An Introduction to Social Media Marketing
Would you like to make social media marketing work for your business?
Have you seen a business just like yours find thousands of followers on Facebook?
Perhaps a friend or mentor advised you to open an Instagram account?
Social media is everywhere online so it’s probably not surprising if you’ve heard multiple times that social media is a must.
But where do you start?
In this guide, I’m going to introduce you to the world of social media marketing. Showing you just how it can help your business grow.
What is Social Media Marketing?
Social media marketing is when companies use social networks to promote their brand or products.
Social networks can be any number of platforms or applications where people gather online. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube are all examples of social networks.
Businesses sign up to these platforms in the hope that they can attract followers and build an audience.
They will then aim to turn a portion of that audience into paying customers.
Who is Social Marketing for?
Joining social media platforms is free and usually only takes a few minutes to get started, so it’s an easy marketing channel for any greetings or giftware company.
Indeed my research into how card and gift companies were promoting themselves online found that social media marketing was one of the most popular marketing activities.
As the content posted on social media channels is usually bitesize, a few lines of text, one image or one video, it’s easy to see why it’s popular.
Social media seems like a good option for even the most time-poor business. This, however, isn’t the whole picture. Social media updates may be small, but they need to be regular. To make an impact with social media you have to show up in people’s feeds and you have to be social. Most importantly you have to measure its impact.
Through research and testing, companies need to evaluate which social media channels are right for their business. While social media marketing is for all, not all social media platforms will suit every business.
Why is Social Media Important?
As a business owner social media allows you to update your current followers about your business. It also lets you reach out to new potential followers through your updates, groups and hashtags.
Simply put, social media allows you to find the perfect audience for your business, wherever they may be in the world.
That audience can then be turned into leads and customers.
Social media is helping you change strangers into people who know, like and trust your business.
Social media has become a new customer service channel for many businesses. Rather than looking up your phone number or email, a customer will send you a message on social media. The social platforms give you another way to interact with both new and existing customers.
Finding a New Audience
As mentioned above, social media channels can help you find a new audience.
Whether you’re looking for B2B or B2C customers, you can find them on social media. Your job is to give them an account worth following. If you provide value they will follow you and eventually they may even buy from you.
Types of Social Media Marketing
The networks change and develop but they tend to revolve around text, images and video.
Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn users post text, images and video content.
Pinterest and Instagram started as image-based sites, but both have branched out to include video elements.
Last but not least is YouTube, which is dominated by video content.
People like to consume content in different ways and social media platforms allow companies to use different formats to reach customers.
What Do You Need?
As I mentioned earlier getting started with social media is usually relatively easy. All the platforms are the same; you set up your profile with contact details, text and images; then you’re ready to start posting and growing your network.
Each platform will have its own unique elements, whether it’s communities, groups or hashtags and you’ll get involved with these as you go along.
Once you’ve got your accounts set up, the biggest resource social media marketing needs is time.
- Time to create images, text or video to update your followers.
- Time to like, comment and generally be sociable to grow your base.
- Time to review your efforts and determine what strategies are working best.
If you can commit the time to regularly updating your profiles social media can be a great way to get your brand noticed and provide traffic to your website or online shop.
The Card and Gift Industry & Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram
My initial industry research found that the card & gift industry seemed to embrace social media marketing in a big way.
76% of the 642 companies reviewed had at least 1 social media profile shown on their websites.
& almost two-thirds, 66% used between 1 and 4 social media platforms.
As one of the oldest platforms, I wasn’t surprised to see Facebook was the most popular channels. I didn’t, however, expect to see Instagram inching ahead of Pinterest into 3rd place.
I have carried out a more in-depth look at how the industry uses each social media platform, which I will be publishing soon, but I think it’s fair to say that the card and gift industry is using social media to promote and reach new customers.
To balance things out I should probably highlight that I have also heard tales of fellow card and gift folks questioning the value of social media. When done properly social media marketing can be time-consuming, so it’s important that the time is repaid.
In future articles and training, I will be looking at each of the platforms individually. I will also be looking at how you can build a social marketing plan that effectively measures the result; answering the question of whether social media is a good fit for your business.
My Experience with Social Media
I have to confess that I’m not a natural when it comes to social media. It doesn’t really occur to me to broadcast thoughts and ideas in the way that social media platforms expect.
However, as I have to use and study social media marketing for my job I do understand and appreciate what a magnificent ‘thing’ it is for businesses.
Social media allows businesses a free way to build an audience of loyal fans.
I think a word of caution is important, however. All social platforms are businesses and they make their money through advertising, so people who pay to use their services will always get added extras that the free options don’t deliver. You also need to remember that your marketing your business on a third-party platform. You don’t own, operate or control any social media sites. They could shut down tomorrow so they should never be relied upon as a single marketing channel for your business.
Please don’t put all your business eggs in one social basket.
We’ll be looking at social media in more depth in future articles and training but if you want a rough idea of the steps to getting started, it looks something like this:
- Take a quick look around each social website and get a feel for what it does.
- Set up accounts of the social media channels of your choice.
- Decide on a goal for your social media traffic.
- Create a plan for what content you want to share.
- Post content regularly.
- Review the statistics on your posts to see how the channel is helping your goal.
- Refine and repeat.
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