Social media marketing allows business owners to target specific demographics. Unlike traditional forms of advertising (e.g., television, radio, billboards, direct mail, etc.), marketing on social media is significantly more quantifiable and effective.
This can allow businesses to:
- Generate more leads
- Increase sales and revenue
- Engage directly with specific audiences
- Improve their brand image
In this guide, we examine what social media marketing is, why you should do it, and what social media platforms you should use.
What Is Social Media Marketing?
Social media marketing refers to the use of social media platforms to advertise a business’s products and/or services. This is generally done by:
- Posting images
- Posting videos
- Providing textual updates
- Communicating with customers through comment sections
One of the biggest benefits of social media marketing is that it allows business owners to target specific demographics, meaning they can include or exclude them based on their:
- Social media activity
This can allow businesses to obtain a much higher return on investment (ROI) in comparison to traditional marketing methods — such as billboards, television advertising, or radio — as business owners can choose to show advertisements to audiences who are interested in their products only.
Best Social Media Platforms to Use for Marketing
The best social media platform for your business will depend on your:
- Marketing goals
All in all, you will want to choose the platform that is the best fit for your business.
For example, consider what your key demographic is. If you want to advertise your products and/or services to young audiences, Instagram or Snapchat may be a good platform for you because of their predominantly young population. On the other hand, a business advertising business-to-business (B2B) or business recruitment services may choose to advertise on LinkedIn.
Since the largest benefit of social media marketing is its ability to provide targeted advertising, you need to ensure that you pick a platform whose audience is reflective of your demographic.
If you are unsure about what social media platform hosts your “type” of customer, consider getting this information through the social media sites that you are already using. For example, Facebook allows its business users to detail their ideal customers and get an estimated audience size automatically.
Additional considerations that you will want to take when choosing your social media platform(s) include:
The Types of Posts You Will Be Making
This is because some social media platforms are tailored towards specific types of content (e.g., Instagram with photos). You need to consider what type of content will resonate better with your target audience and make an informed decision about which platform is best suited for that specific content.
The types of content you will be making could include:
- Blog posts
- Live streams
Your Social Media Marketing Campaign Goals
Knowing what you aim to achieve through your social media marketing is critical because it can allow you to determine what content you will be making.
Even though these may overlap, you should decide whether you want to:
- Generate more leads
- Generate more engagement
- Increase your sales
- Increase your conversions (e.g., to your website)
- Increase traffic
- Improve your brand image
Whereas a simple sponsored photo may be sufficient for generating more engagement, other goals — including increased conversions and sales — may require you to make affiliate content.
An ecommerce business selling physical products remotely may opt for collection ads as a reassurance of quality if they are aiming to increase their sales.
Once you have established your business’s goals, understood what types of posts you will be making, and determined your customer demographic’s preferred social media platform, you will be able to make an informed choice in regards to which platform is better for your brand.
Instagram advertising can provide many benefits for businesses. This is because — similarly to its parent company Facebook — it allows business owners to market to their chosen demographics exclusively.
Instagram’s users are predominantly young adults, however, with 32.1% of male users being within the ages of 18 and 34. This is 29.9% when it comes to females.
Ultimately, this means that Instagram may not be a good choice for your business if you want to target older demographics (e.g., caregiver services, hearing aid providers, etc.).
Our Instagram Resources:
- The History of Instagram
- How Instagram Ads Work
- How Instagram Influencers Make Money
- How to Get Verified on Instagram
- Should I Start an LLC for My Instagram Business?
Facebook is by far the largest platform, with an estimated 2.91 billion monthly users as of 2021. It is also the most diverse when it comes to age, hosting the largest amount of older demographics among the most popular social media providers (i.e., Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Linkedin, Youtube, etc.).
Facebook is great for:
- Generating leads
- Driving sales
- Building customer relationships
- Providing customer service and receiving feedback
- Targeting specific audiences
Keep in mind that Facebook’s prominence inevitably means that it will come with a few disadvantages as well. For example, its exceptionally large active user base will mean that you will face increased competition on the platform from competitors in your industry.
This may decrease the effectiveness of your ads.
Our Facebook Resources:
Linkedin is generally considered to be the best advertising platform for B2B services, as well as for businesses that want to generate leads (e.g., recruitment agencies).
As an authoritative website, LinkedIn can be an ideal platform for companies that want to:
- Post editorial content
- Improve their brand image
- Engage in professional conversations
LinkedIn can also be a great choice if your targeted customer base is older adults. This is because the social media platform has more users between the ages of 30 and 49 than they have under the age of 30.
Our LinkedIn Resources:
Advertising on YouTube can include several advantages for your business. These include:
- Targeted marketing
- Increased cost-effectiveness
- Increased engagement through long explanatory videos
- Great analytics
YouTube also hosts 1.86 billion users as of 2021, meaning it can be great for reaching diverse audiences.
Since YouTube is inherently video-based, the platform is a strong option for businesses with products of a novel nature whose customers may benefit from watching an in-depth explainer video.
Our YouTube Resources:
- 7 Youtube Videos Your Small Business Needs to Create
- Business Insurance for Youtubers
- Best YouTube Channel Logo Ideas
- Why Start an LLC for Your YouTube Channel?
Twitter is generally used for company announcements that require a certain level of imminency.
This could relate to:
- Breaking news
- New product announcements
- Important messages or feedback responses
For example, you may announce important advertising material that you posted on other social media platforms on Twitter to increase your engagement.
From an age demographic standpoint, the vast majority of Twitter users are between the ages of 25 and 34 (38.5%), making it a great platform for businesses interested in advertising to young adults.
It also has a larger over-50 population in comparison to other social media platforms (17.1%), which once again makes it a strong option for announcing adversarial content on a range of platforms — all of which may have different age demographics.
Our Twitter Resources:
The Best Strategies for Social Media Marketing
There are a few strategies that you should keep in mind when advertising your products and/or services on social media in order to resonate with your target audience as much as possible.
Use Social Media to Boost Organic Growth
You do not have to rely exclusively on sponsored posts or stories on social media. Some platforms (e.g., Instagram, Facebook, etc.) allow their users to “boost” existing content.
This can be a powerful tool when used in conjunction with sponsored advertisements, as it allows businesses to advertise posts that are already doing well with their consumers.
Unlike traditional advertising methods, boosting a social media post is very “safe” because users are pre-emptively told how many users their post will reach based on the capital that they allocate.
Test Your Adversarial Content
Before launching a new ad or sponsored post, make sure that you test it using A/B testing.
This can ensure that you optimize the:
- Layout of your ad
- Target audience of your ad
- Type of ad you chose
Over time, you will be able to run different types of ads on several different social media platforms and use site analytics to determine what performs best for your brand.
Make Your Posts Eye-Catching
This is particularly important for platforms such as Facebook and Instagram, where sponsored posts are generally expected to be accompanied by at least one video or photograph (unlike with Twitter or LinkedIn).
You will want your ads to be as succinct and professional-looking as possible and avoid any fluff or unnecessary points that will “bore” your prospective customers.
Utilize Platform Analytics
This is one of the largest advantages of advertising through a social media platform since most have on-site website analytics tools that can help business owners track the effectiveness of each ad.
This can allow you to:
- Remain efficient
- Make reasonable adjustments
- Target the right audiences
- Avoid wasting capital on ineffective ads
Build a Community for Your Customers
This point may be a bit more difficult to carry out, but it is essential.
You should ensure that your posts always follow your brand’s “voice.” Building a personality (e.g., by introducing humor or emotions into your social media posts) can increase your brand loyalty and ensure that prospective consumers do not lose interest in your business.
Building an inclusive community can be done by following these steps:
- Ask for feedback from your customers
- Interact with your users directly (e.g., reply to any comments or posts left on your profile)
- Incentivize consumers to interact with you directly (e.g., by liking or commenting on your posts)
Use Brand Advocates
Using brand advocates can be a great choice if you are an ecommerce business selling products entirely remotely.
This is because brand advocates can reassure prospective customers of your brand’s:
Brand advocates may be clients, but they do not have to be. If you want to use your employees as your brand advocates, ensure you:
- Create an internal brand advocacy plan
- Tell your employees their roles and responsibilities
- Track your progress: This can ensure you implement any required changes quickly
Determine Your Budget
Just like any other form of advertising, you will need to establish a social media advertising budget.
It is important to understand that, even though a high budget can provide many advantages, it will never compensate for a poor marketing strategy or incorrect consumer targeting.
You will likely want to examine several different ad types and marketing strategies and check their effectiveness before you invest significant capital in any one of them.
Benefits of Social Media Marketing for Small Businesses
Contrary to popular opinion, a successful social media advertising campaign has little to do with a profile’s follower count and much more to do with consumers’ engagement levels.
Small businesses can benefit from much more effective rewards when it comes to advertising on social media because:
- They have loyal consumer communities: This translates to higher engagement and conversion rates.
- They can target consumers regardless of budget restraints: This is because social media platforms allow businesses to “cap” the amount that they spend on ads.
- They can use different marketing strategies on different marketing platforms to see their target audience.
Other benefits to consider include:
Increased Brand Awareness
Advertising on social media can allow you to increase your brand’s awareness regardless of any limitations you have when it comes to your budget. This can be a significant advantage for small businesses that want to control their marketing costs.
Increased Organic Traffic
Depending on your marketing campaign, your social media platforms can be used to drive increased organic traffic to your business website.
This can allow you to rank better from an SEO standpoint and ensure that prospective costumes will be able to find you instead of any competitors when they are looking for businesses within your industry.
As a starting business, your reputation is very important — particularly if you are selling your products or services remotely.
This is because consumers are naturally less trustworthy of businesses that they cannot physically access.
This can easily be done through increased interactions with your customers. Settling a person’s question online or replying to a problem they have will be visible for any person that checks your posts.
How to Create a Social Media Campaign
Creating a successful social media campaign comes down to how well you can plan and execute your advertisements.
In order to do this effectively, you will need to know:
- Why you want to advertise on social media
- Who your target audience is
- Which social media platforms you are going to use
- Which times you are going to be posting in (i.e., is there a specific time period where your targeted customer base is most active?)
This is because a lack of an adequate plan can mean that you end up sinking capital into advertisements that are not tailored towards a particular objective or audience.
Your social media campaign can include several different strategies depending on the size of your business — particularly if you are operating in multiple different social media channels.
For example, you may use Facebook and Instagram to generate conversions, while Twitter may be used for increased lead generation.
Another common example of using different strategies or social media channels within the same social media campaign is businesses advertising different products on separate social media platforms to maximize how well they can reach desired age demographics.
Why Do You Want Your Business on Social Media?
As we have already seen, there are many reasons why you may want to incorporate social media marketing into your business.
Knowing your goals is essential because it can allow you to craft your marketing strategy accordingly.
For example, you may be interested in:
- Boosting your brand’s engagement
- Building your brand’s loyalty
- Facilitating discussions about your products
- Increasing your sales and revenue
- Increasing your leads and engagement levels
- Diversifying your income through affiliate advertising
- Diversifying your income through a social media store
No matter what your goals are, you will need to know them before you begin advertising on social media in order to get the best results for your business.
Tip: Small businesses are recommended to focus on a small number of marketing goals. This is because having too many goals can mean that not enough attention, planning, and resources are allocated to any of them.
Who Is Your Target Audience?
Knowing your target audience is a necessity if you plan to take advantage of most social media platforms' targeted advertising.
Obviously, you will also need to know your target audience to decide which social media platform(s) you should advertise in — where are they most active?
You will likely already know your target audience — particularly if you have been operating for a while — because this is a key element of writing a business plan.
If this is not the case, you should consider:
- Personal characteristics: Age, gender, sex, location, etc.
- Interests: Why is your demographic interested in your products or services?
- Social media activity: Does your targeted consumer base have a preferred social media platform they use?
- Types of ads: How does your target audience prefer to see advertisements (e.g., videos, photographs, blogs, etc.)
Which Social Media Platforms You Will Use?
This will ultimately depend on the size, industry, and target audience of your business.
You will need to examine:
- Which platforms are most popular with your target consumer base.
- What type of advertisements you will be running. Photos, videos, or texts? Certain social media marketing platforms are tailored to specific types of ads (e.g., YouTube and longer videos, Instagram with photographs or sponsored stories, or Twitter with textual posts).
- What your business is good at. This will allow you to choose the platform that tailors its ads to your team’s capabilities (e.g., photography, videos, editorials, etc.).
When Do You Want to Post?
Finally, you will want to consider the time you should upload your sponsored content or other forms of advertisements on social media.
To do this, you will need to determine what times your target audience is most active. This is to ensure that you receive as much exposure from your posts as possible.
For example, you may want to consider the following about your target audience:
- Habits: At what point of the day are they likely to be looking at your posts? This will depend on the types of products or services that you are selling (e.g., business, leisure, travel, etc.).
- Age: Your audience’s age affects when they are busy. For example, if they are working-age adults, posting your advertisements during working hours during the week may not yield the most effective results.
- Time Zone(s): Though you may operate out of one time zone (e.g., Eastern Time), the core of your audience may be in a different time zone (e.g., Pacific Time).
Note: This list is not exhaustive. When determining what times you will be posting in, try to focus on the general behavioral patterns that your customers follow.
Frequently Asked Questions
How much capital do I need to advertise on Facebook?
When it comes to social media advertising, your budget is up to you. Before you start, you will set a “capped” amount that you do not wish to exceed, and — depending on the type of advertisement — you will be provided with the number of users that you will be able to reach.
This means that social media marketing can be ideal for small businesses with relatively small budgets.
Because of this, advertising through social media can be a great way of determining what works for you and what does not.
When you are starting out, you may choose to allocate a fixed sum of capital towards different marketing campaigns and types of ads and then use site-specific analytics to determine what works the best for your business.
What type of ads can I run on Instagram?
Since Instagram was acquired by Facebook back in 2012, the two companies have “integrated” their social media marketing significantly.
This means that the ads that you can run on each platform are virtually identical. These include:
- Sponsored stories
- Collection ads
- Photo ads
- Video ads
How can I make money on Instagram?
As a business, you can make money on Instagram in the following ways:
- Make sponsored posts and/or stories
- Provide affiliate content
- Open your own online store
- Get paid directly through Instagram’s “Bonuses” feature
For more information, see our How Do I Make Money on Instagram guide.
When was Facebook founded?
Facebook was originally launched on October 28, 2003, as “FaceMash.” On February 4, 2004, founder Mark Zuckerberg changed its name to “Facebook.”
Originally, Facebook was intended to be used as a platform that allowed university students across the US to connect with each other.
What are the most common types of digital marketing?
The most common types of digital marketing are:
- Pay-per-click marketing (PPC)
- SEO marketing
- Social media marketing
- Content marketing
- Email marketing
For further details, see our guide to digital marketing for small businesses.