What Is Social Media Marketing: Strategy and Best Practices

September 22, 2019

What Is Social Media Marketing

Social media marketing is a central focus for organizations across the business spectrum today. Or at least, it should be. No matter your marketing objective — be it brand awareness, consideration, or conversions — a sound social media strategy will be instrumental in helping you achieve it.

Bridging this strategy to your goals and creating a sustainable social media marketing plan for growth is one of the most important steps a company can take. But doing so requires that you fully understand the lay of the land, the tactics that work, and the direction of emerging trends.

We’ve got you covered. Read on and enjoy a brisk crash-course in mastering social media marketing. You’ll find plenty of helpful links and resources along the way. 

Social Media Marketing 101: Your Complete Guide

What is Social Media Marketing?

Social media marketing is the practice of leveraging social media platforms to share content, build networks, and engage users with the goal of growing a brand or business. As the social landscape expands, this is an increasingly broad term with a vast range of practical applications.  

Generally, we find that social media marketing strategy breaks down into three phases: show, grow, and flow.

Show: Gaining visibility and awareness in the social space is an important first step toward driving bottom-line results for your brand. Building out your profiles, and establishing a consistent voice and cadence, will help get your company seen on social networks.

Grow: With baseline awareness measures in place, you can start to focus on growing your social media presence. Start using hashtags and joining relevant conversations. Increase your activity. Activate employees to speak on behalf of the brand.

Flow: Finally, you’ll want to develop a sustainable ongoing model to keep awareness, engagement, and conversions flowing continually. Test new social media marketing ideas while striking the right balance of paid and organic. Measure and optimize to maintain forward momentum. 

FREE GUIDE: Your Organic + Paid Playbook for LinkedIn

Before we get into the benefits and actionable aspects of developing a strategy around social media marketing, let’s first take a high-level look at the state of social and why it shouldn’t be on the backburner.

The Importance of Social Media Marketing Today

According to HootSuite, there are now roughly 3.5 billion social media users globally, accounting for nearly half the world’s population. In the past year, more than 1 million people have started using social media every day on average. 

The rationale is simple: If you want your brand to be present where your customers (and future customers) are, you need to be active on social media. The downsides of a marketing strategy that doesn’t deeply incorporate social media are self-evident: You’re missing an opportunity to get in front of people, making your brand less discoverable, and giving your competition a potentially substantial advantage. 

With that in mind, let’s turn our attention to the concrete benefits of investing in social media marketing.

Benefits of Social Media Marketing

The perks of a comprehensive social media marketing strategy are numerous, and can positively affect many different areas of your operation. 

  • Gain Awareness. Presences across multiple social channels create more opportunities for people to find and learn about your brand.
  • Distinguish Your Voice. Today’s customers want to do business with companies they know and trust. Your social accounts offer an opportunity to establish your brand’s personality and credibility, while forming a reputation for thought leadership in your niche.
  • Engage with Customers and Prospects. Through transparency and interaction, your brand becomes more accessible. This, again, contributes to the vital objectives of building trust and brand loyalty.
  • Increase Inbound Traffic. Sharing links to your website and landing pages will invariably direct more traffic to them, especially as you solidify your community and generate greater interest in your content.
  • Experimentation Grounds. Running campaigns and tests through social media can provide valuable data and feedback, helping guide your broader content strategy. The larger your following, the more substantive the sample.
  • Reporting and Research. Most social networks today offer robust analytics tools for brands and advertisers, helping you uncover valuable insights about your audience. LinkedIn Analytics, for instance, allow marketers to tap into a wealth of information about the professional demographics of members engaging with your brand (industry, seniority, job title, location, etc.).
  • Drive Conversions. Through both organic and paid campaigns, you can leverage social media to drive direct business results and bolster your pipeline. 
  • Improve Search Visibility. Activity across various social networks can increase your likelihood of being discovered via search. 

LEARN MORE: How To Boost the SEO of Your Organization's LinkedIn Page 

Social Media Marketing Statistics

There are endless social media statistics out there, but here’s a selection of items we find especially compelling when it comes to defining a social media marketing strategy, and focusing your efforts (especially those in B2B and high-consideration B2C spaces) on LinkedIn:

  1. Consumers rank social media as the No. 1 most influential source of purchase inspiration (Source)
  2. 50% of Gen Z and 42% of millennials site social as their most relevant ad channel (Source)
  3. Total social media ad spending in 2019 is expected to approach $100 billion, a 33% increase over 2018 (Source)
  4. 74% of consumers share video content from brands on social media (Source)
  5. 54% of social browsers use social media to research products (Source)
  6. 71% of customers who have good social media experiences with brands are likely to recommend that company to others (Source)
  7. 80% of B2B social media leads come from LinkedIn (Source)
  8. LinkedIn hosts a community of 630 million professionals, including 90 million senior-level influencers, 63 million decision makers, and 10 million C-level executives (Source)

LEARN MORE: 10 Surprising Stats You Didn’t Know about Marketing on LinkedIn [Infographic]

Developing a Roadmap for Social Media Marketing Strategy

Whether you’re starting from scratch or refining your approach, here’s a step-by-step guide to creating a social media marketing plan that covers all your bases and positions your company for long-term success.

Step 1: Define Your Social Media Marketing Objectives

The most important step in any journey is figuring out your destination. Without clear consensus around this pivotal matter, you’ll find it difficult to connect every action to a tangible outcome. What does your business hope to get out of its social media presence? Leads, relationships, awareness, influencer partnerships, talent acquisition? All of the above? Once you have a clear vision of your goals, you’ll be able to chart your path to reaching them.

LEARN MORE: Choosing the Best Objective for Your LinkedIn Ad Campaign

Step 2: Determine Your Channel and Tactical Mix

Which social media networks will you focus on? Based on the data referenced above, we feel confident in saying that LinkedIn should be a no-brainer for any B2B organization, and for most B2C companies as well. There are certainly merits to the other popular networks as well, but it’s not advisable to simply create accounts on every channel just for the sake of doing so. Through ample research, you’ll want to validate that your customers are active on every social network you include in your mix, and that it’s the proper context for engaging them. You’ll also want to ensure you can produce content that’s useful to members.

With your channels selected, you can identify a tactical mix. Striking a balance between paid and organic is essential. Within these foundations, you’ll want to align your content types (e.g., videos, original thought leadership, third-party article links, gated assets) with your objectives: awareness, lead generation, website traffic, etc.

FREE GUIDE: LinkedIn Content Marketing Tactical Plan

Step 3: Document Your Social Media Marketing Strategy

This step is too often overlooked, but it’s vital. Creating a documented strategy will embed a central source of truth for your team, providing a referential resource for everyone involved. This doc will help you stay continually in line with your goals while providing accountability to ensure everything gets done. The documentation process should include, among other things:

  • Objectives, channels, and tactics
  • Delegation of responsibilities
  • Brand guidelines
  • Editorial calendar

Step 4: Put Your Social Media Marketing Ideas into Motion

If your brand hasn’t been active on a particular social media platform before, all of your pre-planning and strategizing will necessarily involve a degree of (hopefully educated) guesswork. Only when you start publishing and engaging with people can you start to form conclusions about what’s resonating and driving results. Put your strategy into action and stay agile while remaining committed to your brand’s guidelines and values.

Step 5: Measure, Optimize, Repeat

Keep your social media strategy flowing and growing by closely monitoring your analytics, and making adjustments based on your results. Use A/B testing to pinpoint ad creative and calls-to-action that click. Consult your content performance to see what types of messaging and assets are most valuable to members. Dig into campaign demographics to better understand your audience, and align your content accordingly. (You can also use Website Demographics to gain professional insights around your website visitors.)

By staying fully attuned to your social media performance, you can make ongoing tweaks to keep growing and flowing in perpetuity.

LEARN MORE: How to Create an A/B Testing Strategy for Your LinkedIn Ads

Social Media Marketing Trends to Watch

In developing a future-proof strategy, you’ll want to keep an eye on social media marketing trends to make sure you’re positioned for what’s ahead. For example:

  • Think Mobile-First: Around 3.2 billion people around the world access social networks via mobile devices. Keep this in mind not only as you develop content for social feeds (make it succinct and punchy) but also when linking out to other content.
  • Focus on Video: Video content increasingly scores higher engagement on social feeds compared to static text and imagery, so it’s wise to incorporate this format into your content strategy. LinkedIn video ads are seeing excellent performance. 
  • Get Down with UGC: Interacting with your audience and monitoring brand mentions on social media can yield great opportunities for user-generated content, which your company can leverage (with the creator’s permission) in the form of authentic social proof. 
  • Engage Your Employees. One of the best ways to increase the reach and impact of your social media marketing efforts is through employee advocacy — activating your team to share content and evangelize on behalf of the brand. The key is to create excitement around this initiative so it’s not a burden or obligation. LinkedIn Elevate can facilitate this on our platform.

Show, Grow, Flow: Build an Unstoppable Social Media Marketing Strategy

A data-driven, customer-centric social media marketing strategy is an integral component of any modern marketing mix. By understanding the landscape, thinking through your plan, engaging all stakeholders, and committing to a consistent schedule will help ensure your business is taking full advantage of all the social media world — with its billions of inhabitants — has to offer.

Ready to get your social media marketing strategy rolling in the right direction? Create an ad on LinkedIn and start testing.