A Beginner’s Guide to Social Media Marketing: A U.S. News Guide


If you are interested in growing an engaged audience for your business or gaining loyal customers for your product, it might be time to learn social media marketing.

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Social media used to be one option in a sea of marketing opportunities, but now it’s a huge resource for businesses of all sizes. Social media marketing is much more than sending out a tweet or posting a product image to Instagram – it takes time, money and strategy to grow brand recognition.

Social media marketing connects consumers with brands through platforms that include Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, YouTube and Snapchat to drive engagement, sales and brand recognition.

From choosing the right social media channel to deciding what kind of campaign your business would like to run, learning how to utilize social media marketing can be crucial for success in today’s world.

Coors Light found success during the COVID-19 pandemic when a tweet from 93-year-old Olive Veronesi of Seminole, Pennsylvania, using a whiteboard to ask her neighbors for more beer through her window went viral. The company responded, engaging directly with one of its consumers, and the interactions garnered thousands of likes. It made the company relatable, likable and relevant on Twitter.

There are many ways to use social media marketing, and as companies rely more heavily on these platforms for growth, career opportunities in the social media marketing field are on the rise.

Small-business owners interested in promoting their businesses to new audiences should know the basics of social media marketing. Creating and sharing content with social media users can increase the potential for revenue and yield data to help you better understand your consumers.

Business owners looking for a way to connect with potential customers might also use social media to connect personally and gather feedback on products or services.

“Knowing more about their customers through social media engagement and metrics can allow a small business to allocate their marketing budget in an informed way and truly know who and where their customers are, which can save time and money,” says Sarah DeGeorge, a freelance digital marketing specialist.

Those working in print and digital marketing can also benefit from knowing social media marketing. As the marketing field diversifies, learning how to use new platforms could come in handy when looking for job opportunities.

And social media marketing skills could help beginners or those wishing to pick up an online side gig. Having basic skills and knowing how to engage with an audience are good for those wishing to create a hobby, but it will require time and energy.

“Social media marketing is a larger blanket item that covers so many different platforms, interfaces and other learning curves,” DeGeorge says. “If you want to approach being a social media marketer from a larger scale, you will want to invest a decent amount of time understanding both social media marketing as a concept and also learning each platform in which you will be offering your services to businesses.”

Social media marketing isn’t cut and dry – it can require trial and error, since social media itself is constantly changing. Learning a new platform can be as simple as watching a tutorial about a new platform online or as complex as learning a whole new system, DeGeorge says.

“Social media marketing is one of those areas in which it feels like a living, breathing creature that is constantly changing based on customer needs and suggestions of the platforms,” DeGeorge says. “If you fall behind or decide not to continuously keep informed, you can fall behind very quickly and lose your footing in the industry.”

Beginners may face a social media marketing learning curve. Professionals can have experience in multiple disciplines and skill sets ranging from communication to basic graphic design knowledge to data analysis.

Social media marketing is done best when you can be creative, strategize, manage a community, write clearly and concisely, stay up to date on trends and features, understand how content works on social media and establish a brand to keep users coming back.

To get started in social media marketing, first you must know what you’re trying to accomplish. Social media can appear daunting for business owners if they don’t have a plan in mind.

Some common social media goals include creating custom content, directly engaging with consumers, growing your audience, developing a posting schedule and tracking how your business’ content performs. Without goals or direction, social media marketing can be overwhelming and lead to wasted time.

“The biggest mistake I see is being too focused on doing too much at once or trying to learn it all,” says DeGeorge. “Social media marketers need to know a lot, but building off of the core building blocks of social media marketing should be your first goal.”

Defining who your audience is or who you want it to be is the next step. Your business will have a better chance of accomplishing its goals if you listen to what consumers are saying and who they’re engaging with on social media.

“It’s so important, especially when you’re first starting out, to go to a platform where you are welcome,” says Caitlin Durning, owner of Meraki Media Management. “This allows you to easily get used to outreach, engagement and connecting with your ideal client.”

Popular Social Media Marketing Channels

Not all social media platforms are equally suited for your business, so it’s important to know what each one prioritizes, rewards and highlights.

First, you must identify where your audience is spending the majority of its time. Are they watching short videos or long ones? Are they scrolling for a variety of content? Are they focused on the aesthetic of the content? These are all valuable insights that can help you choose the best platform for your brand and avoid throwing resources into one that does not fit your needs.

Facebook is one of the largest social media platforms, with more than 1.8 billion daily users. You might want to use Facebook if your business plans to provide a variety of content such as images, video, text, tangible products or livestreams. Facebook may also be right for you if you plan on sharing a lot of links. As of October 2020, more than 32% of Facebook users worldwide were between the ages of 25 and 34, according to Statista.

Instagram emphasizes sharing visual content, and it’s best when your content is well designed and aesthetically pleasing. More than 56% of Instagram audiences in the U.S. are female.

Instagram’s short-form video feature, Reels, allows users to post 15-second videos. If short-form video, the shop feature and lots of communication between business and consumer fits your needs, Instagram could be right for you.

Twitter is made for short, character-limited bursts and is designed for quick thoughts and breaking news. In November 2020, the platform released “Fleets,” a feature similar to Instagram and Snapchat Stories that allows messages to disappear 24 hours after they are posted. Twitter is centered around social messaging, humor and news.

Almost 30% of global Twitter users are between 25 and 34 years old. Twitter might be a good choice if you plan to provide concise messages while engaging with your audience.

LinkedIn specializes in professional and business-to-business connection. It’s the virtual edition of cold-calling or networking events.

Starting on LinkedIn can be a smart move if you’re interested in expanding your team or partnering with others in your industry.

YouTube is a good platform if you are interested in video content for your brand. Video plays an important role in the social media marketing world, and YouTube has more than 2 billion monthly users.

Social media advertising is not too different from digital advertising, except that it uses social media platforms to reach target audiences where they spend much of their personal time. You have seen it in action if you’ve noticed posts on Facebook or Instagram labeled “Sponsored” or “Paid for Partnership.”

Social media advertising can reach untapped audiences with a consistent campaign strategy, and there are two ways to get there: paid social advertising campaigns and organic social advertising campaigns.

Paid campaigns involve budgeted money going to the social media platform of your choosing to put your content in front of more users. Some platforms allow you to choose your audience based on demographics like age, location and interests.

Organic social advertising is free and its success completely relies on users, the platform’s algorithm and the quality of your content.

Both methods, paid and organic, should have the audience in mind and be driven by a goal. Organic social advertising campaigns are valuable, but paid campaigns may help you reach a wider audience.

“Paid advertising comes when you’re ready to push the market, not organically connect,” Durning says. “For Instagram, this comes at times with a certain amount of growth, or if there is a sale or event coming up for the business.”

Once your paid campaign has ended, you can track who interacted with the content and get information about your audience. Organic campaigns are a bit harder to analyze and are subject to the ebbs and flows of the platform.

Success in social media marketing can mean different things to different people, which is why it is important to equip your business with the tools needed to understand what’s working and what’s not.

Social media tracking tools have access to your accounts as well as the data and insights of each post, and they analyze your viewers’ actions. Other tools allow you to schedule posts in advance to publish at a certain time. Some analytics tools cost money, but there are free options as well. Here are a few analytics and scheduling tools available:

  • Google Analytics is a free web analytics tool that tracks traffic on your website and compiles its findings into reports. Google offers free training videos on how to use the program.
  • Mixpanel is a web analytics tool similar to Google Analytics. The company offers a free plan, a monthly plan starting at $17 and a personalized plan with varying rates.
  • Hootsuite is a social media and web analytics tool with four pricing plans listed here. Hootsuite can be good for beginners and those who manage multiple platforms.
  • TweetDeck is a browser-based program that allows users to tweet from and manage multiple Twitter accounts in one place. It is free and only for Twitter. Its management abilities can be good for beginners.

Helpful Social Media Industry Resources and Courses

There are multiple publications, online courses and conferences to help you get started in social media marketing.

Learn more about the newest tools and tricks in social media marketing from industry publications and blogs like:

Here are a few social media marketing conferences that might interest you as you build out your professional network:

Here are a few social media marketing courses:

Other online resources that might be useful to you include:

To qualify for a social media marketing position, you must have experience in trying multiple techniques on different platforms, Durning says. And that kind of experience comes from learning by doing and staying up-to-date on how social media platforms and users are changing.

While companies looking for a social media marketing manager may expect or require certifications, most of the requisite skills can be obtained for free.

“While a solid time commitment is hard to answer, you will want to make this your job to learn and build your skills,” DeGeorge says. “This can look like taking an online course, watching tutorials, working or interning and continually building out your knowledge.”

Other skills that are useful for someone pursuing a social media marketing career include copywriting, graphic design, shooting and editing video, public speaking for live appearances, customer service and strategy building.

You’ve decided on a career in social media marketing. Here are some tips for landing that first job or internship.

Beginners should look for internships in brands needing social media marketing employees. In these positions, you could be expected to run campaigns, manage reports from social media tracking applications and do consumer research. Learning some of these skills ahead of time through free online courses could set you apart from other applicants.

Intermediate learners seeking jobs in social media marketing could look to smaller brands or nonprofits for social media management positions, or large companies with assistant positions on their marketing teams. Managers hiring for entry-level positions in social media marketing will be looking for candidates who have time management skills, more than a basic knowledge of social media platforms and a strong understanding of how to identify business needs.

“Social media is constantly changing,” Durning says. “As a social manager, it is so important to be fluid, always learning and adapting.”


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