How many social media users are there worldwide? In 2020, the largest social media platforms hosted over 3.6 billion people, and that figure is expected to grow to 4.41 billion by 2025. When it comes to digital marketing, there's really no better way to reach targeted audiences than on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and the other major social media platforms.

Thanks to their very nature, these social media sites compile user information behind the scenes, which takes about 90% of the work off of your shoulders. Rather than having to spearhead your own SEO efforts to connect with ideal consumers and interest them in your business, the innate algorithms and user data that are intrinsic to social media will automatically drive presumably interested users to your business page, profile posts, and targeted advertising campaigns.

While social media algorithms alleviate most of the heavy lifting that usually comes with launching digital marketing initiatives, that doesn't mean the competition within your industry isn't aggressive. As a business owner looking to maximize social media engagement for the purposes of driving users to your website, e-commerce site, and retail location, you will still need to devise social media marketing strategies to ensure that your business stands out from the crowd.

For your marketing toolkit, we've put together the best kept social marketing secrets to keep you ahead of the curve while growing your loyal customer-base.

GOALS

A business's social media marketing endeavors must be executed with a plan in mind, as opposed to using a "winging-it" approach. This notion might seem contrary to the free-flowing, spontaneous, and conversational arena that social media platforms seem to exist within, but make no mistake, if you don't outline measurable goals at the onset of your efforts, you won't have a filter through which to assess your work. Ask yourself, do you want your social media marketing to directly drive followers to your website or simply increase brand awareness? Do you want to steadily increase followers or are you more interested in visitors clicking the Shop Now button? Maybe your goal is to improve all of these areas for overall impact and revenue. When defining your social media marketing goals, use the S.M.A.R.T. acronyml--specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound. 

AUDIENCE

Once you understand your goals, the next critical objective to determine involves your audience, or ideal customer. Do you have a clear understanding of who your customers are? Figuring this out could be easier said than done depending on your industry. For example, a designer of baby apparel who runs an e-commerce store knows that their ideal customers are mothers, ages 24 to 42, who have at least one child younger than 2 years old. However, an autobody repair shop might struggle to define their target audience, because in their mind that would include anyone who drives a vehicle. If you own a service-based business, then your geographical location will be a crucial aspect of targeting an appropriate audience. Depending on who you define your customers to be, you will be able to determine which social media platform will benefit your marketing efforts the most. 

COMPETITION

Before you're ready to begin creating and generating social media posts, ad campaigns, and other initiatives, it's a good idea to first check out your biggest competitors to analyze how they're using social media, how many followers they have, and how often they're posting and engaging with other users. The purpose of studying the competition isn't to emulate their social media marketing strategies, but rather to consider the ways in which they're falling short so that you don't make the same errors. Pay particular attention if your competitors are over or under using a certain platform, because you can take advantage of those sites where your competitors don't have much of a presence. The primary objective here is to assess what works and what doesn't for your competitors so that you can troubleshoot common shortcomings while amplifying the best practices you observe. 

CONTENT

Having researched your competitors and structured your business goals, you are now ready to create the content of your social media posts and ad campaigns. Keep in mind that no matter what platforms you're utilizing, every post will be comprised of three elements--the visual, the caption text, and the hashtags. The visual aspect of the post can be a photo, graphic, or video. The caption text will have a character and word limit depending on the platform. And the hashtags will only benefit you if you research them in advance to test their popularity. If you know your target audience, then you'll know which type of content to present on social media to attract new people and convert users into buyers. Remember, social media marketing places a huge emphasis on visual content so make sure the quality of each post is professional and eye-catching. There are many free cloud-based design software tools out there, but we recommend FTx AdPro, which comes with thousands of industry-specific templates and can easily export to any computer or device for upload into your social media accounts. 

CHARACTER

Your business has "character", which is to say that your company has an ethos, mission statement, and personality, all of which shine through in your brand. You've probably already captured your company's character when you developed your business logo, slogan, and marketing materials, but in case you haven't, we recommend that you take a moment to read our article Building A Brand. The point here is that you integrate the character and characteristics of your unique brand into your social media marketing content. A great way to do this, and present a uniform "look" on your posts, is to shrink your brand's logo and stamp it in the corner of every post. You can also frequently use your brand's slogan or tagline whenever appropriate. One thing to watch out for when presenting your brand's character on social media is accidentally appearing self-absorbed. Try not to toot your own horn or sound "braggy" when mentioning your products and services. In fact, rather than post about your products and services, which can come across as pushy, try focusing your posts on informative subjects or on praising your outstanding employees. A great rule of thumb to go by is to post about current industry trends and offer problem-solving advice most of the time. Keep any posts about your products and services strictly promotional, i.e. only post about items when you are actively promoting an upcoming or ongoing sale; and even in those instances, be sure not to overdo it.

INTERACT

Engaging with your audience is the entire point of social media marketing, even if you've structured your business goals to drive website traffic and increase e-commerce revenue. This means that you, as the business owner, must be willing to invest time in interacting with your social media followers or appoint one of your marketing employees to do this. Simply posting content on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook won't be enough. As users "like", "follow", and "comment", you must actively respond, keep conversations going, and most importantly, remain available in case a user tries to gain customer service help via the platform. While interacting with your audience in the comments section and with DMs, incorporate your brand's "character" in the tone, style, and cadence you use. All of your comments and messages should sound "in character" and remain in-line with your company's brand persona so that you are always presenting a cohesive, professional image.

EXPERIMENT

As we mentioned earlier, the visual content of your social media marketing posts can involve photos, graphics, and video. Depending on the medium used visually, you will find that certain posts generate more audience interaction than others. As you post and engage your audience, you can play around with strategies to maximize engagement. For example, if you're a jewelry designer, you might find that short, tutorial videos that show how your company makes a particular piece of jewelry get the most engagement, while posts of product photos do not garner very many "likes". If this is the case, ask your audience questions like "what other tutorials would you like to see?" and invite them to hashtag their own posts when they attempt the DIY jewelry designs you recommend. You can continue engagement through the hashtag you devised to generate multiple conversations. Experimenting with popular posting strategies that work for you can also include playing around with A/B testing for any social media advertising campaigns you might have invested in. Most importantly, remember that your digital marketing efforts on social media should be ever-evolving so that you're constantly learning, growing, and maximizing ROI. 

MEASURE

As you experiment with posts that generate a lot of engagement versus posts that fall short, you must always measure and analyze the success-rate as you go. Measuring your progress and also measuring how close to achieving your original goals you're getting is vital if you want to grow. Regularly monitoring and evaluating your marketing strategy performance on all of the social media platforms you're using will help you develop more and more effective ideas to promote your brand without posting solely about your business's products and services. The critical performance metrics you'll need to monitor are your reach, engagement, lead generation, and conversion rates. Choose a few key performance indicators (KPIs) to keep a close eye on, and be sure to take advantage of the detailed analytics of engagement data each social media platform compiles on the back-end. 

AUTOMATE

If you want to save time you can deploy your social media marketing content from one automated platform instead of going onto each platform individually to post. There are a number of affordable social media automation tools on the market today, including HootSuite, Tweetdeck, Sprout Social, and Buffer. These automation options are great because you can upload a single post replete with image, caption, and hashtags, which will deploy on-schedule to all of your social media accounts. Utilizing this technology, you can schedule all of your posts for Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and the rest days, weeks, or months in advance. Another great benefit is that by consolidating all of your posts within one originating hub, you can more easily evaluate the engagement and success of your marketing efforts. Compare and contrast if one platform is racking up more followers than another, or more likes, mentions, and comments than another. Once you understand which types of posts work better on which platforms, you can really go in, modify, and experiment with the best strategies for your unique brand.

Perhaps the best-kept secret when it comes to social media marketing is to stay active and have fun! But what if you don't have the time and resources to spearhead a social media marketing strategy for your business? Stay tuned with us here, because FTx has New Marketing Solutions Coming Soon that will take the guess-work and time-commitment out of digital marketing.