Social media marketing strategy: A self-starter’s guide
To put ourselves in the shoes of a social media marketing beginner, we’ve invented a company to promote on social media: Brainbeats It’s an app (quiz) that recommends music based on who you really are. We’ll use it to illustrate examples, offer advice, and also just for a bit of fun. To learn more about Brainbeats, head to the previous chapter of this guide: What is social media marketing?
So you’re excited about the potential of social media marketing, aware of the challenges, and keen to get started. Great news.
But before you start inviting distant relatives and high school acquaintances to ‘like’ your new Facebook business page, there are few things you should think about.
What do you want to achieve? Who’s your audience? What should you post? How does it fit into your overall marketing strategy?
Some of these questions need experimentation to get right. But you should still come up with a coherent social media marketing strategy.
As my gym teacher would say if you forgot your shorts: “By failing to prepare, you’re preparing to fail.” And if there’s one place you don’t want to get caught short-less, it’s on social media.
So let’s start tackling those questions. We’ll also use our fledgling social media venture Brainbeats as an example of how to think about each point.
Setting your goals for social media marketing
This probably isn’t the kind of social media goal you need right now.
Why? Because likes, shares, and followers don’t equal success on their own. Unless your business model is to get Insta-famous like Kim K, but that’s a whole other article.
In other words, take advantage of social media—don’t let it take advantage of you. Look beyond the likes and ask yourself “Why am I doing this?”
Here are some objectives that social media can help with:
Build brand awareness
Got a shiny new brand? Social media is a great place to get it through eyeballs and into memories. Reach, views, and engagement are what you’re after.
→ Need more brand-building tips? Here’s nearly everything you need to know about brand awareness.
Increase website traffic
Your social media is not a final destination—it’s a channel to your blog content or company website. Besides, people spend way too much time on social media sites anyway, so by siphoning them off to your own domain you’re practically doing them a favor.
Boost your sales
You don’t care if people retweet your latest Twitter retort, or how they rate your hashtag game. You only want them to click through to your store and buy your stuff.
Promote your promotions
Sundays are slow in the cafe, so breakfasts are now 30% off. But if people aren’t already in the cafe, how will they know? Use social media to get the word out and create a buzz.
Build a community
Start better conversations with your customers by offering a more direct support channel. Or just give them a space to bond over how much they love your business. Social media is the place to do it.
Attract better leads
Want to reach 34-year-old Sega fans in Michigan? Target them with social media. Create ads to get them to follow your page, or run a promotion that asks for their email addresses. Now you have a captive audience ready to buy your old Sonic games.
These are just a few possible social media objectives. And remember that the goals you settle on will influence the rest of your social media marketing strategy—so give it some thought.
At the end of the day, Brainbeats is a product. Or more accurately, a quiz.
So we unleashed a social media strategy to promote it. Our primary metric for success? Not likes, retweets, or shares—though we did appreciate them too. We chose quiz completions.
Because if you’re using social media to promote a product, what’s more important: getting people to watch your Insta-story, or getting people to use your product?
The Brainbeats quiz has 20 questions, which is a few soul-searching minutes of someone’s time. So if they complete it, we can say that social media got Brainbeats to the right person, and grabbed their attention too. For us, that counts as an unambiguous success.
Think about the metrics that matter to your business, then work out your strategy from there. And remember—they might not be the first numbers you associate with social media.
→ Want to use a quiz as part of your own social media marketing strategy? Check out these free quiz templates.
Understanding your audience
Remember back in the last chapter when I said that social media marketing is important because your audience is there? Well, it’s true. But you still have to figure out which channels they’re on, when they’re on it, and how they use it.
The good news: you already know your customers better than anyone else. Start by looking up some basic info on —which vary a lot across social media networks,
You’re unlikely to find out that 29% of Swiss construction workers send Snapchats at 4 am. But general stats about the ages, genders, and locations of social media users—and which channels they use—are easily available with a quick Google search.
Already have a social media following? Feed it into Facebook to make a . Then experiment with different types of content to find out what makes your potential customers tick.
Lastly, think about your audience is online. Nowadays, paid ad targeting helps a lot with this, particularly on Facebook. But it still makes a difference on platforms that order content chronologically—like Twitter, for example.
Being a company invented for a social media experiment, Brainbeats didn’t have an existing audience to build from.
But our product was a fusion of two very clear concepts: music and psychology. So we created a persona based on who we thought would like our product.
On the music side: fans of streaming services like Apple Music, music promoters, and budding musicians. And for the psychologically-oriented: people into daily horoscopes, personality psychology, and last but definitely not least, personality quizzes.
Portrait of a typical Brainbeats fan on Facebook
We also focused our ads exclusively on the US to avoid straddling too many time-zones. And because Brainbeats Alpha is only currently available in English.
Focus on interests rather than demographics. You have a better chance of finding the right people without making assumptions about stuff like age or gender.
Picking the right social media channels
Don’t know your WhatsApps from your Snapchats? Research each social media network, try them out, and pick the one that best fits your business.
If you’re a post-millennial teen raised on a daily diet of hashtags and notifications, it’ll be a walk in the park. But for the rest of us, the number of new social media platforms popping up can feel pretty overwhelming.
So when you’re getting started, focus on one or two at most.
Not sure where to begin? Facebook is the easy answer. It dwarfs every other channel in terms of daily users, has tons of targeting and advertising options, and allows tons of content formats.
But there are caveats. Facebook is flooded with business pages just like yours, so it’s increasingly difficult to stand out. And unlike most other platforms, it’s almost impossible to get your content seen without paying for it—and those $10 post boosts do add up.
If you decide to start with another channel, make sure it suits your product.
For example, if you want to show off your product, start a YouTube channel and post video demonstrations. Blendtec’s infamous YouTube series “Will it blend?” does a great job of this. Who wouldn’t want to find out if their hyper-powered blender is a match for the ?
Or if your business is more about lifestyle, inspire people with a well-curated Instagram feed. Offering a niche solution to a very specific audience? You could start lurking on the appropriate subreddit and build a reputation there.
Just don’t spread your efforts too thin. Start with one channel, build an audience, then use your newfound social media gravitas to kickstart campaigns on other platforms.
This is the one step we didn’t approach in the recommended way. We wanted to compare multiple platforms, but we also had to keep the experiment manageable.
So we tried a cross section of the most popular social networks: Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. All very different, all with very large, unsuspecting audiences.
One important thing we learned? Social media marketing takes time. There’s a reason it’s a full time job at larger companies. Even with one of us handling a channel each, it was a lot of effort to tack on to our day jobs.
Social media isn’t something you manage over your morning coffee. Be prepared to save some time for it every day, and spread the responsibility if you can.
Crafting your social media persona
Forget social media for a second—every brand needs a personality or voice that people can relate to. This is what distinguishes your business from its competitors, and inspires trust in potential customers.
How your company represents itself on social media should be a natural extension of its core identity. But at the same time, your tone and content also need to be tailored to your channel of choice.
Succeeding at this is a lot easier than it sounds, as long as you follow the Kanye West rule: be authentic. That’s right—Kanye is an example to us all when it comes to social media.
Chasing validation is like putting your soul in a plank position
Why? Because love him or hate him, he says exactly what’s on his mind at any time. His business is his personality. And by constantly broadcasting it on social media with no filter whatsoever, he has attracted a gigantic online following.
I’m not saying you should start posting whatever’s in your head on social media. But if you stay true to your brand’s identity, people will engage. Pretend to be something you’re not, and people will switch off.
Need an example? MailChimp’s brand leaves space for monkeying around. So they add some humor by sprinkling their monkey business onto your newsfeed like this:
People go ape for stuff like this
Think about your business values, then use these as the starting point of your social media conversations.
We wanted people to take us seriously enough that they’d engage with the quiz, so a lot of our communication sounded scientific and authoritative.
But we also wanted to keep the typical startup tone to generate some infectious excitement, and to show that we had a fun side—a friendly, human company with serious aspirations.
That’s quite a nuanced persona. It required a voice that varied across content, posts, and channels, but felt consistent at the same time.
Just like a person, your business’s persona can be dynamic and multifaceted—as long as it creates a coherent whole. Vary your tone, but don’t change your overall character.
Coming up with content
It’s not just how you post—it’s what you post. Here are a few general tips when posting content on any channel:
Pictures are pretty much essential when posting content, and videos are even better. are more likely to buy a product after watching a video about it.
Copy is still key
Even though images grab people’s attention, the accompanying copy is make or break for engagement with your content. Experiment until you find a winning combination.
Steal the limelight
Seen an article, GIF, or meme relevant to your business that’s killing it on social media? Repost or share it to hijack some of the attention.
→ And if you’re looking for your own GIFs, here’s where to find the best GIFs on the planet.
As a blogger, I can’t leave this one out. Don’t just recycle articles—write your own. That way when people click the link, they go straight to your website.
Keep it consistent
Strike a balance between varying content and maintaining a constant theme. People should know what to expect when they head to your page.
Check the competition
Observe what your competitors are posting and how they interact with their fans. There’s no shame in taking inspiration from your rivals.
When someone reaches out to you by commenting on your post, reach back. People will be more inclined to engage with you if they know you’re listening.
Content is the bread and butter of social media marketing, so there’s a lot to talk about here.
But first and foremost, it should be suited to the specific social media channel. So in later chapters, we’ll go in depth on what works and what doesn’t on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
When it came to content, we knew that visual is what grabs people’s attention—so we got our creative coworkers to throw together some picture and assets to experiment with:
These visuals really came in handy. Whenever we posted the quiz, we drew on this core set of images to test copy. It also let us maintain aesthetic consistency across channels.
We also tried to tailor content to each platform as much as possible. We’ll go in depth on what we posted in the Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter chapters.
Invest in solid visual assets early. Once you have these, you can build a trademark look across all your channels.
And write some blog posts of your own. We would’ve done this for Brainbeats, but we have to prioritize writing stuff for Typeform to keep our jobs. At least until Brainbeats takes off.
Syncing your marketing efforts
Unless your company exists solely on social media, chances are you already have other marketing initiatives going on. Blending these with your social media marketing strategy could give you a huge head start when building a following.
Think about it: Coca-Cola doesn’t have 107 million likes on Facebook because it’s the pinnacle of online coolness—although I’m sure they have some very smart people doing their social media marketing.
It’s because Coca-Cola was already massive. So when Facebook came along in the late 00s, Coke simply called upon their red and white magic to summon an army of followers overnight.
You can leverage your own marketing presence to give yourself a leg up on social.
Do you already send out a newsletter? Add social icons and URLs—along with your emails, posters, and shop windows. Run competitions in your store or on your website that encourage people to follow you on social media.
By using your existing marketing channels to kickstart your social campaign, you’re giving yourself a boost at hardly any extra cost. This will ease the grind of building a social media following from nothing.
We’re a social media enterprise first and foremost. But that’s not to say we didn’t go off piste trying to point people towards our social media slope.
At the end of the Brainbeats quiz, we included social share buttons and a redirect button to our Facebook page. This created a nice social media feedback loop.
We also included an option for people to leave us their emails just before the end of the quiz. Then we followed up with a welcome email that included an incentive to share the quiz with friends.
This is one simple example of how you can coordinate your marketing efforts toward combined results.
We also took our efforts offline with some irresistibly cryptic flyers that we handed out at a local music festival. The QR code goes straight to the quiz—we used this site to make it. As one Instagram follower noted, “sometimes you just gotta to go back to the basics.”
Think about social media marketing as part of your wider marketing strategy. You can use social media to feed your other marketing channels.
Making room for improvement
If you’ve followed all the steps in this chapter, you should be on the path to becoming a social media Shakira. It’s a lot to think about, so congrats for getting this far. Chill for a minute, pour yourself a drink.
Because we’re about to dip into the wild world of analytics.
Seriously though, it’s important to know how your social media marketing is going. When it’s going well, looking at all those graphs and numbers can be very satisfying. And if it’s not going well, at least you know about it so you can make adjustments.
Facebook and Google analytics are both fantastic places to start—they’re free to use, they give clear insights that are easy to understand, and they’re improving all the time.
They provide incredibly detailed rundowns of which posts work and which don’t. They can also optimize your content schedule across multiple channels, and even produce reports on your competitors.
Overall, there’s a hell of a lot you can do with analytics. We’ll talk about Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram analytics in their relevant chapters.
Facebook analytics really came in handy when trying out different ad copy and visuals.
But the real winner was setting up Google Analytics. This let us track where people landed on the Brainbeats Alpha quiz, so we could focus our efforts on the channels that were working best for us.
It also let us see how many people were taking the quiz at a time, gave us the bounce rate for each channel, and the average time spent on the quiz. All of this info was vital to seeing which social media channel was best at engaging Brainbeats’ followers.
Set up Google Analytics as a minimum when you’re getting started. The sooner you start collecting data on your efforts, the sooner you can start using the results to improve.
That just about wraps it up for social media marketing strategy.
Next up is the big F. Stay tuned for detailed Facebook tips and the next chapter in the Brainbeats saga.