What Is Social Media Marketing?

Updated: Apr 24, 2019

You've heard you should be using social media as part of your internet marketing strategy but what exactly does that involve and what platforms should you be using? Everyone is touting social media as the last word in your technicolour marketing dreams, but is that genuinely the case? In this article, I'll give you some answers and help you define a social media marketing strategy for your growing company.

In 2023, there will be 43.1 million social network users in the UK. (According to this study). Roughly three-quarters of the population are captivated by their smartphones. Social media has become a mainstay of everyday life. As well as using it to connect with friends and family, your potential customers also use it to interact with and follow brand activity. Whether or not you use social media as a marketing activity depends on your brand persona. Will your brand or company benefit from engaging with your customers and potential clients on social media?

What Social Media Marketing Is Not

Social media marketing (SMM) is not a replacement for your website or a substitute for creating great content, services and products. Social media is a tool to amplify the message, to engage with users and obtain feedback.

The key takeaway is the word "engagement" which is a two-way street and means you will get involved with interacting with your user base. If you fail to connect and resonate with your followers, then you are broadcasting into a black hole and all that energy creating content is wasted and a costly mistake. SMM doesn't mean direct selling, although that can be a part of the mix; it is more to do with the psychology of interpersonal reaction.

What Is A Social Media Marketing Strategy?

Any SMM strategy should evaluate the different social media platforms available. Instagram is primarily visual and image-based, Twitter is text-based with the ability to add images, and video underneath your commentary and Facebook is a commingling of all three.

Just like search engine marketing there are organic and paid for ways to reach your target market. In the beginning, you'll want to use the organic (free) route because that will allow you to make mistakes without having to pay for them! Paid for adverts give you more control over your target demographic.

With the lack of any clearly defined conversion measurement tools, calculating your return on investment from any social media activity is a mystical practice, but no more so than that say, of billboard advertising or even TV advertising.

From the outset, you need goals to achieve. Even if these are hard to quantify, without goals, there can be no target for which to aim.

Here's a still image from a social media promotional video we recently made:

See the full video and other samples of our Mini-Movies

Some Examples Of Goals You Might Want To Achieve: Heighten brand awareness Connect with your target audience Direct selling Increase website traffic Generate new business

Provide customer support

This last one (providing customer support) can be a double-edged sword as the rules of engagement dictate that you should be timely in your responses. If you are the type of company that perpetually has "larger than expected call volumes" (read: understaffed) then getting buried in an avalanche of customer Tweets for help is not going to be your thing.

The obvious starting point for anyone new to social media marketing is to use that old fallback: competitor research. Discover what your peers are doing to drive interaction and user engagement and then copy them. Copying is an underused tactic in my book but, my reproduction is different from your copying.

Copying means using the same tactics as your competitors but improving on the message, making better images and writing superior copy. People who shamelessly copy and paste their way through life deserve all the karma coming their way. If you can't be original then at least be authentic.

Social Media Platforms

The social media platform you use depends with which user demographic you are trying to reach and engage. All the platforms listed below attract a different type of user, and some people use several at the same time. Me? Twitter and Instagram are my favourites, but a Facebook business page is an excellent addition to your overall marketing effort.

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Facebook Established in 2004, Facebook has become one of the internet’s most popular social media platforms. The great thing about Facebook is the ability to create your business page and then use tools like facebook messenger to provide customer support. It's a brilliant platform for filling job vacancies, announcing events and even holding competitions and giveaways. There's no need to use hashtags #hashtag on facebook, and it acts like a front of house webpage for your business.

View the Webuildstores Facebook Page

Twitter Twitter is increasingly popular as a tool for user engagement, and the twitter hashtags are popping up more regularly on the television soap and celebrity shows. Even dramas are commented on in real time, but I have to ask who is so insecure in what they are watching on TV that they have to have it validated by the Twitterati? Who wants a thousand Tweets telling you Liverpool have scored when you have just seen it with your own eyes?

Building a following on Twitter is incredibly difficult unless you have a popular product or service and bootstrapping (building from scratch) is not for the impatient. Those who are successful can be rewarded with hundreds of thousands of followers although you'll still need to send them to a destination where they can immolate their credit card.

See samples of our Mini-Movies

If you have plenty of witty one-liners, an acerbic way with words, are thick-skinned and can see past all the haters then Twitter might be your thing.

See the Webuildstores Twitter feed.

Instagram To get the full Instagram experience, you'll need an Instagram for business account:

Get real-time metrics on how your stories and promoted posts perform throughout the day.

Get insights into your followers and how they interact with your posts and stories.

Add information about your company, such as business hours, location and phone number.

Instagram is mainly a visual smorgasbord with some text added for good measure. We've found that the best image size to use is a square 750x750.

The best Instagram accounts are visually appealing and usually owned by celebrities showing off their toned bodies, but some companies like onepeloton are using it to devastating effect by profiling their staff, upcoming classes and providing motivational imagery.

Instagram uses hashtags extensively to help you get your images discovered, but they only have a short shelf life of 24 hours or so before they get lost in the ethersphere. You'll need a lot of imagery or the self-discipline to take many photos and selfies to make Instagram work for you.

View the Webuildstores Instagram Page

YouTube Creating a Youtube channel might be the best marketing move you ever make. Alternatively, it could be the shortest film career you ever imagined for yourself.

Take a look at some of the popular Youtube channels and see how advanced the video creation techniques and general production values have become. Consistently making great video content for Youtube is a full-time position for someone on your team.

Social Media Influencer Marketing

If you want to get your stuff promoted on a social media channel but don't want to go through all the hassle of building your follower base then merely pay a well known "influencer" with a few million followers to pitch your product for you. It's product placement for social media and lucrative for the channel owner.

To Summarise:

Building a social media following takes a lot of hard work and persistence. Don't be fooled into following people and hoping they will follow you back is a legitimate tactic for building your profile. All of the best influencer accounts follow only a handful of people and have thousands of followers themselves because they produce unique, interesting and engaging content.

Facebook is your first port of call and the obvious choice to immerse your virtual self in the world of social media marketing and Instagram is also easy to get started. Twitter is more intimidating because of the instant feedback it provides but if you are a wordsmith then that might be the place to make your name!

Do you need help with your social media marketing strategy? Contact us for a quote.