Social media marketing: What it is and how to get started

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Social media isn’t just for connecting with friends and family: It’s become one of the most powerful marketing tools at your disposal.

In 2004, Myspace was the first social media platform to reach 1 million active monthly users. Then, in 2012, Instagram was the first platform to reach 1 billion.

The global population is approximately 8 billion. There are 5 billion people online, and 4.7 billion use social media. That means almost two-thirds of people on Earth have an internet connection, and more than half have a presence on a social media platform.

There’s no denying it — social media has changed the world. Because it’s grown to be such an influential means of connecting people, social media has become a powerful tool for marketing ideas, products, and services. While digital marketing spans the whole internet, social media marketing focuses on the world’s most popular social networking sites.

One of the benefits of social media marketing is that you can tap into the large audiences on the platforms and grow your brand. Strategies vary depending on the platforms and demographics you’re targeting. This guide will teach you how to create and use a solid social media marketing strategy across a variety of networks.

What is social media marketing?

Social media marketing is a form of digital marketing focused on connecting your brand with its target demographic on social media platforms. It involves creating content, interacting with your audience, tracking progress through analytics, and more.

The main objectives of social media marketing are to grow your brand and boost website traffic to increase conversions. Through social media marketing, you can:

  • Generate awareness about products and services
  • Provide a platform to build relationships with customers
  • Generate leads
  • Humanize and solidify your brand
  • Reach wider audiences
  • Gather data about your target demographic

Social media marketing wouldn’t be possible without the millions of social media users and the features platforms provide to connect with them. But which ones are the best for your business?

The most popular social media marketing platforms

Large companies like Apple and Samsung have the resources to create a strong social media presence across several platforms. But what about small- to medium-sized businesses and solopreneurs? How do they know where to market themselves?

Each social media platform attracts diverse audiences, and each has its advantages. Let’s break down the most popular social media marketing platforms and what they offer.

Facebook

Monthly users: 2.96 billion

Primary demographic: Ages 18–65

Best for: Advertising, brand awareness, marketing campaigns

Facebook allows brands to create a digital community out of their customer base due to its enormous popularity. Setting up a business Facebook profile allows you to publish information about your company’s inner workings, special offers on products and services, and more. Facebook also offers an effective chatbot feature that helps automate customer service.

You can write text posts on Facebook to update followers on the latest products and discounts, but these won’t be as effective as visual media. Trying using photos, videos, and other interactive and visual posts to boost engagement with your audience. You can also use Meta Ads Manager, which lets you promote sponsored content to reach a larger audience.

Instagram

Monthly users: 2 billion

Primary demographic: Ages 13–54

Best for: Audiovisual content, short-form videos, collaboration

Most of Instagram’s users are under 25, making it the ideal social media platform to reach young clientele. Visual content is at the heart of Instagram, so you’ll be working more with photos, infographics, and videos and less with text.

The secret to cracking Instagram’s algorithm is writing creative captions, following in-app trends, and using striking images and videos to show off your products and services. For more essential tips, check out our dedicated guide on Instagram marketing.

Twitter

Monthly users: 368 million

Primary demographic: Ages 18–54

Best for: Written content, community building

Twitter is a beginner friendly platform thanks to its simple interface and ease of use. Twitter is a text-heavy app, so people don’t post as much visual content as they would on Facebook or Instagram. Instead, you publish written content in the form of 280-character tweets with the option to attach up to four photos or videos.

If you want to learn the fundamentals of social media marketing, such as hashtags, interactions, and tagging, Twitter is a great place to start.

TikTok

Monthly users: 1.5 billion

Primary demographic: Ages 13–49

Best for: Audiovisual content, short-form video, brand awareness, interaction

TikTok is the latest social media sensation and one of the fastest-growing platforms out there. It’s a short-form video app renowned for its clever algorithm that keeps people scrolling for hours.

Fueled by content created by Gen Z, the platform offers a new marketing channel for companies to connect with the younger generation, and many brands are taking advantage of TikTok’s unprecedented growth to reach wider audiences. TikTok offers businesses the opportunity to make a variety of content — educational, promotional, or simply hilarious.

YouTube

Monthly users: 2.6 billion

Primary demographic: Ages 18–44

Best for: Long-form video, short-form video, brand awareness, community building

From short-form videos to hourlong documentaries, YouTube has it all when it comes to video content. The platform covers nearly every genre you can think of — education, business, technology, pop culture, finance, and more. YouTube is a great marketing tool if you want to educate your audience. Video content has a high retention rate, as many people remember information better when it’s in video format over text.

You can also tap into short-form video content through YouTube Shorts, YouTube’s answer to the growing popularity of TikTok and Instagram Reels.

Plus, videos uploaded to YouTube can appear in Google’s search results if properly optimized, giving you a chance to expand your reach and brand awareness.

LinkedIn

Monthly users: 830 million

Primary demographic: Ages 18–54

Best for: Networking, written content

LinkedIn is a vibrant community of working professionals. CEOs, creative directors, freelancers — you’ll find them all here.

Thanks to LinkedIn’s networking features, your brand can reach anyone from interns to senior-level managers. LinkedIn focuses on thought leadership, allowing you to post in-depth written content about your industry to establish yourself as a thought leader.

LinkedIn is significantly more formal than other social media networks, making it ideal for business-to-business (B2B) content rather than business-to-consumer (B2C) content.

How do you create a social media marketing strategy?

Your social media marketing strategy must align with the company’s overall digital marketing philosophy and existing digital presence.

Social media trends are dynamic, so create a strategy with a basic foundation that can adapt to changing interests and needs.

Here are a few essential steps for creating a strong social media marketing strategy:

1. Research your target audience

First, identify your target audience, their interests, and consumption behavior. Consider the demographics you’re trying to attract and categorize them into different groups. Figure out where they hang out online — what brands and influencers they follow, how they interact with brands, and what kind of content they create.

2. Know your competition

Competitors likely already use social media for marketing purposes, which means you can observe how they operate. To do this, perform a competitor analysis to understand who your competitors are and where their strengths and weaknesses lie. Competitor analyses provide a solid understanding of the typical marketing efforts in your industry, which helps when setting your own goals.

Let’s say one of your rivals dominates Instagram but hasn’t invested much time into TikTok or YouTube. Instead of competing to gain the attention of their Instagram followers and subscribers from them, target social media channels where your demographic is overlooked.

You can also determine what parts of your competitors’ social media strategy works or doesn’t work on the platforms they’re on and learn from their mistakes. Develop your own strategy and content based on your observations.

3. Choose your platform

There’s no single ideal platform for marketing. Deciding which social networks to use should be based on where the competition is, your target audience’s presence, and how consumers interact with that specific platform.

Wherever you set up shop, it’s crucial to be present where potential customers are, both today and a month from now. Being the first to market is key, but staying there is even more important.

Don’t waste time in places your audience won’t find you. For example, if your company sells trendy phone covers, these products will likely cater to younger audiences. If that’s the case, use Instagram and TikTok — that’s where you’ll find your target demographic scrolling.

4. Set SMART business goals

Starting any marketing strategy with a clear sense of direction is essential. This means setting achievable goals that align with your objectives. Setting SMART goals is one of the best ways to do this.

SMART stands for goals that are:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Relevant
  • Time-bound

If you don’t have any criteria or key performance indicators (KPIs) to compare results to, it becomes challenging to evaluate performance of your social media marketing and the brand’s return on investment. Decide what you want to accomplish and how before starting.

5. Plan, create, and post quality content

Over half the world uses social media. There’s a good chance your target audience has already seen content from competitors. Social media marketing is saturated, so you need to create compelling content that stands out from the crowd.

But how do you know if your social media content is compelling? Think about the content your competitors are posting and how you can differ. Consider the unique features provided by your social network, too. For example, if a competitor uses a tweet to announce a new product giveaway, you can use a live video on Instagram to do the same with audiovisual content.

Another great way to increase engagement rates is to ask existing followers to make content, which is called user-generated content. For example, ask people to repost content by tagging you or using a specific hashtag. If people use your products, ask them to upload testimonials and feature the best ones on your social media profile.

Finally, use social media trends. Each platform constantly has new trends emerging in the form of popular memes, audios, and more. Trends are particularly valuable on short-form video apps like Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube Shorts to catch consumers’ attention.

6. Analyze your metrics

Analyze your marketing strategy with your KPIs. These are metrics that measure the performance of a social media campaign. All social media platforms have some form of analytics within the app that you can use to determine what’s working and what isn’t.

However, there are more advanced tools beyond the built-ins, such as Google Analytics, that offer in-depth statistics for website traffic in real time. These allow you to study the behavior of people visiting your website from social media channels.

The more you use these tools, the more data you’ll have to assess your marketing strategy. Use this data to test different types of content and continuously improve your social media marketing plans.

For instance, you can use data and analytical tools for your social platforms to analyze purchasing patterns. Are people buying more during the holiday season? Are millennials spending more than Gen X? What type of content drives traffic?

Once you have the data, you can optimize marketing efforts and content based on your findings, such as offering discounts during the holiday season to encourage people to buy and spend more.

Make a 360° strategy

Social media marketing is constantly evolving, making it challenging to get it right on the first try. Each campaign offers valuable feedback that you can track to implement in future marketing efforts.

It’s important to use the right tools and resources to keep learning so you can fine-tune your social media marketing strategy as your brand grows. At Webflow, we curate articles, courses, and tutorials that help complement and improve your marketing strategy. Each step of learning social media has a learning curve — we’re here to guide you through them.



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