In fact, we’re so addicted to our mobile phones and the social media apps on them that there’s now a word for our obsession.
Nomophobia is the fear of not being near your mobile phone.
With such widespread use, social media presents an incredible marketing opportunity.
If you’re not using social media marketing already, you’ll either have to learn it now or lose in the long run.
In this social media marketing guide, I’m going to walk you through the 12 most popular platforms.
I’ll give you an overview of each one, show you how to build a successful social media strategy for them, and point you to some of the best places to learn even more.
But first, let’s go over some definitions.
Social Media Marketing Guide Definitions
As usual, Wikipedia is a disappointment when trying to define social media marketing. It simply says, “Social media marketing is the process of gaining website traffic or attention through social media sites.”
Wow, who would’ve thought, right?
I’d like to take a swing at defining social media marketing myself:
Social media marketing is the process of creating content that you have tailored to the context of each individual social media platform in order to drive user engagement and sharing.
You gaining traffic is only the result of social media marketing. What do you do to get that result? Create content that works well on each platform.
Naturally, however, each platform is different. On one, blog content is the master. On another, video dominates. And on another still, pictures win the day.
That’s why I’m going to show you the differences between the top 12 platforms and how you can leverage each.
As you’ll see, each platform requires a slightly different strategy.
Because here’s the thing: Everyone wants their content to go viral.
But, to do that, the content must be engaging so that people want to share it. Your content must be so good that it makes the user want to tell all their friends about it.
Otherwise, your social media strategy will fail.
You’ll have no shares, no viral content, and no traffic back to your site.
Social Media Marketing Overview
Even though you hear about the same few social networks all of the time, that doesn’t mean there aren’t any others out there.
All versions aggregate around 200 services, but from version to version (which they usually update every 2-3 years), the creators remove over 100 social media platforms and add another 100.
The world of social media is changing incredibly fast. So when you’re just starting out, start with the ones that have been around for years.
Betting on “the next big thing” can pay off if you’re right. But, if you’re just getting started on a social media strategy, you can’t afford to not have a Facebook page or a Twitter account since we’ve already seen how effective they are.
Let’s look at some key social media terms.
Content is whatever you are posting. It can be a Facebook status update, a photo on Instagram, a tweet, something to pin on a board on Pinterest, and so on.
The graphic already showed you that content comes in many different forms and that you need to custom-tailor it to each platform. What’s even more important than content, though, is context.
And, the opposite is also true. Packaging your entire blog post into one tweet is hardly possible, so try a good call to action with some relevant hashtags instead. And that brings us to hashtags.
By now, they’re a very common form that people use to add meta information on almost all social media channels. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest all use hashtags to let you describe the topic of your content or mark it as part of current trends.
They make your content easy for users to discover and therefore more likely that they’ll share it.
Shares are the currency of the social media world. Shares are all that matters on social media.
People will keep talking to you about impressions, click-through rates, and potential reach. But none of these tell you whether people actually pass on what you have to say.
When people engage and interact with your content, that’s good. But, when they share it, that is the time when you celebrate.
A great tool to measure shares and the overall impact of content is BuzzSumo:
The more shares, the more people love your content. It’s the best form of engagement that people can have with it.
This is a general term that means that people interact with the content that you produce. It can be a like, a reaction, a comment, or a share. All of these are good, but the shares are where it’s at.
Now that we’ve covered some definitions, let’s take a look at some social media marketing trends.
Social Media Marketing Trends
The social media world changes faster than any other online space.
And keeping up with it isn’t an easy task.
So here are a few trends you’ll want to keep in mind. Most likely, these trends will impact not just this year, but also the future years to come.
Of course, that’s just Facebook. But the truth is that it’s the same for every social media platform. They make it more difficult for users to grow their own organic platform so that businesses spend more money on advertisements.
Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and every single other social media space wants to make money.
And they do that by connecting you with paying customers. Ideally, they do that well. But ultimately, they are each in it for the money. So you have to watch out and measure your own efforts to see what works and what doesn’t.
Social is Becoming ‘Pay to Play’
As organic reach becomes more difficult, businesses have to pay to play.
They can do so to target their email subscribers or create a lookalike audience from their current subscribers.
The more that this happens between social media platforms and SaaS companies, the easier time you’ll have marketing to your target audience.
Really, this merging of online tools is a good thing for your business.
And, more than likely, it isn’t going to slow down anytime soon.
With these trends in mind, it’s time to look at the most popular platforms (and some that are up and coming). For each platform, I’ll give you a short history of how it came about, where it’s at right now, what the context of the platform dictates, and how to come up with great content for it.
We’ll start with the biggest beast of all: Facebook.
After expanding to Ivy League colleges and a few others, they opened Facebook to everyone in 2006. And it completely exploded.
Now, it’s the biggest social media platform out there. It offers marketers the most data and the most targeted ads. You can be as specific as defining your customer down to the socks their wearing.
With Facebook Ads, you can target management executives in the Bay area between the ages of 45 and 54 who play golf on a regular basis and regularly spend money on equipment (thanks to credit card data).
Context: Facebook gives you a lot of freedom when it comes to content. Images, videos, and text posts all work. What matters, though, is that you integrate your content into the platform as much as possible.
For example, instead of just posting a link to a YouTube video, you can upload the video to Facebook’s own platform. You can also go live, share “stories,” and even shop on Facebook Marketplace.
Try to keep your user on the platform as long as possible. People trust Facebook, and they don’t want to leave the comfort of “their homes.”
Facebook Business Manager (Now Called Facebook Business Suite)
If you want to advertise on Facebook, the first thing you need to know about is the Facebook Business Suite tool.
You can think of this as a hub for managing your advertisements, pages, inboxes, and people.
Then, enter your name and your business email, then click “Finish.”
Yep, getting it set up really is that easy.
You’ll now see your Business Suite dashboard. Feel free to browse around to get a feel for its capabilities.
This tool is an absolute must for anyone who’s serious about advertising and marketing on Facebook. It will give you a single place to worry about your marketing performance rather than having to jump from tab to tab.
Facebook Advertising Options
Perhaps the best part about Facebook is the specificity with which you can target your ideal customer.
You can choose to target people based on their demographic, device, age, interests, and a load of other characteristics.
That’s a wildly valuable benefit for any marketer.
After all, we marketers take tons of time creating customer avatars and target market portfolios.
But Facebook actually allows you to put those things into action.
But, if I were to start a new Instagram account from scratch, I’d focus mostly on pictures. Here are a few categories that work well:
Questions in text form (they engage your followers)
Photos of items from luxury brands (like Louis Vuitton handbags, cars from Ferrari, Coca-Cola, etc.)
Of course, you must also make use of hashtags, give a call-to-action with each photo, and make sure that you’re using your bio right (it’s your only chance to link back to your site unless you have 10K plus followers.). But, we’ll talk more about that below.
You can also focus on Instagram influencer marketing.
Who knew that it would blow up to 2 billion users. This social network has changed the way we consume video since it has made it easy (streaming is super fast) and free, and it gives us a way to express our opinions instantly (thanks to comments).
Users watch about 1 billion hours of video on YouTube every single day. That’s 114,155 years of time!
YouTube has spawned entire industries and kickstarted thousands of careers.
Ten years ago, no one could make a living playing video games.
Thanks to YouTube, people can now build a nice, small business teaching things, sharing makeup tutorials, doing funny pranks, or sharing their athletic abilities (or lack thereof).
For marketers, it’s a great way to share long-form content with your audience, especially if they’re not avid readers. For example, you could turn your blog posts into video tutorials.
Pro tip: Use other social media channels as a gateway to drive your followers to YouTube by giving excerpts, snippets, and previews of your videos. The little, bite-sized teasers will spark curiosity and make people want to see the whole thing.
Context: There are two ways to succeed on YouTube. You can either entertain or teach.
If you’re trying to be funny, you should be funny on all channels. It doesn’t make sense for your brand with a blog about PPC advertising to suddenly make animal jokes on YouTube. You’d be better off teaching some of your strategies on video.
Don’t overcomplicate this. You don’t need high-quality recording equipment or fancy editing. The chances are good that you are a few steps ahead of most people in your niche, so just get in front of your webcam and start teaching.
Sure, since YouTube is video-based, it requires a bit of videography knowledge and a bit of the right equipment. But already, tons of different online phenomena are DIY-ing their way to becoming YouTube sensations.
They quickly increased that number to 50% within four months (13,000 more people per month), whereas getting email invitations to increase from 4% to 7% (19,000 more people per month) took two years.
What they always had going for them was being profitable very early. Thanks to premium subscriptions, a paid job board, and a few other freemium options, they were making money after only three years of being in business.
They experienced several key turning points, such as allowing users to import contacts, focusing on the professional San Francisco tech scene, and acquiring and integrating great services like SlideShare and Pulse.
These decisions helped them grow into a 7,600-person company that Microsoft bought for over $26 billion.
Context: On LinkedIn, it’s all about being professional. The casual writing style that’s used to make some blogs, including my own, so popular, doesn’t work as well on LinkedIn. People are there for one thing only: business.
They want to learn about what’s new in their industries, who’s hiring, who’s firing, and how to optimize their performance at work.
A SlideShare about baking muffins won’t do nearly as well as an in-depth company presentation from a tech conference.
If your content helps people expand their networks or conduct business in a better way, it has a place on LinkedIn. If not, you might want to focus on other channels first.
If you’re familiar with Facebook Groups, then LinkedIn Groups shouldn’t stretch your imagination too far.
Just think of Facebook Groups but for business people.
Basically, LinkedIn Groups are a place for like-minded professionals to gather and discuss topics of interest or establish their expertise.
You might want to consider joining one to establish your business as an expert on certain topics.
After all, the more people that believe your business knows what it’s talking about, the more people who will work with you in the future.
It’s an easy strategy for making connections and growing your content marketing audience.
Reddit is another college-originated social media site, and it’s a very special one at that. It focuses entirely on community benefit. In fact, Reddit’s users will ferociously attack you for spamming link bait or dumping promotional links on their boards (or subreddits).
Reddit requires people to post proof that they’re doing an AMA.
Context: Reddit is tough to crack. You can’t use it as another distribution channel and just submit a link every time you publish something on your blog.
You have to be present, communicate, and provide value to fellow Redditors without asking for anything first.
Submit funny and helpful links for a while just to build up your karma, and then refer back to your content. But only do so where it’s appropriate. And, be sure to make the links a side note rather than the entire content of the post.
It’s not necessarily the fault of marketers, though.
Reddit is just a unique community.
They don’t like people who are too blatant in their marketing, and they don’t like businesses trying to be pushy.
For that reason, even some of the top businesses have made massive mistakes on Reddit.
The CEO of a large outdoor gear retail chain started an AMA on Reddit, hoping to generate brand awareness.
Here’s what he got instead.
And look at this response.
That’s a bit of a Reddit disaster, huh?
So what’s the point?
Be careful what you post on Reddit.
Take some time to understand the audience before you start using the platform to advertise and market. Once you do understand Redditors, though, the platform represents a well of marketing potential you won’t be able to pass up.
If you don’t want to try and grow an organic following on Reddit, then you can consider simply posting ads on the platform.
First, though, you’ll need to determine if Reddit is the right place for your advertisements.
As we already discussed, advertising gone wrong can hurt instead of help your business on Reddit.
So make sure that you know what you’re getting yourself into first.
History: I remember downloading this app back in 2012 and thinking, “This is stupid.” I deleted it and didn’t hear about it again until about two years later.
I still think it’s stupid, but most millennials don’t. Snapchat has 238 million daily active users. While the majority of those are girls (about 70%), the boys who share on the platform have one thing in common: They’re young.
71% of the users are under 34 years old. The hacks and spam and naked selfie scandals might easily distract the average adult from the fact that this is one serious platform for marketers.
Though the app has only been around for a few years (since September of 2011), it is worth around 1.7 billion dollars. (Though there is some disagreement amongst sources).
Context: If your products are targeting 14-year-old girls and you’re not on Snapchat, you are doing something wrong. However, even if you’re on the platform, it’s easy to do a lot wrong.
Since all images and videos disappear after 10 seconds max, the context suggests that all content on the platform is fleeting and short-lived.
Naturally, it makes sense to provide content around that same theme.
Between their closed launch in 2010 and 2012, you needed an invitation to get on the platform, so it’s only been open to the public for five years. Nevertheless, the leads you acquire from Pinterest are high-quality.
Context: Always, always, always remember that 71% of the audience are women. They collect, they curate, and they share. Topics like decorations, interior design, cooking, and clothing do extremely well.
Due to the nature of the pinboards, Pinterest is also one of the only platforms where images look best when you display them vertically. Keep in mind that your pics need special formatting to look good on Pinterest.
Influencer Marketing on Pinterest
If Instagram is the god of influencer marketing, then Pinterest is this god’s son (or more appropriately, his daughter).
Since Pinterest allows users to market within whatever niché they like, influencers flock to the platform like hotcakes at IHOP.
But that’s a good thing for your business.
Since you’re a marketer within a specific niché, you can use those influencers to advertise your product to their existing audiences.
Growing your own audience takes a ton of time. And maybe, just maybe, you don’t have a ton of time.
In that case, influencer marketing is your answer.
Here’s a Pinterest account that puts out recipes, for instance, with almost four million followers.
And here’s another influencer who posts about everything from recipes to decorations and fashion.
Here’s the best news, though.
There’s a niché for everything on Pinterest. That further means that there’s an influencer for everything.
Do you want to market clothing or tiny toy dogs or Harry Potter attire?
Believe it or not, there’s a board for that.
Pinterest Ads and Buyable Pins
Of course, not everyone will want to go through the hassle of finding, talking with, and hiring influencers.
History: TikTok, a Chinese video-sharing app, first launched in 2016. Unlike other social media apps with humble roots in basements or dorm rooms, the company is the result of two different apps merging. Today, the app has more than 800 million active users around the globe.
TikTok users share short video clips of themselves dancing, lip-syncing, or sharing thoughts about politics and social justice matters. The app stands out due to the number of interactive features, such as filters, music, and editing capabilities that allow users to be incredibly creative.
The Chinese-owned app is incredibly popular in the US, particularly among Gen Z. However, the app has an uncertain future in the US due to data privacy concerns.
Why consider marketing on this highly-popular video app? For starters, competition is low. Most businesses aren’t bothering with it yet — and ads are still quite affordable.
The new-ish platform is also a great place to get creative and try out fun strategies that might not work on more formal platforms, like LinkedIn.
Are you considering diving into the world of marketing on TikTok? Here are a few ways to leverage the platform.
TikTok Marketing Videos
The most straightforward way to market on TikTok is by creating exciting content related to your brand.
For example, you could create short how-to videos about topics related to your brand. Use a keyword research tool like Ubersuggest to find topics your audience cares about, and then create short, snappy videos for TikTok.
You could also use the fun style of TikTok to introduce your team members, show off your headquarters, or highlight the features of a new product. Consider using the platform’s interactive elements, such as polls.
Yahoo bought Tumblr in 2013 for over $1 billion. In 2011, they had only collected about 1/10th of that in funding (around $125 million).
Now, users create over 15 million posts each day, and the site makes money with advertising.
Context: The endless scroll feature makes Tumblr naturally good for images. It’s a very visual medium. Designers and photographers often use it to display their portfolios.
Fashion brands and bloggers can use it to curate content from their industries.
There’s one type of file, however, that Tumblr is clearly the number #1 platform for: GIFs. The animated, moving images are right in between photographs and videos.
Most people switch to Instagram for photos, and videos don’t work well on Tumblr since they interrupt your flow (you have to stop, press play, then pause the video again and scroll to the next one). GIFs are the cross-pollination of the two.
Funny memes, animated clips, and short video excerpts make users scroll endlessly and binge-consume the content.
If you’re in fashion, design, photography, or another visual industry, be sure to take a very serious look at Tumblr.
Tumblr Audience Demographic
The audience on Tumblr is a bit different than any other social media platform.
Most of the people are on the platform to have fun.
They are there to share funny comics, memes, and gifs.
They aren’t particularly friendly toward marketers, however. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t market on the platform. It simply means you need to be more creative when you’re doing so.
In fact, Tumblr is a great place for your marketing strategies to take form.
History: You’d think by now that there are enough blogging platforms out there. But nope, apparently, there aren’t. Somehow, within five years, Medium grew into one of the largest blogging sites on the web with an Alexa ranking of 88.
A big reason for this success is its sleek and simple design. Ev Williams, one of the co-founders of Twitter, initially launched it in a 2012 closed beta before eventually opening it to the public.
Similar to some apps, such as Hemingway, the user interface is incredibly simple. The difference is that users can press publish directly instead of copying the content to their own blog.
Before Williams founded Medium, he also created Blogger, which he eventually sold to Google. Clearly, he has a knack for blogging platforms.
Thanks to its numerous big publications, Medium can be a way to build an entire audience without ever creating your own website.
Ali Mese has done exceptionally well on Medium, creating a huge audience from scratch thanks to several posts that have gone viral.
If you have a big following already, you can use it to catapult your articles to the top since the posts that users recommend the most land in the featured stories where most users will see them.
As few as 50-100 recommends within an hour or two can drive your article right to the front page.
Big outlets like Huffington Post, Business Insider, and Entrepreneur often pick up content that has done well on Medium. That gets it additional exposure.
Medium Audience Demographic
In September of 2020, Medium received nearly 200 million visits. And the majority of the traffic to the site (nearly 26%) came from the United States.
This offers a lot of potential for you to get yourself and your business in front of new prospects. Also, keep in mind that the majority of visitors to the site are men with an above-average education.
What does this mean for you? Well, if your social media strategy revolves around posting cooking recipes or cat videos, then Medium may not be the right site for you.
History: This is another Silicon Valley-based startup. Two former Facebook employees created it in 2009 and made it public in 2010. They thought that Q&A was one of the great formats of the Internet, but up to that point, no one had built a solid platform for it.
It turned out that they were right. With a comparatively low $80 million in funding, they built Quora up to over 190 million users in eight years. By 2020, Quora had 300 million monthly active users.
Users can ask questions, and if they’re popular, users can re-ask them. Users can also upvote answers to make sure that quality answers show up first.
History: Finally, let’s look at an app that came out in 2014. Its name is Periscope, and it’s a live streaming app.
In line with the trend to provide more and more life experiences, Periscope allows marketers to hop in front of their phone cameras and talk to their audiences. Their audience can join live and give comments.
The speaker talks, and the audience can react, ask questions, and give feedback. The idea came to the founders when protests arose while they were traveling around Istanbul. They could read about them on Twitter, but they couldn’t view them live.
After raising $1.5 million in funding, Twitter acquired the app before it even launched. They paid somewhere between $50 million and $100 million for it.
Twitter then, of course, made the launch much easier, helping the app garner ten million users in four months. That’s an insanely explosive growth rate!
Currently, the majority of users on Periscope are between 16 and 24 years old, and about two-thirds of the users are males.
Context: Since a Periscope is always a live event, it makes sense to either take your fans to a special live event in your life (like the behind-the-scenes videos that you can do with Snapchat) or make the Periscope itself an event worth attending.
One way to do that is by giving things away to commenters. You could also solve a very specific problem your audience has or do a Q&A.
In order to get live viewers, though, you need to make sure that you promote the broadcast beforehand. For people to actually click through, you also need a great headline.
Then, you can make sure that you get the first bunch of live viewers in by using relevant hashtags, tweeting it out a couple of times before you go live, and even promoting it on other channels.
These viewers can then share it with their followers to invite more people.
Note: Since Facebook added the live feature, Periscope has fallen out of favor. It may be still worth exploring, but it has lost quite a bit of its appeal in recent years.
Marketing on Periscope
Periscope is a great platform for building brand awareness and brand image.
Doing both of those things is often difficult, though.
You try to engage your audience and build a cohesive brand image around your business, but your efforts fall by the wayside.
With video content on Periscope, however, you can create videos that express what your business does, why it’s awesome, and why people should work with you.