This content was created through a collaboration with the folks over at Zoho Social. To dive into more advanced topics on social media marketing, check out their educational content on The Social Journal.

Approximately 3.6 billion people use social media. As it stands, that’s nearly half of the world’s population, and the number of users is only projected to rise. With such a large and diverse pool of people, it’s no wonder that organizations of all sizes are using social media to increase exposure, build traffic, and generate more leads.

But social media marketing (SMM) is about more than just redirecting people to your website through a Facebook post. The best SMM isn’t unidirectional. It’s a chance to truly converse with your current and future customers. Because social media is so interactive, you’ll quickly discover how people feel about your company and its products—both the good and the bad.

Having unfiltered access to your customer base offers you the opportunity to listen to feedback, boost compliments, and respond to criticism. That kind of engagement is what makes SMM so popular among marketers seeking to connect with prospects on a digital stage.

Our goal in this social media marketing series is to walk you through how to set up and run social media channels for your organization. We’ll look at:

  • Building a positive social media presence
  • Setting up social accounts across multiple networks
  • Identifying the best times to publish
  • Navigating the different mediums for broadcasting posts
  • Driving traffic to your website
  • Getting your published content more views
  • Responding to feedback and delivering top-notch customer support

The topics that we’ll cover in this series will not only help beginners sail through the basics of SMM. It will also help users of all experience levels explore the techniques involved in creating a more powerful and refined SMM strategy.

Questions to ask before you get started

Before we get down to business, let’s take a step back and answer a few key questions.

Are you ready to market on social media?

Just because you can spread the word about your brand on social media doesn’t necessarily mean you should. For various reasons, sometimes a business won’t be ready to venture into the world of social media marketing. Before getting started, you should first ask yourself these questions:

  • What are your goals for social media marketing?
  • Who is your target audience?
  • Do they use social media? If so, which platforms?
  • What content do you plan on posting or sharing?
  • How often do you plan on posting?
  • Social media often requires a consistent supply of image and video assets to go with your posts. Do you have the bandwidth to create multimedia content?
  • Who will be in charge of your social media initiatives? Is there someone who can take charge in their absence?

Most importantly, are you ready to take full responsibility for keeping your social media presence active on a regular basis? All the big channels are littered with brand accounts that started out strong but petered out as their owners shifted their attention. One of the main keys to success in social media marketing is consistency. If you’re not ready to post and engage regularly, it might be better to hold off on starting this journey.

Setting up new social media channels

Once you’ve answered the questions above, you’re ready to begin. Great! That doesn’t mean you should rush to create an account on every social media platform there is. Take this time before all the posting begins to pin down a clear strategy for your social media presence. With that plan in place, you’ll want to ensure that everything from the email you use during the sign-up process to the way your profile bio is written is consistent with your long-term SMM goals.

Plan for growth

Although some small business owners and solopreneurs prefer the simplicity of using personal email addresses to set up their company’s social media accounts, this can cause complications later on when transferring responsibility for SMM to someone else at the company. To avoid those growing pains, we suggest creating a dedicated email address for all your social media accounts (for example, SMM@[yourcompany].com). Then, you can store the login credentials for the different platforms in a centralized password aggregator, like Zoho Vault. That way, whoever is in charge of your social media has full access when they need it—for example, if a password needs to be reset or an ad invoice needs to be paid. At the same time, you won’t have to worry about transferring account ownership from one person to another if your social media person leaves the company.

Find your audience

Identify where your target audience is spending most of their time on social media. Study how they engage with the platform, and which kinds of content they seem to value and interact with the most. To learn more about the demographics of specific social platforms, you can check out research from the Pew Research Center, or fact sheets like this.

If you’re having a hard time locating potential leads on social media, start by searching for your competitors. Where are they dedicating most of their social media efforts? If your biggest competitors all have a strong presence on Facebook, there’s a good chance you’ll want a presence there, too. But don’t be afraid to think outside the box and look for channels that your competitors may have overlooked.

Create a customer profile

Now that you know which platforms you want to build your social presence on, it’s time to dig into who your customers are, their needs, and their values.

First, you’ll want to segment your customer base into clearly defined groups that you feel have desires, considerations, concerns, or pain points. Once you’ve come up with your groups, identify the demographic information that matters most for your business. For some industries, age, location, and income bracket matter most. For others, technical skill level and job description may have a bigger impact on the decision-making process.

Once you’ve settled on the demographic information that you think is most relevant to your brand, you should make sure that you and your team are on the same page by putting together a set of shared insights. Get consensus from anyone in your company who engages with customers, and validate your information regularly. The best profiles grow and evolve over time as your company gets a better understanding of the different kinds of customers you work with.

If you don’t know where to start, here’s a fictional customer profile for our product Zoho Subscriptions:

Name: Jane, the bootstrapped small business owner
Age: 36
Education: Undergraduate degree, not in business
Income: $81,000/year
Needs: In the last 12 months, Jane’s fitness company has taken off, and she needs to streamline her operations. Up until this point, she’d been managing her accounting process with spreadsheets. Now that she’s expanding, she wants her billing process to be more efficient.
Pain points: It’s been difficult to find a software solution that fits Jane’s budget. She isn’t very familiar with technology, so she needs something simple that can grow as her business grows. Many of her employees are remote and need access to their client data no matter where they are.
Hobbies: Jane doesn’t have much free time these days, and what little she does have is spent either networking or with family. Her one consistent ritual is working out in the morning before her workday begins.
Traits: Driven, busy, health- and eco-conscious, passionate, independent
Social media activity: Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram

Based on this profile, Zoho Subscriptions could create different plans for the different social media platforms:

  • On LinkedIn, they might go with a more direct business approach. They could offer her educational webinars or free business templates that can appeal to her driven, efficient nature.
  • On Facebook, they might consider taking a more personal approach. They might choose to target her with light-hearted promotional ads that highlight how much more personal time she’ll have if she uses a more efficient billing system.
  • On Instagram, it might be better to target her industry niche. They can promote their subscription billing model with testimonials and pictures from other customers in the fitness world.

No matter what industry you work in, your SMM will be more effective if you have a clear picture of who you’re talking to and what they need. That will help you come up with ideas for campaigns, as well as help you refine your brand identity. The tone you use on social media and content you share should fit into the Venn diagram of where your brand and your customers intersect.

Get to know the platforms

Even if you understand social media from a personal standpoint, be sure to familiarize yourself with the specifics of each platform you’ll be using for your business. What works on LinkedIn is different from what works on Twitter, which is different from what works on Instagram.

In the beginning, you’ll probably want to start with a single strategy on a single platform. If your customers are on Instagram, you should prioritize imagery and make posts with more hashtags. If a bigger community of leads exists on LinkedIn, you’ll want to limit the number of hashtags you use, instead focusing on creating long-form content to go along with any social media posts.

Each platform requires a slightly different strategy, based on:

  • What content is typically shared on that platform
  • What medium is most commonly used on the platform (video, images, text, etc.)
  • The demographics of users on that platform
  • How users interact with the content on that platform and the platform itself

Factoring those particulars into your strategy is crucial to getting good returns on the effort you invest in your social media accounts.

Once you start to see some traction, you can expand your strategy to include multiple platforms. In some cases, those platforms will require different strategies; in other cases, strategies can be shared. If you’re reusing content across multiple platforms, just make sure that you take each platform’s particulars into account:

  • Is your post copy appropriate for each platform?
  • Will your image look good in all aspect ratios?
  • Or, do you need to create multiple versions?

Whether it’s optimizing your profile bio, posting within character limits, monitoring engagement, or responding to direct questions, there’s a lot to learn about how every network functions. Each one has a unique personality. It’s important to understand the basics to determine which channel will be ideal for your marketing efforts. If you don’t do thorough research before diving in head first, you could end up spreading yourself too thin.

Remember: It’s better to be consistently active on one social media platform that your customers use than to have infrequent activity on several.

Taking the first step

You’re about to debut in front of a live audience—one that can be apathetic (or even ruthless) when engaged carelessly. But if you’re intentional with the campaigns and content you deliver, the rewards for SMM are well worth the effort. Remember, anybody can create a social media account and start broadcasting updates, but weaving compelling narratives and creating lasting impressions is what keeps people coming back for more. How you tell your brand’s story, build a connection with your target audience, and provide value—that’s how you’ll stand out.

In the following articles, we’ll share more in-depth information about key topics, such as creating content on social media, managing your channels, and measuring your SMM success with analytics. We’ll also be providing in-depth guides for getting started on five of the biggest social media channels for business: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and YouTube.

Creating and Publishing Content for Social Media
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