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According to Statusbrew, just over a year ago, there were approximately 3.04 billion active social media users worldwide. Let’s just give that a few seconds to sink in.

Right. Getting back. You know what the thing about social media is? People check it a zillion times a day. It’s crazy, but true. They check, check, and check it again. No points for guessing where all the marketers want to set up home now. And who can blame them? Given the sheer nature of its widespread appeal and use, social media presents gold to any modern-day, self-respecting digital marketer. The bottom line is, if you don’t know how to do social media marketing, you’ll lose out – in the blink of an eye, at that.

So, what is social media marketing?

Used well, social media marketing (also referred to as SMM) is a powerful tool that optimizes high-quality content across social media platforms to increase inbound website traffic and maximize brand awareness, engagement, and sales via sustained positive brand reinforcement. In short, social media marketing is one of the few digital marketing strategies out there that can help with just about any of your marketing goals.

However, creating a social media marketing strategy isn’t a very straightforward process – it involves the consideration and coordination of a number of supporting components for it to be successful. For instance, social media marketing will never gain traction unless you also have a sound content strategy in place, churning out insight-rich, drool-worthy content that people just can’t resist sharing.

You then have to decide on which types of content to share on which platforms, because not all content formats lend themselves to all social media channels. Blogs, articles, and other long forms of industry and business-specific content, for instance, might work best on LinkedIn or Medium. On the other hand, if you have a witty one-liner to share, Twitter’s your best bet. In other words, as Gary Vaynerchuk said, “If content is king, then context is God.”

How do you do social media marketing strategy?

So, let’s break it down. How exactly do you go about getting a social media marketing strategy in place? A simple and effective approach is to ask a series of questions about your target audience and goals. For instance:

  • Who do I want to reach? Research your buyer personas, demographics, needs, challenges, and preferences. Stalk the living daylights out of them. Not in the creepy, personal way – that’s strictly off-limits. Just spend time where they do, and observe their public interactions. This will give you a very good idea of whatever you need to know in terms of what types of platforms and content to use to effectively engage them and also to attract new prospects. You can then segment your audience to make for more effective reach and long-term engagement.
  • Where do I reach them? Where do they spend the most time? You spend time where they spend time – it’s as simple as that. For instance, if you’re a fitness brand, a large part of your audience is bound to be millennials. Naturally, a lot of your marketing effort should be focused on Instagram – a platform known for its large user base of millennials. To take it a step ahead, where do you think your audience will be tomorrow? Try to get there before they do. The idea is to stay ahead of the curve, not get behind it because you were simply too comfortable to be proactive. Change is inevitable, and happening faster than ever before. So stay informed, and stay ahead.
  • How can I show them that I can eliminate their pains better than anyone else? With jaw-dropping, unbelievably precious content that drips of your industry/ product knowledge and buyer empathy. The key to grabbing your audience’s attention is the age-old trick – you need an eye-popping, can’t-believe-my-ears hook. Base your context on hard, reliable, and relevant facts, and build up to why you’re the perfect choice for a particular buyer challenge (or a bunch of them). When publishing, follow the rule of three – choose the right time, place, and context. Oh, and don’t forget – follow this up with unbeatable customer experiences. Every. Single. Time.
  • How do I measure success? One word – analytics. You can’t improve something you can’t measure. So right at the start, identify the metrics that best suit your plan. Go beyond superficial metrics like likes and shares, which mean nothing by themselves. Aim for deeper metrics like comments and discussions, mentions, and replies, which indicate the level of audience engagement you’ve achieved. All these metrics can be influenced by tweaking your strategy to map more closely to your goals, which is why analytics is a critical part of social media strategy. Google Analytics is a free, popular analytics tool that’s proven highly useful to many social media marketer in this regard.

To conclude

Sure, the benefits of social media marketing are many. However, due to its wide-ranging nature, it’s best to resist the urge to dive right in, and to instead opt for a solid, calculated approach – one that’s at the same time agile enough to adapt to rapidly changing dynamics ranging from customer preferences to technological trends. For complete information on the latest in social media marketing and how it fits into the larger umbrella of your digital marketing strategy, sign up for the Nanodegree program right now. You’ll be glad you did.