June 10, 2021
The Importance of Social Media Marketing
The days of poorly designed blogs and personal websites are gone.
Now, billions of people use cutting-edge social media platforms to connect with other like-minded communities, purchase used or new products through marketplaces, see business profiles, read customer reviews, peruse product inventories, host events and much more. Social media platforms are now functioning as eCommerce platforms, review websites, and customer service portals.
Social media is no longer dominated by just a few big platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Niche social media sites now cater to more specific interests, including image-sharing or community-based sites like Imgur and Reddit. Because these niche sites have large communities with common interests, they comprise highly lucrative sets of potential customers if marketed to correctly. Even platforms like Yelp, TrustPilot and G2 Crowd have social networking aspects that allow users to share media, leave and read reviews, and discover new businesses.
Here are a few statistics to underscore why the importance of social media marketing is only going to increase:
- The total number of social media users globally is expected to surpass 4.4 billion by 2025.
- Social media usage grows by 1.3 million new users across all platforms every day. Facebook Stories alone receive an average of 500 million daily views.
- 57% of consumers will stay updated on new products and services by following a brand on social media.
- 54% of Internet users use social media to conduct research on products before a purchase.
- In 2020 83% of marketers used social media for marketing and ranked its effectiveness as second only to search engine marketing.
Sources: Sprout Social | HubSpot
Understanding why social media marketing matters and how it can help businesses in all industries grow is more critical than ever before. In this article we will review the benefits of social media marketing, basic guidelines for effective social media marketing, and common mistakes to avoid.
Introduction to Social Media Marketing
Social media platforms are remarkably powerful marketing channels (i.e. an avenue of communication through which a target audience can be reached). Because social media platforms are still primarily based around content sharing and discovery, social media marketing is often informed by a broader content marketing strategy.
How does this work in reality? Specifically, it means that you want to frequently get user’s attention with content that promotes brand awareness, garners interest and eventually produces conversions. As with all marketing channels, consumer attention can either be bought or earned. Many businesses do both through a strategic combination of organic and paid social media tactics.
“Organic” is the term used to describe any content or other form of interaction (promotional postings, reviews, etc.) that was not produced through paid means. Typically, achieving successful promotion and follower growth through organic content is considered a slower but more sustainable option for most businesses. This is especially true if your business is in a specialty industry where finding and reaching new audiences takes more time.
Investing in quality organic content is important for building credibility with your audience and successfully cross-promoting your other platforms (including earned channels like email). If people like what your business is producing and posting they will follow your profiles to learn more.
Paid social media marketing takes many forms, including advertisements, boosted posts, influencers, etc. While paid social media marketing has the same drawbacks as other advertising methods, it also has the same advantages, including the potential for much wider brand exposure and immediate conversions. If used together correctly, the right mixture of organic and paid efforts can help drive awareness and then capture an audience long-term with the right content.
Top Benefits of Social Media Marketing
One of the primary benefits of social media marketing is that businesses can reach a much larger set of potential customers than ever before. Additionally, businesses can build and sustain loyal audiences that produce a steady stream of new customers for years. As followers and customers grow so does your business’ credibility, reach and ability to learn about your customers.
Social media platforms are an incredibly rich source of information about what your customers like, where they shop, the places they visit, their community involvement, political leanings and much more. Although businesses don’t own or have access to the personal data of their followers, most social media platforms allow businesses to conduct very specific targeting with advertisements and will provide general analytics about the composition of your audience. This makes platforms like Facebook invaluable for learning about your target customers to inform advertising and content strategies.
Another huge benefit to social media marketing is competitor research. There are few easier and more direct ways to monitor what competitors are promoting, special events, new product announcements, advertising strategies and other critical marketing efforts.
An often overlooked advantage of social media marketing is how it can level the playing field for small businesses that would otherwise struggle to compete for attention. It’s true that big brands can spend enormous amounts on paid advertising, but small businesses are often able to cultivate more genuine and long-lasting relationships with customers on social media. The experience and authenticity of small business owners, employees and advocates is especially difficult for big companies to match, and many consumers prefer the personal touch.
It’s hard to overstate the importance of social media marketing as all platforms continually evolve and expand their capabilities. As their utility and reach increases so will the potential benefits and return on investment of marketing on social sites. While this evolution will be ongoing, some of the most impactful changes to social media platforms include the ability to buy and sell products through marketplaces, tagging items in media, live streaming, and chatbots for customer inquiries or service requests. Taking advantage of all these capabilities will produce a significant competitive advantage for any big company, small organization or sole proprietor.
Why Social Proof Matters More Than Ever
The single greatest factor that influences someone’s purchase decision is the recommendation of a trusted friend or family member. Regardless of your business’ industry, earning consistent positive reviews is one of the biggest benefits of social media marketing. In fact, the ability to monitor, respond to and promote customer reviews is enough motivation for most businesses to develop a basic strategy for social media marketing.
Social media platforms are now one of the most public and widely used ways in which customers interact with brands. Not having a social media profile no longer means that you’re just missing out on an easy way of reaching potential customers. Now, the absence of a social media page can actually cause potential customers to question the legitimacy of a business, or whether the business is still open.
Small businesses can live and die by customer reviews. The ways in which customers or social media users provide feedback and reviews can change drastically depending on the platform. For example, Twitter doesn’t provide a specific “review” section for business profiles. However, Twitter is often the platform where customer experiences are highlighted, and sometimes public support can swell in support of or against a business in mere hours. Conversely, Facebook does provide customers a specific section of Facebook Business pages where customers can read and leave reviews. This means that most customers will check your Facebook page first to see what others think.
Many small businesses will undertake marketing efforts specifically aimed at garnering more positive reviews. This is accomplished through specific campaigns like emailing a list of current customers a link to the relevant review sites or running promotions on a social media profile to reward reviewers.
The key takeaways regarding social proof are: understand which platforms your customers use; cultivate at least a basic profile on that platform; frequently monitor and respond to the reviews and feedback as needed.
Social Media Marketing Best Practices
There are some obvious missteps businesses can make that will be detrimental to overall social media marketing efforts. Here is a brief collection of the top suggestions for businesses that are new to social media marketing: don’t buy followers, don’t aim for virality alone, and be consistent with your marketing campaigns.
Nearly all social media platforms allow for less than honest ways of getting more followers (e.g. buying follows from fake accounts). However, any short term gains gotten through these methods will almost certainly have a negative impact over time. It’s obvious to all users when a social profile has inflated follower counts.
Virality does not equal sales. Many businesses think that content needs to be viral to make an impact and that’s simply not true. Viral posts can cause a very short term spike in interest, but it might be days or even a few hours before the next mania strikes. In fact, it’s actually more likely that your brand is remembered simply for the viral post rather than what you provide to customers.
Many businesses quit social media after failing to gain traction in the first few months. Building a loyal audience takes time, and this can be easily seen by researching profiles you want to emulate. Businesses that do well on social media have likely spent years intentionally and thoughtfully curating their content to build a loyal following.
Social Media Marketing Tips
When creating a strategy for social media marketing, no matter how basic, understand that an authentic voice and original content will always perform best. The highly polished and produced content from big brands can be perceived as hacky, inauthentic and forced.
Be more efficient, scalable and consistent with marketing efforts by breaking larger content pieces into smaller, “bite-size” portions. The entire goal of content marketing is to get users to “slow their scroll” and digest what you’ve posted. Getting more mileage out of your content will help you post consistently and earn attention over time.
If you don’t have a plan or you haven’t incorporated social media marketing to a broader marketing strategy, do so before investing time and money. The benefits of social media marketing should be measured and tracked with clear key performance indicators.
If you’re just getting started, some of the most important metrics to track include:
- Organic follower growth
- Engagement (clicks, likes and shares)
- Web Traffic