From 5% in 2005, the percentage of US adults who use social media has increased to 80% in 2020. That’s 3.5 billion social media users worldwide. And thanks to this rapid growth, social media platforms can be used for unlimited free advertising whenever you want it, with a little bit of strategy.
Social media marketing is self-promoting by building an audience with a genuine interest in your products. With creative content and engaging pages, you can advertise for your company at no cost, all while forming a relationship with your customers. Your target audience can interact with each other and with the company over comments, threads, tweets, and hashtags. This content increases brand awareness, so that customers can get to know the brand and company personality via behind-the-scenes details about your products or services.
Unlike commercials or any other form of advertising, social media is a way to engage with your customers and build their trust and loyalty. Tactics like telling customers to follow your page for a chance to win a free product, giving followers links to exclusive offers, or announcing news over live videos on your social media pages, can all help build a large following of long-term customers.
Generating leads this way is more effective than other forms of marketing because your audience chose to follow your page to learn more about the company and products. This can generate direct traffic into your website as well, by having links to your site for more information, and you can even set up online shops directly in Facebook and Instagram. Social media marketing like this is about building genuine relationships with your target market through effective content and engagement, and not simply paying for advertising. The strategic ‘spend’ is time, effort and personality, which is always more effective than simply throwing money at an ‘ad spend’.
With all of the different platforms of social media, though, come different audiences and different successful ways to use them. Below is a chart showcasing each platform, its main audience, and best uses. Facebook has the most daily users out of any social media platform, and is closely followed by Instagram and Twitter.
|Platform||Primary Audience||Best Uses|
|Facebook||Baby Boomers, Generation X, Millennials||Good to use to show brand awareness and for advertising opportunities.|
|Millennials, Generation Z||People like to see more artistic and visual media, or see behind-the-scenes. Also a good place to post user-generated content.|
|Millennials||Best for public relations and customer service. Can be used to interact with customers and respond to their requests and ideas.|
|Baby Boomers, Generation X, Millennials||Used for brand to brand interactions and employment. This is best for internal business development.|
|Youtube||Millennials, Generation Z||Good for showcasing your brand, how to videos, or commercial advertising.|
|Snapchat||Generation Z||Can be used to target young customers or students, and show brand awareness.|
|Baby Boomers, Millennials||Good opportunity for artistic advertising and inspiring customers.|
While beginning to create a social media marketing strategy, you should begin by researching your customers’ personalities and interests: what about your product or service brings them together? How would you classify them as a group? From there a company can determine which social media platforms their audience is most active on– where they spend the most time scrolling and engaging with their favorite brands.
It is also beneficial to not only look at where your audience is today, but where they’ll be tomorrow. Millennials are quickly hopping on the TikTok trend, and thinking about how your company could produce short, relatable, funny videos, “life-hacks,” or fun-fact videos into your advertising content could get you ahead of the game as TikTok continues to grow. Using the specific features of each app can bring major advantages– for example, since Instagram stories expire after 24 hours, this is a great way to promote things like limited time offers or weekend deals.
A great way to encourage engagement between the customers and the company is by telling followers to use a specific hashtag, so they can be featured on the company account when they post a photo with your product. Many features can encourage users to promote your content, or you can promote your users’ posts about their experiences with your business.
This is a lot of information, and a lot to keep track of, so a social media management plan can prove to be very helpful to lay out what and when you are posting. There are many great tools and resources to help you keep your content balanced and organized. It’s good to keep tabs on your growth, too– many of these platforms have analytics features built in. In Instagram’s “insights” tab you can see how many people viewed and interacted with each post, where they clicked, how many accounts your posts reached, and even data about your audience. Analytics tools like these are built into Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter to track your company’s social media metrics.
All of these strategies are also great for keeping tabs on your competitors. Looking at similar companies’ social media accounts is a great way to see what marketing strategies are and aren’t working for them. This gives your team a leg up in deciding what new content to post, while also making sure that you stay unique and not too similar to any competitors. Having strategies like these and tailoring them to which platforms your audience love the most will bring direct marketing success into any company. It’s all about trying new things and tracking what brings in the most success, and the best way to do it is just by getting started.