To be successful on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest, business pros must know their audience and develop a plan.
While social media is an invaluable resource for sharing pet photos, these platforms are also at the forefront of business marketing. Over the past six years, an increasing number of US businesses have used social media for marketing purposes, from 86% in 2013 to 91% in 2019, according to Statista.
An estimated 2.65 billion people used social media worldwide in 2018, which is projected to reach 3.1 billion by 2021, another Statista report found. Businesses can capitalize upon this reach by using social media platforms to gain new customers, foster existing relationships, and make themselves known to the public.
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Major social media platforms offer businesses opportunities for paid advertising via promoted content and sidebar ads, as well as built-in metrics to track an organization's reach, according to Lily Stern, social media director of real estate strategy site TheClose.com.
"Social media is making it easier than ever to reach your target audience," Stern said. "These platforms have breakdowns of the demographics of your followers and people you reach. Understanding your audience, knowing what they like and dislike, as well as what you can offer them, is crucial to growing your business."
While 63% of B2B companies cited social media as their primary way to attract new customers, according to Walker Sands' Future of B2B Content 2019 report, knowing where to start can be daunting.
Choosing a platform
You first need an actual business--not idea--to market a business. Once the business is up and running, the individuals in charge of marketing and PR must determine the most useful social media platform for the business, said Wesley Pestana, co-founder of First Checkpoint, an online resource for automobile enthusiasts.
The effectiveness of a social media platform for marketing depends on the goals of the business and its target audience, Pestana said.
"It's essential to check the demographics and behavior characteristics of your target audience before you choose to have a social media presence on a particular platform," Pestana said. "You don't need to be on every social media platform if it doesn't serve your purpose and audience."
The most popular social media platforms greatly vary by age, for example. YouTube (91%), Facebook (79%), and Instagram (67%) are the most popular social media platforms among young adults ages 18 to 29. Facebook remains popular among adults ages 30 to 49 at 87% and those between the ages of 50 and 64 at 70%; but Instagram drops off with those age groups, at 47% and 23%, respectively, the Pew Research Center found.
Pestana recommended taking a look at what the business offers and determining what demographic would most likely use the service.
Lara Housser, vice president of brand and strategy for KiwiCo said Facebook and Instagram were instrumental in growing her business, given her clientele of children and young adults. KiwiCo sends STEM-themed and art-themed subscription boxes for people of all ages, but many are geared toward younger generations, which makes Facebook and Instagram the most useful.
"Facebook and Instagram are the two most important for us as a direct-to-consumer brand," Housser said.
Stern, on the other hand, pointed to Pinterest, which has a traffic base of mainly young adults ages 18 to 24 (38%), as the best platform for her real estate strategy company. While Facebook helped her build an organic audience and retarget that audience via paid social media advertising, Pinterest ended up being the most beneficial, Stern said.
"Pinterest has been instrumental in growing website traffic," Stern said. "Pinterest users generally aren't as loyal to specific brands—most pinterest searches are unbranded—which is why it's the ideal time to get your company or product in front of these users. If you provide a resource or product they want, they'll click, even though they don't know your company.
"Unlike Instagram and Facebook, our business's niche is not oversaturated on the Pinterest platform. That means that for us, we stand out from other companies," Stern continued. "Pinterest will also rank us higher in search if people are interacting with our pins, so we make sure to create high-quality content for our viewers."
Once your business chooses the right platform, the next step is utilization.
How to market your business on social media platforms
1. Paid promotion
Nearly all major social media platforms have a dedicated site where businesses can create accounts with the mission of marketing themselves; these include Facebook for Business, Instagram Business, Twitter for Business, and Pinterest Business.
These business accounts often let you view audience breakdown and how certain content performed. Users can also use the accounts to promote posts, with the aim of reaching more people; however, all of those strategies require financial investment, Housser said.
"We've learned through trial and error the types of content that we share with our community and the way that we leverage social media," Housser said, and these platforms can act as a guide for how to cater content.
For example, Housser saw that her followers really enjoyed seeing KiwiCo's boxes in action, where children experimented with the STEM projects or played with the art projects. She started sharing more of that content and more behind-the-scenes videos.
"We found that authentic content is really engaging for the community. In a lot of cases, [the content] is in a messy kitchen, and the lighting is terrible. It's not something that you would put on your holiday card," Housser said. "But, any way you can allow a consumer to see how your product could fit into someone's life is actually going to be as engaging, if not more engaging than a beautiful shot from the studio."
2. Organic followers
Building on this idea, Housser said she saw around half of KiwiCo's acquisition come from organic followers instead of via paid advertisements. These organic followers often hop on board because of user generated content (UGC), or content from users that KiwiCo promotes, Housser said.
"We'll re-share some of that really great UGC, and it's a great way to give a glimpse into how families are using KiwiCo," Housser said. "You get those word-of-mouth testimonials, and they're amplified further on social channels."
Seeing other people featured on KiwiCo's Instagram stories or Facebook page inspires other consumers to do the same. KiwiCo also encourages consumers to post about their projects by providing a hashtag, Housser said.
"We encourage consumers to hashtag us across all touchpoints that we have with them.
We print it in the collateral that we include in our boxes, and we show pictures of UGC on the collateral," Housser said.
Housser also used social media to market her business by hosting contests or giveaways. Anything with an incentive is attractive to consumers, she said.
Housser recommended partnering with other big brands in your industry to conduct giveaways. A partnership not only gives your company more exposure, by being posted on another brand's social media page, but also creates valuable industry contacts, she added.
Pestana used those same tactics when building First Checkpoint. "I scaled up to build an active organic community of over 5,000 followers and influencers by conducting motorbike related quizzes, and contests where participants can tag their friends," he said.
Pestana provided the following examples of the tag features he used to increase his audience with these contests:
- Share a pic of a friend who is proud of their motorbike
- Tag your friend who is crazy about his bike
- Tag a friend who is a bike enthusiast
- Share a pic with your bike
- Tag your crazy bike friend
Advice for starting a social media marketing journey
Housser, Stern, and Pestana all agreed on two main pieces of advice: Be authentic, and know your audience.
"Be authentic when you socialize," Pestana said. "People want to build personal, authentic, and valuable connections online. They want to connect with someone that they can relate to and identify with strongly. I focus on engaging content and run on a consistent schedule, which provides an exceptional, consumer experience. I make sure to communicate back with my fans, followers, and prospects, so it helps forge stronger relationships with them."
To do that, however, business leaders must know their audience. "You have to bear in mind that their time matters and offer them value. You can do this only when you not only know your product or service, but also your audience inside-out," Pestana said.
Getting to know a business's audience is a process, so coming up with a plan is crucial; these plans can be formulated by using insights generated through metrics on social media, Stern said.
"Rather than throwing out content and seeing what sticks, come up with a plan beforehand," Stern said. "That plan can involve a ton of different tests where you see what your audience likes best. Having a plan enables you to replicate the process once you find success. Once you know your demographics, look into the average demographics of these social media platforms and choose what works best for your business."
"I have found Social Media Marketing to be way more effective and relatively much cheaper than traditional marketing," Pestana said. "Some of the added benefits include that it is real-time, flexible, and can be scaled up as per your business needs."
For more, check out Who are the most influential companies on social media? on TechRepublic.
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