One of the advantages of social media marketing, according to Hal Stokes, founder and managing director of Happiour, is that “Social media is one area of business where you don’t need to outspend your competitors in order to beat them.”
Certainly social media is a very cost-effective way to differentiate yourself from your competitors, and when used properly it is one of the most effective forms of digital marketing and should help you to maximise conversions at a low cost compared to other techniques. Use of social networking sites to communicate with followers is growing fast so they can only be of greater importance in the digital marketing field.
But what exactly is social media marketing, and what goals can social media marketing services help you achieve?
What Is Social Media Marketing?
Social media services and websites were not initially created with marketing in mind – they were designed to make it easier for people to have conversations with each other online. But once these networks became established, it became easy for a social media marketing strategy to be put in place to market products, services and brand names to the users of the various channels.
Of the social media sites, the best known and biggest with around 2.4b users is Facebook. Despite its size and international reach, Facebook is particularly valuable for marketing local businesses such as restaurants, hotels, entertainment outlets, beauticians, and healthcare outlets.
Facebook makes it very easy for you to set up an online Store for your business – using an ecommerce platform such as BigCommerce, you can sync your product catalogue, manage your sales and inventory, communicate with customers and handle orders in one place. Having a Facebook store helps you to sell directly to your customers, at the same time as building your social media community. This form of social media advertising is probably the most popular and effective, so despite its origins Facebook is an excellent example of social media for business purposes
With over a billion users, Instagram appeals to a younger audience than Facebook, and uses mainly visual images. Instagram relies heavily on user-generated content, but is particularly popular with companies in the fashion and design industries, where high quality photographic images can help to establish your brand.
Twitter has around 126 million daily users, and unlike the other platforms serves both consumer and business audiences, so it gives you a channel for both B2B (business-to-business) and B2C (business-to-consumer marketing.
LinkedIn, which has around 500m members, is largely used as a networking platform for business professionals, so its main use is for sharing ideas and resources and getting in touch with other people working in your industry.
There are many other social media channels, such as WhatsApp, Tumblr, Pinterest, Reddit, Flickr, TikTok, Foursquare, Snapchat, and of course YouTube, some designed mainly for sharing images and video, others for sharing local interests. Some of them have a large following, but this is no guarantee they will be around forever – for instance Kik is closing its messaging service which was launched in 2010.
Using competitive benchmarking it’s possible to measure how effective your social media marketing is compared that that of your competitors – so it is not only an inexpensive way of promoting your business, it is also a means of getting information about your rivals.
How Social Media Marketing Works
In these days of sophisticated social media marketing services, it’s no longer enough just to post an image and some information about your products on your website. To be competitive, your social network marketing has to engage with your potential customer base, and encourage a sense of community – social media marketing is about conversations rather than just being a one-way street..
You must set yourself goals, develop strategies, measure results, and adjust your social media advertising plans to suit. Social media channels are a good way to meet all these requirements.
There are several aims you might want to achieve using social networking sites.
A straightforward one is to increase your number of engagements; this is extremely measurable using social media through the number of likes, shares, clicks, comments, and mentions of your products and brand online.
Another target could be to increase your reach – that is to say the number of followers you have for your social media pages, and the amount of traffic and impressions you get for your website via social media services.
Social media also has benefits in terms of lowering your costs per lead, resolving customer issues, and adding value to your followers’ experience.
Ultimately, of course, the aim of using social media marketing is to increase conversions, and to improve your sales revenue, so social media for business remains an essential tool for marketing.
It’s important to realise that while social media services are normally free to use, it’s also wise to invest money in the growing area of paid social. With paid social on platforms such as Facebook and Instagram, advertisers can target specific individuals based on their likes, gender, age and interests.
Unlike paid search, which normally serves only text ads, paid social advertising can deliver visual ads which vastly help improve the click rate and interaction from users. There is also the option to allow users to comment on and like the ads, which makes paid social a valuable channel for interaction and less intrusive for the customer.
Social media also gives you useful information allowing you to improve your CTR (click through rate). The factors affecting your CTR can include the keywords you use in your posts, the images, the positioning of ads and the effectiveness of your call-to-action copy. CTR compares the number of impressions you ad gets (the number of times it is viewed) with the actual number of clicks you get, so CTR is one of the most important social media metrics. You can do the calculations yourself, but there are tools such as Sprout Social which will calculate your CTR for you.
Reach and impressions are of course different metrics; reach tells you how many people see your content, while impressions measures how many times the content is displayed – one person added to your reach could have had multiple impressions of your post, possibly from different sources.
If you have a Facebook ‘Fan Page’ (a business rather than a personal profile, which is open to anyone), you can use Facebook Insights to track user interaction. Facebook Insights can be accessed by administrators of your Fan Page, and helps you track the activities of users. Using Facebook Insights you can work out what type of content is the most popular, and the days and times its’s best to post. The Facebook Insights tool is constantly updated, so it repays regular checking.
It’s also possible to make sponsored posts on Facebook, paying to ‘boost’ them to a wider audience. Sponsored posts look exactly the same as an ordinary post in a user’s newsfeed, except that they are labelled as sponsored posts. As the organic reach on Facebook is only about 1.2 percent, unless you make sponsored posts, you will not be reaching a very wide audience; sponsored posts from a Facebook business page can either be created specially, or you can choose to sponsor an existing post.
Hashtags can also be used in social media to generate exposure and engage with relevant audiences. While they serve to label your content and make it discoverable, hashtags also encourage audience engagement if used right. It’s a mistake to overuse hashtags – Instagram has a limit of 30 per post, but it’s much better to stick to a smaller selection, making sure to avoid very obvious hashtags which attract spammers and ‘me too’ followers. Using very generic hashtags will just result in your post being lost among thousands of others – look for relevant trending hashtags instead.
How Social Media Marketing Helps Businesses
The main ways in which social media marketing helps business are that it refines the audience you are connecting to, and enables two-way conversations. Social media marketing services help you to find your customers, to understand them, and to find out what they are interested in. For instance, using social media marketing it’s relatively easy to establish facts about your customers such as their age, gender, educational level, occupation, location, and hobbies, all useful in a marketing strategy.
Another valuable aspect of social media advertising is that it can be used to identify your competitors, and to make use of their ideas. Everything from the timing of their Twitter posts to the numbers of followers they have tells you something about how well their campaigns are working, and how they are better than yours – you need to differentiate your marketing, while at the same time learning what works for your competitors. Keeping an eye on your competitors’ social media channels is almost as important as maintaining your own.
This form of competitive benchmarking can be done using online software tools such as Quintly. All you have to do is to add the pages or profiles you want to track and compare, and Quintly imports all the public data available and allows you to use its inbuilt metrics or define your own with its dashboard. Competitive benchmarking of social media gives you a better idea of whether your interaction rate is typical for your industry.
To manage your social media marketing, you may want to use a software tool such as Hootsuite. Hootsuite is a social media KPI reporting tool has features which allow you schedule your social media posts (useful for working in different timezones), to manage content, track and improve ROI, and find and filter social media conversation by hashtags and keywords. Hootsuite is available for a free 30-day trial, and costs from £25 a month for up to 10 social profiles and one user. Hootsuite is also available in Team, Business and Enterprise forms for heavier users. Other social media KPI tools include Socialbakers, Zoho Social, Buffer, Agorapulse and Coosto.
Five Benefits Of Social Media Marketing
There are many benefits to social media marketing, and no real downsides, so it makes sense for businesses of all types and sizes to try it. But what are the essential benefits of this increasing popular form of digital marketing?
- Improved Brand Awareness and Visibility
As the most cost-effective method of getting your company’s brand publicised, social media marketing will improve your visibility without unreasonable expense. It’s easy to set up a social media presence, perhaps with the help of social media marketing services, and you can gather an early selection of ‘likes’ and followers from your own employees, sponsors and business partners.
Sharing content through social media services widens your network and increases your customer base, all contributing to improved brand awareness.
- SEO Win and Increased Traffic
You social media presence improves your search engine rankings, driving traffic to your website and increasing engagement and conversions. The impact of social media signals such as likes, reviews, shares, pins and links to SEO is not direct, but is definite; social media certainly improves your local SEO, and will affect online visibility, brand recognition and content lifespan.
High quality content such as blogs, infographics and videos featuring your targeted keywords will help create a social media community and build links to industry influencers, all of which will improve search engine rankings.
- Customer Satisfaction and Improved Brand Loyalty
Using social media to manage conversations with your customers gives your company a human face. By responding personally to messages on social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn rather than through an automated message, you can show that you respond to your customers’ needs and requests, and that you want them to have a good experience of dealing with your company. Through social network marketing you can turn problems into opportunities by demonstrating through your social media marketing that you care about your customers’ satisfaction and will respond to their enquiries.
- Increased Brand Authority and Free Advertising
The more you post on social media the more credible your company appears to be, and as your brand loyalty grows, your customers will start to post about you too – providing you with free endorsements and building your brand authority. Social media marketing services will be able to advise you on the sort of content and channels you need to use to exploit this opportunity.
- Obtain Marketplace Insights
By talking to your customers directly you can obtain market insights which you would otherwise have to pay to research. Apart from direct interaction, you can also use software tools to analyse your followers’ activities, helping you to segment your content syndication lists, measure conversions based on posts, and tailor your marketing campaigns to generate the maximum revenue.
Why Social Media Marketing Is Important For Small Businesses
In some ways, small businesses are at an advantage over their larger rivals when using social media marketing, because success in social media marketing does not boil down to how many followers you have, but to how effectively you engage with your customers. It’s easier to do this when your business is small enough to be able to interact with its customers via social media.
As well as engaging with current customers, social media is a good way for small businesses to attract new customers.
A study as long ago as 2016 showed that 90 percent of marketers said social media was important to their business, and 82 percent of the survey participants worked in small businesses, that is with less than 100 employees.
By focussing on the community and the individual through social media marketing, small businesses can enjoy the local advantage, and in the same way they may be able to partner with other local businesses on joint marketing campaigns.
Using Google Analytics, it’s easy to combine data from your website with social media data, giving you the tools to drive traffic to your website. Google Analytics shows you what sort of content your audience responds to, and which social media sites they are using. A social media agency will show you how this data can result in increased leads and prove the ROI of social media.
Google Analytics helps you to track vital social media KPIs easily, so even a small business can gather useful data such as which websites your leads come from, whether your followers are using mobile or desktop platforms, their location and so on.
By responding quickly to customers’ queries, and encouraging them to post comment and pictures on your company’s social media, your social network marketing can cultivate current and potential customers or your business, and do it without the expense of a conventional marketing campaign.
What Is A Social Media Marketing Strategy?
Social media marketing (SMM) is similar to any other kind of marketing, except that it uses social media platforms, networks and applications to promote brand awareness for your company, or to publicise specific products, services or events.
The first step in a social media marketing strategy is to establish a presence on the major platforms such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, and to add links from your main website.
By creating shareable content and advertorial materials, you then start to add followers who post their own feedback. You can promote this behaviour using competitions, surveys and so on.
A social media marketing strategy is by definition targeted, because you know it is reaching customers who are interested in your products or services. It also gives an immediate connection between company and customer, with added value because the campaigns are usually discovered through trusted sources.
Data derived from a social media marketing campaign is particularly valuable because it can be used to target messages to very specific audiences, providing an excellent return on investment.
While it’s straightforward to set up your own social media presence, a social media agency will explain some of the more tricky aspects of managing social media sites.
It’s important to realise that social media metrics are one of the most valuable aspects of SMM. Your social media metrics will help you determine the effectiveness of your social media campaigns and their ROI. Tracking the right KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) is the important part of this technique. There are basic KPIs, such as numbers of followers and likes, but beyond that are equally valuable KPIs such as new traffic to your website, better lead generation, and more brand awareness. The KPIs for social media will tell you whether you are reaching and engaging with qualified people, and whether you are turning enquiries into sales.
Social media marketing will tell you if you have a large reach but poor engagement, a sign that your message is wrong. It will also give you valuable feedback on the effectiveness of your content – for instance as your content receives more interactions, Facebook will filter it out to more users, and Twitter will present it in larger font sizes.
It’s important to understand that there is always an argument for both organic social media and paid social content as part of your digital marketing mix. Organic social media helps to build loyalty in customers, and to turn them into advocates or your brand, while paid social media advertising is necessary to maintain your competitiveness with rivals. Effectively, paid social efforts help potential customers to find you, while organic social media helps them to get to know your brand. Of course organic social media is not completely without cost – it takes time and probably money to create content – but organic social media is certainly cost-effective.
How To Create A Social Media Marketing Strategy?
There are five main steps in developing a social media marketing strategy.
- Define your goals
What are you aiming to do? – to build brand awareness, increase sales, or just to drive more customers to your bricks-and-mortar store? Set your definitions of a successful campaign – for instance a 50 percent increase in traffic, an increase in sales of £100,000, or an added 10,000 followers on Instagram. Make sure that these aims for your social media marketing tie in with the other aspects of your marketing operation.
In this stage you need to research your customers and competitors, finding out what campaigns have worked well in the past, and just as importantly, what have not.
- Assign resources
Decide the budget, personnel and contributors you will need for your social media marketing campaign. At this stage you want to take on a social media marketing agency, which can advise you on all aspects of your campaign.
- Promote your campaign
Depending on the size of your business, you may need to promote your campaign outside your existing social media platforms. You might consider adding an e-mail marketing element to your campaign, using social media influencers to promote it, or sharing the campaign with your business partners.
Once the campaign is over, it’s essential to analyse the results to determine its effectiveness, and measure its success against previously established targets, such as
- Website traffic
- Increased sales or profits
- Improved reach
Social media marketing services can help you to plan this process, then implement a strategy and analyse and report on the results.
It’s important to coordinate your web and social media campaigns so you can benefit from processes such as retargeting. Retargeting is defined as connecting you with shoppers who have already visited your social media channels while they are browsing elsewhere on the web. Retargeting reaches out to potential customer you already know are interested in your products, and luring them back, perhaps with an offer or discount. Both Facebook and Instagram support retargeting with a variety of options starting by dropping a cookie when the customer visits your social media platform.
Why Social Media Marketing Is Effective
There are many reasons why marketing through social media is effective, not the least being that you can be pretty sure your customers are using social media – there are around 42m Facebook users in the UK alone, and by 2021 the worldwide number of social media users is expected to reach about 3.1 billion. Many of these users check social media every day, so it’s the ideal way to reach them.
What’s more, customers like being reached out to via social media – they use the platforms for fun and entertainment, so if you offer them enjoyable content, they will respond to your marketing campaign. Social media for business has the advantage that it needn’t look overtly commercial.
You can encourage this behaviour by running competitions, offering deals, providing information and giving your customer a way to learn more about your company.
These provide authentic connections with your leads and customers, rather than just delivering direct marketing messages. This is something that consumers are generally more responsive to.
While marketing through social media is effective at increasing brand recognition, it will also increase inbound traffic to your website, resulting in increased conversions and sales. Encouraging this with regular, high quality content postings brings you new customers at much less cost than other forms of marketing.
By using different social media platforms for different types of customer, you can target your audience according to your overall marketing strategy. The data you collect through social media will help you to plan this and will increase your chance of conversions. Facebook, for instance, allows you to serve your advertising content to users who show the same sort of behaviour your target audience does.
One of the major advantages of social media marketing is that it has minimal costs other than those of creating content. It’s also not very time intensive – HubSpot reported that 84 percent of marketers found they could increase their traffic with as little as six hours per week of effort spent on their social media.
By using unpublished or ‘dark posts’ (ads on social media which show as sponsored content in the feeds of targeted users, but which don’t appear on your timeline or on your followers’ feeds), you can target marketing messages at a specific audience. Dark posts can be used to target users based on the same variables as regular targeted ads, or using specific keywords such as job titles. In this way, dark posts can be customised to each audience segment, with them only seeing the ads designed for them. Dark posts open up major opportunities for A/B testing, by analysing which get the most engagements, clicks, or conversions.
One of the hottest trends in social media marketing at the moment is ephemeral data. This is any content, usually pictures or video, which disappears after a short time. Instagram is the natural home of ephemeral data – it usually disappears after 24 hours. The advantage of using ephemeral data is that it creates FOMO – Fear Of Missing Out. Users will keep looking at your social media page because they are afraid they will miss something. Even Instagram’s logo (a stylised ghost) emphasises the importance of ephemeral data.
Social media marketing is also ideal for geotargeting (delivering content only to users in a specific geographical location or locations). Geotargeting, (and its related technique geofencing, which delivers ads when a user physically approaches a given location), can work through search engines or banner ads, for instance, but is equally applicable to social media. Social media geotargeting is ideal for local businesses, which can identify users by their interests, then aim location specific ads at them.
And as a final bonus, your social media marketing will improve your search engine rankings. In fact your social media profiles may well show up on the first page of Google, so it’s important to keep them updated, relevant and engaging.
What Does a Social Media Marketing Agency Do?
The prime activity of a social media marketing agency is to create and organise content, then schedule and post it on appropriate channels.
But the secondary activity, and the one which really gives social media marketing its value, is to analyse and report on the responses to those social media posts.
In other words, a social media marketing agency works to collect data which is useful in the broader marketing campaign, allowing its client to direct resources accordingly.
A social media marketing agency can report on simple data, such as the number of followers a company has on its social media pages, and it can give valuable insights into actual revenue generated via social media.
A good social media marketing agency will understand that the value of social media is the repeating of “positive micro-interactions” on a large scale, and that your social media content is only as good as what you have to say – you need an exciting point of view and a relevant product for your social media to have any value.
The services of a social media marketing agency can include content creation and publishing, responding to customer messages, contacting influencers, creating partnerships with other businesses, and managing website retargeting.
Other functions can include growing accounts through active engagement, running chatbots, building mailing lists, and of course reacting to changes and innovations in social media.
A social media agency would advise you on which social networking sites to target, which are the best types of social media for business, how to add followers, and how to contact influencers.
By getting to know your brand, developing a social media strategy based on its goals and reporting on the results of that strategy, a social media marketing agency can become an essential part of your overall marketing plan.
TRON Media can help with all your social media marketing requirements. TRON Media has a highly qualified team of trained specialists in social media marketing, SEO, PPC, website design services, website security, email marketing, WordPress, HTML coding, CMS, paid search marketing, Google Ads, content marketing and digital strategy, and can work with you to develop your ideas and build a digital marketing campaign perfect for your business.
TRON Media is a leading social media marketing agency in Brighton, offering the easiest and most cost-effective way to guarantee that social media marketing works for you. Get in touch today to find out about our latest social media marketing services, web design services, email marketing services, and what a social media marketing campaign can do for your brand awareness and Google ranking.