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Social Media Marketing: The Complete Guide

Social media marketing allows businesses to leverage social media platforms to maximize brand awareness, build relationships and drive website traffic. It involves creating high-quality content for target audiences as well as engaging with followers, measuring results and running paid campaigns.

With a well-designed social media strategy in place, your brand can connect with new audiences, form long-standing relationships and accelerate its growth.

Part 1

Why Does Social Media Matter?

With Hootsuite reporting there are over 4.2 billion active social media users across the globe, social media marketing is paramount when it comes to growing your business. Today, people don’t just have social media accounts — they’re constantly checking their timelines and news feeds as well. According to Pew Research Center, 70% of social media users log into their accounts daily, while 49% check their accounts multiple times throughout the day.

Aside from the sheer number of people using social media, there are several other benefits it offers businesses:

Continue Engagement Despite a Global Health Crisis

When the COVID-19 pandemic shut the physical world down, it placed a greater emphasis on digital communications. Social media became a critical asset for marketers to continue engaging with their customer base and promote their offerings without direct contact with consumers. Because of these benefits, Harvard Business Review found that social media spending increased by 74% between February 2020 and June 2020 — approximately 4 months into the COVID-19 pandemic.

Build Your Brand By Reaching New Customers

People follow brands they admire — like the 216 million Instagram users following Nike — but they also use social media to learn about new businesses. Instagram reports that 83% of its users rely on the platform to discover new products. Therefore, a strong social media presence can enable your brand to attract more followers and improve awareness of its mission, values and offerings.

Humanize Your Brand

Businesses can create engaging, high-quality social media content to build trust in their brand. Using various social media tools — like live streams, stories and interactive polls — you can connect with users in a casual structure. Brands can utilize social media platforms to highlight the people working behind the scenes of their organization or tell the story of what sets them apart from competitors. Using immersive, visually appealing content, social media gives companies a humanistic element that empowers engagement, trust and loyalty among followers.

For example, Shutterstock created its Shutterstock Presents channel on YouTube — which currently has over 26,000 subscribers — to showcase the artists who create the photos, illustrations and music consumers can find on the platform.

Engage, Engage, Engage

It’s called social media for a reason. That said, brands shouldn’t use social platforms to just talk about themselves — they need to also be sparking interesting conversations. Brands can do this by:

A prime example of this concept in action is Starbucks. The brand is super active on social media, but its content isn’t just coffee. Starbucks goes a step further and uses pop culture trends to provide entertainment to its followers. For example, check out this Instagram post of Starbucks comparing the characters from Bridgerton to their caffeinated beverages:

Address Customer Pain Points

Social media is a two-way street: Consumers can use it to stay updated on their favorite brands, while businesses can leverage social platforms to keep an eye on their reputation.

By monitoring online conversations, brands can address negative feedback in real-time. Social media platforms allow brands to interact directly with consumers, resolve issues and build a loyal community.

As more brands use social media to bolster relationships, more consumers expect to use social media for customer service concerns. According to Khoros, nearly half of all consumers who engage with brands on social media do so because they have customer care concerns or questions. And if your customers are expecting this, then your brand needs to make sure it delivers. Not attending to customer concerns via social media can lead to poor user experiences and deter people from doing business with your brand.

Part 2

How Can Social Media Support Your Marketing Goals?

By using social media content to create new sources of traffic and leveraging various social media platforms to increase brand awareness, you can move customers from the consideration stage of the marketing funnel into the conversion or purchasing stages.

There are 4 core ways that social media drives consumers down the marketing funnel:

Brand Awareness

Social media spreads your brand’s message, values and mission to more potential customers and positions it as a valuable resource for target audiences.

Engagement

Through immersive, exciting and consistent content, social media allows brands to foster relationships with prospective customers and nurture long-term relationships with existing ones.

Website Traffic

Social media posts and paid ads can encourage followers to visit specific landing or product pages — resulting in more qualified website traffic.

Conversions

Through paid social media campaigns, brands can target specific groups of consumers to drive more conversions.

Data from the Harris Poll on behalf of Sprout Social reported the impact social media has on helping organizations achieve each of these 4 marketing goals:

Brand Awareness

Over half — 55% — of all consumers discover new brands via social media. Specifically, 78% of Gen Z and 61% of Millennials utilize social media for brand discovery.

Engagement

A whopping 68% of consumers agree that social media provides an opportunity to interact and connect with businesses more than traditional advertising methods like billboards and TV commercials.

Website Traffic

Per the report, 43% of consumers have increased their social media use to discover new products and services.

Conversions

As many as 78% of consumers claim they’ll be more willing to purchase from a company after having a positive experience with the brand on social media.

With these statistics in mind, an increasing number of business leaders are prioritizing social media marketing strategies. The Harris Poll found that:

of business executives think it’s very important or essential to invest additional resources in social media marketing.

of executives will increase their social media marketing budgets in the next 3 years.

of companies use social media data to execute more informed business decisions.

Part 3

How Social Media Influences the Buyer Journey

The buyer’s journey describes how a prospect becomes a customer. The buyer’s journey can be broken down into 3 stages:

Awareness:
The buyer has an interest in a product or service. This interest can stem from a need — such as solving a problem — or from external influences such as advertising, influencers or friends.

Consideration:
The buyer performs research to learn more about their options.

Decision:
The buyer determines which product or service best suits their needs.

So, what does social media have to do with the buyer’s journey? Social media marketing allows brands to reach consumers at all 3 stages of their journey.

During the awareness stage, businesses use social media to reach a large number of people, thus increasing brand awareness. They can then continue to connect and engage with users throughout the consideration stage by providing consistent, strategic and helpful messaging. As users enter the decision stage, brands can use paid social media ads — such as retargeting — to further influence their decision-making process and encourage more conversions.

The bottom line: Social media provides opportunities — or touch points — that help brands nurture a sale. Marketing strategist and TEDx speaker Yasmine Khater notes that various research suggests customers need anywhere from 3 to 12 touch points before committing to a sale, while the Rule of Seven states that it takes at least 7 touch points for a brand to enter a buyer’s consciousness.

Determining the right number of touch points can depend on various factors, including:

  • Brand credibility.
  • Price.
  • Market competition.
  • Complexity of the offering.
  • How qualified the lead is.
  • Whether the customer is buying based on a want versus a need.

Regardless of how many touch points your target audience needs, social media makes it easy to create touch points throughout every stage of the buyer’s journey.

Part 4

Top Social Media Platforms

According to Pew Research Center, 1 in 10 Americans use some type of social media platform. But the question marketers need to focus on is which one — or ones — their target audience is using.

Here’s an overview of the most prominent social media platforms and the demographics who actively use them:

Facebook

There’s strength in numbers, so Facebook’s — which is now a part of Mark Zuckerberg’s Meta — massive user base makes it one of the most noteworthy social media marketing platforms. Hootsuite’s report reveals there are 2.91 billion monthly active users on the platform — a 6.2% increase from 2021 — making Facebook the 7th most valuable brand in the world.

With such a robust user base, Facebook can reach a range of demographics, specifically college-educated internet users, women, people between 25 and 34, and people earning over $75,000 per year, according to Sprout Social.

As far as what people are doing on the social media platform, Sprout Social’s research shows that:

  • 65% of Facebook users rely on the platform to view photos.
  • 57% of users leverage the platform to share content.
  • 46% use Facebook to find and watch videos.
  • 36% get their news from Facebook.
  • 66% of users visit a local Facebook business page at least once a week.

Instagram

Instagram is more than a hotspot for influencers — it’s a thriving social media platform with more than 1 billion monthly active users and over 500 million daily active users, according to Hootsuite.

Breaking these users down based on age, the largest group is between 25 and 34 (31%), followed closely by 18-24-year-olds (30.1%) and 34-44-year-olds (16.1%).

These figures mean that the majority of Instagram users are Millennials and Gen Z, making the platform a powerful marketing tool for brands that target these demographics.

Breaking users out even further, Sprout Social’s Instagram demographics report shows that 48.4% of users are female, 51.8% are male, and the average person spends 29 minutes per day on the app. Additionally, Forrester found that engagement rates on Instagram are 10 times higher than on Facebook, 54 times higher than on Pinterest and 84 times higher than on Twitter.

Twitter

While Facebook and Instagram are many brands’ go-to platforms for social media marketing, it’s important not to overlook Twitter. According to Hootsuite, Twitter is the 9th most visited website in the world, and Pew Research Center found that 7 out of 10 Twitter users utilize the platform to receive news.

In addition to gaining insights into current events, users also leverage Twitter to communicate with brands. According to BrandWatch, 80% of Twitter users have mentioned a brand in a tweet and the number of customer service conversations occurring via Twitter has more than doubled in the last 2 years.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn is home to the world’s largest professional network, with Sprout Social reporting the platform maintains 810 million monthly active users.

Traditionally, the social media site has been used by older audiences. But Millennials are now the most active age demographic on LinkedIn. According to Hootsuite, 57% of LinkedIn users are men, and 43% are women. LinkedIn also reports that 4 out of 5 LinkedIn members drive business decisions, with 10.7 million users being opinion leaders within their industry.

From a marketing perspective, having a prominent social media presence on LinkedIn can help brands build relationships with influential leaders within their target market.

Pinterest

Pinterest is a critical social media platform for brands catering to women, as Hootsuite reports that as of January 2022, 76.7% of Pinterest users were female. The largest age bracket represented on the platform is women between 25 and 34, and 41% of all users have household incomes over $75,000.

Another important metric for marketers to consider when it comes to Pinterest: SocialMediaToday reports these users have the highest purchase intent of any social media network. Approximately 85% of women use Pinterest to plan life moments like weddings, graduations and baby showers. So by being active on Pinterest and using the platform to showcase products, brands can connect with female shoppers and drive more purchases.

Part 5

Emerging Social Media Platforms Marketers Should Know

Social media is ever-evolving, so marketers need to keep an eye on up-and-coming platforms and decide if they should be building a presence on them. A few noteworthy emerging social media platforms include:

TikTok

Since launching in 2017, TikTok has seen a rapid increase in users — so much that Insider Intelligence named it the world’s third-largest social network. According to Hootsuite’s statistics, TikTok was the most downloaded app of 2021, has over 1 billion monthly active users and is more popular than Instagram among the Gen Z demographic. A key reason for TikTok’s success is due to its advanced algorithm matching, which recommends videos for each user and has been noted to be superior to other social media algorithms.

As TikTok rises in popularity, more brands are considering getting involved on the platform. However, it’s critical to note that not all brands may belong on TikTok. To thrive on the platform, brands need to dedicate time and effort to create original, engaging content that resonates with those audiences using the app — namely Generation Z and Millennials. 

Discord

Discord launched as a gaming platform in 2015 and has since evolved into an expansive chat app, with Earth Web reporting over 150 million monthly active users. With the average user spending 280.6 minutes on the platform a month, certain brands can benefit from having a presence on Discord. However, all efforts must be 100% organic as Discord currently does not offer paid advertising options.

Twitch

According to Earth Web, Twitch — a live streaming platform that launched in 2011 — currently has 15 million daily active users, many of whom are video game enthusiasts. Currently, Twitch reports that it maintains a younger audience, with 70% of its viewers being between 16 and 34.
However, other niches have been gaining traction on the platform — such as beauty, chess and cooking content — causing the app to diversify its audience and giving marketers new opportunities to reach audiences. With that in mind, HubSpot reports that 75% of B2B social media marketers plan to increase their investment in Twitch.

Snapchat

Since 2011, Snapchat has been providing a unique, personalized way for brands to share exclusive, behind-the-scenes content and connect with audiences. According to Snapchat’s most recent investor report, 332 million active users use the platform daily. The company also reported that 90% of the 13 to 24-year-old population and 75% of 13 to 34-year-olds use the app.

The Metaverse

As Mark Zuckerberg launches Meta — formerly Facebook — the company will aim to create a collective project that connects people throughout the world and leverages virtual and augmented reality technologies to create immersive 3-D spaces.
For marketers, the new social media platform has the potential to unlock exciting opportunities for building brand loyalty. Some major corporations are already showing their commitment to the Metaverse — such as Nike, Adidas and Ralph Lauren — by creating digital fashion collections specifically for platform users.

Part 6

Increasing Engagement and Growing Your Social Media Followers

Forbes reports that over 70% of businesses rely on social media for customer engagement. Therefore, if you want to cut through the noise and connect with audiences on social platforms, you need to evoke emotion through compelling content. To achieve this, you’ll want to implement the following tactics into your social media strategy:

Utilize Impactful Imagery and Videos

Whether branded or user-generated, eye-catching imagery is a must when it comes to social media marketing. According to research from Buzzsumo, adding images to Facebook posts can lead to 2.3 times more engagement, increase Twitter retweets by 150% and double LinkedIn engagement.

Social media posts containing videos see similar increases in engagement. Research from SocialMediaToday shows that:

  • 78% of people watch videos online every week.
  • 72% of customers prefer to learn about a product or service by watching a video.
  • Tweets with videos receive 10 times more engagement than those without.
  • People on LinkedIn are 20 times more likely to share videos compared to other posts.
  • Video content generates more engagement than any other posts on Instagram.
  • After viewing a brand video, Pinterest users are 2.6 times more likely to make a purchase.

While video presents a great deal of opportunity for marketers, a standalone video isn’t enough to drive responses. To achieve a desired outcome, marketers need to implement best video practices — such as capturing viewers’ attention within the first 10 seconds, making sure the videos can adapt to mobile and keeping videos to the appropriate length.

Be Socially Active

Make sure your team is actively engaging with audiences on the platforms. You can do this by responding to mentions, direct messages and comments in a timely, personable manner — that means no canned responses. Monitoring social media accounts and responding to engagement is a full-time job, which is why many brands designate social media managers or hire third-party agencies to oversee engagement.

Create Fresh Content With Relevant Hashtags

When building out a social media plan, prioritize quality over quantity. With so much content out there, it’s essential to consistently create fresh, interesting and impactful posts that resonate with target audiences and align with your business goals. Producing a steady stream of high-quality, timely content ensures your brand is seen as a thought leader, industry expert and trusted advisor. And when you create fresh content, make sure to add relevant hashtags to your posts to help more users see your content and increase engagement. 

Push for More Followers

Organically gaining followers can be a long process, but implementing a follower push can quickly increase your social media reach. This process differs based on the social media platform you’re using:

Facebook

Invite users who have reacted to your post to follow your page or boost posts to enhance engagement.

Instagram

Search competitor followers, industry-related hashtags or specific locations to find your ideal user base. Follow those accounts with the intention that some will follow you back.

LinkedIn

Try inviting 1st-degree connections or industry leaders to follow your page.

Twitter

Seek out industry thought leaders and competitors, browse their follower lists and follow key accounts — which should result in many of them following you back.

Try Paid Social Advertising

While consistent, high-quality social media posts can render plenty of engagement, paid advertising can help your brand reach new audiences and expand its following. By investing in paid social media advertising, you can:

  • Run follower campaigns on LinkedIn or Facebook to boost page following rates quickly.
  • Execute a paid brand awareness video campaign to promote brand recognition and share key messages.
  • Boost Facebook, Instagram or LinkedIn posts to reach a wider audience, drive traffic to your site or social media page and increase post engagement. 

Part 7

Social Media Marketing Trends

There are important trends social media marketers should be aware of as they develop, execute and refine their social strategies:

The Increasing Importance of Video

With the rising popularity of TikTok, it’s safe to expect more brands will be leveraging the app to create engaging videos. As more brands join the TikTok community, new trends, hashtags and subcultures — like #HRTok, #CleanTok and #FinanceTok — will continue to emerge to make it easier for users to find specific types of content.

Here’s a prime example from a #MarketingTok, a relatively new TikTok subculture for sharing marketing knowledge:

As video content increases, other social media platforms are expanding their video capabilities. A prime example is Instagram Reels, which was a direct response to TikTok’s popularity. Reels offer similar video creation functionality as TikTok — from sharing new product releases to presenting how-to guides — and will continue to compete with TikTok to become the platform of choice among users.

The Emergence of Social Media Audio Features

In addition to an increasing emphasis on social media video content, audio apps are also growing in popularity. Examples include:

Twitter Spaces

As of May 3rd, 2021, anyone with a Twitter account with more than 600 followers can host a live space.

Clubhouse

This social audio app launched in March 2020 — right at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic — to provide rooms for users to listen and join in exciting conversations. Fast-forward to today, and Clubhouse has over 10 million users.

Facebook Live Audio Rooms

In June 2021, Facebook announced that U.S.-based public figures and prominent groups can launch live audio rooms through its app.

More UGC

According to Nosto, consumers find user-generated content (UGC) 9.8 times more impactful than influencer content. Further, PR Newswire reports that an estimated 90% of consumers find UGC has a more significant influence over their buying decisions than tactics like promotional emails.

The takeaway: UGC is powerful, and more brands will be launching user-generated campaigns on social media to drive results.

Building Brand Trust

Sprout Social reports that 91% of people believe in social media’s power to connect people and 64% of consumers want brands to engage with them. So as more businesses compete for attention on social media, there’ll be a greater emphasis on brands to establish meaningful relationships with consumers by acting as connectors first and sellers second. 

Providing Customer Care

As we navigate a post-pandemic world, providing customer care via social media is becoming more critical for reputation management and customer satisfaction. Brands have the power to leverage social media listening tactics so they can join conversations, diffuse concerns and provide prompt responses to customer concerns. 

Part 8

Social Media Marketing Challenges:

In addition to trends, there are also obstacles marketers may face when implementing a social media strategy:

Prioritizing Corporate Social Responsibility

Yes, brands should be using social media to promote themselves. But they also should be using the platforms to highlight their commitment to corporate social responsibility (CSR), such as discussing environmental or social justice issues. Data from the Association of Corporate Citizenship Professionals (ACCP) proves that customers care about a brand’s stance on social matters. For example, the ACCP found that 84% of global consumers consider sustainability important when choosing a brand. Therefore, incorporating CSR into social media strategies can enable brands to build better relationships with audiences and turn them into committed brand ambassadors. 

Creating Authentic Communities

Social media is shifting from mega-influencers to tight-knit, authentic communities where consumers can feel heard. Thus, brands must partner not necessarily with influencers with the largest following, but with creators who can help them connect with niche audiences, earn their trust and gain more cultural capital.

Boosting Creativity in Paid Ads

Social advertising is nothing new, and users know the difference between paid advertisements and organic posts. That said, marketers need to be creative when designing paid advertisements to ensure they stand out and mirror or enrich the experience that the specific social media platform they’re advertising on offers.

Part 9

How to Make the Most of Your Social Media Strategy

Building a strong social media plan isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach since many different factors contribute to making your strategy a success. However, there are a few essential components you can integrate into your campaign to make the most out of your social media strategy:

Identify a Target Audience

Are you speaking to other businesses (B2B), or is your social media content directed at consumers (B2C)? Determining your audience can help you select the type of social media platforms your brand should be on. It can also help you define the tone, imagery and frequency in which you post social media content.

Try answering the following questions to help you specify your target social media audience:

  • Is your focus B2B or B2C?
  • What is the target age range? 
  • Where is your target located?
  • Is there a certain income level that needs to be considered?
  • What is your audience interested in? How do they spend their time?

Define Clear Goals

While businesses may share similar overarching social media goals — such as growing brand awareness or increasing follower counts — it’s important to determine clear goals that are specific to your business and the social media platform you’re utilizing.

Boost Posts to Extend Your Reach

Allocate a portion of your social media marketing budget to boosting posts on Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn. Your budget can range from $25 to $100 per post, and we recommend boosting at least once a week to see results. However, the more posts you’re able to promote, the faster you can grow your social media presence.

Integrate Social Campaigns Under a Cohesive Strategy

Do your best to avoid one-off campaigns and instead focus on nurturing your audience and growing your following over time. Rather than taking a siloed approach, a winning social media strategy keeps the target audience and user intent at the core of every campaign.

Cater Content to Specific Platforms

Every social media platform you utilize is unique and should be treated as such. Therefore, when building out a social advertising strategy, consider the type of content — such as text vs. video vs. images — that’ll perform the best on each specific social site as well as the demographics of those using that particular platform.

Research Before Trying Something New

Social media marketers need to stay in the know regarding new tools on existing social platforms. But before testing out the latest filter or feature, ensure you fully understand its impact. Also, be wary of getting swept into a new trend just because it’s available. Make sure whatever new feature you’re trying out aligns with what your target audience wants to see and will help you achieve your marketing goals.

Tap Into the Power of Influencers and Creators

Word-of-mouth advertising still reigns as one of the most effective forms of marketing, and Semrush reports that 88% of people maintain a higher level of trust in a brand when a friend or family member recommends it. If you can get people talking about or recommending your brand on social media, you’ll not only build brand awareness but also enhance credibility — setting your brand up for more sales and better growth.

How do you do this? Many brands partner with influencers. These are industry leaders, public figures or social media accounts with large followings that can help foster trust in your products or services. According to Civic Science, 15% of those social media users between 18 and 24 purchased something because an influencer recommended it in the last 6 months.

Be Agile

As the social media landscape changes, so should your social media strategy. Continue to measure your results and research new trends and platforms. Brands that are agile and willing to re-evaluate their strategies in a rapidly fluctuating landscape can leverage new opportunities to connect with consumers, maintain robust followings and outperform competitors.

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Launch a New Social Media Strategy Today

With a strategic social media strategy, your brand can reach new audiences, increase loyalty among existing customers and accelerate its growth. Whether you’re building an entirely new social media presence or looking to overhaul existing social media marketing campaigns, you’ll want to have a team of knowledgeable social media experts in your corner. Brafton’s well-versed social media marketers, content writers and graphic designers are ready to help you develop, design and execute a results-driven social media strategy that achieves your key marketing objectives.