Social Media Marketing: The What, The Why & The How
Compared to 20 years ago, the marketing landscape has evolved in its approach to reaching and meeting the needs of customers.
First, the embrace of the internet by a large majority of the population; followed by the advent of Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, Instagram, and a whole lot of other platforms now known as social media.
It is called social media because it is a way for people to communicate, engage and interact online.
What started out has fun and excitement in the form of likes, tweets, pins and shares as now ushered in a new era of marketing known as social media marketing.
The sheer number of users across the social media networks has opened a field of opportunities for both businesses and marketers alike. Simply, social media can’t be neglected (More on that later).
So, What Is Social Media Marketing?
Social media marketing is a form of Internet marketing that aims to gain attention, traction or sales through the various social media sites.
It primarily covers activities involving the creation of shareable content including videos, and images for marketing and advertising purposes.
The real magic, however, lies in the opportunity to grow lasting and scalable relationships with your customer base through social media.
If you are yet to use social media to market your products & services, you’re seriously missing out on the plethora of opportunities social media presents. Better still, it is easy to get started.
Why Social Media for Small Businesses?
Let’s face it; traditional advertising (including print and television advertising) is not as effective as it was in the 90’s. The Internet has already overtaken television as the largest advertising market, even in Nigeria. There is more:
1) Almost everyone is on social media:
Not just anyone, but your potential customers. The statistics are mind-blowing.
Over the last several years, there has been an explosion in the number of users visiting popular social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, YouTube, Pinterest, and many others.
Check out the stats:
- There are just over 3 billion active Internet users (45% of the world’s internet users)
- Nearly 2.1 billion people have social media accounts
- 65 billion mobile users have access to the internet via smartphones and tablets
- Close to 1.7 billion people have active social media accounts
- There are nearly 1.4 billion Facebook users and 47% of all Internet users are on Facebook
- Twitter has 284 million active users at last count and 500 million tweets per day
- Google+ has 363 million users and The +1 button is hit 5 billion times per day
- Instagram has 300 million users with 70 million photos and videos are sent daily
- 70 million users are on Pinterest
- LinkedIn has 347 million registered members
- Viber has over 200 million users
- There are 639 million users on Qzone (China)
- 600 million users on Whatsapp
- Facebook messenger has 500 million users
- Wechat is close behind with 468 million users (China)
- Snapchat has 100 million monthly users
- Russia’s “VKontake” has 100 million users.
2) It is cheap:
If you are like the big wigs in your industry, then you v probably got millions to spare n your marketing effort. Unfortunately, this isn’t so for most small businesses.
With social media marketing, however, you can reach your target audience at little or no financial cost.
It is very cost friendly, although what you save in money you’ll invest in time.
Let me assure you: as long as you use that time wisely, and be where your target market can be reached, the benefits are worth more than the time spent.
What can you achieve with social media marketing?
1) Raise Brand Awareness:
Social media is a great way to give your business more exposure.
Because social networks are used by a large portion of the populace and given the viral nature inherent in social media sharing, social media is definitely the perfect platform to promote your brand to potential customers.
Moreover, when consumers discover a business that they want to use but know little about, guess where they often go? It is either the company’s social media page or website.
Therefore, with social media, you can create a likable brand for your small business and also find new customers.
2) Build relationships with your customers:
Social media helps you connect with your customers and potential customers alike.
The secret to building these relationships is to consistently engage your social media followers.
Connect, entertain and provide useful information to your customers using your social media pages and you’ll earn a powerful group of brand advocates.
3) Generate Leads & Sales:
This is the overall essence of marketing and there is no better approach to achieving this goal than utilizing the various social media.
With social media, you can post valuable content that links directly to your products and services page.
Also, social networks like Facebook and Twitter have tools that allow you to communicate the right kind of content to your target audience.
For example, you can target by ‘Location’, ‘Language’, ‘Age’, ‘Gender’, ‘Relationship status’, ‘Interested in’, and ‘Education’. This is called targeting. Isn’t this lovely?
There is also paid advertisement for promoting content and adverts to sell products to target audiences who haven’t become fans of your brand yet.
4) Increase Website Traffic and Search Engine Ranking:
By creating engaging & shareable content on your social media platforms, you can drive interested or inquisitive visitors to your business website.
For example, if every person who follows your business on Twitter retweets a certain post about your business, and their followers get to see & also retweet this post, you can be rest assured that a sizeable number of people will visit your website and profile to find out more about your business.
Better still, search engines like Google & Bing can detect whether people enjoy (shares, likes, retweets) your posts and use these signals to rank your posts in search results.
Basically, social media signals have become one of the major factors in ranking websites in search results.
5) Monitor & Get Ahead Of Competitors:
With social media, you can gain intel on your competitors. This kind of intel allows you to keep an eye on your competition and enable you to make strategic business decisions which will help you to stay ahead of the competition.
If your competitors are using a certain social media marketing technique that seems to be working for them, do the same thing, but do it better!
Remember, your competitors aren’t your enemies. So, social media is also an avenue to connect with other businesses and entrepreneurs in ways that could benefit you in unexpected ways.
How to get started with social media marketing
You have come this far and you’ve concluded that a stronger social media presence is the way to do it. So where do you go from here?
1) Define your goals:
What do you hope to achieve with your social media marketing efforts?
Are you hoping to increase sales, increase website traffic, build conversions, or improve customer service? Or alternatively, are you just looking to create a little more visibility for your brand or improve communication and interaction with your key audience?
Your goals should be SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-based) and open to re-evaluation.
2) Know Thy Audience:
Knowing how & where your existing and potential customers use social media is perhaps the most important question that will protect you from painful and unnecessary losses in time and money.
In order to get his right, you must research which social media sites your existing and potential clients use – where are they online?
One way is to research your competitors’ sites; if they are engaging successfully with an audience on a particular social network, then you should be able to target your audience on the same platform.
3) Choose The Right Platforms, One At A Time:
There are so many social media platforms – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest, Google+ and much more.
Initially, you’re probably trying to get your business up and running on most of them.
Unfortunately – you can’t (and shouldn’t) try to create your social presence on each of these platforms overnight. You have to start one step at a time.
Limit your efforts to one or two sites in the beginning – the ones that are most relevant to your business following careful research. Then, once you have enough time and money to commit, begin to scale your efforts and social footprint.
Facebook is the king of all social media a great place to start out.
LinkedIn is generally perceived to be the place for business professionals to hang out.
Twitter enables users to send and read text-based messages known as tweets; each tweet is limited to 140 characters.
Instagram is an online photo-sharing service that enables users to filter photos and share them.
YouTube is a video sharing site.
Pinterest is a visual content sharing service where users “pin” images, videos and other objects to their pinboards.
4) Build & Grow Your Social Media Profile:
Now is the time to create an effective online profile and establish your social media presence.
Most social media sites allow you to include a short bio or “About me” page as well as a link to your website. Be as detailed as possible in your short bio.
Once you have your profiles set up, it is time to connect with the communities and your existing and potential clients.
Depending on the social media platform, there are various ways of gaining followership for your business. Research and follow suit accordingly.
The next step involves actively engaging with the community.
Social media is a two-way communication, and your presence will be enhanced by your active participation.
The key to engagement is posting relevant and fresh content consistently.
Find out what your existing and potential clients want to read about? What do they want to see? What do they want to learn?
Social media is about sharing, not just advertising. Try to balance your own original content with valued, content curated from other sites.
In the same vein, it is vital that you respond to direct messages from your followers. If someone has taken the time and effort to engage with you and your business, it is only polite (and good business) to respond quickly.
5) Use Premium/Paid services:
The free services offered by the various social media services are good enough for most businesses but why not break limits by infusing a little cash.
Although most companies understand how to promote their content via their “owned” channels, such as their Facebook page, Twitter account or LinkedIn company page, many are missing out on the opportunity to get their content in front of a larger audience through paid social promotions.
Different networks sell ads in different ways. On Twitter, companies pay on an engagement basis. Facebook and LinkedIn offer the option of paying per impression.
Don’t fret. Paid ad tools don’t cost a lot and can increase visibility—dramatically.
6) Hire A Social Media Manager/Expert:
As your social media marketing efforts begin to pay off, you may find that you no longer have enough time to devote to social media.
It might be high time you hired someone else to oversee this important component of your marketing strategy.
A social media manager will be responsible for supervising your day-to-day social media activities while managing your brand’s reputation and client relationships.
If you decide it’s time to hire a social media manager, keep in mind that person can be hired on either a part-time or full-time basis in accordance with your needs.
Don’t hire a greenhorn just to save cost, get a social media expert that comes highly recommended.
7) Measure The Results Of Your Investment In Social Media:
At the beginning of this post, we emphasized the importance of setting out with a goal in mind.
It is, therefore, expedient that you measure your progress toward those goals.
If your objective was to increase sales, then check the numbers – are they going up? If you wanted to increase brand awareness, then ask around – are your social efforts making a real difference?
There’s a whole world of social media sites out there for you to explore. And it’s never too late to kick-start your social media marketing efforts.
So, set your objectives, draw out your plans and get the job done. Tomorrow might be different but today belongs to social media marketing.
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