Social media is part of our everyday lives, and that makes it a natural place for businesses to communicate with their customers and connect with prospects. When used correctly, social media is a powerful tool for reaching diverse audiences and driving sales.
This post is a beginner’s guide to social media marketing. We’ll walk through some of the basic principles of how to run a business’s social media account and how you can get the most out of the time you’re spending on social media every week.
WHAT IS SOCIAL MEDIA?
Before we get into how to get your business started on social media, it’s useful to take a setback, think about what social media is, and how people use it. At its core, social media is about connecting people with their friends and things they’re interested in. As a brand, you have to respect that by creating and publishing content that they will want to engage with.
The best brands use social media to build authentic relationships with customers and prospects through entertaining, relevant, and helpful social media content.
Your goal, first and foremost, is to be authentic. While social media can attract and convert leads, your social presence can’t be all about sales. It’s about building up positive brand association. Focus on creating real relationships with real people.
HOW DOES SOCIAL MEDIA BENEFIT BUSINESSES?
Managing a social media presence for your business is an ongoing project, and it can be time-consuming. So why do companies do it? What do they get out of social media?
Social media helps you grow your audience and build a following. This is where you can transform customers into fans, helping people build an emotional connection with your brand.
Social Media Drives Traffic to Your Website
Brands also use social media to drive traffic back to their websites. They use social media as a channel for getting their message out. It’s a way to meet people where they are and connect with them in a natural way before leading them back to your website to check out a blog, download an eBook, or click the “Add to Cart” button.
HOW TO GET YOUR BUSINESS STARTED WITH SOCIAL MEDIA
When you’re first starting out with social media, the first step is always the most daunting. There are a few things to keep in mind that will help guide you, though.
Set Realistic, Measurable Goals
Before writing a single post: consider your goals.
What does your business really want out of social media? Make it a real, concrete, and achievable goal. You can do this before you’ve even created your social media accounts. If you’re not sure where to start, following the SMART framework might be helpful.
SMART stands for specific, measurable, assignable, relevant, and time-based. According to this methodology, your goals should check each of the boxes. Here’s an example of a SMART social media goal:
“By the end of Q3, I’m going to increase engagement on Facebook by 5%.”
With that statement, I’m giving a specific and measurable goal (5% increase in Facebook engagement), I’m assigning it to myself, it’s relevant to my business because I want more people interacting with my brand, and I’m giving myself a firm deadline (the end of Q3).
Once I’ve physically written out my goal, I can start coming up with strategies to achieve it. For our example, I might try creating more video content, using polls, or experimenting with giveaways to drive higher user engagement.
ALLOCATING RESOURCES FOR SOCIAL MEDIA MANAGEMENT
While you can spend as much time as you want on social media, managing your accounts doesn’t have to be a huge time commitment. It’s best to allocate a certain amount of time to it every week.
For some companies, that’s several hours a week. For others, it’s a few minutes every day.
Setting a Cadence
Now that you’ve established at least one goal, it’s time to figure out a regular cadence for posting. While it would be great to post awesome content multiple times a day, most brands don’t have the resources to keep up with a publishing schedule that ambitious.
There are all kinds of studies out there that talk about the ideal number of posts for each platform, but it really comes down to what you can realistically produce and what your followers want.
You know your audience: How much of your content are they willing to consume every week? For some brands, that might mean a post per day. For others, it might be two posts a week. You have to find a balance between how much quality content can you can produce without losing quality and how much your audience wants to consume.
Whatever cadence you choose, the important part is being consistent. Social media is about being a consistent and reliable resource for your audience.
Varying Your Content
Once you’ve figured out your goal and committed to a posting cadence, it’s time to consider the types of content you want to produce.
What types of content are you already producing? Do you have a blog on your website? If so, your social media accounts can be used as a distribution channel. Images and infographics are eye-catching, so they make great social media posts, too. Video content can be time-consuming to produce, but short, bite-sized video clips are always great pieces for social content. What kinds of resources do you have to produce this kind of content? What’s your strategy for content creation?
The point here is to vary the kinds of things you’re posting.
Adding a little variety can help you figure out what posts resonate with your audience and which ones don’t. Knowing what your followers like is valuable information, and it will help you refine your strategy and create more relevant content in the future.
Focus on One Social Platform First
A common pitfall for brands new to social media is being too ambitious, starting out trying to build more than one platform. The reality is, unless you have a team helping you build your social media presence across multiple platforms, it’s going to become overwhelming.
That’s why it’s usually a better idea to focus on one and own it.
Each platform has its own unique quirks. It takes time to get to know them and find your footing. Concentrate your efforts. Where are your targets? What platforms do they use? There’s no reason to build out a social media account where your audience isn’t spending much time.
Check out each social media platform’s user demographic breakdown to help narrow down which platform you should go after first.
Hashtags: What They Are and How to Use Them
Even though hashtags often used ironically, hashtags are ways to categorize posts to help people discover them. Make sure you’re using them correctly.
Find out which hashtags are relevant for your industry. Check out your competitors’ social media profiles for inspiration. What kinds of hashtags are they using? Click on them and see how often people are posting with them.
Creating a Content Calendar
One of the best ways to ensure you stay on track with posting on social media is to create a content calendar.
Content calendars can be as simple or complicated as you want them to be. But at their core, they’re all the same. It’s essentially a calendar where you assign certain posts to certain days and times. You can use a digital calendar or even a printed one.
The point is to plan out your posts so that you’re posting consistently.
Having a content calendar also helps you with the approval process. If your company needs to have several different people sign off on social posts, a digital version of a content calendar can make the process move much quicker and keep everyone on the same page.
Some digital content calendars can even automate the posting process. You simply enter your copy into the digital calendar and schedule it to publish automatically.
Automation is a Double-Edged Sword
Automation can make it much easier to maintain a social media presence, but remember social media is about authenticity. You can schedule things to post automatically, but you won’t get the full benefit of being on social media.
At its best, social media is a two-way conversation, and that requires you to be present.
You have to learn to balance the ease of automation with the being human and showing your authenticity.
Authenticity on Social Media
One of the best ways to show your authenticity is by engaging with your audience. That’s something you can’t do with automation.
Engagement requires you to be on social media and actively participate, sending timely responses to messages and comments. Being on social media also lets you monitor what people are saying about your brand in real time. What are they saying about your brand? Are there questions that keep coming up?
Depending on the size of your following and the kind of content you’re publishing, it can be difficult to cut through the noise on social media. That’s why many businesses opt to run small-budget social media promotion campaigns.
In comparison to other types of advertising, social media promotion gives you much more bang for your buck.
Each platform has its own unique system for running promotions, but in general, promoting your brand on social media can help your message get in front of an audience you choose, cutting down on wasted ad spend.
There are different types of campaigns you can run. Some campaigns are simply ways to boost the reach of your existing posts. Other campaigns require you to create digital ads that run on the social platform. Each platform allows you to target your audience, so you’re putting your message in front of people who might find it interesting and engage with you.
Another way to promote yourself on social media is influencer marketing, a kind of celebrity endorsement for specific niche audiences. These influencers are enormously popular with small groups of people, and they have a tremendous amount of authority on a particular subject, and their followers trust their opinions on products and services.
Influencer marketing is a little different from running traditional social media ads because it depends on the popularity of an individual user to push your product. You pay the influencer directly to post about your brand, your product, or your services.
BREAKDOWN OF SOCIAL MEDIA PLATFORMS
While they have a few things in common, the most popular social media platforms — Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, and LinkedIn — all have their own unique strengths.
As mentioned earlier, it’s important to determine which social platform you want to focus on, learn everything about it, and build a sizable following before taking on another platform.
What Businesses Need to Know About Facebook
Despite a string of unflattering news stories over the past few years, Facebook continues to be a widely used social media platform. It’s consistently rated as one of the top most-visited sites in the world. While it’s less popular with younger people, an estimated 68% of Americans use Facebook. Joining or creating a relevant Facebook group is a quick way to reach audiences and focus on meaningful interactions with them.
If you’re not sure which platform to start with, you can’t go wrong with Facebook. Your audience is probably on it, and it has a tremendous amount of functionality for businesses, including an incredibly robust advertising platform.
FACEBOOK QUICK STATS
- 68% of Americans use Facebook
- Facebook is the third-most visited website in the world
- 66% of Facebook users visit the site every day
- 88% of Facebook users are accessing Facebook on a mobile device
What Businesses Need to Know About Instagram
By contrast, Instagram, now owned by Facebook, is extremely popular among young people. Worldwide, 71% of users are under 35, and more than a billion people use Instagram every month. An estimated 71% of U.S. businesses use Instagram, and 80% of users follow at least one business. Instagram is especially good for B2C companies.
Instagram Live has proven to be very successful for brands, giving them the opportunity to share live video feeds. Instagram Stories offers brands another way to connect with their audiences. Start doing visual storytelling for your brand today with Instagram.
INSTAGRAM QUICK STATS
- 1 billion people use Instagram every month
- 35% of online adults use Instagram
- Millennials make up 34% of Instagram’s user base
- 60% of users seek out and discover new products on Instagram
- 71% of businesses use Instagram
- 80% of users follow at least one business
What Businesses Need to Know About Twitter
With more than 500 million tweets sent every day, Twitter can be tough to break into. While the company has made changes to its algorithm to help users filter through some of the noise, at its core, Twitter is about instantaneous, rapid-fire interactions.
Twitter is limited to 280 characters — up from the original 140 — so all messages have to be relatively short. Twitter is great for talking about things happening in the moment, but it’s easy for your posts to get lost, too.
TWITTER QUICK STATS
- 326 million people use Twitter every month
- Affluent millennials make up 80% of Twitter users
- Twitter ads are 11% more effective than TV ads during live events
- 40% of users say they’ve made a purchase because of an influencer’s tweet
- Tweets with a GIF get 55% more engagement
What Businesses Need to Know About Linkedin
Billed as the professional social network, LinkedIn, now owned by Microsoft, is a lot different than Facebook and Twitter. LinkedIn is much more buttoned-up. LinkedIn’s user base is continuing to grow year-over-year. LinkedIn now has more than 500 million users, and of those users, 260 million of them are logging in each month.
For B2B companies, LinkedIn is a goldmine. LinkedIn allows you to target ads to audiences with specific positions, education levels, locations, and more.
LINKEDIN QUICK STATS
- LinkedIn grows at a rate of two professionals a second
- 154 million American workers have LinkedIn profiles
- 45% of LinkedIn users are in upper management
- 94% of B2B marketers on social media use LinkedIn to publish content
- 50% of B2B web traffic originating from social media comes from LinkedIn
- 80% of B2B leads generated on social media come from LinkedIn
Getting your business started with social media as a brand can seem overwhelming, but if you take it one step at a time, your work can pay dividends.