All you need to know about social media marketing

Looking to fine-tune your social media marketing strategy?

Good! Now’s the perfect time to make it happen.

In a landscape with more competition, content and networks than ever, a succinct strategy gives you the focus needed to say “no” to efforts that don’t serve your goals. That’s why we put together a comprehensive guide to creating a social media marketing plan from scratch.

What is social media marketing?

Social media marketing means using social media platforms like Instagram, Twitter and Facebook to promote your brand and sell your product or service.

If your business comes out with a new item and you plan to promote the launch on social media, that’s social media marketing. If you interact with your customers via comments, that’s social media marketing. And if you create engaging content that showcases your brand’s values and story, that’s social media marketing too.

This form of marketing requires you to use social media management skills and tools. Just as you prepare other aspects of your marketing strategy, you need to have a plan for your social media marketing.

Now that we’ve defined social media marketing, let’s walk through how to create a plan.

Set goals that make sense for your business

Social media strategy planning starts with your goals.

According to the 2021 Sprout Social Index™, the most common goals for social are increasing brand awareness (58%) and increasing community engagement (41%). And these goals are still very relevant to social media teams going into 2023, especially as they face new challenges.

The 2022 Sprout Social Index™ reports the top challenges for social media teams include finding talent, proving ROI, social execution, resourcing and using social as a business function. Brands are already setting goals and frameworks to conquer these obstacles in 2023.

Sprout Social Index™ infographic showing social media teams' biggest challenges

Whether you want to expand your team, build a larger following or a more active community, taking the time to define your social goals is the first step to reaching them.

Either way, your goals will define your social media marketing strategy and how much time and energy you’ll need to dedicate to your campaigns.

Example social media goals for 2023 and beyond

What really matters is that you set realistic social media goals.

Emphasis on “realistic”. We recommend tackling smaller objectives that allow you to scale your social efforts in a way that’s both reasonable and affordable.

Below are some example social media marketing goals that businesses of all shapes and sizes can pursue.

Goal example 1: Increase brand awareness

This means getting your name out there. To create authentic and lasting brand awareness, avoid solely publishing promotional messages. Instead, focus on content that emphasizes your personality and values first.

 

Goal example 2: Generate leads and sales

Whether online, in-store or directly through your social profiles, followers don’t make purchases by accident. Social media gives you an avenue to generate revenue. For example, are you alerting customers about new products and promos? Are you integrating your product catalog into your social profiles? Are you running exclusive deals for followers?

 

Goal example 3: Grow your brand’s audience

Bringing new followers into the fold means finding ways to introduce your brand to folks who haven’t heard of you before.

Growing your audience also means discovering conversations around your business and industry that matter the most. Digging through your social channels is nearly impossible without monitoring or listening for specific keywords, phrases or hashtags. Having a pulse on these conversations helps you expand your core audience (and reach adjacent audiences) much faster.

Screenshot of Sprout's related keywords and hashtags dashboard

Goal example 4: Boost community engagement

Social media is all about engagement, so it pays to explore new ways to grab the attention of your current followers.

Sprout Social’s 2022 Index™ report shows consumers want to see content that highlights a brand’s products, services and personality, and customer testimonials.

Sprout Social Index™ infographic highlighting the types of content consumers want to see on social from brands

This means companies need to experiment with messaging and content. For example, does your brand promote user-generated content and hashtags?

Even something as simple as asking a question can increase your engagement rate. Your customers can be your best cheerleaders, but only if you’re giving them a reason to do so.

Goal example 5: Drive traffic to your site

Simple enough. If you’re laser-focused on generating leads or traffic to your website, social media can make it happen. Whether through promotional posts or social ads, keeping an eye on conversions and URL clicks can help you better determine your ROI from social media.

Any combination of these goals is fair game and can help you better understand which networks to tackle, too. When in doubt, keep your social media marketing strategy simple rather than complicating it with too many objectives that might distract you. Pick one or two and rally your team around them.

Research your target audience and select your networks

Making assumptions is bad news for marketers.

Some 60% of organizations use social data daily, according to the 2022 Sprout Social Index™. Both leaders and practitioners can take advantage of the valuable insights social data provides.

Sprout Social Index™ infographic showing how often organizations use social data

Much of what you need to know about your audience to influence your social media marketing strategy is already available. You just have to know where to look.

With the right tool, marketers can quickly research their audience. No formal market research or data science chops necessary.

Remember: different platforms attract different audiences

Take today’s social media demographics, for example. These numbers speak directly to which networks your brand should approach and what types of content to publish. Here are some key takeaways for your 2023 social media marketing strategy:

  • Facebook and YouTube are both prime places for ads due in part to their high-earning user bases.
  • According to the 2022 Sprout Social Index™, 71% of consumers and 65% of marketers plan on using Facebook the most in the next year. YouTube follows behind with 51% of consumers and 35% of marketers planning to use the platform.
  • The top social networks among Millennials and Gen Z are Instagram and YouTube, signaling the strength of bold, eye-popping content that oozes with personality.
  • Women make up more than 60% of Pinterest’s global audience.
  • LinkedIn’s user base is well-educated, making it a hub for in-depth, industry-specific content that might be more niche than what you see on Facebook or Twitter.
  • Consumers in the United States spend the most time on TikTok. And some 73% of users feel a deeper connection to brands they interact with on TikTok vs other platforms.

Demographics like the ones above are great for understanding where your target audience lives, but it’s also important to understand the nuances of each social network so you can decide where your business needs to be.

Bigger brands with large customer bases tend to have presences across multiple platforms. Giants like McDonald’s and Starbucks obviously have the resources to be everywhere at once, but what if you’re a mid-size or small business?

For the sake of narrowing down where you should spend your time, below is a quick overview of each of the major social platforms:

Twitter

Simple and straightforward, Twitter is a solid starting point for most businesses. Requiring minimal setup and providing a place to go back and forth with followers directly, there’s a reason why Twitter remains the go-to platform for customer service. If you’re trying to master the social media marketing basics of hashtags, tagging, brand voice and social media etiquette, look no further.

 

Facebook

Facebook is a must-have for brick-and-mortar businesses looking to target local customers. Allowing for check-ins and reviews, it’s a prime place to grow a dedicated local following. Plus, they have an incredible chatbot functionality that can take your customer service and marketing campaigns to the next level.

The platform’s recent algorithm change has made it difficult for some businesses to grow their Pages and stay in touch with fans consistently. That said, Facebook’s ad platform is the gold standard for social media ads because it can help businesses cut through the noise and algorithm changes.

 

Instagram

At its core, Instagram is a network centered around visual content. A major hub for brick-and-mortar businesses, e-commerce shops and influencers alike, the platform encourages brands to get creative.  From eye-popping photos to clever captions, it’s all about finding unique ways to show off what you’re selling.

 

LinkedIn

LinkedIn is a network laser-focused on business trends and networking. It’s a goldmine, especially for anyone networking in the B2B space. Looking to get in touch with an influencer, marketing manager or CEO? Chances are you can find them here.

Example LinkedIn profile

Pinterest

This visual pinning platform is insanely popular with Millennials and is noted to be one of the best networks for social selling. Like Instagram, Pinterest thrives on imagery and inspirational content where products serve as the proverbial centerpiece.

Screenshot of Sprouts Farmers Market Pinterest profile

YouTube

Although some might not regard YouTube as a traditional social network, the platform’s active and engaged community speaks for itself. Considering that video represents the top-performing type of content across nearly every social network, YouTube is a great place to house your videos if you’re already producing them.

TikTok

TikTok reached 1 billion users in September 2021, making it the internet’s newest social media darling. Along with its viral trends and niche communities, the short-form video app is known for its hyper-personalized algorithm that keeps users scrolling for hours. TikTok marketing has changed the game for brands, allowing them to connect with customers in an entirely new way.

 

Picking networks for your social media marketing strategy

There are over 15 social media platforms your brand can use, but don’t spread yourself too thin. Rather than try to dominate them all, you should consider which platforms make the most sense based on your industry and target audience.

Do your homework on your existing social media audience and focus on networks where your core audience is already active. Further analysis needs to be done before you can determine what your real-world social customers actually look like.

That’s why many brands use a social media dashboard that provides an overview of who’s following you and how they interact with you on each channel.

For example, Sprout’s Analytics Dashboard puts your audience demographics front and center. It highlights which social networks see the most activity, helping you ensure you spend your time on the right networks. You can also use analytics to determine if you should create a new social media account.

With Sprout’s Group Report, you can view Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and Pinterest data side-by-side in a customizable format that’s exportable by date range and profile.

Sprout Social's Group Report

There are plenty of other sources of valuable audience data to supplement your social media insights. This includes your Google and email analytics, your CRM, your customer service platform or even your best-selling products.

All of the above will ultimately influence everything from your marketing messaging to how you’ll approach customer service or social commerce.

Establish your most important metrics and KPIs

No matter your goals or industry, your social media strategy should be data-driven.

That means focusing on the social media metrics that matter. Rather than focus on vanity metrics, dig into data that aligns directly with your goals.

What metrics are we talking about? Check out the breakdown below:

  • Reach. Post reach is the number of unique users who saw your post. How much of your content actually reaches users’ feeds?
  • Clicks. This is the number of clicks on your content or account. Tracking clicks per campaign is essential to understand what drives curiosity or encourages people to buy.
  • Engagement. The total number of social interactions divided by the number of impressions. This sheds light on how well your audience perceives you and their willingness to interact.
  • Hashtag performance. What were your most-used hashtags? Which hashtags were most associated with your brand? Having these answers can help shape the focus of your content going forward.
  • Organic and paid likes. Beyond a standard Like count, these interactions are attributed to paid or organic content. Given how much harder organic engagement is to gain, many brands turn to ads. Knowing these differences can help you budget both your ad spend and the time you invest in different formats.
  • Sentiment. This is the measurement of how users react to your content, brand or hashtag. Did customers find your recent campaign offensive? What type of sentiment do people associate with your campaign hashtag? It’s always better to dig deeper and find out how people talk or feel about your brand.
Sprout Social Sentiment Summary dashboard
  • Views. This data point measures video views, but different platforms have different requirements for it. For example, Facebook and LinkedIn count a view when a user watches a video for at least three seconds. From the popularity of TikTok to live streaming, video is taking the internet by storm, so familiarize yourself with social video engagement metrics if you plan on using it in your strategy.

An effective social media marketing strategy is rooted in numbers. That said, those numbers need to be put into a context that aligns with your original goals. Conduct analytics reports regularly to convey the story behind the metrics and see if your efforts match up to your vision.

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