13 Social Media Marketing

Learning Objectives

By the end of this chapter, you should be able to:

  • Describe why social media is important
  • Develop a social media strategy and plan
  • Explain the 6-Step Social Media Marketing Framework
  • Differentiate between the various types of social media networks

Social Media Word Cloud
Word cloud by MaxPixel

Why Use Social Media?

Many people think social media is digital marketing. While social media marketing can take up a lot of marketers’ attention, it only represents one component of a digital marketing strategy. Before diving into specific strategies and tactics of social media, let’s review why social media is important to digital marketing. There are many advantages to using social media for professional purposes and to promote your organization, products, and services. Here are several areas where social media shines:

Connecting with New Audiences
Billions of people worldwide use social networks on a daily basis. Therefore, it is important for organizations to be present where these online conversations and discussions are happening. For example, ~60% of Instagram users said they find new products on the platform, making it worthwhile to be there.

Building Relationships
Now, more than ever, it’s critical for organizations to have a unique voice and engage with customers on a human level. Social media provides an easy way to do this, allowing marketers to create a brand personality as well as a voice that communicates brand values and engages the community.

Increasing Website Traffic
If your community likes your social media content, they may seek out more information about your products and services on your website, which will result in more website traffic and potentially more sales.

Distributing Targeted Messaging
It’s very easy to distribute ads on social platforms. Moreover, marketers can narrowly target their ads and messaging to match the specific needs and interests of their target audiences. Studies have shown that customers react better when advertisements are customized to their specific needs and this strategy can result in increased interactions and interest.

Conducting Market Research
Social media isn’t just great for interacting with your community, marketers can also use it to stay on top of what their competitors are doing. By listening to the social media conversations, marketers can glean what is working well (or not) for their competitors. They can then build these insights into their social media marketing strategies and tactics.

Sharing Expertise
Social media sites provide many opportunities for organizations to both hear about and differentiate themselves from their competitors. Organizations can do this by showcasing themselves as industry leaders via engaging, insightful, and relevant content, e.g., by sharing creative visual content on Instagram, composing thoughtful blog posts on LinkedIn, or revealing a fresh viewpoint in Twitter.

Managing Reputation
Reputation is everything, and social media sites provide a direct way to interact with customers and to resolve problems swiftly. For example, marketers can develop unique hashtags that can highlight concerns or interests and ensure that these issues are seen and addressed quickly by the right people. Social media sites can also be leveraged to share positive reviews, testimonials, and customer feedback.

Evaluating Analytics and Insights
Most social media platforms have their own analytics tools, which allow you to keep track of what your community is interested in, who is engaged, and what activities and content are best performing. This data can help determine which content to promote and how to appropriately modify any advertising or marketing activities.

Now that we understand why social media is a key component of a digital marketing strategy, let’s look at how marketers can successfully implement a social media plan.

A 6-Step Social Media Marketing Framework

6-Step Social Media Marketing Framework

This 6-Step Social Media Marketing Framework aims to ensure your social media strategy and activities are optimized to convert prospective customers into satisfied, paying customers and brand advocates. As you learn more about digital marketing, you will be presented with a variety of different frameworks. Being able to understand what is similar and what is different will be important. Ultimately, you may come up with your own framework, which will likely be a combination of several frameworks. However, using a framework gives you the best chance of implementing the right strategy for your circumstances. This framework will also provide alignment between your chosen strategy and your activities. Let’s take a closer look at each of the following steps:

Step 1: Listen and Learn

Social media allows marketers to listen to what their target audiences are saying and doing. Without any prompting, marketers can now listen to what their customers are saying about their needs, wants, and desires. We no longer have to guess!

Listening is the first place for marketers to start when developing a social media strategy. Listening is key to understanding your target audience’s perceptions related to:

  • Your brand, products, and services
    Since social media conversations are happening in real-time and directly from your community, you no longer need to guess about why people are behaving a certain way; they will tell you.
  • Your competitors’ brands, products, or services
    If you find out what your competitors are good or bad at, you can position your organization to meet some of those customer needs better. Or, perhaps, you can identify new products and services you can offer.
  • General topics and trends
    If you can find out what’s popular, you may be able to take advantage of emerging opportunities and generate new revenue streams.

Listening and learning from your target audiences is the first important step when implementing a social media strategy.

Step 2: Define Goals, Objectives, and Target Audiences

With a well-defined scope, which includes specific goals, objectives, and target audiences, it is possible to achieve positive outcomes, since you know what you are aiming for. If you know what you want, you can put the steps in place to get there. Successful marketers and organizations know what they want to achieve, and a clear focus on goals and objectives is what ultimately guides all their actions.

Identifying goals, objectives, and target audiences is a critical step in getting buy-in from key decision makers, assigning resources (human, financial, and technological), and planning social media campaigns and ongoing activities. Everyone in an organization should work and plan towards achieving these goals and objectives so it is important to get this step right.

Ideally, digital marketers should plan to complete this step collaboratively because some of the required information might exist in different areas of the organization. This information should include:

  • Lessons learned from the listening step of the framework: what the community is saying about your products, your competitors, and trends
  • Customer personas and customer journey maps developed
  • Competitive intelligence learned in the listening step or through other research / studies
  • Knowledge about the preferences of the online communities
  • Lessons learned from previous social media campaigns/ongoing activities
  • Organizational goals and objectives

If organizations don’t properly align their goals, objectives, and strategies, they will waste money, time, resources, and effort.

For a startup, this could be quite costly and ultimately, result in going out of business. For an established business, this may result in losing ground to the competition, missing an important market opportunity, losing key people who do not feel supported, falling stock prices, or even going out of business. It can also lead to companies becoming reactive and developing an organizational culture of crisis management where you are constantly fighting fires instead of planning and being proactive.

Quick Goal Alignment Quiz

Step 3: Choose Channels

While setting goals and objectives is a critical part of planning, how you achieve them has more to do with your implementation plan. Therefore, in this step we will focus on achieving those goals and objectives by selecting the appropriate digital marketing channels and platforms.

Since there are so many social media options, marketers often struggle in selecting the appropriate social media platform to use. Instead of trying to pick specific social media sites, organizations should focus on the type of social media marketing that will work best for their target audiences and build a presence on 2 – 3 platforms that support those activities and cater to those audiences.

Types of Social Media

The following are the most prominent types of social media networks / platforms. In each of the sections below, you can read the category description, the pros and cons, and examples of sites that fall into that category:

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Now that you have reviewed the different types of social media networks and the pros and cons of each:

  • Which ones best meet the needs and activities of your customer personas / target audiences?
  • Which ones best suit your brand?
  • How can you leverage these channels to achieve your organizational goal and objectives?

Step 4: Create Content

After choosing your channels, the next step in our 6-Step Social Media Marketing Framework is content creation. After selecting the appropriate social media networks, marketers can focus on creating the content that works best for that specific channel and the target audience.  Questions to consider include:

  • What do you want your community to do?
  • What does your target audience find most engaging?

This is not about creating content for the sake of it. Think strategically about what you are trying to achieve, which should be clear after the listening stage, and then deliver content based on that. And, remember to follow the content strategy, content calendar, and lead magnet recommendations discussed in the Content Marketing chapter.

Step 5: Engage the Community

Listening is just one side of the equation. Once you have listened to your community, you will need to go out and build positive relationships that last. This is done by engaging your customers with content they find valuable. However, simply pushing out content and hoping that your community will like, comment, and share the content is somewhat unrealistic and unproductive. To get the best out of content and to develop meaningful relationships and trust, it is necessary to engage with your community.

Usually, the key to successful engagement is conversation. Engagement can take on other forms such as sharing, liking and posting and to a certain extent, your community will determine which form is most suitable. However, conversations lie at the heart of social media. It is a central facet: people want to talk to each other. This then leads to the following questions about conversations:

  • What is a conversation?
    Simply defined, it is a dialogue between at least two people, possibly more.
  • Why are conversations important?
    Conversations communicate who we are, what our needs are, and what we feel.
  • How do conversations impact business?
    Conversations in business are not new; commerce has revolved around conversations for millennia. The rules that applied to good conversation back then also apply to today’s social media business conversations. In 44 BC, Cicero put forward the following rules for good conversation:
    1. Speak clearly.
    2. Speak easily, but not too much, give others their turn.
    3. Do not interrupt.
    4. Be courteous.
    5. Deal seriously with serious matters, gracefully with lighter ones.
    6. Never criticize people behind their backs.
    7. Stick to subjects of general interest.
    8. Do not talk about yourself.
    9. Never lose your temper.

All these rules still apply to maintaining good conversations in social media. For example, although you or your organization may want to talk about your brand, it is best to avoid direct marketing and sales via social media as part of a conversation or dialogue. If it makes sense to bring it up as part of a conversation, feel free. But, remember, no hard selling!

In addition, to Cicero’s rules for conversation, there are three more pertinent social media conversation guidelines to consider:

  1. Get to know who you are talking to. (Remember your customer personas?)
  2. Listening is more important than talking.
  3. If you’re going to be talking have something important to say.

Again, the secret to successful conversation and engagement will be to listen to your community and find out what it is they like to talk about and in what manner. Knowing this, you can have more impact when it is time to say something since you already speak their language and are part of the community. As part of your content strategy, write down what tone of conversation is relevant to your community. For example, do you want to be light and informal or are you required to be more serious and formal? Develop your conversational style according to your community.

Engagement Pyramid

Engagment Pyramid

Marketers should also be aware of the engagement pyramid and the passive majority. Not everyone on social media will engage. According to the engagement pyramid, the vast majority of a community will be passive. This means that those individuals doing the talking represent a small percentage of your target audience. The digital marketing team needs to be aware of this as it will affect responses to your content as well as engagement around your posts.

  • Passive behaviours would represent the majority of people who see, view, and even read, watch, or listen to content but choose not to comment or share it. In fact, in many of the larger social networks, a good engagement level (Facebook uses the term ‘people talking about this’) is usually anything above 10%. Here engagement refers to liking, sharing, and commenting on posts.
  • Active behaviours refer to the types of action most digital marketers seek, e.g., liking, commenting, and sharing. This primarily refers to the endorsers, contributors, and super fans in the pyramid. Advocates are the ones who take engagement to another level. They are the ones creating their own posts about your brand and promoting your brand to their own social networks.

The key takeaway here is that 10% may be a rough guide as to the level of engagement to expect for your content. Clearly, this will differ depending on industry and how inherently social your product is. For example, a social media post about acne products might not get too much sharing.

Also make sure that you allow the most engaged members of your target audience to flourish. Offer them rewards and incentives for their hard work. Tell them you appreciate their efforts and give them something back in return. This could even drive user-generated content and/or competitions. Take, for example, a Pinterest competition created by Peugeot cars. In this competition, Peugeot posted pictures of cars to their Pinterest board showing tiny sections of cars. Followers then had to go to Peugeot’s Facebook page to find out which car the picture was taken from for a chance to win something.

As well as conversations, another key goal of social media is virality. Most organizations want their content to go viral. Many marketers have studied why a piece of social media content goes viral and there does not seem to be one definitive answer. However, there are some commonalities. Apparently, most viral content pieces tend to be in one or more of the following four categories:

  • Very helpful / practical
  • Unique / amazing / spectacular
  • Funny
  • Controversial

Viral content can be a combination of any of the above categories but generally at least one is involved. However, from a business perspective, before trying to make engaging content, determine what is appropriate for your target audience. For example, while edgy and causing more buzz and reach, does a controversial video fit with your community’s sensibilities/personalities, your content strategy, and your overall brand image and personality?

During the engagement stage, marketers need to be aware of how to build and foster trust in their online relationships. To tap into virality and achieve massive reach, marketers will need to understand which content types are most likely to truly engage their target audiences.

Step 6: Measure, Analyze, and Optimize

Measuring is crucial to social media’s impact on an organization. Without measurement, marketers have no yardstick and no means of understanding whether their activities are succeeding or not. Through analytics, surveys, and content analysis, it is now possible to measure the success of your social media activities. Collate and collect all your data so that you can analyze how things went during the current cycle of the framework. In addition to your social media analytics and insights, you will potentially need other information, such as:

  • online web analytics
  • a timeline of important events or activities that may have affected the organization in the online, social, and offline worlds
  • financial data regarding sales

Once you have all the data, assess the success of your social media marketing campaigns and ongoing activities by examining how it all fits together. Review any lessons learned and optimize your strategy for the next iteration of the cycle. Once again, start with a listening phase to find out if there is anything new and/or what’s changed for your target audiences. For example, if you found out that one product was less popular in terms of engagement and sharing, you may want to focus your attention on monitoring keywords associated with that product in the next listening phase. Measure, analyze, and optimize your activities so that you can properly evaluate what worked and what didn’t. This is crucial for future planning of your social media activities. In the Digital Marketing Analytics chapter, we will dive into specific metrics and analytics more.


Key Takeaways

The six steps in the social media marketing framework are:

  1. Listen to and learn from the community
  2. Define your goals, objectives, and target audiences
  3. Choose the appropriate social media channels
  4. Create content that your target audiences will find compelling
  5. Engage with the community via meaningful conversations
  6. Measure, analyze, and optimize your results

And, there are many types of social media networks, each with their own pros and cons:

  • Social Networks
  • Photo Sharing Networks
  • Video Sharing Networks
  • Livestreaming Networks
  • Interactive Media Networks
  • Community Forums
  • Blogging & Publishing Networks
  • Podcast / Social Audio Networks
  • Messaging Apps
  • Bookmarking & Content Curation Networks
  • Review Networks
  • Social Shopping Networks
  • Interest-Based Networks
  • Sharing Economy Networks
  • Anonymous Social Networks

Social Media Marketing – Additional Resources

Here are several articles and free industry certifications that provide more social media marketing details:



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Foundations in Digital Marketing Copyright © by Rochelle Grayson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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