Social Media is a Marketing Tool 

Social media is not new. I’ve been using it to market clients in dozens of industries since 2007. And there are a few people out there who claim to have been doing it longer than that! But despite nearly a decade as a viable—and valuable—marketing tool, many businesses and individuals are still just dipping their toes into the water.

My goal is not to tell you how to get onto social media. There are too many tutorials and YouTube videos already out there that will tell you how to build your Facebook profile or set up your Twitter account. This is the next step. The important stuff. The step-by-step guide of what to DO with those social media pages and how effective social media marketing should be done to benefit your audience, and ultimately, like any worthwhile marketing effort, to benefit your organization by increasing brand awareness, growing market share, and driving sales.

The Goal of Social Media Marketing

If you begin with your goal, you’ll quickly realize that the purpose of marketing hasn’t change just because your ad is on Facebook instead of in the newspaper or because you’re making a YouTube video instead of a TV spot. The long-established goal of all marketing is to get the right message in front of the right person at the right time. And with this as your goal, you’ll find that social media (and digital marketing in general) have made your goal easier and far more achievable than ever before.

So eliminate any ambiguous goals (like getting to 10,000 Twitter followers) or any unproductive vanity metrics (having more Facebook fans than your competitor) and focus on the real goal of getting your marketing message where your most passionate current fans and your most ardent potential fans will see it, like it, click it, and share it. Here’s the process to get you started on the right path.

Start By Listening to the Conversationsocial media step-by-step

No business can truly understand how to engage its customers until it knows what their customers care about. Review sites, blogs, and other social channels are a goldmine of valuable information regarding what your customers really want. Start by listening and do your research!

Respond to Your Audience

Once you’ve begun by listening, commit to maintaining two-way communication with your fans. Real-time response is a painful trap to get caught in, so establish a pattern of when you will post, reply, retweet, and recognize fan posting. Remember, social media is about the customer! If they’ve made the effort to connect with you on their social network, you owe it to them to respond and make that communication a worthwhile experience.

Create Value for Your Audience

Once your organization is comfortable observing and responding to your customers online, you’ve earned the right to begin creating content. This can feel frustrating at the beginning, especially if you’re creating content for a very small audience of initial followers. But remember, all of your potential followers in the future are going to look at the page to see if they want to follow you, so you need to give them a reason from the very beginning.

What Should I Post?

This is a difficult question to answer succinctly. Your posts should be about your audience so it is creating value for them, but they need to be relevant to your business so that they make sense for you, too. Good posts include images and blurbs about your business, your industry, testimonials of your customers enjoying your product or services, information on products and events, funny comments or videos that relate to your target audience and business, and any fan interaction. Encourage your customers and fans to make their own posts and videos so that they know you’re on social media to help them connect with and deepen their relationship with your company, brand, and products. I.e. not to just have another advertising channel to push your marketing on them.

Increase Your Fans and Followers

Most followers will have to come to you. Entice them by providing consistent, relevant, and engaging content that applies to them in a way that is related to your product or service. You can also proactively seek followers on your social media profiles be reaching out to them. It may seem awkward or even “stalker-esque” to be following and chatting with complete strangers, but done correctly—with notes and posts that are relevant to that individual—it can be very effective.

Make Each Post Relevant and Engaging

Every post to your social media audience should be designed to create engagement and gain a response. If social marketing is all about a two-way conversation, shouldn’t more of your posts end with question marks than with periods? Here are the 4 keys that we’ve determined help to create the most successful posts:

Make Your Best Fans Feel Like Heroes

As you’ve no doubt experienced, it is many times more profitable to spend marketing dollars to keep your best customers than it is to be perpetually spending to acquire new ones. With very little effort, loyal customers can be mobilized to ignite referrals, generate positive air cover, shift opinions, and help soften the impact of bad reviews. This could include things such as rewarding them for referrals or sending them bits of interesting information they can broadcast like new menu items, upcoming sales, and holiday discounts.

Ask Your Fans to Talk About You

Due to the emergence and adoption of social media, customers now have the ability to broadcast sentiment about the businesses they visit and services they use to thousands of people instantly. Each of your fans and customers using social media can help generate new business, improve your brand image, and inspire loyalty through tweeting, blogging, reviewing, following, and so forth. So let them do it. Often all it takes is for you to ask them. You can consider running a contest or promotion that would incentivize the behavior you want, such as: “Leave a review on our Yelp page and be entered into our sweepstakes.”

Wash, Rinse, and Repeat

Engaging with customers through social media is not a one-way street, nor is it a one-time event. The process described above is a continuous one. As your business circles the wheel of the social media process I described, you will find better opportunities to communicate with customers, new ways to create value for them, and even new product or service ideas that you can offer the things your customers are already clamoring for. If you treat social media as a feedback panel and a customer service tool, and never as another one-way advertising medium, you will find that it justifies the time and energy that it will require.


The changes in marketing strategy are actually responses to changes in consumer behavior as the world grows increasingly more digital and more connected. Rather than being bad or new, these changes are making it easier and more efficient for companies to find, communicate with, and sell to their target audience. Social media marketing with the right tools can allow your business to powerfully reach and activate your target audience in the times and places that are most convenient for them. These advances in technology are helping marketers come closer to the age-old quest to get the right message to the right person at the right time.


Jamie Bates
Online Marketing Director