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What is social media marketing?

Social media marketing (SMM) refers to the use of social networks in order to promote a product or service, and develop branding through awareness and relationships. Social media gives you access to potentially connect and engage with millions of consumers globally. Companies can create paid or free (organic) marketing campaigns to establish more online presence.

How important is social media marketing?

Social media marketing is an important part of any digital marketing strategy. Social networks let you grow your online presence, sell products and services, generate leads, and manage relationships with both customers and prospects.

Businesses often question whether the return on investment would be worth investing the time and resources into social media. This is a great question, but the truth is, 45% of the global population are using social platforms and on average spending 2.23 hours per day on it. If you’re not visible and competitors are, they will sweep up customers not because they are better, but simply because you were never part of their purchase decision-making in the first place.

Why an effective strategy is important

Choosing the right strategy for social media is just as important for your company as how you present yourselves offline. It will determine how you are perceived by the world and whether you achieve the results you want. An effective strategy will help you set goals, budget, and tactics using consistent branding. Focusing time on the wrong social platforms will lead to wasted time, resources and ultimately disappointment.

Goals can include awareness, lead generation, sales, engagement levels, customer satisfaction, and conveying brand identity. How important each of these are depends on your type of business. A small B2C ecommerce shop selling inexpensive products may benefit from sales and  use advertising to achieve this. An expensive B2B company has a more complex customer journey and may aim for collecting leads to their website.

The strategic benefits are plentiful. Social media allows companies to provide quick customer support, bond through conversations, and get better customer insight through analytics and comment feedback. Dealing with problems here is much better than having customers leave bad reviews on other platforms like Google where the impact is longer-lasting.

How to choose the right platforms

Let’s go over the various major social media platforms and how each is best used to help inform your social media marketing strategy.

Facebook

As of December 2019, there were approximately 44.86 million Facebook users in the UK. The most significant age group comes from those aged 25 to 34 years old, who account for 26% of all users. There’s pretty much an even split between males and females. While hundreds of thousands of teens and young adults flock to newer platforms such as TikTok, Facebook is up substantially for older users aged 45 and over. Mobile dominates but most users use a range of devices for Facebook. These demographics show Facebook is a universal platform for marketers and can be used by most types of businesses, especially those with an older target audience.

There’s no golden rule for post frequency but we’ve found for both ourselves and strategic retainer clients that posting once a day is enough. There are ways around this but the algorithm tends to throttle the reach of subsequent posts. This will help free up time to focus on other platforms as well.

Remember, Facebook is typically a platform between friends and family. If your content or brand image is overly serious and professional, it will be a lot harder to get high levels of engagement or new followers. Companies who can blend in with an informal, sociable approach are more suited to perform better. Sharing photos of people, whether it’s employees in the office or out at an event, is typically what people want in their feeds. If you run events or groups then Facebook is also an important social network to focus on because it easily provides features to help you organise groups and events. If you’re looking to build a community around your brand, this is the place to be.

While users are often put off by selling on Facebook, they love a good deal. If you have regular offers and run competitions, your conversion to generate more sales or website traffic is likely going to be much higher than most other platforms. However, if you’re B2B or sell expensive products/services then you may not have much success. Instead, use the platform for developing relationships and leads.

Twitter

In recent years, Twitter has gained a bad reputation in the business world. It’s active users haven’t grown much since it hit a 300 million user milestone in 2015. While overall engagement across social media has dropped, Twitter has notoriously low engagement rates. The average engagement rate sits at around 0.048%, although it differs between industries.

Source: Digital Marketing Community

It’s important not to get too caught up on engagement with Twitter. Media has extremely low engagement but part of this is down to the sheer volume of content they post to a broad audience.

Twitter is cagey when it comes to releasing figures for demographics but there are more men using the platform and users tend to be older. It’s not ideal for targeting teens and young adults.

It’s a conversational platform and heavily used by brands so branded content suits the environment better than Facebook. But when it comes to tone of voice, it isn’t very defined. That is, you can be casual or professional and get high engagement either way. This makes it easier to set the tone to suit your desired target audience.

The main strength of Twitter surrounds its dominance in cultural trends and narrative. If your business can turn over topical content quickly as trends arise then you can capitalise on the opportunities Twitter has to offer. Everything is ‘in the moment’ so if you attend plenty of events, it’s good to tweet live from the event and use any relevant hashtags both specifically for the event and the general topic it covers. If you don’t have the in-house capabilities to act fast or schedule to significant calendar dates, and you don’t use any digital agencies for social media marketing, the benefits of Twitter become very limited and may not be worth it.

Twitter can be embroiled in emotions, strong opinions, and political discourse, which means there is always an element of risk involved when hopping on trends. If you struggle to separate personal or business, this can make it a difficult place to increase brand presence. On the plus side, if you’re looking to go viral and reach people at scale, Twitter is known for an explosion in post popularity if there is the perfect combination of reactivity and creativity. An infamous example of this was Oreo’s tweet when there was a Superbowl sports event blackout. The first place people go to comment is usually Twitter and a fast reaction landed the biscuit brand over 15,000 retweets.

Instagram

Finally, a change in pace. Instagram is a visually-orientated social media platform. Up until recently, your success on it almost entirely depended on your ability to source great pictures. If you don’t have a graphic designer or wish to share photos of company activity, this is not the right place for your business. Aesthetically pleasing photos will always trump anything else. However, Instagram has started hiding likes, which means more users may begin gravitating towards text captions within posts and comment more. As a result, the platform could become more communal as time goes on.

There are approximately 23 million Instagram users in the UK, just over 9 million more than Twitter. While content creation is seemingly dominated by women, the genders are split pretty evenly between users.

The goldmine of Instagram has become the ‘stories’ feature, which allows you to create a collection of short video clips and images and share them throughout the day. These disappear after 24 hours but you can save highlights to stay on your profile. Stories usually receive good engagement and are the focus of Instagram right now. If you have a lot of company activity going on such as events, Instagram would be a key area of focus because followers can view your story progressing. This is powerful for strengthening relationships and comes across as more personable and authentic. If you are B2C and sell products it’s a great way to promote your product organically just by showing it within your stories.

Most retailers selling products would benefit tremendously from Instagram. Not only do consumers love to see potential purchases in all their glory, but Instagram is set up to sell. You can sell directly through a shoppable Instagram page or indirectly with a link in your bio. As they stray away from direct links in posts, it is more difficult than some other platforms to link back to your company website.

Influencer marketing on Instagram has helped many brands reach an unprecedented amount of success over the years. Online fast fashion such as Boohoo, ASOS and Gymshark have been able to use influencers and brand ambassadors on the platform to amass millions of followers, beating out prominent high-street retailers such as Next, Debenhams and JD Sports. Instagram hiding likes has made influencer marketing more complicated for companies and return on investment isn’t as great when paying for macro influencers who have hundreds of thousands of followers but there are still opportunities with micro influencers who tend to have higher engagement from followers anyway.

One final point unique to Instagram is the number of users on mobile. The platform is dominated by mobile and users are 70% more likely to purchase with mobile than non-users. Look at what devices your customers and target audience are using to see whether they are mostly using desktop or mobile. If desktop users are significantly higher, Instagram may not be effective for your business.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn is the holy grail of B2B social media marketing but shouldn’t be ignored by B2C brands. Since it’s a business-orientated social network, there is less pressure to be informal to blend in with consumers. You can talk directly about your products, services, activity, awards, work culture, brand values, and participate in industry-specific conversations.

There are 27 million LinkedIn profiles in the UK with approximately 60% male and 40% female users. The largest age demographic in the UK are aged 35-54 age bracket, with the 25-34 age bracket slightly behind. Businesses who target customers under or over these age ranges won’t get as much benefit from the platform for sales and leads. However, there are still many opportunities for any type of business. LinkedIn is uniquely powerful for employee advocacy and attracting new talent to a business. Workers are looking for more than money today and wish to know more about how a company operates. Having employees enthusiastically promoting the company through their individual job responsibilities. This provides social proof to job seekers that employees are happy and fulfilled at your business.

More so, building a LinkedIn presence helps to establish a good reputation for your company in the business world. As an expert in your field, LinkedIn is the best social platform, and perhaps one of the only ones to develop yourself as a ‘thought leader’. You can display your expertise and get high levels of engagement for it. Engagement levels are at ‘record levels‘ as Microsoft notes. Due to its massive growth in recent years, this is a great platform to focus on for most businesses, and one to encourage employees to get involved in.

Pinterest

Pinterest is perhaps one of the fastest growing major social media platforms being underused by businesses. At first glance it doesn’t feel like a network for brands to pursue. But this isn’t true. It’s more than just social media; it’s actually more of a search engine. And if you’re considering search engine optimisation (SEO) to be part of your future digital marketing activity, this is a platform worth focusing on.

Pinterest is used as an online mood board for people to pin products and lifestyle images to their life visions. It’s tremendous growth has led to a reported 322 millions active users worldwide, which makes it set to overtake Twitter in 2020.

18-24 years are the biggest age group in the UK to use Pinterest. Trailing behind, 49% of respondents aged 35-44 also claimed to be Pinterest users. The platform is overwhelmingly female with 45% of respondents saying they are Pinterest users, compared to 27% of males. Globally, 71% of Pinterest users are women. If your target audience is women, you won’t find many other major social platforms which give you such a skewed advantage.

The amazing thing about Pinterest is the lifespan of a pin (post). It will likely take your pin 3.5 months to get just 50% of its engagement. So if you’re more concerned with quality over quantity, Pinterest will reward your efforts over a longer period of time. Many ‘pinners’ go on specifically to shop and plan purchases, and 90% of weekly Pinners have used it to make a purchase. This makes it an ideal platform for B2C ecommerce. Like Instagram, Pinterest is quite visual so curating great pictures is desirable if you’re going to have success.

Lastly, we touched upon Pinterest’s function as a search engine. Partly due to the longevity of posts, having post links to your website will help to generate sustainable traffic.

TikTok

The new kid on the block has perhaps seen more growth than any other social network since it launched in 2016. TikTok boasts over 800 million users globally. Statistics for the UK remain unclear at this point but it is the most downloaded app in the world and has been extremely popular in the US, which suggests it will soon explode in the UK as well.

Tiktok is a short-form video social media platform consisting of humorous music videos and challenges, as some other creative uses. It’s mostly dominated by teenagers and some young adults up to 24. If you are targeting Gen Z, this is the go-to place to be exploring right now. The engagement on Tiktok is ridiculously high. Take a look at the likes and comments in these posts (up to 20 million):

Brands like Coke has reported huge success from their #ShareACoke campaign on TikTok. Similar to Instagram, if you are looking to go down the route of paying influencers to promote your brand, this is another one of the best to use, and it hasn’t yet been saturated with rising advertising costs.

Snapchat

Snapchat is also a short-form video platform which appeals to younger people. However, its user base is starting to age up. Statista states that 77 percent of online respondents aged 18-24 years old say they use Snapchat. Surprisingly, 38% of respondents aged 35-44 also claim to be Snapchat users.

The private nature of the platform makes it more difficult to take advantage of social proof and scalability from likes, comments, shares etc. But this hasn’t stopped many big brands advertising on it. The types of businesses that benefit from Snapchat tend to be entertainment or food and drink companies. In terms of organic reach, the media industry dominates popular news feeds. It does usually require curating a blend of background music, catchy text and headlines, and eye-catching imagery. You will need to be savvy to manage this on an ongoing basis and so it needs commitment. Otherwise, you will likely want to focus your social media marketing efforts elsewhere.

This page is always being updated to help provide the latest information to inform your social media marketing strategy. Bookmark this page so you can easily return to keep your direction focused.

We manage social media for a number of clients and offer strategic support to channels with followers ranging from 1000 -100k+. Don’t hesitate to give us a call on 0114 400 0011 if you have any questions about these services.