Guide To Social Media Marketing
While social media marketing is sometimes an afterthought for a surprisingly large amount of companies, you have an untapped well of potential if you overlook it. In this post, I’m going to show you how to lay the foundation of a smart social media marketing strategy and what to expect from each platform.
If you’ve ever been discouraged by your lack of results or you just aren’t sure where to start, this post is for you. And if you’ve had a posting schedule running for years, consider the strategies in this post to improve what you’ve already been doing. Let’s get going!
Table of Contents
What Is Social Media Marketing?
Social media marketing is about utilizing social platforms to connect with an end goal in mind. While social media is often used as a way for individual people to showcase what they are doing on any given day without necessarily thinking about the impact on their audience, social media marketing for a business thinks about the audience at the core of everything it does.
Social media marketing can accomplish so much for your brand, including:
- Driving sales
- Increasing your leads
- Bringing traffic to your site
- Helping you gather information about your customers
- Building brand authority to establish as an industry leader
- Improving customer relationships
- Boosting public relations
Effective social media marketing strategies define these specific goals, have tactics to reach them, and have ways of measuring their success.
Let’s take a look at what makes the foundation of an effective social media marketing strategy so that you can make it your own and find success for your small business!
How To Create A Social Media Marketing Strategy
Unless you’re a marketer or you inherently love social media marketing, you’re probably going to feel a little dread when it comes to your social media accounts. Some people avoid it altogether or just post minimally because it can feel like too much pressure. The encouraging thing is that once you lay a good foundation of the things listed below, you’ll find that it is easier than you think and that it takes less time than you probably imagined.
Now, if you haven’t done any initial branding work yet, you may be doing a bit more brainstorming in the beginning, but that work soon pays off when you get your strategy off the ground. The list below was written with the order you’d want to do them in mind, generally.
Here are some of the basics when it comes to planning a social media strategy:
1) Know Your Audience(s)
All great marketing efforts come from first understanding your audience. Start asking yourself some questions. Why do they shop with you? What do you do that they can’t find anywhere else? What do your clients need from you? Asking these questions helps you understand customer pains. Take some time to think about how your product or service fits in with the rest of their life. What motivates them to interact with you?
In asking these questions, you can get the groundwork laid for your messaging later. Then, create a few different personas or avatars. Create a few that cover different demographics but also think about adding in some more details to them. For instance, create one that is familiar with you already and one that has no idea who you are but might be looking for what you offer. Add in unique personal pains for your avatar and any other details that may help you imagine this “person.” Power this effort by researching your customers and those of your competitors to find any gaps of people you may want to target in your social efforts.
Once you create a few avatars, you can start to understand that you’ll need to create different types of content to reach your customers at different points in their buying journey with you. More on that below!
2) Be Consistent With Your Brand
Defining your brand and being consistent is important in all of your social channels, website, and marketing efforts. All of the images and colors you use should have a consistent look and “feel” and not deviate too far from a specified color palette. For instance, here at Merchant Maverick, we have defined black, blue, and recently added touches of green as our primary branding colors. So in our social feeds, you’re not going to find a lot of bright neon colors or pastels because those aren’t our defined branding colors. You’ll see a consistency reflected in each of the stock photos or designed images we share. Visual consistency creates a unified front and a strong brand identity that builds confidence and trust in your brand — not to mention making it easier for your customers or those who are just finding out about you to remember you!
Aside from visual consistency, you’ll want to define your messaging tone as well. Understanding who your audience is helps you with this as well. If your brand is all about disrupting your industry, you might want to go for an edgy tone. If your goal is to build trust and authority, consistency is very important, and an approachable and confident tone is probably best suited for you. If you run a small mom-and-pop restaurant that serves a local niche, a warm and neighborly tone would be ideal for fostering engagement in your community. Tone can vary widely, depending on the industry and audience, so start with defining a general tone and go from there.
3) Defining Your Social Campaign Goals
While there are certainly a lot of benefits to creating a good social campaign, focus on a few main goals in the beginning. Starting with your main goals helps you target your resources correctly and then gives you the brand authority to branch out later on.
- Sales: Define the goals that work the hardest for your business, then you can hone in on the tactics that will work the best. For instance, if you have an eCommerce store, your sales cycle is very short. Depending on the product, you likely don’t need to warm up your would-be customers with content that educates them on the product or the problem you solve. In that way, your goal is going to be increasing sales from social. It is a reasonable, realistic goal for retail.
- Leads: If you’re in a consultative business, however, a realistic goal for social media wouldn’t be to seal the deal with a click directly to a sale. A good strategy would be to offer a download or other freebie in exchange for an email or phone number. Using social media to build leads for you or your sales team to follow up on later is a great goal.
- Engage: Maybe you have an established donut shop, and you don’t hurt for customers — they line up out the door every weekend! You can use social to offer coupons or other deals to get more customers to come in during off times. Or you can use social simply to engage with your customers to build brand loyalty.
Start with one or two realistic social media goals and build from there!
4) Create A Content Calendar
How do you put your efforts into more stable followers who know and love your brand? It’s all about delivering content they want to see. Easy peasy, right?
Well, once you have the first three in this list under control, sit down and plan out what you’ll be posting. How far in advance depends on your resources and your preferences. You can find a content calendar template that you like, or you can use a Google Sheets or Excel document, or you can just write it out in a list form on a plan doc by date. Start with how often you want to post and then think about how you can connect with the persona you created and reach your goals.
Whatever you decide your goals are, create posts that let your followers know about you and what you offer. Plan for upcoming holidays, events, and promotions and slide those in your calendar.
You’ll also want to make space for posts that aren’t promotional but show a more personal side of you or your office. For instance, our fully remote team here at Merchant Maverick is full of pet lovers, and we regularly highlight our furry friends in a post. We also make sure we share any special meetup events to our feeds. Including office culture posts and highlighting specific employees boosts your brand and strengthens culture in the process. It’s a win-win.
The other type of posts you’ll want to create will account for a smaller overall percentage of your outgoing posts, but they can be just as important. Share a post from a non-competitor that is in your industry or that offers helpful information, advice, or is just plain entertaining for your followers. Social networking is great to improve reach, build relationships, and it’s something you didn’t have to create!
By planning all of these types of posts in a content calendar, you can better track results and maintain a balanced, well-thought-out calendar that provides different kinds of followers what they may need to take the next step with you.
5) Understand Your Metrics To Track Success
One thing I always caution against is focusing too much on the vanity metric of likes or rapid follower growth. Focus first on metrics that measure results with the followers you do have right now, and you’ll see that your growth happens organically over time. Here are a few metrics you’ll really want to keep your eye on:
- Impressions & Reach: These metrics show you who actually saw your post. Smart advertisers know that it takes more than a few times of someone seeing a new brand or product before making a move. Consider this metric as saying hello to potential new customers as well as followers who saw your post. (Hint: Using hashtags that relate to your industry help you get seen by people who don’t follow you but may be interested in what you’re posting.)
- Engagement: Engagement is probably one of the most important metrics when it comes to assessing the value of what you’re posting or offering. That’s because the engagement rate is taking the number of times your post was interacted with and dividing that by the number of people who saw it (impressions). When you track engagement, you can see what posts your followers really love and use it to inspire and lead future efforts.
- Clicks: This metric represents anytime someone clicked on the post, but it isn’t necessarily the same as straight site-through clicks. They may have clicked on the image in the social post and not your link. That’s why you should also be utilizing Google Analytics to track actual site clicks from your social accounts if you want a laser-accurate view of how your traffic got there and where it came from.
Now that we understand the lion’s share of the basics, the last few on our list will help you create a social campaign that’s successful and thriving.
6) Engage With Followers
When you’re thinking about creating your strategy and planning for resources and time, consider engaging with your followers and recruiting new ones. Engage with parallel but non-competing brands by commenting on, liking, and sharing their posts. Not only can you make a friend with a business that might return the favor, but you’ll also gain exposure with their followers, too.
Don’t forget to always respond to every comment, if possible, on all of your feeds. What if someone is acting saucy or complaining? It can be a fantastic opportunity to gain trust with your fans. Even with complaints, you gain the chance to show you care about your customers — even the stinky ones! Offer solutions or just support. Of course, if someone is out of line, there is always the handy delete button.
7) Test Your Tactics
Social media can be a great way to test a few things in your brand and messaging. You can use your competition as inspiration here, but just because something works for someone else, doesn’t mean it will work for you in the same way, so make it your own.
You can try a giveaway, targeted messaging, using new industry hashtags, and more. Always be reassessing what works and what doesn’t as you experiment. Then you can hone in on what really works for you.
I recommend testing anything new for at least two weeks or more. There is always room for improvement and testing of new ideas. Just make sure you are only testing one thing at a time and give it enough time to bring you the data you need.
8) Scale With Growth
Depending on your resources, skill level, and desire, you may start with only one or two platforms. Maybe you post to all platforms, but you’re only posting a few times a week. Take what you learn in the previous posts and as you find what works and what doesn’t so that you can scale in a smart, well-focused way.
Learn a new platform and test it out to see how it works for you. You might be surprised that your engagement rate, impressions, and clicks may be very different on each platform. Because of this, you can start to create content based on responses you observe, and that can be extremely valuable.
6 Social Media Platforms Your Business Should Be Using
Whether or not you should use all of the platforms listed below is up to your industry, your goals, and your bandwidth. However, each offers a unique edge that you can take advantage of for your business, and so even if you only feel up to focusing on one or two right now, keep the potential in mind.
For a business, Facebook can be a bane and a best friend at the same time. It can be frustrating to understand why some posts end up in the feed of your followers, and some just end up buried never to see the light of day. That said, Facebook is still very important. The reason is that, by far, Facebook still leads all of the other social platforms by a huge margin. Everyone and their mother is on Facebook, and people do search for businesses to see if they are legit, what their hours are, for updates, and yes, to check reviews. Being active and engaged on Facebook is an absolute must.
While posting on Facebook costs nothing more than your time, it does hold some pretty powerful targeting tools back in Facebook for Business. That’s why under no circumstances should you let your personal account double as your business account. Facebook will walk you through your business category and let you fill in all the fields important to your customers to display on your page, including hours of operation, your website, phone number, or the other preferred way to contact you. We will talk more about spending money on Facebook in one of the upcoming sections below.
All types of businesses can find Facebook’s platform to be a worthwhile place to connect with a broader audience, network, and even field customer questions and concerns. With a Facebook Store, however, you can now offer your inventory so that your followers can purchase without clicking off of Facebook. In an upcoming section, we talk a little bit more about how to make it easier for your customers to buy from you on Facebook!
LinkedIn can be a great place to network and engage as a small business owner. You can also create a LinkedIn page specifically for your business and provide content that informs or instructs. When you think about posting on LinkedIn, think of what could benefit your followers, as it is not really the place for excessive promotional content. LinkedIn is the perfect place to try your content marketing strategy, share about an event, network, and post updates or milestones about your business.
The feel of LinkedIn is collaborative, encouraging, or informative. It is a fantastic spot to focus on gaining brand authority by providing outgoing value and engaging with other brands in related industries. That being the case, I find that followers on LinkedIn are proportionally more engaged compared to Twitter and Instagram. That’s because those on LinkedIn are more apt to follow you if they are familiar with your brand or are seeking networking opportunities within your industry. If you haven’t yet given LinkedIn a try for your business, give it a go!
Instagram is by far the most visually focused of all the social media platforms. While you can probably post the same textual content to Instagram, your images are going to need to be crisp, on-brand, and interesting. If you don’t sell a specific product, you can use visual imagery to inspire or pique the curiosity of those that come across your brand. With Instagram Stories and videos, you can curate messaging and content that connects with your followers (and new ones) in engaging ways. And because many follow hashtags as well as individual accounts, you can be seen by a far wider audience than just who follows you. That’s why Instagram can support your brand awareness campaigns as well as your sales and loyalty efforts.
What about creating shoppable posts on Instagram? In an upcoming section, we talk a little bit more about offering your products on Instagram, and I’ll show you how to get started. Keep in mind that you’ll need to create an Instagram Business page rather than an individual page, as this allows you to connect to Facebook Business Manager to sync inventory, promote posts, and track your success. To do this, go to settings within the app and then scroll down to where you will see Switch to Business Account. We’ll talk more about shoppable posts in a section coming up in this post.
Pinterest is a fantastic platform for fashion and accessories, collectible items, health and beauty, and home decor categories, just to name a few. That’s because those who are perusing Pinterest are already searching for these items and may even have a project in mind. Searching and pinning items to their boards, those on Pinterest are looking to collect ideas. Start taking advantage of these folks by curating your content in these specific categories and using hashtags to help people see you in their feed.
What I love about Pinterest is that it has an easy-to-understand dashboard you can use to track analytics for all of your pins, but you’ll need a Pinterest Business account to do it. When you set up your account, Pinterest asks you what type of account (business or personal), so make sure you select business, then you can find out who pins, clicks, and likes your pins.
Twitter is a place for conversations. Because hashtags can help you drill down into your niche, and because it is so interactive, you can use it to your advantage when you want to gain authority in your industry. Or use it to start networking and show off how entertaining and pithy you can be within the Twitter culture. However, you want to build your brand is your business, but Twitter offers a huge audience for you to play the field.
Of all the platforms, Twitter tends to have the most potential in impressions per tweet, too. You can take advantage of this by studying hashtags that help you cast a wide net and simultaneously use other ones that reach your specific niche. Twitter offers a lot of potential for sharing your brand and boosting your PR if you interact with the right brands. And if you’re just not into the short shelf life of Twitter’s rapid-fire communication and back and forth, you can take it easy and use the same posts you’re using for Facebook — your customers will support your consistent content there, too. Keep in mind that posts with a photo tend to be seen and clicked on, so grab a nice horizontal stock image if your linked page doesn’t have one already.
YouTube is a fantastic platform that can help support many different types of marketing goals. Here are a few different ways you can approach YouTube for your brand:
- Send products to an established YouTube influencer to review
- Share your industry expertise and link to a sign-up landing page
- Show how to use your product, explain features, and showcase the benefits
- Highlight your team culture with a behind-the-scenes peek
- Offer lists of helpful information that would benefit your audience (and, of course, support sales)
- Showcase a success story, customer testimonial, or case study results
- Entertain and delight your audience in posts to boost brand image
- Share an upcoming promotion
If you are going to create content yourself, don’t be overwhelmed if you don’t have the coolest mic or lighting equipment quite yet. You do not need all of these things right away. Some of the most successful YouTubers started humbly and grew along with their audience. What’s important is authenticity, and, of course, find a spot with good lighting and not a lot of audible disturbances.
Making Your Posts Shoppable
If you have a physical product, you can start taking advantage of shoppable posts on Instagram and Pinterest, and you can set up shop with a Facebook Store as well. If you choose Facebook, you’ll need to start a Facebook Business account. After that, Facebook walks you through several different ways to either connect your current inventory with a software integration or add your inventory and choose a processor if you haven’t already. For two payment processors that make Facebook selling and inventory syncing easy, I recommend checking out Square and Shopify.
To learn about your options and start selling on Instagram, check out the post, How To Sell On Instagram With Shoppable Posts.
When it comes to Pinterest, you’ll need to sign up as a business account. Then you can start utilizing their Shop The Look with product tagging. By tagging your product within your images, customers can click to your site directly and start shopping!
How Much Does Social Media Marketing Cost?
While it doesn’t cost anything to post to any of the platforms you choose, consider some of the tools that can make posting and tracking your success a whole lot easier. Scheduling software (e.g., Sprout or Buffer) lets you schedule out as far as you want, make notes, and preview your content before it goes out. Not to mention the reporting tools that let you compare platforms as well as tag and test your strategy, among other features. Some email marketing software (e.g., Mailchimp) offers social posting and scheduling in some of their paid plans. Utilizing these kinds of tools can help you stay organized, but you can expect to pay $25 to over $100/month, depending on what you need.
So what else can cost you money? Boosting posts or running an ad can cost you money, of course. With Facebook and Instagram, for instance, you can get very precise in your demographics, interest, and location so that you can show your ad to the people who are more likely to be interested in your brand. And you can reach potentially thousands of people with a campaign that costs as little as $20. That’s why many marketers love testing ideas in social platforms — the risk to reward ratio is definitely small business-friendly.
When it comes to the potential for success, creating a social media campaign offers a lot but doesn’t cost a lot. Keep in mind that to make a successful campaign, you can’t skip those early planning stages, and having realistic expectations is key to understanding and tracking goals. Going viral or looking for vanity metrics such as likes can sometimes take you off course — to win at social, you need to keep the long game in mind.