivalent of 53% of the global population. That number keeps growing, with the same study reporting a 13% year-on-year increase.
Your customers might not watch live television and they might not read the newspaper. But the chances are that a large proportion of them are using social channels. By using social media, you can target them where they already are. What’s more, this means of marketing is often more affordable, meaning social media marketing can be an effective tool for both big brands and small, local businesses.
But while social media has the potential to be one of the most valuable tools at your disposal, mastering it can be a bit of a minefield. That’s why we’ve put together this handy guide to help you make the most of your social channels.
First up, let’s look at why social media marketing matters in the first place. Aside from the number of global users and the affordability benefits that we’ve already mentioned, there are tons of advantages to using social media for advertising purposes.
Social media has been proven to increase brand awareness for all types of businesses, particularly as your follower count grows and your profiles are recommended to other users. Although paid advertising can be useful for this, it’s entirely possible to increase brand awareness organically on social media
54% of social media browsers use social channels to research products, meaning that potential customers are actively looking for brands to engage with on social rather than through search engines. If you’re not there, but your competitor is, you’re going to lose out on business.
Social media is an excellent tool for increasing web traffic, with outbound links easily added to both your profiles and your regular output of content. Similarly, social media is really useful for promoting other types of content, such as blog posts, webinars or white papers - this works particularly well for B2B businesses.
Social media is an invaluable tool for getting more leads and increasing sales, whether that’s by simply promoting your products or services through your regular output of content, or by integrating your social channels with your e-commerce stores. Social media platforms are constantly adding new business features for both B2B and B2C marketers to use.
These days, there are a ton of different social media platforms out there - but not every single one will be useful for your business.
What’s more, each platform is different, with its own algorithm to master. That means every platform requires its own separate strategy and unique content catered to the channel. There’s no point wasting your time trying to juggle eight different platforms if your intended audience are only using three of them. For best results, you should pick the platforms you market on carefully.
Currently, the most popular social media platforms are as follows:
There’s also YouTube, Pinterest, Snapchat, Reddit and WhatsApp - though the list above are the most commonly used for social media marketing.
So, how do you choose which platforms to use?
Demographics play a huge role in deciding what social media platforms to use. Age in particular is a huge factor, as different social channels are more commonly used by different generations.
For instance, older audiences are more commonly found on Facebook - it’s the most commonly used platform for both Baby Boomers and Gen X. That said, there are disparities in how each generation uses the platform. According to research from Sprout Social, Baby Boomers are more likely to use social media platforms to scout out discounts or new products, while Gen X typically prefer organic content rather than paid advertisements.
The same data suggests that Millennials are most likely to use Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Millennials' relationships with brands on social is mostly influenced by convenience, and they’re more likely to expect the businesses they buy from to tackle societal issues.
Gen Z are the generation least likely to use Facebook, and tend to opt towards platforms like Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube and TikTok. Gen Z are also far less likely to follow brands on social media in the first place, especially those who only post promotional content. For this demographic, influencer marketing can be extremely effective, and social campaigns must be far more innovative and engaging to get younger audiences to take note.
TikTok in particular is one of the fastest growing social media platforms. It’s now the 7th most popular social media platform in the world - or the 4th if you discount messenger channels - with a 45% increase in less than a year, as reported by Hootsuite. One of the most popular platforms, especially for Gen Z audiences, TikTok is definitely a platform to invest in to reach younger customer audiences.
Remember that while demographics can be helpful in determining what social platforms you use, they shouldn’t be the sole influence over the actual content you post or the buyer personas you should develop. These should be determined by the pain points and requirements of your customers, which you can build through developing relationships with your social media followers.
The nature of the business itself is important to consider in choosing your social media platforms. For instance, B2B companies are likely to do best on LinkedIn, as the platform is specifically catered towards professionals and businesses. B2B companies can also thrive on Twitter if they’re able to build a following.
For B2C businesses, the answer is more varied. Local businesses promoting services can often do well on Facebook, while brands selling visually appealing products can thrive on image or video centric platforms, like TikTok or Instagram.
The ever-growing popularity of social media is a great thing for businesses, but it does come with a catch. As more people join and post to these platforms, and indeed as more businesses use it for marketing, it makes it harder to develop content that actually stands out from the crowd.
In order to build an audience - and then keep them interested - marketers must carefully devise creative social content and campaigns, to create posts that their followers actually want to see and engage with.
It’s good to strike a balance with your social media content, posting a good mixture of both sales posts and other forms of content. What will work depends on your audience.
For instance, break things up with memes, quotes and interesting articles (though do make sure that these are relevant to the business). Make that content visually appealing by producing high quality image or video designs that incorporate your unique branding to increase brand visibility. Alternatively, grow brand trust by developing a bank of user generated content that you can reshare.
Social media trends are always changing, which is why deliberately trying to make your content go viral almost never works. The brands that do the best on social are those that are reactive and up to date with the trends. It’s a good idea to monitor social media trends and create ad hoc content as and when that corresponds with them to increase traction.
These are extremely useful, making it easy for you to create and schedule content in advance so that you have a steady and regular output. It also allows you to plan your content in advance, tailoring your content plan around national events and special occasions. You can plan this in concordance with your sales strategy, meaning you can also plan promotions, sales and competitions alongside your usual content output.
This can help you to decide the frequency of which you should post. This will vary for every business, but ideally you want to reach a happy medium between posting often enough that your followers won’t lose interest in you, but not so often that your posts get a little bit grating.
This is a tough one, and the main reason why we recommend only committing to a few choice social media platforms rather than attempting them all. Why is it a problem? Social media algorithms are changing all the time. Particularly in the earliest stages of your social profiles, you’ll be attempting to build a following. Getting noticed can be tough.
The algorithm for each platform works in a different way. For instance, certain platforms like Instagram reward the use of multiple, relevant hashtags - whereas on LinkedIn, while hashtags are also used, only the first three are actually recognised by the algorithm. It’d be totally useless taking the time to incorporate the same number of hashtags you’d add to an Instagram post on this platform
Another thing worth noting here is that different algorithms reward different types of content, which is why it’s a great idea to diversify what you post. Short form video content is gaining particular momentum on channels like Facebook and Instagram. By using this type of content here, your posts can be more likely to show up in the feed.
Video content is well worth incorporating into your content marketing strategy in general, by the way - it performs really well on almost all platforms, driving the success of TikTok as well as Instagram’s Reels feature. 72% of consumers have previously reported preferring to learn about products or services through video form. Not only that, but video content is predicted to account for 82% of all internet traffic by 2022. You might as well get in on the action.
Speaking of types of content, when it comes to social media it’s not just about posting to the feed. Temporary content can also work really well. From stories on Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook (not Twitter though - RIP Fleets) to going live on IGTV or Facebook, this is a different way to engage with your audience that can work really well for brands.
Stories are also a way to dodge the algorithm; brands can share their grid content to their stories, helping audiences see posts even if it doesn’t appear on the feed. What’s more, stories come equipped with additional features like stickers, location tags, polls and questions.
One of the most important things to remember is that excellent social media marketing perfectly blends creativity with strategy. While it’s important to write fantastic content paired with high quality and branded imagery, and come up with innovative campaigns, you should also take the time to review how it performs.
Generating reports for your social media platforms and taking the time to review the analytics is an absolute essential if you want to create results that grow month-on-month. Most good scheduling software will allow you to generate these reports with ease, but the most important thing is to actually review the data, and use it to make further decisions. If one of your campaigns failed, try to decipher the reason why. If a campaign or a post performs particularly well, use this as a basis for your next plan.
At the start of this blog, we said that one of the things setting social media apart from traditional marketing mediums is the fact that social media platforms are free for businesses to use. And while this is true, paid advertising is definitely something that you should be thinking about.
Because social media is so widely used - and free - it is highly competitive. What’s more, advertising makes up the vast majority of a social media company’s profits.
Organic content refers to any of the free posts your brand makes on social media. These posts will be seen by a percentage of your followers, followers of any hashtags you use, and depending on the algorithm, the followers of people who interact with your posts.
One thing that many businesses struggle with is organic reach; social algorithms, particularly on Facebook and Instagram, are notorious for limiting the percentage of followers that a post will actually be shown to. This is why it’s important to create content that is rewarded by the platform’s algorithm, as doing this can increase organic reach and, subsequently, engagement and conversions.
But the fact is, organic reach is on the decline - and smaller businesses who are new to the gain are still likely to struggle. This is why paid advertising on social media can be well worth the investment.
When our clients are hesitant to give paid advertising a go, the reason is almost always that their previous attempts have been unsuccessful. Paid advertising on social media can be tricky. It can take a lot of trial and error, particularly if you’re new to it - but when done effectively, it can actually be one the most cost effective means of paid advertising with an enviable ROI. For more information on how to optimise ads, read our previous blog here.
Overwhelmed by the amount of information here? You’re not alone - social media marketing can be challenging, particularly for the owners of small businesses who are already wearing too many hats and doing too many different jobs.
That’s where we come in.
Here at ITK, we specialise in offering complete social media marketing packages for our clients. We offer comprehensive content and creative services for all of the major social media platforms. We have over 10 years’ experience in digital marketing, and can bring both your organic and paid advertising campaigns to life. Get in touch today, and let the experts take care of things for you.