In today’s world, it’s hard to imagine waiting in lines or walking through a store without seeing someone on their phone, checking up on a social media feed. Social networks are such a fundamental part of internet users’ online experience nowadays that it’s basically synonymous with the internet as a whole. It’s estimated that most people spend 30% of their online time using social media at an average of 135 minutes a day. That’s a dizzying amount of content being sifted through on a daily basis—personal posts, articles, ads, videos, infographics, webinars, podcasts, ebooks, livestreams—it’s all fair game for businesses to take full advantage of to expand the influence of their brands and increase profitability.
If you’re unfamiliar with the social media storm that’s been raging for about 15 years and are thinking to yourself, “Why use social media? Will it really grow my business?” — sit down and settle in. Social media goes so far beyond the realm of “LIKE” and “SHARE” that the possibilities for businesses are staggering. Here, we have all of the crucial information you need to know to shape your own business’s social platforms into a prosperous marketing strategy.
What is Social Media Marketing?
Social media marketing is the practice of developing content on social networks to reach audiences, promote brand awareness, and drive sales. The goal is to create tailored campaigns on specific social platforms that resonates with site users—ideally resulting in shares and engagement—through posts containing text and images, videos, updates, and ads.
Social media is a fairly unique marketing tool; it typically shapes business goals and strategies around what’s “trending” with the public at a given time and allows marketing teams to craft hyper-focused, exploratory content. Social media networks take up an intense amount of digital space, boasting programming and algorithms designed to create unique user experiences—and also to track patterns in their interests and website habits. That’s where social media marketing truly shines: analyzing this data and producing content that best implements the information. In a survey conducted by Forbes, it was concluded that 81% of consumers’ buying decisions are influenced by the social media posts of friends and family members. 71% of consumers are very likely to make a purchase based on a social media post or referral. And how could they not? Sharp images, clever phrasing, funny, banter-like tones—it can all be pretty magnetic. Social media is a cultural entity that has paved the way for a new era of marketing, one that’s flexible, assertive, and incredibly effective in the modern world.
Though the possibilities are vast, here are just a few of the things your business can accomplish using social media:
The Subtle Art of Platform Prominence
Social media is a direct channel to billions of consumers all over the world—that’s billions of possible opportunities to expand your reach and introduce your product(s) and services to a mass market. But how? Whether you’re thinking big with international campaigns or taking a more small, localized approach, social media marketing is all about strategy. The key is to align your business’s objectives with the needs and desires of your target audience, once you’ve determined exactly who that audience is. Men? Women? People over the age of 50? Athletes? Health-minded people? Movie buffs? People concentrated in the Pacific Northwest? Or simply everyone? Social networks make it easy to pinpoint the most effective demographic for your campaigns, and in doing so allow you to compose content that’s as specific and compelling as possible. The overarching goal of social media marketing is to prompt emotional responses within your audience, to build trust in your brand and reassure customers that they are making an informed buying decision.
One of the top words associated with social media marketing is “engagement”—and for good reason. The lifeblood of social media is engagement—likes, shares, views, comments, surveys, etc. That’s all part of the “social” nature of the industry. But this interaction should never be a one-sided deal. One of the most effective ways to build trust with your followers and customers is to engage them right back—reply to comments. Ask questions. Tag people. If you build a sense of community around your products and services, you’re more likely to retain customers and create brand loyalty, which is essential to keeping an edge on your competition.
Choose Your Network Wisely
There is no shortage of social media networks nowadays, as fledgling platforms emerge into the limelight. But just because a plethora of networks exists, does not mean that they are fit for everyone’s use. Test the waters—some businesses may find that one platform is more than enough to fulfill goals and gain sales, while others may find that a presence in a little bit of everything suits them more. What you decide to use will depend on those marketing goals we keep mentioning — but it’s important to look before you leap into the social tide.
With this in mind, check out the most prominent and influential social media networks and the unique features they bring to the game:
|Platform||Flash Facts||Features and Specialties|
Some platforms such as Reddit, Tumblr, and WhatsApp tend to operate in a more isolated way, but still cater to a targeted audience, and can be influential.
Businesses ‘Killing It’ With Social Media
Over the years, countless companies have profited from social media endeavors and almost have it refined as an exact science. Many brands have tailored their content’s design, style, and tone to reflect a desired image and to appeal to a desired audience. Here are just a few examples of companies who are currently tearing up the social turf:
Who knew that a fast food restaurant would be the dark horse in the social media marketing game? Remember when we said that social media prompts emotional responses? Those can cover a lot of ground: happiness, sadness, anger, and—possibly most challenging—humor. Wendy’s has gained massive attention in the past couple of years with their Twitter account and the dry, snarky tone of their tweets. From poking fun at the products of their competitors (*ahem* McDonald’s…) to trolling customers and naysayers of the brand alike, Wendy’s has succeeded in creating a platform of superiority within the fast food industry using sarcasm, wit, and cleverly crafted hashtags. They challenge their followers (who in turn challenge them), creating personal, memorable and often viral interactions. Wendy’s social strategy is most definitely working.
Nike has always been a prime example of target marketing. Whether it’s a portrait of famous athletes such as Michael Jordan, Mia Hamm, Apollo Ohno; Serena Williams painted in shades of progression, triumph, and defeat; or simply a young boy jogging down a country road, Nike takes its “Just Do It” slogan and drives it into the heart of its audience’s emotive responses and motivations. When the shift in focus to social media campaigns happened it was relatively seamless—Nike flawlessly translated the tone and messaging of the brand’s past mainstream ads and build on the social aspect of its new domain to garner even more notoriety and influence. Well known for drawing on inspirational circumstances and people—as well as championing social issues—with Facebook and Instagram posts and YouTube videos and ads, Nike knows how to make marketing as impactful as possible. Though some of its campaigns have been subject to satire and imitation, that’s often part of what keeps the company trending and at the forefront of the athletic industry, and the advertising world as a whole. It just works.
Beyond a strong presence in print and television advertising, Lowe’s has a versatile social media influence. Spanning Facebook to YouTube (from 5–10 second ads to DIY videos), the home improvement company has excelled at reaching its target market in a friendly, understated way. But what may come as a surprise is the way Lowe’s has capitalized on its Pinterest account. In a statistical report found on the Pinterest site under the company’s profile, the account’s click through rates are at an all-time high, and it was discovered that users engaging with the page were 44% more likely to purchase home decor and spend 27% more money on their purchases. And it’s no wonder—scrolling through the Lowe’s feed — you’d think you’d stumbled upon a professional influencer or interior designer’s pin board. It exhibits how-tos, shopping features, annual or impromptu promotions, idyllic inside and outside shots of gorgeous homes, styling guides, color coordination examples, separate boards ranging from organization to bathrooms, and plenty of products. And the strategies are working—people are actively engaging with the page and its messaging. Move over Chip and Joanna—Lowe’s is coming up hot in the game.
Try and Keep Up. Your Business Will Thank You.
The tech world is as fast paced as it is demanding. What’s relevant today could be completely obsolete tomorrow, and that’s why social media is such a crucial tool to have in your marketing kit. It always keeps up with the “in”. What could seem like a shallow, less-than-serious online environment actually has the ability to increase your business’s sales, expand your reach, and promote brand awareness. Social media marketing is the key to staying relevant in a hyper-digitized society—it’s not just for the kids these days. It’s a worldwide springboard ready to launch your business to the next level, and if you stay on top of the ever-changing trends and techniques, you’ll do just fine. #yougotthis