What Is Social Media Marketing? (With Tips and Platforms)

Updated March 14, 2023

Social media marketing is an essential tool for most businesses. It's vital for increasing brand awareness, reaching your audience, and converting them into taking a direct action such as a sale, download, or sign-up. There are many strategies you can use, and understanding which methods and platforms best complement your messaging, audience, and content medium can help you make your social media marketing strategy more effective.

In this article, we answer "What is social media marketing?", offer tips for creating an effective strategy, discuss the difference between social media marketing and SEO, and explain how to choose the best platform for your content.

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What is social media marketing?

Understanding the answer to "What is social media marketing?" can help you effectively create, post, and distribute content specific to a brand. It's a way to share information about a business and engage with customers while offering detailed analytics to help target and hone your message. A complete social media strategy typically considers the creation of content, where it's distributed, and how you can adapt it to increase your return on investment (ROI).

Businesses can also use social media to monitor their audiences and competitors and to understand what people are saying about their brand and their products. They may use targeted advertising to reach the specific audiences that are most receptive to their product or service. Because social media offers many analytical tools, businesses can use that data to measure the reach, engagement, and overall effectiveness of their social media strategy. Using social media to market a product or service can differ significantly from how you may use your personal social accounts to connect with family and friends.

Related: A Guide to Marketing as a Career

What makes an effective social media strategy?

Here are some of the most important features of an effective social media strategy:

Pre-marketing research

The first step in social media pre-market research is to analyze your current social media efforts. If you can identify what parts of your strategy are performing best, then you can determine how to emphasize those tactics. Similarly, if there are aspects that don't seem to be as effective, you can analyze why they're underperforming and decide whether to adjust them or simply discontinue them.

The second step is to study your competitors. You can research the methods they're employing and determine what works best for them. This information can help you explore how to emulate some of their successful tactics and adapt them yourself.

Goal setting

It's important to establish the purpose of your social media marketing strategy and what you want to achieve. Your goals might include increasing brand awareness or directing customers to a new product or service. You may target new customers, try to maintain current ones, or build a strategy to increase newsletter sign-ups or app downloads. Whatever your goals, you can create a content strategy to help you achieve them.

Once you've decided on the purpose of your social media marketing strategy, you can decide how to measure its success relative to your goals. You may aim to reach a certain percentage increase in sales or a specific number of sign-ups. You can establish KPIs (key performance indicators) to track whether your social media marketing strategy is working.


The most effective social media marketing strategies typically involve learning as much as possible about their audience. By using past sales, customer databases, and other research tools, you can gain a thorough understanding of the people most likely to use or purchase your product. You can also represent your audience as a series of personality types, with each type responding differently to your content and messaging. Not only can this help when you employ targeted advertising, it can also help determine which social media platform may fit your content best.

Related: The Most Important Digital Marketing Skills for Your Resume

Content and publishing

This is usually the foundation of your content strategy. You can determine what specific type of content you plan to publish, such as hosting a blog, creating videos, or sharing photos. You can research different models for producing content and follow content trends on each social media platform. For example, your content can be a series of inspirational videos, a blog with practical how-to advice, or a mix of multiple media and strategies.

Once you've determined what kind of content you want to create, you can create a publishing schedule to maintain regular and consistent postings. It's important to schedule enough time to create your content, edit and proofread it, and gain any necessary approvals before posting. You can also include links to the other platforms you manage. Certain types of content and messaging may perform better on some platforms than others.

Related: Complete Guide on How To Become a Brand Ambassador

Listening and engagement

After determining your audience, it's critical to monitor what they're saying about the brand. If you've established the brand effectively, there's also a good chance that customers are talking about it in spaces that aren't directly related to its social channels. These comments can lend important insights into what you're doing best and what parts of your strategy may need improvement.

While you can do this manually through each of your channels where someone has tagged you, there are also many social media listening tools available that can aggregate comments across the internet for you to manage in one place. These tools can also identify posts that haven't tagged you directly.


You can use various analytics tools to gain even more information to help improve your social media strategy. Most platforms include their own internal analytics. Social listening tools can also help you track performance across all your social channels, making it easier to determine if you're meeting the KPIs that you first established in the goal-setting phase of your social media strategy.

If you aren't meeting your targets, analytics tools can help you determine the problem. You might be targeting the wrong age group or an inefficiently large geographic region, or your writing style might not be ideal for some platforms. You can explore A/B testing strategies to determine what images and copy may generate the strongest response from your audience. If you've met or exceeded your KPIs, you can check which strategies contributed most to your success.

Related: A List of Social Media Job Titles (With Salaries and Duties)

Paid advertising

Social media marketing is often a low-cost option for reaching your audience compared to traditional advertising methods, like print or broadcast advertisements, but you can still benefit from creating a social media budget. While organic traffic and engagement are vital tools for helping build your audience, some platforms also offer paid advertising options to help increase your content's reach and engagement.

Paying for advertising can also offer access to powerful targeting tools that can help you deliver content directly to specific demographics of your audience. You may establish a realistic budget in relation to your other marketing efforts and use your analytics tools to ensure you're achieving the best ROI possible.

Social media marketing vs. SEO

Social media marketing and SEO are both tools that can help increase link clicks and direct fans or customers to your content, but they operate in slightly different ways. SEO relies on the use of keyword targeting to ensure that anyone searching online can see the brand or company at the top of their search results. Through the use of optimized content, brands can help ensure that their products are visible to potential customers.

Social media marketing relies more on conversations and connections with a brand's customers. Typically, this audience isn't searching for the product, but may learn about it anyway through the use of targeting and curated content.

Related: What Does a Digital Marketer Do? Everything You Need to Know

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Choosing the right platform

The platform you use may depend on the type of content you're creating and who you're trying to reach. It's important to focus on the platforms that target your desired audience and for which you can create consistent high-quality content. Here are some factors to consider when choosing your social media platforms:

  • target ages, genders, and locations

  • typical income and education levels

  • most common interests and hobbies

  • types of content they work best with

  • what audience you can associate with the brand

  • what content schedule you can set and maintain

  • whether its analytics offer data that includes your KPIs

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