Some of the social media platforms that help connect with people. Image credit: Flickr
Some of the social media platforms that help connect with people. Image credit: Flickr

In simple terms, social media marketing (SMM) is marketing via social media websites such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, etc. The list also includes forums, content communities, blogs or any other interactive online medium. It’s a form of online marketing that’s generally used to promote and sell everything that traditional or offline marketing is used for. Moreover, SMM also helps promote websites, individual or company blogs, online music services, election and general web campaigns, etc. Compared to traditional marketing, social media marketing ensures a much quicker buzz and a wider reach.

Quicker Reach

Social media users are constantly on the lookout for fresh and interesting content. Unlike traditional advertising, social media marketers need not reach customers and beg attention – if the subject is fresh and intriguing enough, it’s bound to find its audience. In fact, if well devised and planned, the product or content can catch fire and go viral in no time. Take for instance the popular Ice Bucket Challenge videos that helped raise awareness of the disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

Flexible and Interactive

Social media marketing can be as simple as adding ‘share’ buttons of social networking sites, or as expansive as running a large-scale, dedicated marketing campaign for a particular good, service or cause on online social platforms. Sharing articles, views, or ideas across social news and networking sites is also a form of SMM. Besides promotion, marketing on social media also facilitates marketer-customer interaction.

Stages of Social Media Marketing

For an effective SMM campaign, an organization must ensure the following.

  • Identifying company goals. Determining the short- or long-term vision it intends to achieve.
  • Choosing marketing strategies and setting objectives. Setting numerical parameters to every objective. For instance, if generating leads is one of the objectives, knowing how many sales and leads is essential to declare success is crucial.
  • Locating target market. Catering to the right user group is key to social engagement.
  • Understanding competition and their offerings. This entails discovering what other online companies are doing, besides learning the right social marketing practices.
  • Choosing sales and distribution channels. Knowing which social media platform customers spend most of their time, and allocating marketing effort and resources accordingly. If potential customers hang out more on Facebook, it’s not worth spending equivalent marketing bucks on Twitter and LinkedIn.
  • Creating appropriate and meaningful content. This entails concocting relevant and right content formats (links, text only, images or video), posting time and frequency.
  • Setting marketing budget. Allocating a specific budget so that the return on investment (ROI) can be calculated.
  • Assigning specific roles to marketing team members. Realizing team members’ contributions to the marketing effort and assigning tasks, accordingly.

Key Points and Caveats

Before rolling out an SMM campaign, it’s crucial to know there’s substantial work ahead, besides being aware of the following: 

  • The primary focus must be content creation. Spending too much time talking about the product is not recommended – the product and audience will take care of that. Also, use the time to talk about other people’s work. Share their content – they’ll share your content too.
  • Patience is key. Though there are overnight success stories, most SMM campaigns take time. Realize this and act accordingly.
  • Build relationships. Acknowledge customer inputs and queries. An ignored visitor is unlikely to return.
  • Registering at online forums and blogs churns out results only when done right. It’s important to learn the forum’s focus and trending topics. Chime in only when your inputs add value. Else, your participation will be viewed as spam or blatant advertising.

Above all, if your firm has a long-term goal, use SMM for brand-building. Short-term objectives or quick victories shouldn’t be the focus.