Social media marketing (SMM) is a growing sect of digital marketing that focuses on connecting with your target audience where they’re most likely to spend their time. Establishing a social media presence is an affordable channel for marketing your business and can be highly effective when driven by social media marketing strategy and data.
In this guide, we’ll cover the fundamentals of social media marketing. Beginning with a basic definition and context surrounding social media’s conception, you will learn about current social networking platforms, relevant terminology, tips for success, and valuable resources for social media marketers.
Social Media Marketing 101
In short, social media marketing is the use of social media networks – like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Tiktok – to promote a brand, product, and/or service. Typical responsibilities include ideating and creating content, developing social media strategies, engaging with your community across platforms, and managing paid ads.
Not only does social media offer unrivaled opportunities to connect with current customers and reach new audiences, but social networking platforms also provide data-backed insights to help you analyze your performance and identify areas for improvement.
A brief history of social media marketing
Social media use has grown dramatically over the past two decades.
In its infancy, social media was primarily used as a virtual gathering place to connect people. In 2003, the early social media platform Friendster recruited more than 3 million users in 3 months. Just four years later, Facebook had amassed a whopping 50 million users. The demand for digital interactive communities had skyrocketed.
Between 2015 and 2022, the number of social media users has doubled. Now, an estimated 4.5 billion people worldwide use social media, with new users joining social networks every day.
In the early days of social media marketing, businesses typically leveraged posts as a way to build awareness with prospective customers. In its current state, technology and improved platform infrastructure have dramatically expanded social media marketing capabilities. Now, social listening for relevant mentions, direct engagement, and in-app e-commerce has become standard marketing tools for businesses of all kinds.
Social Media Platforms
Social media is constantly evolving. With new features, niches, and platforms appearing seemingly every day, it’s important to focus your attention on your target audience’s most relevant gathering places. Similar to the real world, a variety of demographics naturally gravitate to different environments. Let’s take a closer look at the most popular social media platforms of 2022:
Facebook is the largest social media platform to date, with 1.9 billion daily users. The social media giant offers a variety of tools for businesses, including paid advertisements, in-app e-commerce opportunities, and direct customer feedback through reviews.
At its core, Twitter specializes in short-form written content. Restricted to 280 characters, microblogging and live reporting information are among the most popular types of content. In recent years, Twitter has expanded beyond text – new features like Communities and the audio focused Spaces seek to connect users in more meaningful ways. Businesses can leverage these new features as marketing tools in addition to the platform’s paid advertisement services.
Among the most popular social networking platforms, Instagram is centered around visually appealing static images, carousel posts, and video content through Reels. Businesses can benefit from Instagram’s robust e-commerce features that allow in-app shopping, in addition to tapping into the platform’s booming content creator population through influencer marketing.
Youtube is a hub for video content, hosting both long and short-form videos. On average, the platform generates more than 1 billion viewing hours per day. Youtube’s vast supply of video content and impressive viewer retention offer an appealing opportunity for businesses to advertise, create original content, and capitalize using the creator economy.
By far, LinkedIn is the most popular platform tailored to professionals and career support. With ample networking opportunities, job boards, and upskilling resources, professionals of all ages are flocking to the platform. As a result, business-to-business (B2B) and Software as a Service (SaaS) companies can effectively identify leads and build industry authority.
Social media marketing terminology
Before executing your social media marketing strategy, having a solid understanding of key terms and phrases can strengthen your foundation for success.
Simply put, social media algorithms are problem-solving systems that can learn which information is most relevant to you. Based on your interests and past behaviors, social media algorithms filter content to curate personalized feeds tailored to you.
A/B testing is a way to compare two versions of content, whether it be a social post or paid advertisement. A/B testing is usually limited to differentiating content with one change to determine which version is most performant.
Brand awareness is a measure of your target audience’s familiarity with your brand.
User-Generated Content (UGC):
User-generated content refers to non-sponsored content that is made organically by social media users.
Social media engagement refers to any form of interaction between platform users and your content. This includes likes, comments, shares, saves, follows, etc.
Organic reach is the number of people that have seen your content without paid amplification.
Social media metrics such as follower count, likes, impressions, and views are considered “vanity metrics.” Alone, they are not representative of social media’s contributions to the company’s overarching goals.
If you’re interested in pursuing a career in social media marketing:
- Focus on select platforms and producing high-quality content rather than trying to be everywhere. Unless you have a larger social media team, centering your efforts around several channels is more conducive to meaningful growth and building your community than trying to juggle all platforms.
- Be prepared to experiment. Social media success hinges on your ability to adapt. If your approach isn’t resonating, don’t be afraid to test new ideas. You’re competing against overwhelming volumes of social noise on these platforms. Although failed attempts may feel insurmountable, chances are your audience won’t remember these details.
- Social media is a long game – don’t expect results overnight. Building community and connecting with your audience takes time. Investing the time and effort in establishing a strong foundation around your existing customer base and target audience is essential in social media marketing. Long-term, repeated exposure primes potential customers to make the jump from consideration to conversion.
- Add personality and humor (if appropriate). Audiences are quick to sense when they’re being marketed to. Humanizing your brand’s voice and limiting the corporate persona allows for a more authentic connection and can increase their likelihood of consideration.
- Incorporate data whenever possible. Identifying areas for improvement and adjusting your strategy should be data-driven. Competitor research is also an effective means for recognizing opportunities for success.
Popular tools and resources
As a social media marketer, there are countless tools at your disposal – free and paid. Here are several of the most popular tools used by industry professionals:
Known for its extensive asset library, Canva is a platform used to curate visual and professional content. As an all-in-one design tool, users can create visually appealing dynamic graphics, edited videos, presentations, and printed products with little to no experience needed. Canva rivals Photoshop in its easy-to-use interface, pre-made templates, and pricing – a free version is available, and the paid upgrade is affordably priced.
Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, Premiere Pro, and Lightroom are software programs used for graphic design, video editing, and photography. Although more expensive, Adobe Creative Cloud programs have substantial customization options and are considered industry standard skills in some specialties. New users can access free trials and also have a number of introductory resources at their disposal to gain familiarity with the programs.
Hubspot is a comprehensive inbound marketing platform that includes social media management services, search engine optimization (SEO) tools, audience relationship analytics, and email marketing resources. Hubspot’s free education library is an invaluable tool for marketers in all stages of their careers and includes courses, resources, and templates to aid in learning new marketing verticals.
Similar to any industry, it’s important to maintain your willingness to learn. Expanding your skillset and staying up-to-date with industry knowledge will boost your chances for success. Although the idea of social media marketing can be daunting, with the right tools, plenty of practice, and continued interest in refining your skills, you can have a rewarding, fulfilling career as a social media marketer.
Interested in the day-to-day responsibilities of social media marketing and career advancement opportunities? Explore our Social Media Marketing Career Guide!