Social media is a powerfully effective business marketing platform to harness a larger audience and develop long-lasting relationships with your current and future customers.

It’s hard to remember life before social media, even though Facebook went live less than 20 years ago. If you’re a certain age, you’ll remember Yahoo! group chats and MySpace. Over time, social media became interwoven into the daily fabric of our lives. Today, 72% of Americans have at least one social media profile. Some popular platforms for businesses include:

  • Facebook
  • Instagram
  • TikTok
  • YouTube
  • LinkedIn

Of course, by the time you’re reading this, there may be even more! Social media is constantly evolving, making it challenging for business owners to know how to best utilize this medium for the benefit of their bottom lines. But with a smart and thoughtful strategy, you can find success with social media marketing. 

What is social media marketing, then? Simply put, it’s businesses using social media to get their products and services in front of their audiences. People use social media to connect and share, so if your company is active on these platforms, you can spread brand awareness, strengthen relationships with your target audience, improve upon your customer service, make sales, and achieve many other business objectives. 

As you begin to refine your social media marketing practices, it’s a good idea to understand its benefits as well as the best practices marketing professionals use to optimize a strategy’s performance. This will help you see how a social media presence can turn simple friendships into valuable assets for your business. 

What social media marketing is and why it matters

Of course, billions of people — 2.8 billion as of 2021, according to Pew Research — have a Facebook profile. But that statistic isn’t even as impressive as the fact that 70% of users in America log onto the social media platform at least once a day, with 49% checking in several times a day.

While Facebook is currently the most popular platform, each social media site has a demographic it attracts. We know this because each site gathers the data of its users — which is important information for business owners and marketing professionals interested in understanding what social media marketing is.

After all, social media marketing uses these social networks to connect directly to a specific target audience. A main tenet of marketing is to meet your audience where they already are — and today, a majority of consumers are scrolling through their social media news feeds. 

They want to learn more about the world, and that includes how your products or services can help them with their needs. When you learn why and how to develop a social media strategy, you can implement a plan and track the success that comes with achieving your outreach goals.

The key benefits of utilizing social media for marketing

Like all kinds of marketing campaigns, social media marketing can take time to plan and implement. So, let’s start with the end in mind. When you know the measurable benefits that are associated with social platforms, you can begin to develop clear goals that make social media for business worth the effort. 

Increased brand awareness

The first step in any customer journey map is simply getting a customer to know about your brand. If someone doesn’t know your products or services are out there, they won’t ever complete a sale. But of course, it’s more than just letting them know you exist. 

Munirah Rimer uses social media marketing by way of a Facebook business page.
My friend Munirah teaches people how to batik as a business in South Florida. She uses Facebook to gain brand awareness for her artwork. Image source: Facebook 

Establishing your brand on social media means explaining your company values and demonstrating what sets you apart from your competition. Small business branding means creating an identity for your company, and social media is a perfect way to do just that.

Enhanced insights into your target audience

All social media channels collect data on users, so it’s easy to see which demographics are interested in your posts. But that’s not all — when you interact with people on your pages or in groups, you have the opportunity to learn in-depth about what your target audience cares about. You can gain valuable feedback that can dramatically benefit your business.

Improved customer service

Today, consumers expect that your business is available across prominent social media platforms. This means you can provide customer service on Facebook Messenger, Instagram direct message, WhatsApp, and any other platform you choose. Being available when your customers are isn’t always realistic, so consider integrating social media automation whenever possible.

Increased website traffic

While not every social media post should be related to sales, you can always encourage your followers to click on links that lead back to your website. Create social posts advertising products and services, as well as posts that include a snapshot of your expertise via helpful hints and bites of your blog content. 

Improved search engine rankings

Integrate keywords into your social channels, and you’ll improve your ranking with search engines like Google. SEO, or search engine optimization, is an important consideration for your business website in addition to your social media profiles. 

Increased sales

As you raise awareness of your brand and funnel more social media users to your website, you’re increasing your chances of making a sale and retaining loyal customers. To get a better idea of how many customers your social media marketing efforts are bringing in, track your sales conversions by creating landing pages on your website for specific campaigns and monitoring them through Google Analytics.

Improved cost-effectiveness

With organic marketing, you won’t have to pay for what you post on your business social media pages beyond what you pay content creators. But you may want to invest in paid social media marketing, which involves purchasing pay-per-click ads on the platform. When you narrowly target your audience for your advertisements on social media, you’ll be more likely to capture their attention. That will result in a good return on investment. 

You can also compare both organic and paid social media marketing campaigns to what it would cost for more traditional advertising in newspapers, magazines, television ads, and radio spots. Claiming a place in those limited spots can be much more expensive without using data to target your most interested audience. 

Muse uses paid ads as part of their social media marketing startegy to sell a brand-sensing headband that pairs with their app.
Sponsored content, like this Muse ad, is an example of pay-per-click, which companies pay when someone clicks to learn more. Image source: Facebook

Tips for utilizing social media for marketing

Wading through those cat memes and political posts won’t be overwhelming when you follow the best practices of social media marketers. The first thing to know is that you don’t have to have an active presence on every social network. Start slow and realistic for the most success.

Choose the right social media platforms for your business

When you have an in-depth understanding of your target audience, you’ll know which social media sites they prefer. Your business may lend itself to more visually oriented networks like Instagram, or you may gravitate towards creating a video marketing strategy on YouTube. Start with one channel and grow when you’re ready.

Create and share high-quality content

High-quality content is interesting and relevant to your target audience. Post product and service information, answer questions, give behind-the-scenes looks at your business, share expert advice, and drive traffic to your website. 

Your content should also be aesthetically pleasing in addition to providing your audience with valuable information. So, you want to use good lighting and sound quality for photos and videos. Double-check for typos and make sure that your copy aligns with your brand voice and resonates with your audience. Keep visual branding elements consistent by adhering to your brand’s colors, fonts, and graphic design elements. 

Taking the extra time to share high-quality content will pay off as your brand grows. 

Post consistently

Your current (and future) followers are scrolling all the time, so you’ll want to stay top-of-mind. Aim for a regular and consistent posting schedule, rather than making random data dumps. To do this, you’ll want to make a content calendar. 

Interact with your audience

A strength of all social media marketing tools is the ability they give you to engage current and prospective customers in real time. Remember, social networks are a two-way street: Ask your followers questions that get them talking, and then listen. If someone has a concern, reply as quickly as you can. Consider this a way to form meaningful relationships with loyal customers.

Use social media analytics to track your results

As you set up your social accounts you’ll discover a robust backend that’s filled with data, graphs, and other analytics. Use these to your benefit, especially if you engage in pay-per-click advertising. You can compare the engagement metrics among your different social media channels to see where to position your time and money for future campaigns.

How to set up a basic social media marketing strategy

As a business owner, you likely created a business plan when you started out. If it included a comprehensive marketing plan, you’re in the minority. If that marketing plan had a social media component, you’re ahead of the game. Here’s what it takes to know what social media marketing is and how to make it work for you. 

Define your goals

Remember those benefits of social media marketing strategy? You may notice all of them, but it’s best to focus on one or two big goals at a time for the growth of your business. Write these into the plan so that you can break out action steps, or measurable objectives, designed to reach that specific goal. 

Create SMART goals, which are aims that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. That is, set a time frame for a social media campaign and check its success based on data directly related to the goal. 

Let’s say you want to increase your social media following by 10% by the next quarter. Consider holding a social media contest on Instagram to increase reach and gain new followers.

Identify your target audience

Know your target audience to identify where to put your resources for social media marketing. For example, if your customers are mostly living in senior centers, you won’t need to have a TikTok or Snapchat presence. If your target audience is teenagers, LinkedIn likely won’t bring you great results.

But you want to know your customers on a deeper level than simple demographics like age and gender. Especially if you have the budget for paid social media ads, you’ll want your target audience to be as narrowly defined as possible.

As you refine your target audience, research groups they’d join and hashtags they follow. You may discover influencers with whom your customers resonate for future partnerships.

Keep in mind, your brand may have a few different audiences. When that happens, focus on one at a time with different, short campaigns. Use A/B testing to experiment with your content until it meets your goals.

Create a social media content calendar

Once you’ve set your goals and identified your audience, the next step is to create an actionable document that outlines the process and deliverables for each part of your strategy. Try creating a spreadsheet with the following:

  • Publish date
  • Publish time
  • Social media platform
  • Image
  • Text
  • Links/CTA
  • Keywords
  • Content creator
  • Social media manager 
  • Notes

The social media manager is the person responsible for reviewing your content and uploading it onto the right social media platform(s) at the time planned. A good way to schedule posts in advance is through free social media tools like HootSuite, which allows you to create future posts in one sitting.

Content calendars help ensure you aren’t waiting until the last minute to come up with a post idea. Instead, you can have creative strategies like challenges, contests, or monthly themes. Have fun and get feedback to make the next campaign even better.  

Leverage social media marketing for your business

Planning a targeted social media campaign for your business can help you reach your business goals — and have fun doing it.

Now that you know what social media marketing is, you’re ready for the next step. Take an inventory of the current digital presence of your company. Use a critical eye on improvements needed for your website or ecommerce operation process. Then, analyze the data to see which social platform you’re ready to focus on expanding your presence with.