November 11, 2019

Social Media Marketing Strategy

In the early days of social media, brands weren’t sure whether or not to trust social networks as worthwhile marketing spend or a viable source of growth. 

My, my, how things have changed.

Today, social media is more than just another consideration in online marketing strategy – social media lies at the center. Major social networks like Facebook, have become central pillars of the Internet, and social media marketing is imperative for virtually every business on the market today.

All that growth has changed the playing field, though. What worked during the early days of social media marketing doesn’t cut it in 2020. The modern social media landscape is crowded and highly competitive. More than 2 billion people use Facebook+Instagram, which puts an enormous market at the fingertips of businesses – but it also means there are countless other companies competing for those users. 

To succeed on social media takes more than just creating a profile and posting occasionally. Success in the modern social media landscape requires a strategy – one that’s documented, well-thought-out, and carefully tuned to the unique goals and demographics of your business. 

So, how does one go about creating that social media marketing strategy? Ultimately, there is no single right answer. As we constantly stress during Roadmapping sessions, what works for one business may completely fail for another. Whether you’re marketing a mobile app or building an ecommerce store, the most important thing to keep in mind when crafting a social media marketing strategy is that it has to be built for your business – not a generic one. 

In keeping with that, the first step in crafting your strategy is to start with data. To create an effective social marketing strategy, you have to intimately understand your core customers and target demographics. If these don’t inform your social strategy, your efforts may be counterproductive. Don’t believe us? Just look at the story of our founder’s Instagram profile. 

Social Media Marketing Case Study

When constructing a social media marketing strategy, you must start with an understanding of your core demographic. Take it from our cofounder, Ben Lee. 

Ben grew his Instagram profile to 120,000 followers in about 5 months. Those are some seriously impressive metrics, and they gave the Rootstrap brand a phenomenal reach – but in the end, this didn’t actually translate into revenue. 

Even though Ben’s following was impressive, it provided very little business value. Why? Because the demographic Ben was reaching through his social media didn’t align with the demographic of Rootstrap’s customers. 

As he writes in an Inc. article on his social presence, “The problem with my Instagram is that my demographic can't afford my products or services. It feels great to reach a new, younger audience that digs my style, but it would be nice to see some sort of ROI.” Even though Ben was reaching tens of thousands of people with his content, none of that was translating into sales. It was, from a business perspective, a waste of time.

Now let’s look at a different set of numbers. In a similar time frame, Ben grew his LinkedIn profile to more than 30,000 followers. This is less than a third of his Instagram following – but it generated exponentially more revenue for Rootstrap. As in, hundreds of thousands of dollars more in revenue.

So how can a smaller social media following actually be worth more? Again, the answer lies in the demographics. LinkedIn is the professional social network. The people active on LinkedIn are founders, executives, and tech entrepreneurs – in other words, the exact people that make up Rootstrap’s core demographic. 

The average LinkedIn user is much more likely to actually need mobile app development services than the average Instagram user. Because of this, one follower on LinkedIn is worth more to Rootstrap than a follower on Instagram. 

In fact, one follower on LinkedIn is worth more to Rootstrap than 3, 4 or maybe even 100 followers on Instagram because very few Instagram users actually want to pay for our services. Even though Ben’s LinkedIn following is roughly a quarter of his Instagram following, it’s exponentially more valuable to the company. 

As you construct your social media marketing strategy, bear this in mind. It’s entirely possible to invest serious time, effort, and money into social media marketing, build up a good following, and still see your sales flatlining. If you’re reaching the wrong demographics through your social media presence, it means nothing to your business. It’s better to market to a small audience that’s more closely aligned with your customers than to a large audience that doesn’t care about your products and services. 

Ideally, you already have a pretty thorough understanding of your target customer – but if you don’t, that’s ok. One of the most powerful exercises for defining your target demographic is creating customer profiles (note: in this context, target customer, core customer, and target demographic all mean basically the same thing).

Customer profiles are strategic marketing assets that provide a snapshot of one archetypal person in your target demographic. This is someone who represents the “average” customer for your business – the people who most want to buy your product or service and who you most want to reach in your marketing efforts. 

Customer profiles generally include a name, basic demographic information, and a host of other qualities and traits for the customer. It’s important to take the exercise as literally as possible. Give this person a name, find a picture to represent them, and get as specific as possible in the profile, including as many details as seem relevant and possible. 

There’s no limit to the amount of information you could include in a customer profile, but here’s a list of some common data points that you can put into your customer profile:

  • Name
  • Gender
  • Age
  • Ethnicity/Race
  • Location
  • Occupation
  • Income/Economic class
  • Political beliefs
  • Opinions
  • Likes and dislikes
  • Hobbies
  • Favorite celebrities
  • Most-visited websites
  • Most-used social networks
  • Favorite brands
  • Favorite products
  • Common search terms

Again, this list is by no means all-inclusive. You should include any and all data that may be relevant to your business, your customers, and how you reach them. This tool will serve as a guide for how you construct your social media marketing strategy. 

With all of this in mind, let’s look at some of the different options you have for marketing your business on social media. 

What is Social Media Marketing for Small Business?

To put it simply, social media marketing is what it sounds like: marketing your business on social media. But as you might expect, the concept is much more nuanced than that. 

Social media marketing encompasses any advertising or marketing outreach by your business across any social media platform. This includes the major networks like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and TikTok, but also smaller and emerging platforms like Pinterest, Periscope, Tumblr, and even Tinder. So long as it’s intended to sell products or raise brand awareness and it’s on social media, it’s social media marketing. 

Within social media marketing, we can delineate two primary categories: organic and paid. Organic social media marketing refers to any traffic or visibility you do not pay for. This is basically any content you share that you don’t pay to promote. This may come from a dedicated fanbase that actively looks for and consumes your content, or it may come from a piece of content your brand puts out that goes viral and gets shared organically. 

Unfortunately, achieving real organic visibility is getting harder and harder on social media. Particularly for the most mature platforms, it takes extremely high-engaging, shareable content to really achieve reach. Facebook in particular has taken steps to throttle organic reach from businesses – their March 1st “friends and family” update even put some publishers out of business by crushing their traffic. Accordingly, we’ll focus mostly on paid social media marketing in this guide.

Paid social media marketing refers to pay per click campaigns, sponsored posts, influencer campaigns, and any other marketing outreach that you pay to show to users. In pay per click (PPC) social media marketing, you use a social network’s native advertising platform to create and run paid ad campaigns to users of the network. The social network shows your ads to different users depending on the demographic targeting you outline, and you pay based on either the number of views the ad gets or the number of people that click on your ad. If you’ve ever seen the advertisements to the right of your news feed on Facebook, you’ve seen PPC social media marketing. 

Another format for paid social media marketing is sponsored posts or shoutouts. In this model, you pay a social media influencer or a profile with a large following to either feature your product in a post, shout out your brand, or otherwise expose your product or business to their audience. Most of the time, these arrangements are bought and paid for. It’s sometimes possible to have an influencer promote a product purely because you send it to them for free, but this usually only happens with smaller profiles. 

In the past, sponsored posts were often covert, and it could be difficult to know if an influencer reviewed a product purely because they enjoyed it or because it was a paid arrangement. More recently, however, the FCC has cracked down on “secret” sponsored posts, requiring influencers to disclose any fiscal relationship they have with the companies they’re mentioning. That said, most data indicate that consumers still respond positively to sponsored posts, even when they know the shout out is paid for in some fashion. 

While it’s useful to separate paid and organic social media marketing reach, the two models work in symbiosis. Paid advertising helps to boost organic reach, and organic reach can amplify your paid campaigns. They both feed into each other and are vital parts of any social media marketing strategy. 

So, now we’ve covered a bit about the basics of social media and explored the difference between paid and organic social media marketing. But ultimately, each platform offers its own nuances. To create an effective social media marketing strategy, you’ll need to have a plan for each individual social network you to operate on.

Facebook Marketing

Facebook is the giant of social networks, boasting 2.2 billion users, an ocean of user demographic data, and truly global reach. At this point, Facebook is more than just a social network: it forms one of the largest parts of the Internet.

Accordingly, marketing on Facebook is incredibly powerful – but also competitive. Virtually every business is on Facebook, and you’ll need to compete with those businesses if you want to reach and convert customers through Facebook marketing. 

The real key to successful Facebook marketing is using demographic data to narrowly target your ads. Doing Facebook marketing right is all about finding the small group of people you truly want to reach amidst the ocean of users. 

This is where your customer profiles come in. You can use your customer profile as a basis for choosing the demographics that you want to advertise to. Is your core customer in the 25 to 34 age range? Great, target your ads only to 25-34 year olds. Is your core customer interested in technology news? Perfect, target your ads to people who follow Mashable and pages like it. 
Going through this process, we see again how important it is to be strategic in social media marketing and to target your strategy to the right group of people. If you’re selling perfume, it does nothing for you to advertise to men. Understanding your core demographic and targeting your ads based on that demographic is the key to successful Facebook marketing.

Instagram Marketing

Instagram is owned by Facebook, but it still presents a unique landscape for social media marketing. And in some ways, it’s can be a more potent option for some businesses. 

The beauty of marketing on Instagram is that the network is based entirely around high-quality photos and videos. That gives advertisers a lot of power for making their ads engaging and helping their ads fit into users’ news feeds. If the image in your Instagram ad is well-composed, features your product in an aesthetically appealing way, and fits into the aesthetic of content that your target customers like, advertising on Instagram can be highly effective. 

Instagram is also ground for influencer marketing. There’s a fairly well-developed official economy of sponsored posts and shoutouts in the Instagram world, and you can take advantage of that in your social media marketing strategy. Often, launching an influencer marketing campaign is as easy as sending a DM to a relevant profile and asking what the rate is for a shoutout.

Twitter Marketing

Twitter has long had the notorious reputation as the straggler of the “unicorn” tech companies, but things have seemed to stabilize for the network recently. It’s seen growth in monthly active users and engagement or the first time in a long time. And in spite of any negative press coverage, Twitter can be an effective marketing platform for businesses. 

As with all the other social networks, Twitter offers its own advertising platform in the form of “promoted tweets.” These are great, and we encourage you to use them. But in our opinion, the true power of Twitter lies in your ability to interact with customers in real time. 

The beauty of Twitter is that it’s almost like public text messages. People can publish thoughts and respond to each other immediately, allowing for a public conversation to take place – and as a brand, you can participate in those conversations. Twitter’s advanced search tools make this even more effective. 

Using advanced Twitter search, you can create a Twitter feed that’s curated based on things like keywords, hashtags, or location. By setting up that feed to only feature tweets and threads relating to your business, your product, or your industry, you can get a real-time look at how you or your products are being discussed on the social network. This makes it easy to find opportunities to engage with potential customers. 

For example, if you sell luxury watches, you can set up a feed that only shows tweets about luxury watches and luxury watch companies. If someone has a question, you can answer it personally. 

Add to this the ability to include competitors in that thread, and suddenly you have the opportunity to eat your competition’s lunch. Is a Twitter user unsatisfied by one of your competitors? Reply to them saying you’ll send a free sample of your product. You’ll immediately convert that user and probably everyone in their network. 

Twitter may not be the biggest social network, but it’s unique in what it allows brands to do. To maximize your social media marketing efforts, it’s important to use these peculiarities to your advantage. 

The Benefits of Social Media Marketing

But why should you go to the trouble of social media marketing, anyways? Is creating a social media marketing strategy really worth it?

Thankfully, that’s pretty easy: yes, yes, and yes. And yes. Social media marketing isn’t really an optional effort anymore – in 2020, to be absent from social networks is nearly a death sentence for businesses. 

The benefits of social media for businesses are numerous and multifaceted, but here are a few of the biggest advantages of social media marketing in 2020:

  • Build Customer Loyalty: When customers engage with your brand and content on social media, it builds loyalty to your brand. Maintaining an active social media presence helps turn one-time customers into long-term fans and brand advocates. 
  • Boost Inbound Traffic: Social media creates another channel to drive inbound traffic and customers to your website and products. The bigger your social media profiles, the bigger than channel is.
  • Raise Brand Awareness: On a basic level, social media profiles get the word out about your business. Whether you’re marketing a mobile app or a physical product, a social media presence provides another avenue through which new customers can discover you.
  • Increase Conversions: Social media can personify your brand, and that builds trust with customers. In addition to bringing in more leads from your social media profiles, this improves conversion rates by making customers feel more connected to your brand. 
  • Search Engine Optimization: Social media doesn’t directly improve search rankings for a website, but it has a positive effect on SEO in a number of indirect ways. For the most part, social media will be beneficial to search engine optimization.
  • Bolster Brand Authority: Is your brand a trusted voice in your industry? If not, social media can help you become one. Social media profiles give you an opportunity to create and publish high-quality, thought-leading content that raises the authority of your brand. 
  • Interact with Customers: As with our Twitter example from earlier, social media is a powerful channel for interacting with customers directly. Taking advantage of this can show customers that your brand cares about them, building consumer trust in your business.

Why Do You Need a Social Media Marketing Plan?

As we can see, the benefits of social media marketing are massive – but again, the only way to reap those rewards is to have a specific, documented, and data-driven social media marketing plan. Without a strategy and a plan guiding your social media efforts, you’re groping in the dark, and you may invest time and money without seeing ROI. 

Remember – for our cofounder, a 30,000-follower LinkedIn profile was exponentially more valuable than a 120,000-follower Instagram profile. A social media marketing plan can help you identify what networks and types of content will be most relevant to your customers, and thus most valuable to your business.

On a more granular level, a social media marketing plan also helps you stay consistent and on track in your content publishing. Ideally, your marketing plan should include a schedule of posts for all your social profiles, a schedule of PPC ads, and a plan for any influencer campaigns you plan to run. Planning this content out ahead of time makes it easier to stay on schedule, which will improve the visibility of your content and raise ROI.

Social Media Marketing Statistics and How Those Impact You

By now, you have a pretty good overview of why you need a social media marketing plan, how to create a social media marketing strategy and benefits of social media marketing. But before we go, let’s take a look at some social media marketing statistics. These figures can inform your social media strategy and help you create a plan that truly accelerates your business.

Live Streaming Is on the Rise

Live streaming has long been touted as a panacea for brands on social media, and it continues to rise in importance. According to GlobalWebIndex, 28% of Internet users have watched a live video in the past month, and engagement on live streams has grown 10% since 2016. This makes live video a powerful tool for social media marketing, so it should make up a key component of your strategy. 

Ad Spending Is Up Across the Board

According to data from 4C Insights, social media ad spending is almost universally growing. All the major networks enjoyed growth in ad revenue in Q3 of last year, although the distribution wasn’t uniform:

  • Facebook saw a 27% increase
  • Snapchat saw a 73% increase
  • Twitter saw a 26% increase
  • Instagram saw a 55% increase

As you create your social media marketing strategy, keep this in mind. Increased ad spending is a positive sign in that it indicates that companies are seeing ROI from their social ads – but it also means competition will increase, and it will be more difficult to reach and engage users. As the playing field gets more crowded, a data-driven social media marketing strategy targeted towards your core demographic becomes even more important.

Social Media & Customer Service

According to data from Ambassador, social media is one of the most powerful vehicles available for customer service. More than half of customers will engage with brands multiples times a month, and 71% of customers who have a good social media experience with a company will recommend it to peers. In addition to a growth-focused social media marketing strategy, it’s important to take advantage of the customer service aspect of social.

You Must Go Beyond Your Followers

Engaging with and marketing to your followers is good – but it’s not enough. According to Brandwatch, 96% of consumers that talk about brands online don’t actually follow those brands’ profiles on social media. That means that if you want to connect with customers discussing your brand, you need to reach beyond your own following. Twitter’s advanced search functions are a great way to do this.

Create Your Social Media Marketing Strategy

Now you know the basics of why and how to create a social media marketing strategy. Time to put it into action! The only way to truly achieve growth and ROI from social media marketing is to create a plan, put it into action, and revise it based on the data. Always stay up to date with emerging trends. Social media is always changing. So what are you waiting for? Get out there and grow your business through social media marketing!