What is social media marketing?
Social media marketing is something of a broad term, used to describe virtually any customer-facing activity your business undertakes using social media. Wikipedia’s one sentence explanation says: “Social Media Marketing is the process of gaining website traffic or attention through social media sites.”
Essentially, social media marketing is the use of platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube, Tumblr, and Google+ to help raise awareness of your products and services. Over time, social media marketing campaigns work to convert this awareness into website visitors and, eventually, paying customers.
Just like any other marketing channel, there are a number of factors your business needs to consider.
All social media marketing begins by listening
Social media platforms are an amazing resource when trying to assess the sentiments of your target audience. Your business can use social media listening tools to monitor public conversations and gauge what people are saying about your brand, or the sector in which you operate.
Social media is your focus group.
By closely monitoring who is saying what, your marketing team will also be able to identify key influencers within your target demographic. Tapping into these influencers, and their social circles, will be an important step towards raising the profile of your brand.
Engagement – the goal of all social media marketing
Even in the early days of the internet, marketers would publish an ad (typically a banner) and hope that their prospects would be suitably intrigued to click through. However banner ads are hugely ineffective – the average click through rate is just 0.06% – and up to 50% of those clicks are completely unintentional. People simply do not want to be broadcast at any more.
Modern social media marketing is far more targeted, with messages tuned to the specific interests of your prospects. And more than simply showing them ads, your campaigns should be designed to encourage interaction between prospects and your brand. After all, social media is all about being social.
Engagement can be assessed in two ways. First there are the proactive actions undertaken by your prospects – did they ‘like’ your Facebook status update? Or even re-tweet your picture? Every time a prospect engages with your brand in this way, it extends your organic reach, ensuring your message is seen by a wider audience.
Social media marketing is also reactive. If someone leaves a comment against your Instagram picture or YouTube video, your team needs to engage them in conversation – particularly if they have asked a question. Opening dialogue in this way helps to improve their sentiment towards your company, and lays the groundwork for a relationship that may result in a sale further down the line.
As already mentioned, social media marketing is about being social towards prospects and your existing customers. By helping to humanize your brand, you can build healthy relationships that could help boost the lifetime value of each socially-engaged customer.
The relationship is important beyond marketing too. You may be able to provide support via social channels too, helping to reduce operating costs and improve the speed at which you can serve your customers.
The wider importance of social media marketing
The value of social media marketing goes beyond simply helping raise brand recognition on social networks. Google uses social media activity as a ranking factor for instance; think tank L2 found that “of the top 10 factors that correlate with strong Google organic search, seven are social media dependent”.
In other words, social media visibility is key factor to boosting your position in organic Google search results. Which is why top brands actively use between five and nine social media platforms to connect with prospects.
Although social media marketing is supposed to be about subtly promoting goods and services, the benefits actually go much further. Which is why every business needs to integrate social media into all of their customer-facing activities, or risk losing out to a more socially-connected competitor.