Every social network that allows users to create personal profiles and communicate with them is considered a social media. This world phenomenon is 21 years old and by the end of its 20th year, 81% of the United States' population had at least one profile on social media (Statista.com, 2017).
In 1997, it was born the first social media website. A website called Six Degrees was a pioneer, allowing users to create online profiles and send friend invitations to other users. Six Degrees even allowed those who didn’t register as users to confirm friendships and gathered quite a few people this way.
From Six Degrees, the internet evolved in many different directions with the boom of blogging all around the world and the unforgettable ICQ in the early 2000's, followed by MySpace (2003), Facebook and Twitter (2005), Tumblr (2007), Instagram and Pinterest (2010), and SnapChat (2011).
Fundamentally, social media was created for personal use, like a virtual extension of your social circle, connecting new friends and re-connecting old ones into one single platform. Social media has revolutionized the way users interact with each other both online and offline and has brought a completely new world to all of its users: the digital world.
The extraordinary growth social media represented in the past 21 years has challenged marketers all over the world to start developing strategies to target users to become potential customers in the online world. Slowly, more and more businesses started engaging in small tactics to learn more about their behaviour on social media, what they are researching and how to target them. Rapidly, social media has become an important source of social data and an easy way to identify people’s needs, increasing the revenue of advertising to a seven-digit figure.
Social Media Marketing
A new science was born. Digital Marketing and Social Media are now specific subjects in colleges and universities and worldwide spread professionals dedicate their entire life to understand its functionalities. Social media is constantly changing, it evolves along with society, to fulfill its needs and solve its problems. Furthermore, the rapid development and the unstoppable source of new leads increasing every day, marketing strategies came up as an essential factor to be successful on the web.
Social media marketing (SMM) is the ability to create specific plans or “techniques that target social networks and applications to spread brand awareness or promote particular products. Social media marketing campaigns usually centre around: Establishing a social media presence on major platforms.” - Techopedia.com. This is how you present yourself or your business to the world.
You apply SMM in your everyday social media posting and everything that involves your account. This is the most important part of your journey. A successful social media marketing strategy wields every single aspect of its profile to give users a better piece of information about your business. Before you create a profile you need to identify your own identity. There are a couple of questions you might ask yourself:
- What's my concept?
- Do I have a brand, logo?
- What colours/filters will represent me?
- What category do I fit in? (Travel, fashion, beauty, modelling...)
- What am I going to talk about?
- Will I have the time to constantly feed my profile with quality content?
- What is the range of subjects I want to talk about under my category?
- Who am I talking to?
- Am I an activist who will talk to women of all ages?
- Am I a model who will appeal to the younger generation?
- Am I a fitness professional who will target fitness inspired users?
- What channels are important to me?
- Do I want to be a vlogger on YouTube?
- Am I sharing quality photos on Instagram?
- Do I appeal to public opinion on Twitter?
Those are the initial questions every brand should be working on. For example, if you have a beauty cosmetics brand and you want to start a social media account, what are the main topics to talk about in your field?
Primarily, identify who is your customer. If your buyer persona is female, from 25 to 54 years old, based in Central London, you should focus on talking to directly to this audience. What are those customers interested to know more? (In this case, your audience should be more abroad than when doing advertising.)
- New product lines
- The benefits of using moisturizing
- New techniques of appliance
- Best colours for different skin tones
- Cosmetics around the around
- Organic beauty products
- Successful customers stories
- Makeup tutorial videos
- Collaboration with influencers
A social media specialist does not need to be an expert on every subject. To come up with those eight suggestions it only took me a few seconds and my experience with cosmetics goes as far as daily moisturizing. The ability to understand what customers want comes from within your own company and specialists will help you to better tailor your content to fit into your business concept.
Note the main goal with all the suggested topics is to inform and entertain. That's the magic of social media. It allows brands to present themselves as experts in a given subject. Once your audience follows you and admires and respects the content you put out you are likely to have earned a new customer.
“Successful companies in social media function more like entertainment companies, publishers, or party planners than as traditional advertisers” - Erik Qualman
Social Media Advertising
Before we get into advertising let's analyse a proper study case. You are the owner of a travel agency. You have an upcoming offer for three different countries: Brazil, Greece, and Japan.
- Brazil – Summer destination, the carnival is the main attraction. Perfect for people looking for crowded parties, beach holidays and warm temperatures.
- Greece – It is low season in Greece and your company wants to push packages for couples that want to enjoy quiet time in Greek paradise.
- Japan – It is winter time. Best known for its rich culture, Japan is the perfect destination for good food, cultural shock and city holidays.
You have three very different destinations and each one of them targets a completely different type of customer. How to advertise each one of those destinations on social media? Should advertising that destination be part of your online marketing?
This is a grey area for most of the professionals out there. Advertising should be done separately from your marketing but linked to each other somehow at the end. When users follow your brand on social media they are interested in what you have to say, your concept and what your brand stands for. They are all tied to one subject and one very idea. They are all tied by the desire to know more about your company.
If you incorporate hard sell posts into your social media calendar that promote just one of your products you will trigger the attention of only a very small percentage of your audience. Remember, your audience on social media relates to each other by a subject interest and not by a specific product. Therefore, among your audience, you have a very diverse type of people, with different interests when it comes to traveling.
When you create a post exclusively to promote one of those destinations, you're undermining all the rest of your audience which is not so interested in that particular offer. The result is a boring, repetitive and not engaging timeline of posting. When you users realize your brand has nothing else to say than advertise its own product on social media, your brand will start losing followers and your engagement levels will drop down. And the reason is simple, your brand isn't solving a need, neither is providing information and answering questions.
Your brand is only interested in selling products, making impossible for it to develop an online personality.
Users are people and they tend to interact better with other users than brands. For that reason, developing a brand personality will help your brand to bring the warmth and relatable approach it will need to allow people to connect. Once this connection is established you more likely have earned a new customer.
So what's the best way to do social media advertising?
This is where the fun begins. Social media advertising is an extension of social media marketing. It works as an extra tool to help marketers to better reach their customers, spread brand awareness and promote their products. Social media advertising (SMA) cannot (or should not) exist without SMM. Although SMA is born within SMM's strategy, it has to be handled with different parameters to measure its success and return on investment. The best ways to integrate advertising into your marketing strategy is to use your creativity in creating content at full power.
Creativity goes a long way on social media. It will allow your brand to talk about your products and start new conversations with your audience in an organic and engaging way. Instead of you creating a twitter post saying “Winter in Japan for only $499” you can create a blog post with the title “Japanese winter wonders”. Write an article about how incredible Japan is in the winter, what are the main attractions and why this is a great choice for your customer's next trip. By organically writing a very informational article describing all the benefits of going to Japan, you are automatically doing a form of advertising, totally embedded in your marketing strategy and integrated into your social media calendar.
When you produce content that solves the need for a customer you are providing valuable information. And, by doing that, you are automatically advertising your own product without mentioning the sell at all.
Small pieces of advertising should be incorporated into your social media marketing and still provide an important source of content for your social media calendar. Going back to the travel agency example, the Japan blog post will add extra value to the travel agency company, showing up on online searches as results for “travel in Japan”. It will organically reach many other users that after reading your article might have their curiosity trigged to see the offers the travel agency has to offer. This piece of content will be forever hosted on the main webpage and it's now an extra source of information about your own services.
Although extremely important for your organic social media marketing/advertising, it does not represent a powerful way to increase sales and convert new customers. However, the return on investment is extremely positive. The organic reach of users does not require investment, leaving the only investment in this case to the content creation. And it will also improve your SEO rank, leading new search to the content your brand is producing. If you have a solid team that produces quality content regularly, integrating advertising in creative and subtle ways into your social media calendar will ignite your business online presence.
Other creative approaches are:
- Promote engagement by asking a question “What do you like the most about Japan?” “How many likes does this image deserve?”
- Work with giveaways – This is a clever way to integrate sells into your marketing strategy
- Like and share to earn 10% of your trip to Japan
- Tag here someone you want to bring with you to your next trip to Japan
- Share this content for the chance to win tickets for (an attraction ) in Japan
Using paid social media tools
In 2016, Facebook made $26.2 billion dollars in revenue from their ads system, 95% of their total revenue (blog.adstage.io, 2017). 2 million business use Facebook for advertising (Wordstream.com. 2017) and that's the best way to reach a very specific type of customer.
The use of paid social media tools for advertising gives your business a considerable leverage since it doesn't depend on SEO or organically reach to find your potential customers like social media marketing does. Going back to the trip to Japan, for example, you can create a specific advertising content that will be shown only to users that has the same demographics, social income, and interests as your potential buyer persona. That means that you not only going to save your pocket from unnecessary exposure of the ad to uninterested users, but make sure to a profitable return of investment showing your ad to only potential customers.
Your advertising content, in this case, will be promoted separately of your everyday feed, keeping your marketing content cohesive with your designed strategy and concept. That means not all followers will be exposed to the ad, but only the ones with similar interests. By separating both approaches your company will keep all your followers entertained with your ongoing SMM campaign while on the side advertising a given product to a niche within your audience and abroad.
They both will target your audience and new users in different ways. While social media marketing focuses on designing content to capture the attention of viewers and entice them to eventually take action; social media advertising will act directly on the users need, providing a service they are looking for, leading to a very specific action in a given time frame.
In conclusion, every social media effort should start with a well thought-out social media marketing strategy. But simply looking at a social media profile you should know exactly what that person/company is all about. This is how you will set the tone of your online presence and tell the world what you stand for. Social media marketing is the online personification of your brand. This is the only platform your brand carries an actual voice and participates in the public opinion. This is what brings the spice your audience is looking for to feel nothing more than entertained. The main difference between SMM and SMA is that marketing will win new customers/followers with personality and knowledge; while advertising will fulfill a need and provide a service. Understanding the difference between those two approaches is the first step to a successful journey on social media.
If you are still unsure of the power of social media, click here to read our last post "Reasons why you should invest in Social Media".