A Beginner's Guide to Social Media Marketing (+ Strategy Plan Template)

Claire Brenner
Claire Brenner  |  June 28, 2018

In a world where teens and adults alike are sending snapchats and scrolling through Instagram, social media marketing offers endless opportunities.

Yeah, yeah, we know. Social media marketing isn’t exactly a new concept anymore.

In fact, would you believe marketers have been using social media to reach their customers for nearly 10 years?

That’s right. Social media marketing is no longer the buzz-worthy marketing trend it once was.

But that’s because it’s no longer only a trend.

Today, social media marketing is an essential aspect of a broader marketing strategy, and it is rich with opportunity.

This comprehensive guide will cover all the basics of social media marketing.

We’ll go over what social media marketing is, your objectives when using it, the steps to building your strategy, some of the most successful social media marketing campaigns, and much more.

Are you ready to dive into the dynamic world of social media marketing?

Let’s get started!

Social Media Marketing

As mentioned above, social media marketing is much more than just a short-lived marketing trend.

While that’s true, social media marketing is still a relatively new space compared to the long history of marketing in general.

In fact, none of the social media platforms we’ll discuss in this guide even existed until the 21st century. LinkedIn came along first in 2003, followed by Facebook’s launch in 2004. Then came Twitter in 2006, Pinterest and Instagram in 2010, and last but not least, Snapchat, which arrived on the scene in 2011.

In just 16 years, those six social media platforms have entirely changed the way marketers reach their audiences.

What is Social Media Marketing

Social media marketing is a loaded term.

Sure, we could define it as the practice of promoting your brand on various social media platforms to increase awareness and build a community (and we will), but it’s much more than that.

Social media marketing is a sector of marketing that requires both creativity and a deep understanding of analytics. It requires a business to create intriguing, valuable content and share said content over the platforms on which it will perform best.

Social media posts that qualify as “marketing” may include text updates, eye-catching images, social infographics, informative videos, or any other content that will drive engagement among the audience that a marketer is trying to reach.

However, it’s not just composing witty tweets or slapping up an image on Instagram (although those could be critical aspects of your larger strategy).

Today, social media platforms recognize their function in the world of marketing. Nearly all platforms offer some paid advertising functionality that enables marketers to target their ideal audience directly. Social media marketing requires obtaining a social budget, testing different content types on various platforms, analyzing results, and determining return-on-investment. This is where that analytical mindset comes in.

Additionally, social media marketing is all about the social media platforms themselves. To be successful, you’ll need to be well-versed on every website and app. Each unique platform will present you with different opportunities, challenges, and results. It’s critical to understand which one(s) will truly push the needles on your company’s goals.

For example, LinkedIn is a business networking website, Twitter is meant for quick updates, Instagram can be critical when trying to reach millennials, and so on.

To understand the platforms that will work for you, it’s essential that you know where your target audience spends their online time. An ideal social media marketing strategy uses the most impactful platform, targets the correct audience, and, ultimately, gets your marketing team closer to achieving its goals. 

Benefits of Social Media Marketing

A social media marketing strategy isn’t just a side project. It’s an essential part of your broader digital marketing strategy. That said, it’s more than worth it. In this section, we’ll highlight some of the greatest benefits you’ll see from your social media marketing efforts.

Increased brand awareness

Social media marketing is an effective way to appeal to new audiences. Through creative posts and valuable content, you can break into new markets and even turn your current customers into advocates.

More importantly, social media marketing is hands-down the most cost-effective digital marketing technique. If you’re not yet willing to devote resources to your strategy, you’re in luck! It’s entirely free to create a social media account on almost every platform. Building a Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn audience will increase brand awareness and only cost your team a bit of time and brain power.

Increased inbound traffic

Every social media profile you add to your marketing mix becomes a gateway to your website. Additionally, every piece of content you post to said profiles is another opportunity to acquire a new customer.

Social media posts provide your audience with various avenues to ultimately reach your original website. This enables new prospects to reach your site organically. When their site visit is on their own terms, and you haven’t fought for their attention, they’ll view your brand more favorably. 

Social Media Marketing Objectives

Speaking of goals, let’s talk objectives.

Each company with a social media strategy will have specific goals tailored to its unique needs. That said, the goals will likely relate back to a broader objective of social media marketing.

Social media marketing can serve many purposes. In this section, we’ll highlight some of the most common objectives and how marketers can work to achieve them.

Brand awareness

The first objective of social media marketing is all about increasing brand awareness. The exciting part about exploring various social media platforms is that each one can introduce your brand to a new and unique audience.

Consider a special promotion for LinkedIn users or a contest that you run on Twitter that counts each retweet as an entry. If the prize is desirable, your followers will be excited to share your brand’s content with their own networks. Then they’ll share it with their networks, and so on. Suddenly, you’ve acquired 500 new Twitter followers for the cost of a specialty box of cupcakes (or whatever your prize may be).

Your brand is your organization’s identity, so consider using your culture, your office, and, of course, your employees to build brand awareness as well. Employee Instagram takeovers and YouTube videos covering your most recent philanthropic effort – these are the types of content that will humanize your brand and ensure your audience has a favorable impression. 

Community building

Social media is much more than just gaining new followers – it’s about building an online community. This community includes your brand and its social profiles, your employees, your customers, your prospects, and more.

To encourage this community, you need to engage with your social media audiences. You don’t want to tweet at people. Rather, you want to offer a 280-character piece of content that sparks curiosity, offers insight, or even prompts a response (if nothing else, a like or a retweet).

Leveraging hashtags (they’re not just on Twitter anymore!) is an easy way for a marketer to not just engage with their audience, but also encourage individual members of their audience to interact with one another. Start a conversation and use brand-specific hashtags so that users can follow along. Before you know it, you’ll have loyal followers excited to contribute to the discussion.

Drive traffic to your website

This may be an obvious one, but a key priority of a social media strategy is driving traffic back to your website. Building a large social following is great for a lot of reasons. That said, when there’s a purchase to be made (and I’ll bet there is), you’ll need to get that loyal following back to the source: your website.

Ideally, your social media followers will become website visitors, and your website visitors will become customers. Unfortunately, that’s easier said than done.

(If we are a step ahead and you still need to build a website, check out our guide to how to make a website.)

However, it’s not impossible. In this case, content is key. If you use your social profiles to share valuable content, your audience will start to see the value in following your brand. A prospect who stumbles upon a simple LinkedIn post just may become your most loyal blog reader.

I’d be willing to bet that five months down the road when they’re in need of a solution your product or service offers, your brand will be at the top of their list (all because of that LinkedIn post from last December).

Enhanced relationships with your audience

Social media platforms have revolutionized customer service. Enhancing relationships with your audience is more than just community building. It’s about turning your current customers, and even just your social media followers, into brand advocates.

Your audience’s impression of your brand can largely depend on the way you manage social media interactions. If somebody complains about your brand on your Facebook page, do you respond quickly and professionally? Or do you post 12 times in a day to try and push the negative comment down the feed?

It may seem trivial, but these interactions can make or break your online reputation. To enhance these relationships, use your social media posts to encourage your customer’s feedback (both good and bad) and field requests. A prompt, friendly response is a small effort that can yield big results for your brand.

Research

A social media marketing strategy enables marketers to perform research regarding product development, employee wants and needs, and much more.

By engaging with your customers via social media, you’re getting a teeny peak into their personal lives. This (scarce) opportunity can provide insight into the problems they’re facing, the solutions they’re looking for, and, sometimes, their opinion of your brand.

Additionally, you can see how your competitors are acknowledging (or not acknowledging) these needs. Social media is public. Seeing the way your competitors interact with your potential customers is a rare opportunity you likely won’t find outside of social media. Taking the time to seek out those interactions can be incredibly insightful.

Once you’ve nailed down your organization’s primary objectives, you can use them to start building your social media marketing strategy. In this next section, we’ll cover the basics of a social media marketing strategy and the steps you’ll need to ensure you’re headed in the right direction.

For further research, Contentmart has a great resource on seven steps to social media marketing success.

Social Media Marketing Strategy

Implementing a new marketing technique is never easy. Whether you’re revamping your events program, building out your content marketing team, or implementing an account-based marketing strategy, it’s essential to keep in mind the specific aspects of each technique.

Social media marketing is no different. And contrary to (an unfortunately) popular belief, it requires much more than a few social media profiles and an intern to draft your tweets.

Like any marketing technique, before you dive in you need to build your strategy. Your social media marketing strategy will be your overall game plan. It’s a written document that will guide your marketing team and offer critical insights to your leadership team.

In this section, you’ll learn how to build out your social media marketing strategy. We’ll discuss your objectives, target audience, and competitive landscape – the three high-level elements you’ll need to consider to ensure your strategy will set you up for success. 

Objectives

Remember those objectives we discussed in the last section? They’re up first! To begin your social media strategy, you’ll need to first identify your key objectives. Earlier, we discussed five common objectives of social media marketing: brand awareness, community building, increased traffic, enhanced relationships, and research.

While those are all impact-driving objectives, you likely don’t want to focus on all five at once. When you spread yourself too thin, you won’t be able to fully commit to anything, and you probably won’t see the results you’re looking for.

Instead, consider the business goals of your entire organization. Then, select two or three social media marketing objectives that most closely align with those goals. When you focus your efforts on supporting the organization as a whole, your results will excite the leadership team and truly drive impact. 

Find your social media audience

Hopefully, if you’re developing a social media marketing strategy, you have a pretty good idea of who your target audience is.

If you do, then you’re off to a good start.

Now, you need to identify the social media platforms on which your audience spends its time. To do this, explore the social media platforms you’re considering (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, etc.) and conduct a little research into their demographics.

When you’ve completed this step, compare your findings to the demographics of your target audience. Do Facebook’s users resemble your target audience most closely? Perhaps you’re marketing to millennials, in which case you’ll find Instagram to be your best option.

By finding where your audience lives, you can begin to determine where you’ll focus the majority of your budget and energy.

Research your competitor's social presence

If there’s one thing my college professors stressed, it was that social media was public, and it was forever. As a job-hunter, this was frightening. As a marketer, it’s a secret weapon.

Your competitors almost certainly have social media profiles. These profiles are entirely public. With a click of a button, you have clear insight into the strategy they’ve developed behind the scenes. Which platforms are they taking advantage of? Are there any they’re neglecting? Hello, major opportunity!

Dig even deeper and you can see the type of content they’re sharing, the way they interact with their customers, and much more. You can even see how many followers they have on any given platform!

Documenting the various aspects of the competitive landscape in your marketing strategy is critical. This way, you can assess your competitors’ successes and implement similar strategies, working to make them even better. Plus, you can identify opportunities from social media platforms they may not be using.

Like we said, your social media marketing strategy is an overall game plan based on understanding your audience, competitors, and brand. In the next section, we’ll show you how to use your findings to create an action-oriented, results-based marketing plan.

Social Media Marketing Plan (+ free template)

In our ultimate guide to marketing, we mentioned that professionals often consider their marketing strategy and marketing plan to be interchangeable.

We also mentioned that this is not the case.

The same goes for social media marketing. Your social media marketing strategy is not the same as your social media marketing plan, nor are they “one-or-the-other” pieces. In fact, they’re complementary to one another.

Your social media marketing strategy covers the big picture. Your social media marketing plan will then take those big picture insights and use them to develop your tactical approach.

That means your marketing plan is all about what you’re going to do and how you’re going to do it.

In this section, we’ll cover the various parts of your social media plan and the specific details each part should include. 

Part 1: Social media audit

For the first section of your social media marketing plan, you’ll want to dig into what your company is already doing on social media. Beware – this sounds easy, but if you’re working at a company more than five years old, this can get especially tricky.

Performing a social media audit is critical when you’re determining the approach you’ll take. Take it from somebody who has been there – there’s a good chance you’ll find barren social media accounts registered in the name and email of somebody who hasn’t worked at the company in years. Been there, done that, and, needless to say, the Pinterest initiative I was so excited about never got off the ground.

(And if you happen to be the former G2 Crowd employee who has the Pinterest account login info, feel free to send it my way).

Like I said, social media audits are important. What networks are you active on, and – more importantly – are those networks optimized to best reach your audience? How do they compare to your competitors profiles?

Consider the platforms that are currently bringing you the most value. To begin, we’ll focus on those.

If your company doesn’t have any social media presence yet, don’t fear! Sometimes a blank slate is best. Research various platforms, as well as their demographics, to determine which will work best for you and your business goals.

There are a lot of platforms to choose from, and diving into each one likely won’t be the best use of your time (or bring you the results you’re looking for). Instead, consider focusing on one or two (three at the most), and devote your efforts and budget there. When you start seeing results, you can branch out to a new network or just keep doing what you’re doing.

Part 2: Social Media Goals

In section two of your marketing plan, you’ll list the goals you’re hoping to achieve through your social media marketing efforts.

As with all business goals, these should be SMART – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Results-focused, and Time-bound.

Consider the objectives you determined earlier and determine two-to-three specific goals per objective that offer a clear impact.

For example, let’s say your chief marketing officer is really hoping that your strong social media presence will increase brand awareness. To put this in terms of a SMART goal you could say, “We plan to increase Twitter followers by 75 percent by the end of 2018.”

This goal is:

  • Specific – it regards a specific social media platform
  • Measurable – it’s based on how many Twitter followers you have currently and how many you’ll have at the end of 2018
  • Achievable – well, I’m not sure how many hypothetical Twitter followers you have, but I believe in you!
  • Results-focused – it has a specific end goal in mind
  • Time-bound – you hope to achieve this by the end of 2018

By tying metrics to your objectives, you set clear expectations for your team and provide leadership insight into your key priorities.

Part 3: Tactics

First, we had objectives. Then, those objectives turned into goals.

Now, it’s time to get even more specific with your tactics.

Your tactics are the essential part of your marketing plan, as these are the steps you’ll take to achieve each goal. Your goals outline what you’re going to achieve. In this section, you get to tell everybody how you’re going to achieve it.

To determine your tactics, take a look at each goal. Let’s say we’re still trying to increase your Twitter followers.

One tactic would be to run a monthly, or even bi-weekly, Twitter contest for a small prize. Twitter users could retweet your content to receive one “entry” to the contest. As more users share the promotion, your brand gains exposure and, ultimately, your account gains followers.

Alternatively, maybe your objective is to increase social-driven site traffic, and the goal you’ve tied to this focuses on LinkedIn traffic in particular. A tactic could be to produce and share one educational marketing blog per week via LinkedIn. By providing value to your audience, they’ll be motivated to visit your site and explore your other content, increasing LinkedIn-driven traffic.

Depending on the importance of the goal, you’ll want to have three-to-five tactics that will help you make it a reality.

To get started with your social media marketing plan, we’ve provided a template below. Feel free to use this for yourself or share it with your network!

To download our FREE Social Media Marketing Plan Template, click here

Social Media Marketing Campaigns 

Every year, there are a handful of standout social media campaigns.

These are the campaigns that have the power to generate a lot of buzz for any given company. Sometimes, they can be as (seemingly) simple as a Snapchat filter, or as impactful as the $115 million-raising ALS ice bucket challenge.

In this section, we’ll highlight some of the most memorable social media marketing campaigns from the past few years. Do you remember any of these outstanding initiatives?

And if I missed one of your favorites, don’t forget to tweet it to me at @Claire_Brenner!

Social Media Example #1 - Taco Bell Cinco De Mayo Snapchat Filter

On May 5, 2017, Taco Bell released something major (and no, it wasn’t another taco or burrito that incorporates some sort of crunchy chip).

In fact, it wasn’t a food item at all, unless you count the ability to turn your face into a taco as a food item.

On Cinco De Mayo, Taco Bell released a unique Snapchat filter that celebrated Taco Bell’s two greatest loves: its customers and, of course, its tacos.

 

 

The filter used computer vision to recognize the user’s face and turned each user’s face into a taco – with or without taco bell’s famous sauce.

Previously, Snapchat’s most-viewed filter was Gatorade’s Super Bowl Campaign, which boasted more than 165 million views. Taco Bell’s Cinco De Mayo celebration, which was only live for one day, absolutely shattered that previous record with more than 224 million views.

Taco Bell, known for its cheap, tasty, and often innovative (can you tell I’m I’m still thinking about the Doritos Locos tacos?) food, heavily appeals to its millennial fan base. Leveraging Snapchat and its filters (us millennials love a good Snapchat filter) was a stellar way to reach its audience for a relatively low cost.

While the price of this particular campaign wasn’t released, Snapchat campaigns on holidays and major events, like the Super Bowl, can set a brand back about $750,000. With 224 million views in one day, Taco Bell paid about less than one cent per view – just a little bit less than the cost of one of its tacos.

I’d be willing to bet it found the results delicious.

 

Social Media Example #2 -Netflix – “Gilmore Girls”

In 2016, old and new fans alike anxiously awaited Netflix’s revamp of the early 2000s comedy series, “Gilmore Girls.” However, thanks to recent tech, the show’s marketing efforts looked very different than they did in the pre-social media world.

To promote the arrival of “Gilmore Girls” to Netflix, the streaming service took over 200 coffee shops around the country to re-create the fictional, but fan-favorite cafe, Luke’s Diner.

At each cafe Netflix partnered with, fans received a free coffee in a Luke’s branded cup that featured a Snapcode (Snapchat’s version of a QR code).

When fans opened their Snapchat accounts and scanned the code, they were directed to a custom filter, featuring a toaster and the famous Luke’s Diner sign.

The filter, which was viewed 880,000 times in one day and reached over 500,000 people, was a great success, considering Netflix partnered with just 200 coffee shops.

This campaign was an exciting win for Netflix and an innovative practice showing how a brand can combine its social media marketing efforts and impactful, real-world interactions.

Netflix social media marketing

 

Social Media Example #3 - Dove – Real Beauty Sketches

If you’re looking for a tear-jerker, you’ve come to the right place.

I’d reckon you’ve seen this video before, considering it was one of the biggest viral video campaigns on Facebook ever.

To encourage natural beauty and self-love, Dove employed an FBI-trained forensic artist to draw two portraits of various women without having ever seen them.

The first portrait was based on the way that the woman described herself. Dove then brought in a stranger, who described the same woman to the same artist.

The paintings, which, as expected, turned out significantly different, emphasized the idea that we are our own worst critics. This campaign, which boasted more than 114 million views and became the third most shared viral video ever, encouraged natural beauty, confidence, and meaningful female sentiments.

If you haven’t seen this social media marketing campaign, we’ve included the video below – but I’ll warn you, you may want to grab a box of tissues before you watch.

 

 

 

Social Media Example #4 - ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

You’ll probably remember the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge as the videos that occupied your Facebook feed over an eight-week period in the summer of 2014.

The viral campaign (an off shoot of guerrilla marketing) which aimed to promote awareness of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), urged social media users to either donate money to the ALS Association or pour a bucket of ice water on their heads. If they chose the latter, they were to film the event, post the video on social media, and nominate friends, family, and colleagues to do the same.

The stipulation was that if nominees didn’t complete the challenge within 24 hours, they had to donate to the ALS association.

While the campaign certainly had its critics (many argued that everybody was opting to dump ice water on their heads over donating), it was actually a great success. More than 2.4 million videos circulated on Facebook, and in just eight weeks the initiative raised $115 million for the ALS Association, which tripled its research budget.

ALS Ice bucket challenge

The campaign even acquired some celebrity participants, many of whom’s videos are compiled here. Take a look at 27 of the best celebrity ALS ice bucket challenges – my personal favorite is Bill Gates’.

ALS_ BIll Gates challenge

All of those campaigns were created specifically for a single platform. In the next section, we’ll talk about choosing the platform that will best support your social media marketing goals.

Choosing a Platform for Social Media Marketing

As we’ve mentioned throughout this guide, selecting the social media platform that will best support your business is key. Every marketing team has specific needs and expectations Similarly, every social media platform provides different functionality and offers unique opportunities.

In this section, we’ll dive deeper into each platform, including how marketers use them and some of the best practices per platform. But first, we’ll take a quick look at how you should brand your social media profile and some best practices regardless of the platform.

Branding your social profile

Each social media profile should be an extension of your own website. That means before you start tweeting to influencers or posting status updates, you’ll want to make sure your key messages are maintained.

Use your logo as your image on every platform. Your visitors should never have to wonder if they’re on the right page – it should be obvious! Similarly, you’ll need to come up with your social media “name”, whether it’s in the form of a Twitter handle, Facebook page name, etc.

This name should be as close to your company name as possible. Ideally, it would match exactly, but on the rare occasion the handle is taken, consider adding on a word or two that explains your company.

For example, if the handle @G2Crowd had been taken on Twitter, perhaps we could have opted to be @G2CrowdReviews.

Be sure to update your bio as well. This should be concise, while still offering enough information that a visitor can understand your offering.

Social media is about getting your brand out there, so you’ll want to ensure each profile is equally easy to find. Be sure to link your social media accounts to your website homepage, blog, employee’s social profiles, and more! The more avenues there are to get there, the more likely your audience will land on your profiles.

Finally, cross-share content on multiple platforms. While each platform serves a unique function, you’ll likely have plenty of posts that will work on multiple networks. From tweeting out your Instagram pictures to posting YouTube videos on Facebook – the social media world is your oyster!

Now we’ll take an in-depth look at each platform, and how to incorporate them into your marketing strategy.

Facebook Marketing

Ah, Facebook – for many of us, our first social media profile. We’ve come along way from “Truth is” Facebook statuses and heavily-edited profile pictures, haven’t we?

Today, marketers can use Facebook marketing to post updates, engage with their audience, and target specific users with content-rich advertisements.

The platform, which is heavily utilized by businesses, has two main tools: Facebook pages and Facebook Ads. Each tool can be used for its own purpose or you can combine the two for an even greater reach.

Let’s start with Facebook pages.

You’ve likely seen Facebook pages on your feed before – perhaps you even follow a couple! A Facebook page is basically just a profile, but for businesses, organizations, non-profits, and public figures.

Starbucks Facebook page

See above for Starbuck's great job at branding their profile. They have an optimizing profile with the correct Facebook cover photo size highlighting their product.

Liking a page is similar to being Facebook friends with somebody. Once a user likes a page, they’ll receive updates from that particular page in their newsfeed. Unlike a typical Facebook friend request, anybody can like a Facebook page. The creator doesn’t need to “accept” a fan.

Setting up a Facebook page for your organization is an excellent way to jumpstart your social media marketing efforts. Not only are they free to use, but they’re incredibly intuitive. In fact, if you’ve been on Facebook before (which two-thirds of U.S. adults have), it will seem very reminiscent of your own Facebook profile.

Brands use pages to post updates, share recent content, announce new features, and engage with their customers. Because “fans” of pages can post messages, Facebook offers brands a unique opportunity to publicly respond and display their commitment to their customers.

Unfortunately, it may be hard to build a fanbase on Facebook, especially if you have a niche audience to begin with. Encourage your employees to like the page (it’s a start!) and share it with their networks. It may take time, but eventually you’ll start to see results.

Facebook Ads is a paid service that can stand alone or be complementary to your organization’s Facebook page. This feature enables marketers to hyper-target ads to an audience of specific geographic areas, education levels, ages, genders, and more. You can alter the ad based on the audience to best garner results. Included in each ad will be a call-to-action for the viewers to like your Facebook page.

Shopify Facebook Ad

These ads are advantageous, as they have incredibly powerful targeting parameters. That said, they can get expensive, depending on the ads you put out and to whom.

However, businesses and agencies can set a budget that includes the total amount they’re willing to spend daily over the course of a given campaign. According to the Facebook Ads information page, Facebook will never spend more than an organization’s declared maximum.

For more information on creating and employing Facebook Ads, check out its detailed resource here.

Twitter Marketing

Twitter, a platform meant for short messages and back-and-forth interactions, can be an excellent tool for professionals who are just diving into their social media marketing strategy.

Similar to a Facebook page, starting a Twitter account is entirely free. Anybody can claim a Twitter handle, upload their profile photo, fill out their bio, and start shooting out tweets to the Twitterverse.

The real challenge, as is true with many platforms, is growing your following. The key to Twitter is engaging and interacting with your target audience.

Businesses and organizations use Twitter to share information and content, drive engagement, network, increase brand awareness, manage their reputation, and more.

However, there are a few proven best-practices that will help you drive results.

Initiating a Twitter chat (a discussion between multiple users focusing on a specific hashtag) with a hashtag related to your industry can be very valuable. Not only does the unique hashtag allow the public to follow the conversation, but it also enables the users to interact with one another (as opposed to only your own brand). This can help to increase engagement and build a community surrounding your brand.

Throughout a Twitter chat, keep the chatters engaged by replying to them with an @mention. This will ensure they receive a notification – and don’t we all like to feel noticed by an official brand?

Use the chat itself to jumpstart the relationship, but be sure to follow these users and continue to engage with them in the future. A Twitter chat is a great start, but the real results will come from maintaining the relationships after the fact.

Additionally, tweeting about trending hashtags, hashtags that are currently getting the most “buzz,” is an easy and effective way to increase visibility. When you log in to Twitter, there will be a sidebar on the left that will display the hashtags trending in your area and beyond. Do your best to work these into a tweet or two.

Don’t shy away from a specific hashtag just because it’s not related to your business model – instead, take advantage! Popular hashtags like #MondayMotivation and #ThrowbackThursday can be utilized by every organization, even those with a niche audience. Even WebMD joined in on the fun with a #WednesdayWisdom post.   

WebMD Wednesday Wisdom

That said, not every hashtag is appropriate to use in your social media marketing efforts. If a trending hashtag seems ambiguous, be sure to research its origin and purpose before you tweet it out to your followers.

DiGiorno, the frozen pizza company, learned this the hard way when they sent out a tweet that included the trending hashtag #WhyIStayed.

DiGiorno Why I Stayed

Unfortunately, DiGiorno had failed to do its research on the hashtag’s origin. As it turned out, the hashtag was meant for victims of domestic violence about staying with and leaving their abusive partners. A household brand had made light of an incredibly sensitive subject.

While the company later issued an apology, the damage had been done (and the screenshots had been taken). This simple tweet turned out to be a public relations blunder for the books. To avoid a scandal like this, be sure to do your research on a trending hashtag before you send it out in a tweet.

DiGiorno Why I stayed apology

Some companies have found great success by building a unique Twitter persona. Some organizations are known for their stellar Twitter customer service or exclusive promotions. However, some take it even a step further. In this case, we’re talking about Wendy’s, and its infamous Twitter trash-talking.

While this is certainly risky, it has proven successful for the fast food giant. It has entirely humanized the Wendy’s brand, encouraging engagement from customers who share its funniest jokes and tweet directly to Wendy’s in hopes of receiving a sassy response.

Wendys Twitter roast

Wendy’s unique personality has even landed it some media coverage, like this article from BuzzFeed showing 15 of Wendy’s “most savage” tweets.

While developing a persona can be an excellent technique, tread cautiously when it comes to trash-talking and sarcasm. There’s a fine line, and you most likely don’t want to be the brand to cross it. The image below cautions brands that want to take a humorous approach. 

Sprout Social Brand Actions

As for some general best practices, remember that Twitter employes short, concise messages to get your points across. That said, you’ll probably want to tweet more than you post on other social media platforms – sometimes even up to 10 times a day!

When you are promoting a specific piece of content, learn how to pin a tweet to the top of your Twitter profile to gain maximum exposure.

Additionally, be sure to include an image in your tweet whenever possible. Not only will this make your profile more visually appealing, but it will increase engagement, as tweets with images are 34 percent more likely to get retweeted than those without.

Because drafting a 280-character tweet doesn’t require a ton of effort, I recommend testing different variations and content types to see which ones yield the best results. 

Instagram Marketing

Instagram marketing is an exciting method for brands to show off their culture, recruit new employees, engage with customers, and show off products in a new light.

If you’re considering using Instagram in your marketing efforts, the first step is making your account! You’ll need a phone to download the app. When you go to sign up, be sure to use a business email. While logging in with your Facebook can be tempting (and a great option if you’re creating a personal account), you’ll want to ensure that your brand’s account is linked to a company email.

For Instagram (and any other social media platform that requires an email), consider creating a dummy email like “social@company.com.” In addition to using it for logins, this email account can field social media interactions and reply to messages.

When you’ve succeeded in making your business Instagram account, be sure to switch it to a business profile. As a warning, this does require your organization to have a Facebook page. Instagram will then import the data from your Facebook page, minimizing the work on your end! Additionally, a business profile makes it easier for your audience to contact you, simplifies content promotion, and offers more in-depth insights.

Instagram is also perfect for smaller brands, specifically online stores and ecommerce websites. Many ecommerce stores leverage Instagram to increase traffic to their online store, boosting sells.

There are a lot of brands out there that are currently killing the Instagram game.

To show off your culture, your employees will be your best resource. Consider posting pictures of employees in your company gear – bonus points if they’re in a cool location! Here at G2 Crowd, we’ve made this into a unique hashtag. We often encourage employees to rep the #G2Gear on their adventures so that we can post it on our Instagram.

 G2 Gear Instagram 

Another way to display employee culture is to post pictures of your office and individual desks. The space you work in is an extension of your brand, and your employees’ desks are representative of their own creative selves. Showing this to the public can show your followers how you foster creativity and encourage your employees to create a productive and unique space.

 Asana Desk Instagram 

Another way to use Instagram is to display your product in a new and exciting way. A company that thrives in this regard is Glossier, an upscale cosmetics brand. Typically, foundation bottles and lipstick tubes aren’t the most exciting thing to look at. Through Instagram filters and product placement, Glossier shows off its products in a aesthetically pleasing ways that keep followers coming back for more.

 Glossier Instagram 

Additionally, Instagram can be a great way to engage with your customers. If you see that somebody’s featured your product in one of their Instagram posts, you can repost the image to your own account and tag the original poster. Not only will they be flattered that you shared their image, but as more followers see that you share customer posts, they’ll be more likely to feature your product in the future. A company that excels at this is Chicago-based RXBar. When customers post an image of its distinctive, all-natural protein bar, RXBar will often share the image on its account, exposing the product to its 260,000 plus followers.

 RXBar Customer Repost 

Finally, many companies will opt to post motivational quotes on their Instagram accounts. Turning a quote into a super shareable image appeals to a wide audience – who doesn’t love a little #MondayMotivation? B2B software company HubSpot posts a motivational quote to its 100,000 followers nearly every day. Clearly, something is working!

 HubSpot Motivational Instagram 

Finally, be sure to utilize Instagram stories. These Snapchat-esque posts are loved by consumers, with more than 200 million individuals utilizing the tool every month. They’re an easy way to show off the day-to-day of your company and humanize your brand. Plus, you get clear insights into how many people are watching and clicking through each short video or image.

In general, there are a few Instagram tips to keep your page aesthetically pleasing and enticing. Because Instagram is a social media platform that revolves around images, the pictures you’re posting are key. Don’t just slap a picture up and expect it to perform. Invest in a decent company phone to ensure the pictures you’re taking are of the highest quality. Also, take advantage of editing apps. I’m not saying to photoshop your employees, but brightening an image, sharpening it, or applying a cool filter can go a long way.

These steps will certainly take a bit of time, but you shouldn’t be posting on Instagram that often anyway. Typically, one post per day is more than enough. Spending just 30 minutes to ensure the picture is the best it can be is a simple effort that will pay off in the long run.

And because we love to poke fun at ourselves, consider this early G2 Crowd Instagram post (circa 2015) as a “what not to do.” This picture is testament to the fact that it may take a while to get your Instagram strategy up and running (a few years, in our case), but when you do, the results will be worth it! 

G2 Crowd Instagram 

LinkedIn Marketing

Many of us think as LinkedIn as the social platform we use to market ourselves. While that’s certainly true, it also offers an excellent opportunity for businesses to show off their organizations.

Like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, setting up a LinkedIn account for your business is entirely free! And if you’re a B2B marketer, it can be an invaluable resource. The majority of your audience is probably already there!

Think of your LinkedIn company page as your business’s LinkedIn profile. By that, we mean it should be professional, offer opportunities for your audience to learn about your brand, provide a lot of shareable and engaging content, and more!

Some common goals of LinkedIn marketing include generating leads and increasing brand awareness. To achieve those goals, focus on your number of followers. When people follow your company page, your updates appear directly in their feed. The more followers you have, the greater your exposure will be.

As with all social media platforms, the content you share should match your audience. Valuable pieces like educational blog posts, eBooks, and how-to guides are excellent choices for a LinkedIn. And don’t forget to add a visual! People form a first impression of online posts in just 50 milliseconds. A multimedia addition is much more likely to draw them in (and keep their attention) than a text update.

And don’t forget about one of LinkedIn’s biggest user groups – job seekers. Sharing your company’s open roles will attract those looking for a new opportunity. Even if they don’t end up applying, your intriguing content will hopefully turn them into a follower.

Similar to Facebook, LinkedIn also offers sponsored content and ad campaigns. Sponsored content, like Facebook Ads, enables you to target your ideal audience with your most successful posts. Ad campaigns, on the other hand, include sponsored content, text advertising, sponsored InMail (a LinkedIn Premium feature that allows you to message members you’re not connected with), and more.

While these features will require a bit of your budget, they can prove very successful. If you have the resources, consider testing them out as a tactic within your broader strategy. 

Pinterest Marketing

I don’t know about you, but Pinterest is my first stop every time I need a craft idea, a dinner recipe, or some interior design inspiration.

In reality, it’s so much more. While Pinterest may not have the massive user-population of Facebook or our president’s devotion like Twitter, it can be a secret weapon for marketers (if you have the right audience, of course).

In fact, did you know that half of U.S. millennials use Pinterest?

If that’s your audience, then this medium may be for you. Pinterest is unique in its purpose – it’s not used to network like LinkedIn or keep up with your aunts like Facebook. Instead, people use it as a source of inspiration.

However, we seek inspiration in all areas of life! Not just crafting and cooking.

If you decide to create a Pinterest for business account for your brand, be sure to upgrade to a free business account and claim your website. This simple step unlocks Pinterest analytics, ads, and other tools for professionals.

Once you complete that step, you use Pinterest pretty similarly to the average consumer.

You create virtual boards based on a given topic. For example, if you’re a cosmetics brand, your different Pinterest boards could include makeup inspiration, skin care, or hair styling tips.

Each board is a collection of pins – any image, video, or link that somebody chooses to save.

The best way to gain followers on Pinterest is to start pinning! Determine your boards based on your business and pin away! The pins you engage with should be related to your niche.

If you’re a professional recruiting firm, you can pin interview tips, business casual outfit inspiration, or resume templates. You can even pin content straight from your own website by installing the Pinterest browser button.

When pinning your own content, focus on visuals. That’s what the user will initially see on their Pinterest feed. Vertical images are best because 80 percent of users use the app to access Pinterest on their mobile devices.

That said, descriptions should still be SEO friendly. Include keywords (when they fit naturally) and a short description.

And if you want people to follow your brand, don’t forget to follow others! Relevant brands in your industry (not your competitors) can be a great place to start.

When you leverage a business account, you’ll have access to Pinterest analytics. This will provide information about the types of content that perform best, so you can enhance your Pinterest over time. 

YouTube Marketing

For a website that reaches more 18-to-49-year-olds than any broadcast or cable network on mobile phones, YouTube is an often underutilized marketing strategy.

We love videos. Whether it’s their ability to make us laugh, cry, or simply avoid reading that four-page article, there’s a reason 59 percent of executives prefer videos over text.

Marketers can leverage that fact through YouTube. It allows us to present content in a unique way that viewers can’t get enough of. It’s easy to consume and super shareable.

To begin your YouTube marketing strategy, you have to start by creating your company’s channel.

This can be a bit tricky, depending on whether or not you have a Google account.

YouTube is owned by Google. On the plus side, this means that if you have a Google account, you’ll automatically have a YouTube account. If you don’t, you’ll have to take a few more steps before you dive in.

The easiest way to start is to sign up for a Gmail account. Don’t do this with your personal Gmail. Instead, start a Gmail account your marketing team can use for social media accounts. This will make sharing accounts between team members especially simple, and your team members will avoid a major headache if you ever leave the company.

Once your Google account is all set up, you’re in! Simply go to YouTube and you should already be logged in (you’ll see your account in the top right corner). If you’re not, log in using your Google credentials.

On the left side of the screen, there will be a sidebar that you’ll use to navigate to your channel. When setting up your channel, be sure to select the “business” option. Then, update your account accordingly with your company logo, bio – you know the drill.

There is also branding opportunities for your YouTube channel. Learn the proper YouTube banner size, create a branded graphic that represents your brand, and then simply upload the image to give your channel the right feel.

YouTube is a website for videos. That means the content you’re producing is king. Throwing up a sub-par video simply to have one will do you more harm than good. Instead, strategize about every video you create. Hold multiple brainstorm sessions, document the goals of the video, film it, and edit it (probably more than once), before you go live.

As far as the types of videos you should be putting on YouTube, that’s up to you and your brand! YouTube is great for tutorials, product demos, business introductions, customer testimonials, or a behind-the-scenes look at the life of your employees. Don't be afraid of making your first video! There are plenty of free video editing software tools for beginners.

In fact, why not test them all?

As you upload more videos and try out different angles, you’ll get a better understanding of the ones that are resonating with your audience.

That all said, the videos aren’t everything. Each video should have the correct metadata. That means you’ll want to include a well-written description, tags, a title (fit in those keywords if you can!), and an appropriate thumbnail.

One last piece of advice?

Captions.

I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve X’d out of a video because it didn’t include captions. Nobody wants to be that person on the train whose phone is blaring a product tutorial. And on my crowded commute home it’s much easier to switch to a new video than dig my headphones out of my backpack.

Captioning your video is a simple step you can take that increases the likelihood of viewers watching your entire video, whether they can hear it or not.

And as an added bonus – do you know what YouTube’s number one ranking factor is? The time users spend watching your video. Including captions can be the difference between a user consuming your content or opting for your competitor

Snapchat Marketing

Last but not least, Snapchat.

In the world of marketing, and even social media marketing, Snapchat is a relatively new strategy.

And do you know what another word for new is?

Intimidating.

We know – why add another tool to the list?

But Snapchat isn’t just another tool. It’s an app that sees 100 million daily active users. It’s also unique in that there isn’t a ton of competition. Sure, it’s gaining popularity among brands, but it’s not nearly as congested as the major platforms, like Facebook and Twitter.

Another benefit is that Snapchat is sure to push you out of your comfort zone. If nothing else, it will be a learning experience that allows your brand to engage with an audience in an exciting way.

When creating your account, you’ll need an email and a phone number (and, of course, a smartphone, as snapchat is only for mobile devices).

If your company doesn’t have a designated phone for social media purposes (which if you can, you probably should), your social media manager’s phone is likely the second best option. Your Snapchat handle (your username) should be your company name. Don’t forget to make sure you’re set as public, so others can see and add your account. This guide helps understand the basic of how to use Snapchat.

To gain Snapchat followers, consider employing your other social media profiles or special events you can attend. The app allows you to create a “Snapcode,” which is its version of a QR code. A user can scan this code on their own Snapchat profile, and it will lead them to yours. From there, they can add your account and view your Snapchat stories.

Snapchat stories are closely similar to Instagram stories. As a business account, it’s not likely you’ll be sending direct snapchats to individual users. Instead, you’ll employ Snapchat stories to show off employee life, announce new features or products, and more.

Consider using Snapchat to build anticipation for announcements or offer coupon codes. You may not reach a massive audience, but that doesn’t mean you can’t target the audience that’s there.

Unless you’re in media, let’s be honest, Snapchat probably won’t be your most successful social media platform. That said, it doesn’t require a major time or financial commitment. When it comes down to it, it can very well be a worthwhile way to reach your audience in a unique way, and develop another social media marketing skill to add to the resume.

Social Media Trends

Every year, there are new social media trends that affect the way consumers post updates and consume media.

However, marketers should also take note of these trends and use them to alter and revamp their social media marketing strategies. If consumers are our audience, then understanding what they consume (and why) is critical to the success of our marketing efforts.

In this section, we’ll highlight some of 2018’s biggest social media trends, and how social media marketers can use them to their advantage. 

Increased engagement between brands and customers

As we've mentioned throughout this guide, engagement with your audience is key. Social media has been an excellent medium for this engagement that will only continue to increase as customers become more and more likely to reach out to brands via Twitter and Facebook. And when they do, you better reply!

84 percent of consumers expect companies to respond within 24 hours after posting on social media. As this engagement increases, you’ll need to continue to keep up with the various replies and mentions.

Instagram stories

Instagram stories, one of the social media platform’s most recent innovations, has been quickly adopted by consumers and brands alike. In fact, one in five organic Instagram stories from brands sees at least one direct message from a consumer.

Consumers love to chat with videos and images; how do you think Snapchat got so popular? Instagram stories can humanize your brand while leveraging a platform on which you’ve already built an audience. These stores are especially great for marketing professionals, as they can track exactly how many people view each story and easily field responses. 

Live streaming

Both Facebook and Instagram have recently introduced the capability to live-stream, or transmit a real-time video to your audience via your social media profile.

These features have quickly caught on, as they create a sense of urgency based on the need to “tune in now!”

Additionally, they can be an exciting method for marketers to build anticipation before a major announcement or event. By regularly posting announcements like “tune in at 2 p.m. when we’ll release our most exciting feature yet,” a marketer can excite customers and ensure their live-stream will be a success.

Continued investment in influencer marketing

It’s near impossible to scroll through Instagram without seeing a Kardashian sister advertising hair vitamins or last season’s bachelor contestant raving about her monthly subscription box. This is called influencer marketing, and you shouldn’t expect it to go away anytime soon.

In fact, the trends show that influencer marketing will continue to gain popularity. As Gen Z and millennials grasp hold of more and more purchasing power, brands will work to appeal to those particular demographics. These generations, in particular, look to influencers to help them make decisions.

If you’re still hesitant, keep the following in mind. Ninety percent of marketers who employ an influencer marketing strategy believe it was successful.

Staying up-to-date on social media trends is critical to the role of a social media marketer. To ensure the success of your strategy, you’ll want to take advantage of the various trends that affect the way your target audience uses social media. Do that, and you’ll be quick to reap the benefits.

Social Media Marketing Jobs

Social media marketing has created an entirely new role in the world of marketing. Just 15 years ago, the job title “social media manager” didn’t even exist! Today, nearly every company has one, and if they don’t, they’re likely on the lookout!

However, as desired as these professionals are, people often overlook their skillset (and for Pete’s sake, please don’t assume this is an intern’s job). Being a social media marketer requires much more than the ability to write a witty tweet or take an artistic picture for Instagram.

These highly-skilled individuals are responsible for representing their brand, driving quality traffic, building an online community, and boosting an organization’s reputation.

In this section, we’ll highlight the common skills that are required in a social media marketing role.

Obviously, expertise in the various social media platforms is a must. A comprehensive understanding of the content that works best on each platform, the different nuances Facebook and LinkedIn offer, the optimal length of a YouTube video – you get the drill.

However, understanding the platforms isn’t enough. You need to understand the audience that each platform hosts. A successful social media marketer will know how to engage an audience through posts and interactions.

Social media marketing also requires the ability to plan and set goals. At the beginning of each quarter, as a social media guru, you’ll need to work with leadership to discuss the company’s overall goals and how they can be supported by a social media presence.

Using the organization’s primary objectives, you’ll need to determine the platforms on which you’ll focus and create an all-inclusive content strategy for each one.

Which brings us to our next required skill: content creation and management. As a social media marketer, you’ll administrate the creation and publishing of your posts. These posts should be a tactic of your broader social media campaign and be published based on a regular schedule.

All of this posting is time-consuming, so most social media marketers turn to social media marketing software for assistance.

Typically, social media marketers will also possess a basic understanding of search engine optimization (SEO) and inbound traffic. In other words, it’s important you have a grasp on the connection between social media exposure and your brand’s search rankings. This allows you to make sure the content your posting is optimized for Google’s algorithm.

Finally, community management is essential. As the social media go-to, you’ll likely be responsible for all social engagements. This can include answering questions, responding to your mentions, and, of course, fielding complaints. Being able to do this effectively and professionally can be make-or-break, as social media marketing is all about engaging your audience.

Any social media marketing job description will likely include a combination of the skills we’ve mentioned here.

If you’re a social media marketer, what skill would you say is your secret weapon? Tweet it to me at @Claire_Brenner!

Becoming a social media marketer

If everything we listed above sounds like your ideal role, then maybe social media marketing is the career for you!

Becoming a social media marketer isn’t easy, but there are certainly steps you can take (in addition to possessing the skills above) that can help you get there.

If you want to work in a marketing field, then, typically, a degree in marketing or communications can help. That said, becoming a social media guru isn’t impossible, and if you’re looking to make a career switch, it isn’t too late.

First, you’ll want to highlight your writing and design skills. Put together a portfolio that showcases your creativity. Writing samples don’t have to be from social media. Any work you’ve done that shows off your creative side can be a powerful resource.

Additionally, you should optimize your personal accounts. If you’re applying to be a social media manager, but your own accounts are sloppy, unprofessional, or non-existent, it’ll be a major red flag for the potential employer.

Use your accounts to demonstrate a strong voice and consistent posting. If you’ve built a loyal following, had a post go viral, or anything similar, highlight the experience! Building a brand isn’t easy, and having done so personally will be a major advantage.

You’ll also want to show that you’re self-directed and keep up-to-date on social media trends. Demonstrating expertise in Instagram stories, Facebook live, and other growing trends will show a motivated spirit and go a long way with a potential employer.

If you’re serious about making a career shift, there are various social media marketing courses and certifications you can sign up for and work toward. Whether it’s an online certification or a class at a local community college, these can be an excellent tool for those of us who don’t have a marketing degree or are looking to improve our skills further.

If you’d like to dip your toes in the water before making a financial commitment, the Buffer blog has highlighted 37 free social media and marketing courses for professionals.

In the next section, we’ll discuss the software tools and business services that can make a social media marketer’s job easier, no matter what stage of their career they’re in.

 

Social Media Marketing Software

With half-a-dozen different platforms to keep track of, we have to wonder how a social media manager keeps up with it all.

No, they’re not wizards. They just have a few tricks up their sleeves.

Social media marketing software.

As marketers began embracing social media in their marketing efforts, a significant opportunity opened up in the software-as-a-service (SaaS) space.

Today, marketers use various tools as part of their broader social media marketing strategies. These tools enable them to most effectively and efficiently get their messages to their audience.

In this section, we’ll highlight the most common types of social media marketing software and how they will simplify your life. 

Influencer marketing software

Influencer marketing has proven its efficacy to social media marketers everywhere. That said, tracking down these influencers and building/maintaining a relationship can be time-consuming.

Influencer marketing software simplifies this process. It assists organizations in identifying, recruiting, and communicating with the social influencers they want to target. Additionally, they can use this tool to onboard new influencers and maintain their relationships with existing partners.

Influencer marketing tools also help to curate influencer-generated content, create brand marketing material, and, after the fact, analyze the performance of the social influencer campaign.

To compare different types of influencer marketing software, check out the G2 Crowd Grid® for Influencer Marketing Software.

Social media management software

Social media management software takes the headache out of posting, scheduling, and boosting posts on half a dozen different platforms.

These tools link to your various social media accounts and allow you to schedule posts to all of your different platforms from one single software tool. You can schedule your posts in advance to ensure your campaigns are executed all the way through and save time in the future. Additionally, these tools offer the capability to respond to inquiries from users on the various platforms.

To compare the (many, many) different social media management platforms, visit the G2 Crowd page for social media management software.

Social media analytics software

Running a social media marketing campaign is an excellent idea.

Until you have no idea if it got results.

Social media analytics software offers a solution, as it provides functionality for gathering and reporting on data related to social media accounts. You can use these tools to identify your most successful content, target your ideal demographics, and analyze your audience’s real-time social actions.

Marketers can use this data to optimize their future campaigns, improve customer satisfaction, and increase brand awareness. If you’re a results-focused team (as we all should be), these tools can be essential.

To check out various social media analytics tools, take a look at the G2 Crowd Grid® for social media analytics software. 

Conclusion - It's time to be a social media marketing expert

Are you feeling like a social media marketing expert?

We hope so!

If you’ve been with us from the beginning, you’ve read all about social media marketing: what it is, why marketers use it, and the different platforms you can use to implement your strategy.

However, social media marketing is still a relatively new space. As it continues to evolve, so will this guide! Be sure to check back regularly as we make updates and add new content.

This was a lot of information, so I invite you to bookmark this page and refer back to it when you feel you need a refresher.

And don’t forget to tweet me at @Claire_Brenner if you have any comments or suggestions.

See you next time!

Claire Brenner
Author

Claire Brenner

Claire is a senior content marketing specialist who came to G2 Crowd after graduating from the University of Dayton with a BA in Communication. Born and raised in the Chicago area, her brief stint in Ohio gave her a new appreciation for deep-dish pizza, but left her well-versed in Cincinnati-style chili and "cities" with a population fewer than 400,000. While not writing, Claire can be found practicing calligraphy and planning her next trip.