What Is Social Media Marketing?

A group of friends, outdoors, leaning against a wall while using their smart mobile smartphones.


Social media marketing refers to the process of creating tailored content for social media platforms for the purpose of driving engagement and promoting a brand. Social media marketing is beneficial because it enables brands to strengthen the relationships they have with their customers, on the customer’s preferred channels.

Why Is Social Media Important to Brands?

Although many people have moved to other social media platforms, Facebook still has 2.85 billion active monthly users according to Statista. If one counts all of the Facebook family of social media platforms, including Instagram, WhatsApp, and Messenger, that number grows to 3.51 billion monthly users. By 2022, the number of worldwide social media users is expected to reach 3.96 billion. As of 2021, 82% of the United States population has a social networking profile.

These statistics show why it is vital for brands to invest in social media marketing, as social media is a channel where consumers feel free to openly discuss how they feel about a brand’s products and services, and it’s a great place to reach customers on their own turf, a place where they are comfortable spending time. A GlobalWebIndex report revealed that from January to March of 2020, consumers were on social networks (and associated messaging apps) an average of 2 hours and 22 minutes each day. More importantly, the report also indicated that up to 50% of social media users use social networks to research products and services.

Joe Sinkwitz, CEO of Intellifluence, said that social media has finally realized the potential that has been promised since the first social networks debuted. There are now rich communities of individuals that self-segment into audiences, with analytics attributed to various actions. “At Intellifluence we dog food everything we do, so a significant portion of our traffic comes from having our own community of influencers share their experiences on Facebook in order to engage that audience, on Twitter to expand reach, on LinkedIn to appeal to professionals, and so much more,” he explained.

“Since it’s now so easy to trace traffic and signups to the initial content and poster of that content, it’s a simple process to reward individuals and in turn incentivize continued support. Growing social networks that allow for action attribution are the reason why brands are so keen to invest the time and effort to engage with the myriad of buyer personas they represent.” 

Related Article: What Social Media Trends Will Impact Your 2021 Marketing

How Does Social Media Marketing Work?

There are many popular social media platforms, including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, WeChat, Tumblr, LinkedIn, Snapchat, Pinterest, Twitch and VK. Other sites that are not true social networks such as Reddit and YouTube are also still important for social media marketers. The important thing for brands to understand is that each social media platform is different, and the content a brand creates for one platform is probably not well-suited for another. 

Additionally, there are several aspects of social media marketing to be explored. Influencer marketing can be seen as one of the prongs of social media marketing, while another prong would be paid social. “In some cases they can work interchangeably; for instance, a brand could commission an influencer piece on Facebook and then if that influencer exists in Facebook’s creator system, the brand could amplify the post as a boosted ad unit,” Sinkwitz said. The third prong of social media marketing is direct promotion via social channels through a brand’s social media presence. “For instance, Wendy’s does an incredible job on Twitter engaging with their audience via their own account…sometimes they’ll amplify the work of influencers as well and will utilize paid ads, but their focus is on delivering snark,” explained Sinkwitz.

Liz Raad, co-founder of the eBusiness Institute, shared her thoughts on the efficacy of social media. “Hyper-connectivity through social media has changed the way people feel about family, friends and peers, as well as their thoughts on what is ‘trending’ and current.” The pandemic created a surge in social media use as people retreated to safe online communities while the world went into lockdowns, schools closed, and businesses shut their doors. People spent more time online, and changed the way they looked at recreation, business and work. Brands found that they could use social media platforms to increase their access to information, engage with key target audiences and increase interest and convert sales leads. 

“With the evolution of discourse on social media, people are seeking more authentic, transparent and informative exchanges,” said Raad. Social media marketing doesn’t have to be difficult or complicated, but it must be genuine. “People are seeking more authentic internet exchanges, and this means, they’re looking for brands with genuine personas that can add value to their interaction experience.”

Related Article: Social Media Hashtags: Protecting Your Brand’s Reputation and Trust

What Should You Post on Social Media

As with other mediums, the content that brands post on social platforms must be consistent with the brand’s voice and its values. Social media is a medium that allows brands to show more personality and character. Humor and lighthearted, fun content enables customers to see the human side of a brand. Customers recognize that brands are businesses with goals that include being profitable, but they do not want to be regularly bombarded with sales pitches or advertising gimmicks. Rather than enhancing brand loyalty, the overuse of social media for advertising will drive customers away.

“Social media marketing can be as simple as a pre-scheduled content with a certain attainable/measurable business objective, e.g. to increase reach, brand awareness, convert users to sales, drive more traffic to websites,” explained Raad. “Social media marketing can also be as in-depth as creating a full campaign, with and without advertising, focusing on several different themes and components at a time, to engage with users in, and measure those metrics of success as to how well they were engaged.”

A social media marketing campaign should include social listening in order to evaluate the effectiveness of the campaign. Social listening is the act of monitoring social media platforms for mentions of a brand, its competitors, products, services, or keywords. This enables a brand to know what its customers are saying about the brand, how they feel about it, as well as providing the brand with a way to discover pain points in the customer journey.

Related Article: Is Social Media Marketing Dying?

Social Media Marketing Doesn’t Require all Social Platforms

Brands must initially define the goals of their social media marketing campaigns, and then determine the most effective means of accomplishing those goals, on the most appropriate social media platform. Kelvin Chan, CMO at Training.com.au, told CMSWire that many brands make the mistake of trying to market themselves on all social media platforms, rather than just focusing on the platforms that are most appropriate for their customers or segments. “Many brands make the mistake of trying to tackle all the social media giants at once, but it’s best to focus on one or two. That way, you can focus on driving engagement from audiences on that platform. The same person behaves differently on Facebook and Instagram,” said Chan. 

He said that his brand decided to focus on Facebook and Instagram, but it soon became apparent that Facebook was the more appropriate platform. “On Facebook, we have 39,451 followers, and on Instagram we have 1,873. Clearly, our Facebook blew up because it better matched user intent. People are increasingly using Facebook for business and educational purposes, whereas Instagram is more for entertainment.”

Each social media platform has its own merits, and depending on the goals of a brand, and its products and services, specific platforms can be useful for specific purposes. “Tapping into respective social media platforms for different results can yield great engagement and increase brand recognition, awareness and consumer loyalty; for example, Twitter and Instagram for updates, Facebook for brand awareness and reach, LinkedIn for connecting with potential clients and YouTube as a resource hub,” suggested Chan. A travel agency, for instance, would be likely to do well on visual social media platforms such as Instagram, Pinterest, or YouTube, as would an art gallery. A web design business, on the other hand, would be more likely to do well on sites such as LinkedIn or Twitter. Additionally, different customer segments are likely to use the social media platform that appeals the most to that segment. Older customers are not likely to be TikTok users, while younger customers are not as likely to be Twitter users.

Final Thoughts

Many people use social media platforms as their preferred channel for building and strengthening relationships with friends, family, coworkers, and even brands. Brands that post relevant content that is consistent with their values, while allowing their character and personality to show through, are finding that social media platforms are an extremely effective marketing channel. Different social media platforms appeal to customers for specific reasons, and brands must select the most appropriate social platforms to use for their specific customer segments and goals.

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