Understanding How Businesses Use Social Media for Marketing

Social media has transformed the marketing landscape, evolving from a space for personal communication to a hub for businesses to connect with their target audience. With billions of users across various platforms, social media has become a required platform for companies looking to promote their brand, engage with customers, and drive sales. In this blog post, we will delve into how businesses use social media for marketing, highlighting specific strategies and platforms that play a crucial role in this digital age.

A business person using social media to market their business.

The Rise of Social Media in Marketing

Social media marketing has grown exponentially over the last decade and has become a central part of marketing strategies for businesses of all sizes. With close to 5 billion active users across various platforms, social media provides a vast audience ready to engage with brands. Indeed, as of 2023, over 90% of businesses use social media for marketing1,2. The visual, interactive, and personalized nature of social media provides businesses with unparalleled opportunities to connect with their audience meaningfully and in real-time, making it an essential component of modern marketing.

Key Social Media Platforms for Businesses

Finding the right social media platforms for a business is crucial so it can optimize its digital marketing efforts. Each platform is a unique venue, offering diverse ways to connect with different audiences and build brand loyalty. The key differentiator is the age of the audiences and the difference in age groups (see image below). By strategizing and tailoring content to suit each platform’s strengths, audience types, and user preferences, businesses can enhance their online presence. Understanding the offerings of these platforms is key to unlocking their full potential and ensuring a robust and effective approach to social media marketing.

Facebook: With over 2.8 billion monthly active users, Facebook is a powerhouse for community building, customer service, and targeted advertising. Businesses utilize Facebook Ads to reach specific demographics, while Facebook Groups provide a space for fostering community and engagement. Facebook usually comprises older audiences (i.e., 50+) with lower digital skills and sophistication. Facebook can be leveraged to advertise image and video heavy advertising and promotion for personal and lifestyle business offerings like insurance, health and wellness, real estate, and investments, among many others.

Instagram: Known for its visual appeal, Instagram is perfect for brands and businesses with strong visual content. We cannot underestimate the power of images on Instagram. If your business (or brand doesn’t have unique, well-edited photos and videos, then Instagram will not be a successful platform for you. We cannot understate this enough. If you are taking pictures yourself, make sure to use the back of your phone (where the cameras are more quality). If you have a decent budget, consider hiring a professional photographer. Conversely, authentic pictures that are more on the lo-fi end can be helpful as they demonstrate authenticity and build trust. As your business builds its Instagram presence, consider utilizing influencers, creating engaging stories, and promoting targeted ads can significantly boost your brand’s awareness and presence.

An Instagram grid that uses images well.
When using Instagram, ensure you have excellent imagery, as this grid shows. High-quality images will encourage higher engagement. Source: https://www.instagram.com/wfmft/

X: Formerly known as X Twitter, it excels in real-time engagement, allowing businesses to disseminate news, handle customer service inquiries, and participate in trending topics. Since X allows rapid promotion of branded content and offers quick customer service avenues, it should be used strategically to build a trusted community. Sometimes, businesses rush too quickly, with Twitter which can lead to brand damage if businesses are not controlling the messaging. Using keyword targeting in Twitter Ads, implementing relevant hashtags, and creating a strong profile bio are just a few of the effective and unique ways to enhance brand visibility and client engagement. 

LinkedIn: As the premier B2B social media platform, LinkedIn is essential for networking, lead generation, and establishing thought leadership. Boasting over 900 million users (primarily professionals, a notable amount of people in decision-making positions), the platform’s business-oriented audience not only facilitates faster conversions (as people are there to conduct business, after all) but also possesses double the purchasing power of average web traffic. This makes it a lucrative space for B2B marketers, with over 80% of their social media leads originating from LinkedIn. Engaging with the right network is crucial, and the credibility and authenticity that LinkedIn offers are above and beyond many other social platforms. Engaging in discussions and connecting with industry influencers can further amplify a brand’s presence and credibility. Moreover, for small businesses, involving employees in promoting the business on their profiles can significantly enhance visibility and foster organic growth.

Snapchat: Snapchat claims over 350 million active users, especially those businesses aiming to engage the Gen Z demographic and planning to engage subsequent generations (e.g., Gen Alpha). Most of Snapchat’s users are in the 15 to 25 age group, so it’s important to consider this when creating digital marketing strategies. Snapchat is one of the leaders in augmented reality (AR) tools, which present novel marketing opportunities for businesses (AR is projected to be worth $461 billion in the next few years). For businesses aiming to connect with an older demographic, platforms like LinkedIn or Facebook might be more appropriate. In any case, targeted and segmented strategies are the rule, not the exception.

TikTok: TikTok is a rapidly growing social media platform. Notably, it has achieved a monumental user count faster than giants like Instagram and Facebook, boasting over 3 billion downloads. Most users are highly engaged, spending an average of 56 minutes daily on the platform. Known for its short-form mobile videos, the platform has expanded its video duration to a maximum of 10 minutes as of March 2022. The app is especially popular among the younger generation, with 39% of its users aged between 18 and 24. Its global reach span is impressive, reaching over 150 countries. While it has attracted major brands (e.g., Nike, Skittles, Pepsi) to advertise on the platform, the defining characteristic of TikTok is its emphasis on genuine, authentic content that has minimal production associated with it (e.g., over-polished content is not popular). Businesses interested in engaging an audience on this platform should start with the branded (i.e., company) channel, collaborate with influencers, initiate hashtag challenges, and utilize various advertising options like in-feed ads and branded hashtag challenges.

A graph showing the use of different social media platforms across time.
Each social media platform has a different audience type. As we can see, demographics segment social media use. When promoting your brand, product, or service, leverage the segmentation possibilities of social media platforms. Adapted from the Pew Research Center.

15 Strategies for Effective Social Media Marketing

Crafting an effective social media marketing strategy is crucial for long-term business growth. However, it does require a multi-channel and multi-effort approach by leveraging analytics, creativity that is specific to each platform, and, of course, consistent engagement. By understanding your specific market (and any associated market), understanding your audiences, and utilizing the unique opportunities of each social media platform, businesses can optimize their online presence and achieve remarkable results.

Let’s explore 15 strategies to help you refine your social media marketing plan.

  1. Content Marketing
    Content Marketing involves creating and sharing material (e.g., blogs, infographics, charts, images, videos, etc.) that is not explicitly promotional but is intended to stimulate interest in a brand’s products or services. Indeed, the more you can create content that promotes less but converts anyway, the better (this is the skill of highly competent content writers). Engaging and relevant content helps businesses establish a strong and trustworthy connection with their audience. As the use of videos and live streaming continues to rise, brands have the opportunity to capture their users’ attention in a multi-modal fashion. In other words, with video, you can tap two senses (e.g., hearing and vision) while, at the same time, creating representations (e.g., mental imagery) inside the user’s brain. This is a powerful promotional tool from a psychological and cognitive functioning perspective. Live streaming adds an instantaneous (i.e., “real-time”) urgency, fostering a stronger sense of connection and engagement. Content marketing, when approached from the “non-promotional” perspective, ensures that the audience builds a strong connection to the brand so that other channels (e.g., promoting the brand’s message) are conveyed in an effective manner, tailored to suit the characteristics (e.g., behaviors, interests, incomes, etc.) of their target audience.

  2. Advertising
    Advertising on social media enables businesses to extend their reach far beyond their existing audience. By investing in paid ads and sponsored content, companies can target specific demographics, interests, behaviors, and income levels (among other parameters), ensuring their message reaches the right people at the right time. This precision in targeting can lead to higher conversion rates and a better return on investment. When creating the ad copy, the visuals must be compelling, and the written copy must be compelling. Experimentation is the key here; being comfortable with allocating a certain portion of your budget for testing (i.e., being ready to burn some money) is crucial in creating ads that capture attention and encourage action. For any advertising effort, analytics must be properly configured and tested. All businesses should have a firm understanding of basic tracking (e.g., cost of acquisition, return on ad spend). When you know what type of leads are closing a deal, you can retarget, remarket, and engage in other advertising tactics to increase profit.

  3. Community Building
    Building a community around a brand can lead to increased customer loyalty and advocacy. By participating in groups and forums and engaging directly with customers on social media, brands can foster a sense of belonging and trust that comes with belonging to a community. This type of direct engagement not only helps in building a loyal following but also provides valuable insights into customer preferences and behavior, enabling businesses to tailor their products and services accordingly. A dedicated community manager who is expert in your business and its services and products is needed, to make sure you have the right people on your team.

  4. Influencer Marketing
    Influencer marketing involves collaborating with individuals who have a significant following on social media. These people have built a business by offering brands the opportunity to “advertise” on their channels. When choosing an influence, it’s important to ensure that this person has an audience and social platform relevant to your business.  By establishing relationships with these influencers and brand ambassadors, brands can extend their reach exponentially, tapping into new audiences. Influencers provide authenticity and credibility, and their endorsement can significantly influence their followers’ purchasing decisions.

  5. User-Generated Content
    Encouraging customers to create and share their own content related to a brand is a powerful way to build authenticity and trust. Whether it’s through contests, challenges, or simply sharing customer reviews and testimonials, user-generated content provides social proof and helps to build a community around the brand. This type of content is perceived as more genuine and authentic and can have a significant impact on potential customers’ perceptions and actions.   
      
  6. Analytics and Insights
    Utilizing social media analytics tools (i.e., on-platform analytics tools like Facebook analytics) enables businesses to track their performance, from engagement rates to reach and conversion. Conducting A/B testing (or multivariate testing) on different types of content will shed light on what resonates best with the audience, allowing for constant refinement and improvement of strategies. Ensure your social media pixels are properly configured, as these insights are crucial for making data-driven decisions and ensuring the brand’s social media presence is optimized for success and growth.

  7. SEO and Web Traffic
    Posting links to a business’s website through social media enhances discoverability and drives traffic to the website. Optimizing these shares for keywords and ensuring the content is shareable can significantly impact a website’s search engine rankings. Subsequently, when users use these keywords to search for a specific business, the business’s SEO is affected positively. When content is frequently shared, this can send a positive signal to search engines that your content is authoritative. Utilizing social media to boost SEO efforts ensures that the brand remains visible and easily accessible to potential customers.

  8. Customer Service
    Providing support and addressing customer inquiries through social media is now an expectation (and contributes to community building – see above). Responding promptly to comments and direct messages helps in building trust and ensuring customer satisfaction. Additionally, using social media to collect feedback enables businesses to continuously improve their products and services based on customers’ needs and preferences. When your business creates a top-notch customer experience, all other marketing efforts will be improved.

  9. Brand Awareness
    Maintaining a consistent, seamless brand image across all social media platforms is crucial in building brand awareness. We cannot understate this enough: every type of content (regardless of the platform or channel) must be in line with the brand (the parlance in marketing is “on brand”). To maintain and grow brand awareness, participating in trending topics and utilizing relevant hashtags ensures that the brand remains part of the broader conversation, increasing visibility and reach. This consistent and broad presence helps keep the brand top-of-mind among potential customers.

  10. Loyalty and Retention
    Promoting loyalty programs and offering exclusive deals to social media followers fosters a sense of loyalty and encourages repeat business (and further builds community). These offers not only incentivize purchases but also help build a community of advocates who are more likely to share their positive experiences with their own networks. Nothing closes a deal better than a referral from a loyal customer. Loyalty and retention programs give businesses the best chance to create these types of relationships.

  11. Sales and Conversions
    Utilizing in-app shopping features on platforms like Instagram and Facebook, as well as building anticipation for new products through teasers and sneak peeks, can have a direct impact on sales. These features make the purchasing process more seamless and accessible, encouraging conversions. Additionally, social media users can quickly spread the word about your products and services when you use in-app shopping features.

  12. Education and Thought Leadership
    Sharing educational content, hosting webinars, and providing valuable insights positions a brand as an industry leader and a trusted source of information. This not only enhances the brand’s credibility but also helps in building a relationship with the audience based on value and trust. We highly encourage the creation of curated and original content; with the rise of AI, it’s very easy to make content that is not unique. Be careful.

  13. Event Promotion
    Utilizing social media to promote upcoming events and providing live updates during events enhances engagement and ensures a broader reach. This real-time interaction adds an interactive element to events, encouraging participation and fostering a sense of community. The goal is to be top-of-mind while expanding your audience base through increased reach.

  14. Employee Advocacy
    Encouraging employees to share behind-the-scenes content and highlighting their stories adds a human touch to the brand. This internal advocacy helps build authenticity and provides a glimpse into the company’s culture, which can appeal to potential customers and future employees. When your customers know that the company cares about its employees and has a culture that resonates with them, the chances of business growth increase in a durable manner.

  15. Crisis Management
    In times of crisis, providing real-time updates and addressing issues directly and proactively on social media is crucial. This transparency helps manage the brand’s reputation and shows that the company is committed to resolving any issues and maintaining trust among its audience. No one is perfect. Your company will make mistakes, and demonstrating that to your audience will build long-lasting relationships.

 

Benefits of Using Social Media for Marketing

Using social media for marketing offers numerous benefits for businesses, including increased brand awareness, direct customer engagement, traffic generation, and lead generation. It provides a platform for businesses to establish a direct line of communication with their audience, nurturing relationships and driving conversions. This not only helps in building a loyal customer base but also contributes significantly to the overall business growth and success. Through consistent interaction and engagement, businesses can better understand their customers’ needs, leading to improved products and services and, ultimately, a more robust market presence.

Increased Brand Awareness: Social media channels offer businesses a platform to showcase their brand to a global audience in a niche manner (i.e., each social media platform has a specific audience). By creating compelling, relevant content and engaging with the audience in a targeted manner, companies can enhance their visibility and make a durable impression. For instance, regularly updating your Facebook page and participating in numerous conversations related to your industry can help keep your brand top-of-mind among consumers.

Direct Customer Engagement: Social media lowers the barrier to direct communication with customers. Through direct interaction, businesses can respond to customer queries, address issues, and build engaging rapport with their audience. This two-way communication engenders trust and helps build a loyal customer base. Additionally, this engagement can provide valuable insights into customer preferences and behavior, enabling businesses to tailor their offerings and marketing strategies accordingly.

Traffic Generation: Sharing content on social media channels that links back to your website can drive a significant amount of high-quality traffic. This is especially effective when content goes viral, as the large volume of shares can lead to an exponential increase in website visits. Ensuring that your content is shareable, includes a call-to-action, and links back to your website is crucial in maximizing traffic generation.

Lead Generation: Social media platforms provide businesses with various tools to generate leads. For instance, Facebook Ads offers lead generation campaigns where users can submit their information without leaving the platform (i.e., native lead generation). These campaigns can be built based on life events (e.g., a recent move or the birth of a child). This simplified lead generation process makes it easier for businesses to collect information and for consumers to express interest in their products or services.

Best Practices and Tips

To maximize the impact of social media marketing, businesses must stay updated with best practices as these are constantly changing and evolving. This includes understanding your audience, creating a consistent posting schedule, utilizing relevant imagery, and engaging with your followers through community management. Addressing common challenges, such as handling negative comments and managing time effectively, will ensure a smooth and successful social media marketing journey.

Understanding Your Audience: Knowing who your audience is, what they are interested in, and how they engage with social media is fundamental. Social media analytics tools can provide insights into your audience’s demographics, behavior, and preferences.

Consistent Posting Schedule: Maintaining a regular posting schedule ensures that your brand stays visible and engaged with your audience. Tools like Hootsuite or Buffer can help schedule posts across various platforms, ensuring consistency.

Utilizing Visuals: Visual content tends to perform better on social media. Incorporating images, videos, and infographics can capture your audience’s attention and enhance engagement.

Engaging with Your Followers: Responding to comments and messages and engaging with the content your audience creates and posts helps build a community and fosters loyalty. Taking the time to acknowledge your followers’ engagement shows that your brand values its customers, enhancing your reputation.

Handling Negative Comments: Addressing negative comments in a professional and timely manner can turn a potential crisis into an opportunity to showcase your dedication to customer service.

Time Management: Social media marketing can be time-consuming. Utilizing tools for scheduling posts and monitoring engagement can help manage your time effectively.

Future Trends in Social Media Marketing

The digital landscape is constantly shifting, and with social media at the forefront of many marketing strategies, businesses must stay ahead to remain relevant and effective. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is becoming increasingly significant, transforming customer service through chatbots and optimizing ad placements with sophisticated algorithms.

Simultaneously, social commerce is experiencing a rise, particularly on platforms like Instagram and Facebook, where shopping features are seamlessly integrated. This trend allows businesses to streamline the purchasing process for their customers, creating a more user-friendly experience.

Authenticity and transparency capture consumers’ attention, who demand genuine brand communication. Companies that embrace transparency in their interactions foster trust and build stronger, more resilient relationships with their audience.

As far as content type is concerned, video continues to reign supreme, with live streaming becoming an indispensable tool for real-time audience engagement. This interactive experience holds the audience’s attention and can be a potent tool for brands looking to establish a genuine connection with their audience.

Ephemeral content, such as stories that vanish after a short period, is capturing the attention of social media users, offering a fresh and engaging way to interact with content. This format is particularly useful for time-sensitive promotions and encourages more active participation from the audience.

Furthermore, there is an increasing demand for inclusive and socially conscious content, as consumers expect brands to take a stance on social issues and champion inclusivity (e.g., DEI marketing). Companies that align their messaging with these values and communicate transparently with their audience are finding a stronger resonance with their consumers.

By integrating these trends into their social media marketing strategy (while paying attention to future trends not listed here), businesses can ensure they remain competitive, resonate with their audience, and continue to thrive in the ever-evolving digital age.

Eager to transform your brand’s digital presence and forge meaningful connections with your audience? Social media marketing could be your golden ticket. Implement these strategies and watch your business grow on these platforms. If you’re unsure where to start, we’ve got your back. Get in touch with our expert team. We’re here to assist you in navigating the social media landscape, crafting compelling content, and optimizing your strategies for unparalleled success.

  1. Dencheva, Valentina. “Social Media Platforms Used by Marketers Worldwide 2023.” Statista, www.statista.com, 27 Sept. 2023, www.statista.com/statistics/259379/social-media-platforms-used-by-marketers-worldwide/.
  2. How Many Businesses Use Social Media 2022: Social Media for Business Statistics. 10 Jan. 2022, www.businessdit.com/social-media-for-business-statistics/.

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