What is Social Media Marketing?


Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last 10 years, you’re probably well acquainted with the term “social media”.

But outside of a constant feed of photos on Instagram and ever-expanding personal updates on Facebook, marketers might be asking themselves “what is social media, and how can it be used to grow my business”?

Well that’s where social media marketing comes in.

Simply put, social media marketing is the process of using social media channels to promote a product or service.

Compared to traditional media, it’s a two-way channel. Social media gives an audience a chance to respond, engage, and interact with a brand as well as offering your business access to an attentive (and massive) audience.

The beauty of social media marketing is that it takes place in spaces where people go to share and interact. Because of this, brands can establish a relationship with their followers. They can develop brand personas and become known for a certain tone, content and style.

One of the most important things to understand about social media marketing is that the way in which companies can succeed on social media will be entirely dependent on whether they can create an organic experience for users.

Because of this, and because of the fact that each social network is different, it’s important to understand how each social network is used.

Social Networks


Facebook is currently the biggest social network on the planet with over 1.18 billion active users on a daily basis and 1.79 billion monthly users.

Facebook would be considered a social connection platform, meaning that people log in regularly to check in and see what their friends and family are up to.

Types of content that do well on Facebook include short videos, images, memes, and quotes.

Facebook is one of the best platforms to get content to go viral due to the high degree of visibility and longevity of posts when shared amongst groups.


Twitter is best known for its 140 character limit and introduction of the hashtag.

Since Twitter delivers content to its users based chronologically (rather than based on engagement, as Facebook does), content on Twitter has a shorter lifespan when compared with Facebook.

Content that does well on Twitter includes current current events, text posts, and how-to posts.

Take a look at this chart that shows the total number of retweets for how-to posts vs other types of posts.


Instagram is a visual platform best known for its nice filters, easy to use interface, and network of photography enthusiasts happy to share their latest photos.

Content that does well on Instagram tends to be visually appealing content of things like food, travel, design, and fashion.

Since Instagram has such a big user base that likes to browse through photos, correctly tagging photos with relevant hashtags can be the key to driving engagement.


Pinterest is a platform that allows users to find and “pin” photos which they want to save for later.

Users can pin multiple photos to different boards in order to help manage and categorize their favorite content. These boards can then be shared amongst the members of the community.

The demographic of Pinterest users tends to be women which would explain why content relating to fashion, fitness, baking, and interior design do so well on the platform.

Pinterest also tends to be an aspirational platform, meaning that since people are pinning their favorite items, can be a great opportunity for brands to showcase their best products as “wish lists” for the Pinterest audience.


LinkedIn is a social network dedicated to connecting all of the world’s professionals.

It’s a place where people go to update their resumes, find new opportunities, and connect with colleagues and other industry professionals.

Because of this, content that does best on LinkedIn tends to be industry specific content, content on productivity, and other types of personal and career development materials.

Social Media Strategy

Once you understand the different use cases of each platform and what your audience is trying to achieve when there (i.e. find new career opportunities, get updates on current events, find favorite images of living room decor), then you can begin to build a social media strategy that helps users achieve those goals.

But before you get into posting different types of content on any channel, it’s first important to define some of the different goals that you might have for social media marketing.

Generally speaking, there are four main types of goals that organizations might try and achieve when investing time into social media marketing.

They are:

  • Increasing brand awareness
  • Driving website traffic
  • Increasing website engagement / drive sales
  • Decreasing churn / customer retention

Which goals that you decide on will determine what types of content that you will publish on a regular basis. Here’s some example content which could be published for each:

Increasing brand awareness: topical content based on new trends, visuals, quotes, viral videos
Driving website traffic: short snippets of blog posts, quotes with influencers, all posts include links back to website content
Increasing website engagement: social contests, coupons, quizzes and trivias
Decreasing churn: Helpful tips, video walkthroughs, customer success stories, use case examples

Publishing Schedule

Unlike other types of marketing campaigns, social media is not a “one time” channel.

In fact, consistent publishing is one of the main tenants of what makes up a successful social media marketing strategy.

Luckily there are tools built to help social media managers stay on top of their publishing schedules. Here are a couple of our favorites (just to name a few).

Sprout Social

Depending on which channel you’re focusing on, the publishing frequency will change.

For example, on Twitter, it’s not uncommon for businesses to post 8+ times a day. For LinkedIn, one post a day would be plenty.

Buffer had a great article on how often to post on social media for more information on exactly how much to post on each channel.

Earned Media vs. Paid Media

In the past, the goal of most marketers on social media has tended towards growing a big following, then continuously publishing content that’s relevant to their brand and audience.

One important point to realize however is that just because you have 1000 followers on social media doesn’t mean that every time you post all 1000 of them will see that post.

In fact, the reality is a much smaller percentage of them will ever see your post.

And that’s where the term organic reach comes in.

Organic Reach

Organic reach determines the total number of people who will see your post based on unpaid distribution.

Or in other words, how many of your followers will see your post without you paying.

This concept of organic reach is the most prevalent on Facebook and Instagram since the algorithms used to determine who will see your content at any given time are based primarily on engagement.

On other networks, such as Pinterest or Twitter, organic reach is less relevant since engagement is not the key determinant of who will see your content at any given time.

Recent updates to platforms, specifically Facebook, have also diminished the total organic reach of Facebook Business pages due to the fact that more content is being created than can ever be displayed to a user.

Because of this added competition for real estate on a user’s newsfeed, less and less content published by businesses ever makes it to their fans.

Social Ogilvy published a report in 2014 displaying some of the implications of such algorithm changes on Facebook.

social media marketing

What they found was that for large pages with over 500,000 Likes, organic reach hit as low as 2%.

Using some of this data, we can say that a Facebook page with 10,000 fans could predictably see under 500 impressions on any one of their posts.

Not so hot!

Paid Distribution

Due to changes in organic reach over the past years, marketers have been forced to rethink their social media strategies, and in many cases begin exploring other avenues to reach their users on social, specifically though paid distribution.

Utilizing paid channels on social media has a number of benefits, firstly it allows marketers to target users based on demographic information, behavior, interests, and number of other key factors.

Because of this, for the first time marketers are able to drill down to hyper specific audiences that would have been impossible 20 years ago.

social media marketing

Due to the number of different paid channels on each and every network, we won’t go into too much detail here. The key takeaway however is that each social media network has it’s own ads platform which allows you to either expand the reach of your posted content, or utilize user data on that network to reach more customers within your ideal customer profile.

If you are interested in paid reach on Facebook, though, we have a great free guide to Facebook Advertising.


I hope this article has helped you get a better grasp on what social media marketing is, and how you can start applying it to grow your business today.

To recap, social media marketing isn’t about simply posting on Facebook once a week and hoping for the best. In fact, a successful social media marketing strategy should include concrete goals, a content calendar, and a scientific approach to who you’re trying to reach, and how many people you expect to interact with.

Due to changes in the social media space such as the decline in organic reach, some networks are moving towards more of a pay-to-play type model.

Because of this, it’s still important to maintain an active social media profile, but the opportunity is beginning to shift in favor of those who are willing to invest in paid distribution.

And while the value of maintaining an organic audience on social media has declined, there are still a plethora of opportunities available to marketers who want to increase brand awareness, drive website traffic, increase website engagement, and decrease churn.

How are you using social media in your marketing?

I’d love to hear what’s working for you in the comments below.

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