Social Media Marketing 101: The Best Guide You’ll Find
Do you want to hear a fact that will blow your mind? According to Statista, by 2019 there will be approximately 2.77 billion social media users around the globe. -That’s one out of every three people on planet Earth! Whether it’s checking a breaking news update, shopping online, or catching up with an old friend, most people find it hard to function in today’s world without social media.
So what does this social media-obsessed population mean for your business? Well, considering the amount of people ‘hanging out there,’ it’s important that you and your business are right there with them. While creating your website was an important part of your online success, knowing how to use social media to further promote your business is essential. From Facebook to Twitter, Instagram to LinkedIn, this complete social media marketing guide breaks down every major aspect of each platform, including valuable insights like who’s using it, and how you how you can leverage it to market your business.
What is social media marketing?
Hold on a minute… What exactly does this term “social media marketing” mean?! Before we take a look at the platforms, here’s a quick explanation. Social media marketing is the process of crafting and sharing content precisely for each social platform with specific goals in mind. These goals can range from gaining more exposure through ‘likes’ and ‘shares’ to upping your amount of website traffic. It’s also a great way to keep the conversation active around your business, or it can be used as a way to provide quality support to your clients.
In this guide you will learn how to create content for each platform to suit both your marketing intentions and your consumers’ preferences.
Why is social media relevant for your business?
Today, businesses need to live and breathe in the social media space in order to show that they exist in the online world. On top of just existing, there are countless benefits to making the most of this virtual universe. Not only do social platforms thrive off communities, they also allow you to implement a flexible marketing strategy and to personalize your profile to fit your brand’s image. Plus, you’re able to advertise to potential customers at little or no cost to your business (unless you choose to promote content).
Another big advantage of social media is that your business can gain exposure from different crowds by reaching them through a wide range of avenues. That being said, in order to be seen by a spread of diverse age groups, personalities, and geographic locations, begin with the most popular social media platforms with the most users on them, like the ones mentioned within this article (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn). From there, you can focus on the select platforms that serve your audience’s and business’ needs the most, to avoid spreading your resources too thin. Although social media is beneficial for your marketing as a whole, within this article we’ll break down each platform’s individual specialities.
Essentially, Facebook is today’s synonym for ‘social media platform’ for the majority of people, and has been since it replaced Myspace in the early 2000s. The online community gives users the ability to easily connect, and share news and photos, with their family and friends online. Businesses use this platform to engage these users by sharing relevant information, in hopes that they will become potential customers. One of Facebook’s many advantages is that it offers a huge pool of data for businesses to work from. Plus, business accounts can also target consumers via ads. If you want to understand the kind of numbers we’re talking about here, get this: With its vast amount of monthly active users, Facebook could theoretically stand alone as the biggest country in the world, surpassing even China to clock in at almost one billion people. Despite this, Facebook is not the coolest kid on the block anymore. Yet, Mark Zuckerberg’s platform is working hard to stay relevant by coming out with new features almost every month. Will it be enough to beat its trendy competitors, such as Instagram? Only the future will tell.
Dominating content form:
Facebook doesn’t have one dominating feature. Many people go to this platform for a plethora of their needs, from checking out a new restaurant to looking for an apartment, seeking advice in a group, posting photos of their recent vacation, updating their relationship status, private messaging an old friend, or mindlessly browsing food recipe videos for hours.
There are tons of places to share content on this massive platform. But, we’ll break down the most relevant and popular ones here:
Regular feed posts: Here you can share text, article links, pictures, videos and GIFs. Once you post, it’s visible on both your profile page and your friends’ news feeds (the place where you can share your own posts and view your followers’ posts and many other experiences).
Posts in groups: Just like the concept above of posting regular page posts, you can share the same type of content within a specific Facebook group, rather than publicly on your own page. Recently, group posts are getting more exposure from Facebook’s algorithm (the determinant factor in who sees your posts on their feed and when).
Facebook Stories: These are a form of temporary content. You can upload photos and videos, but they’re only ‘live’ for 24 hours before they vanish.
Facebook Live: This is the most significant way to draw in viewer’s attention. In fact, today Facebook Live has taken on a form of broadcasting of its own. It’s a place to share live video content with your followers giving them the experience that they are right there in the very same moment as your business.
Facebook Messenger: If you want to send a message outside of the public space, Messenger is your place. Here you can chat with customers in any form, from customer support to Messenger marketing.
Facebook events: If you’re planning on hosting a special event, Facebook events is the place to promote it. Here you can share the time, location, and details, and invite everyone in your online social circle. It’s also the most convenient place to send out reminders and promote your event, too.
Facebook Business Page
As the Yellow Pages of the Internet today, almost every medium- to large-size business, project, and major idea has a Facebook Business Page where all of their essential information can be found. Here, customers can discover what your business does, find your physical location (if you have one), operating hours, and contact you via posts or private messages. It’s important to note that you must create a user account first if you want to have a Facebook Business Page. If you’re looking to set one up, we have the perfect guide to creating a Facebook Business Page to get you started.
How to apply this to your business’ social media plan:
First, create a Facebook Business Page (as mentioned above). Then, upload all of your pertinent business information here: business hours, address, phone number, about your company, logo, cover photo, and most importantly a link to your website. Now that you’ve launched your Facebook presence, we’ll walk you through how to make the most of it for your business:
What to post: The opportunities of what to post are endless! You can do everything from sharing your knowledge in relevant Facebook groups to publicising your events, promoting blog articles, sales, behind the scenes content, and other company updates through your Facebook page. Most importantly, keep your content interesting and engaging by creating an emotional connection with your community. To do this, focus mostly on entertaining and informational content. You should be selective about publishing promotional content, saving it for when you have a major announcement to make about your products or services. To get started, you can use a number of great social media graphics tools to create amazing visual content for Facebook in no time.
How often to post: A rule of thumb we recommend is to schedule social media content that is original and self-created approximately three times per week. For the other four days of the week, you should at least share an article or interesting post by a follower. Overall, this means that you will be sharing some form of content every day of the week. However, you can adjust this frequency depending on your business’ goals and resources.
Why and how to advertise: Due to changes over time in Facebook’s algorithm, it’s apparent that a large percentage of your organic (non-promoted) content shared through your Facebook page will never make it to your followers’ news feed. This means videos, articles, events, and more can potentially vanish into ‘thin air.’ That’s certainly a possibility unless you start promoting it using Facebook advertising. In simple terms, this is just a place to expand the reach of your regular page posts and other content through targeted ads. The reason that it’s so wonderful is because it will allow you to access a more targeted audience than any other paid advertisement platform. That’s because Facebook houses the most data in the game and targets ad opportunities according to your budget, enabling you to specify the the age, location, and other demographics and characteristics of your potential customers that you want to market to. If you’re interested in getting started, you’ll first need to create an account in the Business Manager tool from within your Facebook Business Page. After you’ve done so, follow this breakdown on how to create a Facebook ad.
Example of content: This type of Facebook post is an idea for light, relatable content that asks users a question, thereby provoking engagement via comments.
Instagram is predominately a photo and video sharing application that’s slowly taking over the World Wide Web. It’s a central hub for photographers, influencers, travelers, millennials, and most importantly: brands. When you think of visually marketing your products and services, this is the place to be. That’s maybe due to the fact that the average engagement rate is 23% more than Facebook. So although you might want to focus your marketing goals on Facebook, it’s worthwhile to not put all of your eggs in one basket. This is especially the case if your consumers live in the U.S., as nearly one-third of the population is active on Instagram. Keep in mind that this platform functions best on smartphones as not all features are available in desktop view.
Dominating content forms:
Instagram posts and Stories are the most frequently used content forms among users. However, each of these caters to different marketing goals, from CTAs to product promotion and more. We’ll get more into the specificities of those and how to build a marketing strategy around both content forms individually in the section to come.
In recent years, Instagram has grown immensely and released many new features. The following are worth considering creating content for:
Instagram posts: These are regular content posts that appear on both your profile and hopefully in your followers’ feeds (although that depends on many factors, which we will discuss in the algorithm section below). Content shared here can be in the form of pictures and videos with attached text and hashtags. Within pictures, you have several options: post one photo in several different sizes, combine multiple photos into a layout (in one picture post), or carousel posts (slideshow of multiple images). Just click the plus sign at the bottom of either your profile screen or feed screen and start uploading content from your phone.
Instagram Stories: Each Story is a collection of vertical photos and videos which are uploaded for a 24-hour period only. They are viewable in your feed at the very top within each user’s profile photo icon. You can create your own Story by clicking on the camera icon in the top left corner of the home screen and taking live photos or videos, or swiping up to add your own from your mobile phone’s camera roll. Stories are arguably more popular than regular posts, with over 300 million people and businesses currently taking advantage of this feature. So once you start exploring, you’ll often notice with brands that each one has a pattern. In other words, Stories are effectively created in the form of an actual “story” (hence, the name). They build up to a climax known as the call-to-action where they hope to hook their followers to engage in a particular behavior: buy a product, sign up for a service, like a post, etc. To successfully accomplish this for your business, we offer some effective guidelines for Instagram Stories here.
Story Highlights: There is a similar concept to Instagram Stories – only this one doesn’t vanish in just one day. If you want to keep your stories alive for eternity – or until you decide to delete them – then this Story Highlights feature is for you. From your profile view on the app, click the plus circle under your bio. Here you can upload content from your previously shared Stories. Many brands label their Story Highlights with cover photos in order to keep their look and feel throughout the platform.
Hashtags: As long as we can remember from the creation of Instagram, hashtags have been around. Each hashtag is a keyword or phrase preceded with the hash mark (#) which allows it to become searchable within the application. You can do a variety of things with hashtags on Instagram, whether that’s adding them to a post, Story, your bio, or following them to allow related posts to appear on your feed. A common strategy among businesses is to include a combination of brand-specific and popular Instagram hashtags.
Instagram live: If you want to interact with your audience and share something happening in real time, this is a great solution. Plus it allows you to draw attention to your brand as the app notifies your followers once you go live. If your company is hosting an event or launching a product, consider this content form. And after your live session is over, you can save it to your Story for 24 hours. To begin, go to the same section where you will upload stories, then click the ‘live’ button on the right-hand side.
Comments and likes: To engage with those you follow, you can comment on and like their posts as often as you wish. Under each post, you’ll see a heart icon (for likes) and a quote icon (for comments). Don’t be afraid to use hashtags and emojis here too. It’s a chance to express your brand playfully.
Direct messages: There is also a private form of content on the application, known by the cool kids as ‘DMs,’ or in exact terms, ‘direct messages.’ All other types of content except ‘DMs’ are publicly available (unless you apply certain privacy settings). Direct messages, on the other hand, are only visible between you and the person with whom you’re messaging. So, whether you’re sharing a post with them, commenting on their Story, or just reaching out, you can be assured that this conversation will be private. You can access the direct messages in the top right corner of the application on the feed screen by clicking the airplane icon.
Filters, polls, GIFs & more: From regular posts to Stories, there are tons of fun ways to spice up your content. For example, you can use over 25 filters to set moods for the pictures in your posts. For Stories, there are over ten filters to choose from and some other interactive features, like adding your location, creating polls, GIFs, questions and more. With so many ways to engage, these are not only entertaining, but also quite crucial to take advantage of.
Instagram Business Account:
Business profiles add to your credibility as a business or brand. And once you’ve created an initial account on Instagram, it won’t cost you anything to set up a business profile. Just go to the settings within the application and click ‘Switch to Business Account.’ Here you will learn more insights about both your posts’ performance and your followers via stats, create promotions to reach more customers, and enable new contact options within your profile.
Sidenote: If your business account reaches over 10,000 followers, you can utilize the ‘swipe-up’ link in your Stories to allow viewers to access a linked website of your choice directly from your slide.
How to apply this to your business’ social media plan:
After the initial creation of your Business Account, you should start customizing it right away. To begin, create an Instagram bio including everything from your business’ logo to a link to your website, witty content (like these funny Instagram bios), and any brand specific hashtags. Once you create your profile, you can upload pre-made content so that your account is full of beautiful imagery and videos. Only after this should you start promoting your own account and following other brands and users relevant to your industry. After you’re a bit more established, we recommend focusing on the following:
What to post: The content you post needs to be relevant to your brand’s goals. You can certainly decide whether you want to be fun and playful or serious, but always keep a level of professionalism. We recommend starting with Instagram Stories and posts. If you’re looking to up your game and create expert-level content, here are a few Instagram tools that you can take advantage of.
How often to post: Many brands upload regular posts 1-3 times per day and one full Story in a 24 hour timeframe in order to constantly stay active on the platform. This will boost your engagement and offer your business a better chance of showing up in your followers’ feeds.
Why and how to advertise: In order to start advertising on Instagram, you’ll need a corresponding Facebook page. To create Instagram ads, you need to do so through the Facebook Ad Manager (since Facebook acquired Instagram). This is an awesome opportunity to take advantage of all of Facebook’s targeting options and user data, whether you choose to automatically target an audience similar to your followers (lookalikes) or manually target specific users based on their interests or demographics. Plus, advertising on Instagram is highly effective, as the ads blend naturally into users’ feeds. Advertising forms include photos, videos, carousel posts, and collections (combining multiple photos into a pre-made layout format).
IGTV (Instagram TV): Just this past year, Instagram released this new, stand alone video-based application. Like YouTube, IGTV is a social platform for sharing and viewing videos. You can upload videos as long as one hour and, unlike Stories, they won’t disappear after 24 hours. This feature is viewable on the top right corner of your feed screen of the app within the TV icon. You can also separately download the IGTV application to focus on just this form of content. For ease of sharing content from your own computer, it’s also possible to upload videos from the desktop version of Instagram. For more information on the ins and outs of this content form, learn all about IGTV here.
Example of content: This type of Instagram post is both relevant and funny to its target audience. It also asks a question to promote commenting and includes several hashtags (both specific and popular) to expand its reach.
We couldn’t end this section without covering Instagram’s mysterious algorithm. The algorithm is the determining factor of which users see your posts, which in turn affects how well they perform on your feed. Engagement rates have dropped on Instagram and many businesses are very aware (and concerned) about this. However, there are some steps that you can take to mitigate that issue, such as these Instagram algorithm hacks. Overall, for your content, focus on creating relevant items, sharing frequently, using hashtags, and promoting ads. It’s also important to stay active and social (responding and initiating conversations) in a timely manner, and always measure your performance results. Tracking your stats will allow you to discover which types of posts and times of posting work best for you, along with your target audience. Taking these points into consideration and putting your best content forward will help you succeed on this dynamic and ever-so-popular platform.
If you ask most people where they receive their news from these days, there’s a good chance that they will answer: Twitter. It’s a platform for consuming and sharing news updates as well as networking and socializing. The ‘blue bird’ icon is quite famous for its simplicity and directness. Unlike the previously mentioned social media channels, there are a lot fewer features. As our lives today are driven by having what we want and need in the palm of our hands, it only makes sense that the majority of Twitter users access this platform from their mobile devices. Here they can receive quick and easy notifications about the world around them in seconds.
Dominating content form:
Users interact with each other typically through one main channel of communication known as ‘tweets.’ In fact, nearly 500 million tweets are sent out on a daily basis worldwide.
We weren’t kidding when we said that this platform is simple. That’s because there are only a few content forms to choose from on Twitter:
Tweets: As previously mentioned, tweets are certainly the most popular form of content on Twitter. But with just 280 characters, you should choose your words wisely. Plus, if you want to link to an article or website, this will use up 23 of those characters, no matter the length of the URL. That’s not the case for GIFs or photos though, as you can still add them to a tweet and they won’t take up any text space. It’s also possible to add polls, tag people in photos or through ‘mentions’ inside of tweets, and tag locations in your tweets. To create a tweet from the application, click on the feather icon in the top right corner of your timeline screen. Tweets will show up on both your profile as well as the timeline screen of your followers. (You can access your own timeline from the home bird house- shaped icon on the bottom left of the app interface.)
Direct Messages: If you want to interact with users privately in one-on-one conversations, that’s exactly what this messaging stream is for. You can start and continue conversations through the envelope-shaped icon on the bottom right side of the application screen. You can decide in the settings if anyone can send you a DM or restrict it to only the people that you are following. As business, we suggest keeping it open to the public.
Hashtags: Fundamentally, these are defined as the same as Instagram hashtags. Yet, Twitter hashtags are exceptionally significant in their usability. You can also think of them as conversations around particular subjects, where curious users are bound to engage. Even more importantly, Twitter decides and communicates with users about which topics are trending relevant to their location and activity based on the hashtags that are most frequently used in Tweets. (You can find out what’s trending in the search tab on your mobile application or the left hand side of your home screen on the desktop version.) Without a hashtag (or promotion) your tweets will rarely be seen by any users outside of your followers. But with hashtags, your tweets could potentially go viral.
Likes, replies and retweets: These are the three main forms of engagement on Twitter (the other is Direct Messages). Once you create an account, start following other profiles, then scroll through your timeline. On your timeline, you’ll see three options available under each tweet. First, you can ‘reply’ from the quote icon – this is the same concept as ‘commenting’ except that it shows up on your profile. Second, you can ‘retweet,’ as in share a user’s tweet from the arrow icon. Lastly, you can ‘like’ (previously known as ‘favorite’) individual tweets. It’s important to engage with your followers whether they’ve tweeted at you (you’ll be notified through the bell icon at the bottom right of your screen) or just to reach out and start conversations yourself.
Twitter Business Profile:
Creating a business profile for Twitter is not much different than a regular profile. Twitter recommends focusing on five elements: your business’ name as your Twitter Handle (@mycompanyname), your profile image (your logo should go here), a short 160-character bio describing your business, your header image, and a pinned tweet. Your pinned tweet will be the first tweet followers see when they check out your business’ profile. So, choose one that has a lot of engagement and is either a timeless topic or specific for an occasion. Don’t forget to link to your website within your profile section in order to drive more traffic to your ‘.com.’
How to apply this to your business’ social media plan:
As a business owner, you should focus on tweeting often and engaging even more often. It’s super important for the growth of your account to interact with users by responding to their replies and starting conversations when reasonable. As your business grows, social media naturally becomes a hub for customer service, where customers will use it as a way to reach out and connect with you (even if you don’t ask for it). So, make sure to be available and respond frequently throughout the day.
What to post: You can tweet about company updates, create and share relevant articles from your blog, and other interesting content that promotes engagement, like polls, inspirational quotes, tips, and even GIFs. To draw in attention, keep it brief and use relevant hashtags. It’s also an excellent idea to add photos or videos because, according to Twitter, people are three times as likely to engage with tweets involving some sort of visual aspect. You can attach up to four photos per tweet. And if you’re looking for feedback or inspiration from your followers, you can drive great engagement via polls. You can also check out some of these creative social media ideas we’ve created and posted ourselves.
How often to post: Researchers vary in opinion on how often you should post. Some say 15 times per day and others say 1-5 times per day. But, since each business has different uses, in order to find your own groove you should start posting at least once per day (a blog post, an update, or a sale) and then work your way up from there. You can boost your frequency as you become more comfortable on the platform and learn what works for your business.
Why and how to advertise: Just like the other social platforms, there is an algorithm to Twitter’s timeline too. This means that it’s not so easy to get your content seen just by simply posting it organically (without paid advertisements). In order to reach your potential customers and up your engagement, including increasing your follower count, you might want to consider paid advertising on Twitter. Here you can target your audience to get your tweets discovered by the right people that will hopefully buy your products or services, as well as choose the amount you want to spend. Then, you can check the performance afterward to see what worked and what performed less successfully than you expected. To get started, create an account, then check out the Twitter ads page.
Example of content: This tweet example uses a bold photo to draw attention, along with a funny pun to reflect our business’ personality and playfulness.
Classified as the largest professional network, it’s true that 80% of LinkedIn members consider being active on this platform a vital factor to their career success. That’s because LinkedIn serves many purposes, from job hunting and recruitment to seriously networking with professionals. On this professional-social platform, you can showcase your business’ skills, accomplishments, employees and so much more. And in the business world it’s all about connections, so that means LinkedIn should be at the center of your networking goals.
Dominating content forms:
It’s a tie between publishing your own articles and posting a status update on LinkedIn. Individual articles are usually in short content form (5-6 paragraphs), while status updates are similar to other post forms mentioned on previous platforms, as they can include text, photos, videos and links. Status updates are probably more relevant to your business, but it depends on the content you intend to share. We’ll get into the specifics below.
Just like the other social platforms, you can create a profile and engage with users through a general newsfeed, share content, send messages, connect with people, and so much more. And with over three million users sharing content on LinkedIn daily, it’s probably time your business jumps on the bandwagon. But first, we’ll walk through which forms of content you, as the business’ owner, can share from your personal account:
Posts: This is a place to update your connections in the form of general text, articles, photos or videos. You can do so from your ‘Home’ screen at the top of your newsfeed. You’re also able to choose who you want to share your posts with: the public, just your connections, or within a group. This will appear on both your profile and your connection’s newsfeed. Since posting on LinkedIn happens less often than most other social networks, your connections will be notified immediately upon you sharing this. So, make sure what you choose to create is valuable and attention-worthy.
Post in LinkedIn groups: These groups are a great place to engage with other LinkedIn users and further expand your professional network outside of just those you’re connected with. Groups can be centered around industries, hobbies, coworkers, fields of expertise, events, and more. To join one, type in relevant search terms in the search bar at the top of your screen, then filter to specifically just groups. You can then browse information about the groups and send a request to join. In order to post a status or share an article in a group, all you have to do is select the group(s) before you press the ‘post button’ in a regular post.
Articles: Sharing your knowledge on a particular subject is especially beneficial on LinkedIn. Since this is the professional network, you can certainly find ways to align your content with your audience’s interests. From the same place that you would create a post on your Home screen (at the top), click ‘Write an article.’ You’ll be taken to a separate screen where you can create long or short form articles on the platform, attach a cover photo, and embed links. Articles will appear at the top of your profile page. Note that this is only relevant to individual users and not company pages.
LinkedIn Company Page:
It’s important that you create a Company Page (much like your Facebook Business Page) as it allows you to reach consumers through engagement, promotion, and increases brand awareness. And if you’re hiring, you’ll certainly want to use LinkedIn above anything else to spread the news.
However, before you can even begin to build your Company Page, you’re going to need to initially set up a personal LinkedIn profile. To clarify, this is not your business, but rather you as the owner, marketer, or LinkedIn guru from your team. You’ll include your work and life experiences, skills, interests, and a long version of your resume – even your life story (the professionally appropriate one) can go here. Only then can you create a LinkedIn Company Page by adding your company’s name and custom URL. This guide to creating a LinkedIn Company Page will describe everything you need to optimize your page, from your company description to strengths and specialities, your cover photo and oh so much more.
How to apply this to your business’ social media plan:
Your business should take full advantage of your Company Page as an opportunity to flaunt your hard work, promote your jobs, acknowledge your employees, and share powerful and informative content with your industry.
What to post: The LinkedIn audience is a more sophisticated, purposeful crowd than most social platforms. Users come here to gain insights from industry experts and to advance their careers. Therefore, you can use this as an opportunity to be helpful to your community by posting things related to leadership, productivity, and relevant news. There are so many content options on this platform to choose from. You can share self-made blog posts, articles from industry experts, quick tips, and company updates. Images are always a plus whenever relevant to draw more attention to your posts and long text posts also work really well, but videos are less effective. Lastly, company-specific content works better here than any other platform.
How often to post: You should post at most once per day, if not every other day. That’s because posting too often on this platform could come off as inauthentic, or even spammy. Think of LinkedIn as a place for quality content over quantity.
Why and how to advertise: According to LinkedIn’s Marketing Solution Blog, “50% of LinkedIn members report they are more likely to buy from a company they engage with on LinkedIn.” Getting yourself ‘out there’ on the platform is imperative for a successful marketing strategy. To get your content to those consumers more efficiently and deliberately, you might want to consider creating ads. It will take you just a couple of minutes to create a LinkedIn ad under one of these options: Sponsored Content (target users on their general newsfeeds), Text Ads (sidebar, pay-per-click ads), and Sponsored InMail (personalized messages sent to inboxes).
Example of content: Fitting for LinkedIn, this post offers advice on an attention-grabbing visual. It’s light and relatable, yet still professional.
By Jennifer Kaplan