A Beginner's Guide to Social Media Marketing for Businesses

Social media marketing (SMM) is the use of social media platforms to share content that helps your business to achieve its marketing goals. Social media marketing includes publishing text, images, videos and more to connect with your audience, build your brand, drive traffic to your website and increase sales.

Social media marketing gives companies a way to engage with existing customers and reach new ones. Today, Australians spend more than 40% of their waking hours online, with most of us spending close to two hours on social media each day.

The major social media platforms used by Australians in 2021 are Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, YouTube and Snapchat – but new social channels are emerging all the time.

Why use social media marketing?

With social media fundamentally changing the way we connect, communicate and collaborate, businesses that embrace social channels and invest in building their social presence are in a strong position to capitalise on social media’s vast potential. It makes sense to be where your customers are – and today, they’re on social media.

As a modern business, your social media strategy should be a key component of your overall marketing plan. SMM can deliver benefits including:

  • Boosting brand awareness
  • Generating leads and sales
  • Growing your audience
  • Building stronger customer relationships
  • Driving traffic to your website
  • Reducing your marketing spend

We explore these and other benefits that social media can deliver for your small business on our blog, ‘Why your small business needs to be on social media’.

How to create a social media marketing strategy

While it’s simple to create and publish a social post across multiple channels in minutes, a comprehensive social media marketing plan will ensure your business gets the most value from your SMM efforts. Before you get started, consider the following aspects.

1. Define your social media strategy.

What are your goals, and how can social media help you to achieve them? Are you looking to build brand awareness, provide an alternative customer support channel or grow sales?

A social strategy can achieve all of these goals and more – but you should start with a clear view of what you’re seeking to accomplish on social media. This will determine which social media platforms you focus on and the type of content you share.

2. Plan your social content.

You’ll get much more value from social media with a planned and scheduled approach rather than scattergun posting. Your social media marketing plan should support your broader marketing plan by reflecting the key themes, messages and promotions that you’ll be using for other channels.

Many small businesses work to a calendar view that allows them to ensure they’re posting to social media regularly and mixing up their content with a combination of photos, videos and lives. Social media management tools like Hootsuite and Buffer allow you to schedule posts across multiple social platforms, saving you the time and inconvenience of sending posts live manually.

3. Monitor your social presence.

Compared with more traditional marketing channels, social media is a two-way street. Being active on social media is about more than just posting content – it’s about engaging with your audience in an authentic way. This means responding to their comments, producing more of the type of content they’re engaging with, and creating a genuine relationship with followers.

Depending on the number of social channels you post to and the number of followers your brand has, you may want to use a social media engagement tool to manage your social mentions and messages.

4. Understand your analytics.

As with any form of marketing, it’s essential that you understand how your social media marketing is performing. Is it delivering the outcomes you identified in step one above, and are you consistently growing your reach, followers and mentions?

Again, there are social media analytics tools (from basic to advanced) to help you with tracking your social metrics – the Victorian Business Government website has a helpful guide to choosing the right monitoring and measurement tools for your business.

How to implement a social media marketing strategy

Whether you’re starting from scratch or looking to take a more strategic approach to your social media efforts, you should have a documented social media strategy. Follow these steps to pull one together.

1. Audit your current social media presence.

Assess where you’re at today on social channels. Which networks do you use, which are delivering the most engagement and value, and how do your profiles compare to your competitors? This is a good opportunity to check that your social profiles are complete and include professional photo and cover images, optimised bios and links to your website.

2. Document your target customer.

Can you articulate who your ideal customer is? How old are they? Are they male or female? Single? With kids? Metro or rural? Get specific about the audience you’re marketing to so your messages have the best chance of resonating.

3. Identify what social success looks like.

It’s easy to fixate on the number of followers or mentions your brand receives. While these are useful metrics, unless they’re contributing to your bottom line, they might not be adding much value to your business. Keep track of whether your social efforts are resulting in a larger customer base and more website traffic and sales.

4. Create engaging content.

It can be tempting to skip straight to this step, but a social profile without a strategy and content calendar will lack consistency, cohesiveness and a strong brand voice. Have a look at what competitors are posting for content inspiration. If you’re stuck for ideas, our blog, ‘How small businesses can use social media to grow’, has some great thought starters.

5. Measure and optimise your social performance.

It may take you a while to establish the type of posts that resonate with your audience and translate to sales. Track your results and update your social strategy and content calendar regularly to reflect the style of content that’s delivering results.