What Is Social Media Marketing?

BrainStation’s Social Media Specialist career guide is intended to help you take the first steps toward a lucrative new career in digital marketing. To start, find out more about social media marketing.

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Social media marketing is the use of social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to promote your brand, connect with your target audience, increase traffic to your website, and boost sales and revenue. It’s also a great way for brands to monitor conversations and competition.

Effective social media marketing requires that you create strong content on your social media profiles, engage and communicate well with your followers, keep a close eye on your results, and run social media advertisements and campaigns. You must also decide which content is right for which platform and adapt your voice to fit the varying audiences of major social media platforms like LinkedIn, TikTok, Pinterest, Snapchat, and YouTube.

There are a lot of tools to schedule, monitor, and track social media activity and the progress of your social media marketing plan, with some popular examples including Hootsuite, HubSpot, and Later. You can also use channel native tools like Facebook’s Creator Studio to schedule content and review metrics.

The core pillars of successful social media marketing are strategy, planning, publishing, listening, engaging, reviewing analytics, and advertising, with key metrics including growth in followers, engagement, and click-through rates.

What Do You Mean by Social Media Marketing?

Social media marketing is the use of social media websites, apps, and social networks to market a company’s products and services and increase its brand reputation. Social media marketing provides companies with a way to find new customers, engage with existing customers, and promote their culture, mission, or voice. Also associated with terms like “digital marketing” and “e-marketing,” social media marketing has purpose-built data analytics tools that allow Social Media Managers to track how successful their efforts are.

Social media sites including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, TikTok, Snapchat, and YouTube allow Social Media Managers to employ a broad array of tactics and strategies to promote content and engage their target audiences.

Many social networks ask that users provide detailed demographic, geographical, and personal information, giving Social Media Specialists a huge amount of insight into what messages are most likely to resonate with their target users. Because social media analytics allow Internet audiences to be more cleanly segmented than other traditional marketing channels, companies know for a fact that they’re focusing their resources on the right audiences.

Campaigns can be crafted to appeal to current and prospective customers, employees, bloggers, influencers, the media, the general public, and other stakeholders (such as third-party reviewers or trade groups). Metrics used to measure the success of a social media marketing campaign include website reports (such as Google Analytics), customer response rates, return-on-investment, and reach.

Benefits of Social Media Marketing

The benefits of social media marketing are numerous, ranging from boosting sales and revenue, improving brand reputation, retaining and building a customer base, and learning more about your target audience.

Social media marketing is quickly becoming one of the most important parts of marketing strategy, with companies around the globe finding new ways social media can contribute to success and growth in all areas of their businesses. According to Hubspot, 92 percent of all Marketers felt that their social media marketing efforts have created more exposure for their companies, while 80 percent of Marketers said their social media marketing efforts increased traffic.

With the audience of people interacting with social media — practically everyone — it stands to reason that any smart company already knows how important social media is to overall success. Still, there may be other benefits of social media that some companies are still undervaluing or overlooking, including:

Easy competitive analysis

Want to know what your competition in business is up to? Ask your Social Media Specialist.

Better customer service

Not only will social media teams directly interact with anyone who reaches out for help, they’ll also use social listening tools to anticipate concerns or gather feedback on what is or isn’t working.

Learn more about customers

Social media is one of the best ways to get an authentic look at your audience and potential customers. Plus, a smart brand will curate its social media around customer content and photos to boost engagement.

Appeal to younger clients

Although age demographics vary by platform, social media is generally still a solid way to reach young people.

Deepen brand awareness

Social media users are selective with whom they follow, so a company’s social media following says a lot about how it’s perceived.

Boost sales

There’s no getting around it – social media influences how people spend money (studies have shown that nearly 80 percent of Pinterest users make purchases based on what they see on the platform).

Increased website traffic

By leveraging your social media audience, you have the opportunity to significantly boost traffic to your company website and help your organization level up its search engine optimization (SEO) efforts.

Types of Social Media Platforms

Although we typically group many very different platforms under the broad social media umbrella, a Social Media Manager should understand the differences between the types of social media platforms and the ways in which their users differ.

Although most social media platforms might straddle the line between a few categories, here are the main types of social media that any Social Media Specialist should master:

Image-sharing sites

Platforms including Instagram, Snapchat, and Pinterest are all about the visuals – and recent reports indicate that visual content garners more engagement than written content on social media.

Social networking sites

At their core, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other platforms in this category are about connecting with others, and these social media channels are used by pretty much every demographic around the world.

Video sharing sites

YouTube is so ubiquitous and widely used that it almost doesn’t register as a social media channel, while Vimeo – used by many professionals – is also worth the time of any social media marketing professional.

Social blogging sites

It’s been found that a brand can see real dividends from blogging, and sites like Tumblr and Medium support a wide variety of content on a wide variety of topics.

Social community sites

Forums and discussion boards have been a mainstay on the Internet since before Social Media Specialists existed. With Reddit now leading the way, there are many social media platforms and channels based around discussing news and current events or requesting help or information.

Facebook is the most popular social media platform, after becoming the first social media network to surpass 1 billion registered accounts and currently sitting at nearly 3 billion monthly active users.

As of the second quarter of 2022, Facebook had a combined total of 2.934 billion monthly active users. According to numbers compiled by Statista, 90.9 percent of American mobile users accessed the Facebook mobile app, followed by 64.92 percent for Instagram and 57 percent for Facebook Messenger. The next most popular social media apps were Twitter (43.62 percent), Pinterest (35.81 percent), Reddit (25.63 percent), Snapchat (24.62 percent), and WhatsApp (13.69 percent).

Facebook isn’t just the undisputed leader in terms of overall number of users, but it also has the most engaged users. Another Statista study found that Facebook users on average spend 769.16 minutes on the platform, better than runner-up TikTok (498.09 minutes), Messenger for Google (335.51 minutes), and WhatsApp (292.4 minutes).

YouTube and WhatsApp are the second-most popular social media platforms, each with 2 billion monthly users. Facebook Messenger has 1.3 billion users, WeChat has 1.2 billion users, and sixth-ranked photo-sharing app Instagram had over 1 billion monthly active accounts.

The next three most popular social networks are all based in China. Fast-rising TikTok has 800 million monthly users, QQ has 694 million users, and microblogging site Sina Weibo has 550 million users.

Pinterest was the fastest independently launched site to reach 10 million unique monthly visitors. It now sits at 367 million users.

Fastest Growing Social Media Platforms

TikTok is the social media platform that is growing fastest, followed by Reddit.

TikTok launched in September 2016 and by mid-2018 it had already reached half a billion users. In other words: TikTok gained on average about 20 million new users per month over this period. That rate of growth has not been sustainable even as TikTok has remained the fastest-growing social platform. In 2021, the number of TikTok users rose to 78.7 million, an 18.3 percent growth rate.

Reddit was the next-fastest growing social media platform in 2021 after seeing its user base grow 14.4 percent, but similar to TikTok, that growth rate was slow in comparison to 2020, when Reddit grew its user base by roughly 26 percent.

After TikTok and Reddit, LinkedIn was the next fastest-growing social channel in 2021 after seeing a 4.2 percent increase in users, followed by Instagram, Pinterest, and Snapchat.

What Is Social Media Strategy?

Social media strategy describes the usage of the right social platforms, content mix, and messaging to achieve desired and optimum outcomes from a social media marketing campaign. Social media strategy plays a crucial role in planning and executing social media marketing campaigns.

The objective of social media marketing strategy is not just to gain customers for a product or service, but also requires placing the right message on the right social media platforms in front of the right people at the right time. And it’s also crucial that the message is persuasive and relevant to the specific people seeing it.

What Is Social Media Advertising?

Social media advertising is an extremely direct way for companies to use advertising to reach the exact audience they want, and it is a must if you’re looking to reach a new, targeted audience – fast.

With organic reach becoming more and more difficult to achieve, it’s possible that the idea of making viral content without a little boost from paid advertising might be gone forever.

All the major social networks offer advertising options. When choosing where to place your ads, it’s crucial to know which networks are most popular with your target audience. Which platform is your target audience giving the most time and attention?

Interested in reaching teens? Advertise on TikTok. If you want to reach an older generation, look to Facebook. Try looking at which social networks perform well organically for your brand. Where does your content naturally strike a chord with fans? This is an obvious choice for your first social ad campaign.

There are two questions that need to be asked during any effective social media strategy planning campaign.

  • Where to advertise? All social advertising budgets have limits, so it’s crucial to figure out where to display an advertisement to reach current and prospective consumers. You need to zero in on your target audience and learn more about the social media sites and platforms they tend to use. Depending on your target demographic, you might also be supplementing your social advertising with other forms of ads in websites, TV, blogs or out in public.
  • When to advertise? You need to make sure your timing makes sense, again keeping in mind the needs and tendencies of your target audience. Some social media campaigns simply make more sense at different times of the year, and others may be tied to a specific holiday or a seasonal product. You also need to know the actual time of day that is optimal to deliver your messages to potential customers on social media.

What Is Community Management?

Community management is essentially about relationships and how your brand capitalizes on opportunities to interact with your community in online spaces.

Community management is often used interchangeably with social media management and although it is certainly an integral part of any social media strategy, managing your community becomes increasingly important as your customer base grows larger.

Your community consists of your current customers, target audiences, and all the people who interact with your brand directly and indirectly online. This community can be spread out all over the Internet: on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, LinkedIn, Reddit, forums, and the comment sections of articles. If you plan to build a long-term business with a strong brand, community management is an increasingly worthwhile investment.

What Is Social Media Reporting?

Social media reporting is simply the collection of data and stats. Which data and stats you should include likely depends on your specific social media strategies and goals.

  • Followers are the number of people who want to connect with your brand. The benefits of looking at followers are knowing more about the reach of your content.
  • Clicks let you know that the content you’re sharing is of interest to your users.
  • Retweets tell you that the content you’re sharing is interesting enough that your users want to share it with their followers.
  • Favorites can be a little bit less reliable than the other types of data and stats. It’s hard to know exactly what someone is thinking when they favorite, ranging from showing appreciation to bookmarking content for later.

Content Management for Social Media

Content management for social media refers to the process of creating, sharing, posting, and promoting content across different social media platforms. This social media content may be created exclusively for social, or it could also be content that has been re-formatted and used on social.

When you’re creating social media content, you should know where and how you’re going to publish and promote your content before you begin any steps in the creative process. Otherwise, you risk wasting your time.

Creating content isn’t necessarily a fast process, either. In fact, 60 percent of Social Media Marketers create one piece of content each day. When you consider how much content is distributed – 952 posts are published on Instagram each second, 8,726 tweets are posted to Twitter each second, and Google answers 3.8 million search queries per minute – it’s increasingly important that content be strong and properly distributed to get the attention of a distracted audience.

Content distribution channels are the channels you use to promote and share your content. The channels you use to distribute your content will vary based on your audience and resources, but they can be broken down into three specific distribution channels: owned (your own website, social media accounts, or blog); earned (mentions, shares, and reviews); and paid (PPC, social ads, and influencers).


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