​Social marketing remains cheap compared to other practices, but successful organizations invest a lot of time in reaching the right audience via these networks.

​Social media has become brands’ free soapboxes. These networks give companies new opportunities to amplify their messages beyond national campaigns, and social media marketing can cost much less than traditional promotional strategies. U.S. social network advertising spend will increase 31.6 percent in 2013 to total $4.2 billion by the end of the year, according to eMarketer.

While there are many approaches to social marketing, new trends suggest that companies have advanced their plans to look past targeted display ads delivered via these networks. Creatives develop organic campaigns that leverage the free benefits of social for greater ROI. According to Forrester Consulting, on behalf of digital marketing firm Kenshoo Social, 73 percent of surveyed U.S. advertisers use branded pages on social networks to deliver custom content and unique messages. This free tactic is the most popular social media practice among American businesses.

41 percent of respondents target prospects based on their interests.

Publishing social media content can appeal to consumers who are active members of today’s popular networks. When prospects connect with companies via Facebook, branded content updates will appear in their News Feeds, and compel viewers to clickthrough to interact with additional news articles. However, marketers may want to position media in front of select, narrower audiences, something Facebook doesn’t offer yet. The Forrester Consulting data noted that 41 percent of respondents target prospects based on their interests. Marketers must look to other networks, like Google+ and Twitter, for smarter audience targeting capabilities to make organic social marketing worthwhile.

Twitter’s keyword tool improves audience targeting

Twitter recently introduced a keyword targeting feature that gives brands the chance to position Promoted Tweets in front of users who have used various terms in on-site search or in their Tweets. This can keep brands in consumers’ minds and encourage them to regularly engage with companies’ Twitter accounts throughout their road to conversion.

Google+’s Circles make social marketing personal

Google+ was born with its Circles feature, which allows companies to publish​ ​an arsenal of media at once, but target specific updates only at select groups. In some instances, content writers can use one news lead or product review to reach every type of customer by creating blog posts that touch on different benefits.

Companies that know how to leverage social media’s free features can use them ​to generate ​website conversions. Brands must go beyond publishing standalone updates and waiting for traffic to find its way back to their sites -​ ​by targeting prospects directly with information tailored to their interests.

Ted Karczewski is an Executive Communications Associate at Brafton. He works to develop his own voice and apply his passions to the evolving world of SEO and content marketing, but he doesn't shy away from writing for fun. After graduating from Suffolk University, Ted used his Communications degree to test out Sports Journalism before Marketing at Brafton.