For years, the perception of social media marketing was that it’s something “an intern” was handling, probably as an afterthought between endless hours of watching TV at their desk. The idea that social media – something that young people do for fun – was something that requires specialized skills and a lot of work was questionable to a lot of executives.
In more recent years, though, most businesses have gotten on board with the idea that utility with social media is a skill — and a difficult one to master. Social media marketing is a cutthroat world, where success means an expanded reach for your messaging, and failure can mean irreparable damage to your brand identity.
So it’s important, then, to be careful about the strategies you employ when trying to expand your reach in social media marketing.
Google Business Profile
Pick Which Platforms To Join — And Don’t Join Them All
Depending on your business, your brand identity, and your campaign goals, some social media platforms might be a more desirable place to hang your hat than others. Every platform is unique, with different quirks, in-jokes, and demographics. You’ll want to spend some time anonymously familiarizing yourself with the communities before jumping in head first, but here’s a quick rundown on some major players:
- LinkedIn: Pretty much every business should have a LinkedIn page: it’s a great place for B2B communications, job postings, and sharing industry news and updates. Around 72% of recruiters use LinkedIn in their efforts, and it’s no secret why: this is where people go for professional communications. This is the hub where workers everywhere network, make “thought leadership” posts to bolster their personal and professional branding, and generally try to stand out from the pack. This is the most-professional of all the social media platforms, so it behooves brands to be more careful and deliberate in their communications.
- Facebook: The social media platform that needs no introduction, Facebook has nearly 3 billion users all around the globe. From an ad standpoint, Facebook supports a lot of different kinds of content, from text and images to videos and advertisements. There’s been some talk of Facebook’s user base stagnating, and it’s getting harder to reach younger users through the platform, but it’s still an incredibly-large, formidable entity. Facebook ads aren’t cheap, though, and they’ve been the subject of some varied complaints in recent years. Their ad policies can be unevenly applied, and it can be hard to build organic traffic to your pages. There have also been concerns about privacy issues and data breaches — and difficulties with curtailing fake news and disinformation means your ads have a chance of appearing next to some unsavory content. Still, anyone dealing in paid social will have to give Facebook some consideration.
- Instagram: part of the same company as Facebook, Instagram has a lot more younger users than Facebook — probably part of the reason they acquired it. It’s a primarily image-based platform, with some video, so if your product or services lend themselves to stunning visuals, you might do well here. Instagram has become a powerful e-commerce platform, thanks to ads seamlessly integrated into user feeds and delivered in between friends’ “stories.” Chances are you or someone you know has recently purchased something they saw on Instagram — their algorithm works so effectively that a persistent, unsubstantiated rumor is that Instagram is listening to your conversations through your phone’s microphone, in order to deliver ads targeted to you personally. Also notable that Instagram can sometimes be unwieldy for posting outside links on individual posts, leading to the “link in bio” phenomenon.
- Twitter/X: built around short-form text-based messages, you can also post images and videos on Twitter – but increasingly in recent years, you may wonder why you’d want to. Advertisers have been abandoning this platform as of late, as a lot of decisions related to content moderation and other factors means that it’s not as brand-safe an environment as it once was. The platform skews male, with 56.4% of users identifying as such, and is most-valuable as a platform for building your brand’s personality and awareness, especially among the Millennials who make up the bulk of its user base. It’s a forum for two-way communications, so while you’re talking to your customers they have the ability to talk back, for good and ill. If you’re willing to brave it, brands that embrace a strong voice and quirky personality (like Wendy’s) often do well — but it’s not for the faint of heart.
- Threads/Bluesky/Mastodon etc.: In the wake of Twitter’s decline, a lot of other short-form, text-based websites have cropped up in hopes of filling the vacuum. In a commercial sense, Threads seemed the most promising at the start; from Meta, owner of Facebook and Instagram, Threads grew rapidly upon launch, but stagnated almost as quickly after. It’s probably worth staking out your username just in case, but it’s up in the air whether it will end up an effective player. Bluesky, founded by Twitter founder Jack Dorsey, is taking a slower approach to growth by giving existing users invite codes to bring their friends onto the platform. It has more of the old-Twitter feel, but also hasn’t opened up to advertising, and in fact only recently allowed non-users to view posts at all.
- Pinterest: Demographically, Pinterest is mostly women, and does great in projects like DIY, recipes, home decor, and other hobbies-based content. This isn’t the place for an edgy personality, but it’s a platform that knows what it is and has a very well-defined audience. Because of the intersection of interests that thrive on Pinterest, it’s an incredibly-useful site for affiliate marketing and online shopping – 50% of U.S.-based users do some form of shopping through the site.
- TikTok: Home to shorter videos than one would find on YouTube, TikTok skews younger, but is growing in popularity among other demographics. Reaching Millennials and ‘Zoomers’ primarily, Gen X and Boomers are starting to show up as well, and it’s becoming a solid hub for brands and shopping. Much like Instagram, TikTok is a popular place for individuals to become “influencers” through the strength of their personality, content, and brand. It’s a hot-button topic in the halls of Congress (as TikTok is closely tied to the Chinese government) but if you can figure out the odd rhythms and language of the platform, there’s potential for you to do well — assuming you’ve got the sort of product that can resonate.
Brand alignment is key, here: you don’t want to look like a 40-year-old trying to pass as a high school student or do the social media equivalent of showing up to a backyard barbecue in a suit. Knowing your target audience demographics will help you realize which social media platforms need your presence and which ones don’t.
Keep Your Profiles Cleaned Up
Once you’ve planted your flag in a particular social media platform, you want to optimize your profile as much as possible. What does that mean? Well, it’ll vary a bit depending on the platform: some have more customization options than others, some have more constraints on how long your bio can be, the broad strokes of tending to your profile will be the same across the board:
- Make sure that your profile picture, header/background image (where applicable) and other visual elements are the most up-to-date versions — no using the old logo. If you’re the sort of company that deploys temporary artwork for holidays or national events, make sure that’s cleared out when the season is over.
- Make sure your bio is filled out, accurate, updated, and provides relevant links to your company homepage, your contact information, etc. If applicable, things like business hours can also be posted here, if it makes sense for your business – just make sure you’re updating regularly if anything changes.
- If there are forms or processes involved in tagging your account as the “official” account for your business, make sure you do that before some prankster attempts to squat there.
- Tend to your following list – as a business account, you’ll probably want to follow any governing bodies in your industry, your competitors, possibly some of the top creators on the platform, and the personal accounts of your higher-profile executives. That’ll allow you to see a steady feed of relevant content that you can react to, remix, and play off of — remember, social media is a conversation.
Develop A Consistent Posting Schedule
Like everything else these days, social media is governed by an algorithm that helps serve up relevant content to users. Part of the way you make sure your content is seen as “relevant” is to keep up a steady cadence of posts at regular intervals. Having post templates you come back to during lulls, like staff bios, spotlighting features of your service, and joking around about not liking Wednesdays, are a good way to produce a steady stream of content. It’s important to strike a balance, however, between keeping up your visibility and drowning people in your content. The goal is to stay in the conversation without getting on anybody’s nerves.
Use Visual Content
Even on more text-based platforms like LinkedIn and Twitter, posting an eye-catching visual element is a great way to stand out from the crowd. Infographic content, action shots of happy customers, visually-appealing pictures of your product offerings are all good ways to get someone to stop scrolling for a second.
The key phrase there, though, is “visually-appealing.” If you’re a restaurant posting pictures of your food, the food must look good. Something you took in the dark with a previous-generation iPhone isn’t going to bring in business, and might even scare some away. Having someone on staff who is good with photography and design is important if you’re going this route.
Balihoo is all about hyperlocal marketing, but that’s because it’s effective. People are always looking for relevant local content about businesses, events, sales, and more. Targeting your content specifically to the area where your business operates will be more surgical and effective than generalized language. If you’re a franchisor operating all around the country, franchisees posting local content will add up in the aggregate to generate more buzz everywhere. We’ve got more on the benefits of hyperlocal content here.
Consider Influencer Marketing
Influencers are personalities on social media platforms who use their branding and popularity to reach very-niche audiences of, for example, young or minority viewers. Partnering up with influencers, sending them freebies, or just getting them to talk about your product, are all great ways to get your messaging into the hands of people who might not otherwise see it. It’s not without its dangers – some influencers aren’t universally beloved, and it’s good to vet people carefully before any collaborations – but when it works, it works well.
Test Organically, Then Promote
One of the benefits of social media platforms is that they’re free, in their basic form: you don’t have to feed a coin into the machine to post a tweet or an Instagram reel. Utilizing the dashboard metrics available to you through these platforms, you’re then going to be able to see in real time which assets and messaging are hitting your target audience, and driving more attention your way. Based on those results, you can then apply your learnings to your paid campaigns – using the same language on your paid search ads or marketing materials, or even taking your most successful content and using the “promote” option to boost that particular Tweet or post to a wider audience. The nice part about this strategy is that you have a free test-bed for your messaging before you have to open your wallet.
While it should be clear at this point that social media is more complicated than just putting an intern on it, hopefully, we’ve helped de-mystify it a little bit and make some aspects of it easier.
That being said, partnering up with Balihoo will make your social media campaigns even easier. With our unified dashboard, you can operate paid local search and social media campaigns at the touch of a button. Or, if you’d like more information about marketing your franchise operation, you can contact us today for a consultation.
Sean Kelly, Senior Content Writer
Sean Kelly is a Senior Content Specialist, St. Louis-based engagement expert with 20 years of experience in content writing, and 8 years in adtech.