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Social media marketing is affordable and effective for brands both large and small. According to a recent study, social media has increased to 12% of marketing budgets. Clearly, brands are catching on to its power and prioritizing it accordingly.

Related: How to drive traffic with social media

There are now more than 2.45 billion social media users all over the world, and this number is expected to reach to 2.9 billion in 2020. People spend a lot of time on the major platforms, and that translates to a lot of opportunity—but not every marketer is enjoying high returns.

How can you fully harness the power of social media to boost your brand marketing?

The key to success in social media marketing (or any form of marketing) is 1) understanding the practice, and 2) putting that knowledge into action. Here are several ways a marketer can use social media to boost their marketing campaigns.

Start with a concrete plan

There's no point in starting a social media campaign without a concrete marketing plan. Know what your business objectives are as well as the expectations for the campaign. Here are some things to consider:

  • Expectations for the campaign: What is this campaign going to do for your business? Is it meant to drive brand awareness—a top-of-funnel metric—or drive leads—a bottom-of-funnel metric? It's not uncommon to measure social media success by engagement, meaning the number of likes, shares and comments. Choosing the right goal could make the difference between your campaign's failure and success.
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  • Target audience: Who is the ideal audience for this campaign? Most social media platforms provide options to filter your audience. Not all campaigns are designed to speak to your current customers—in fact, a good social media campaign should grow your audience and attract new followers. Think about the demographics and interests of your ideal audience, and target them accordingly.
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  • Message: What is the main idea you're trying to communicate with this campaign? Make sure your message is clear and focused. After all, attention spans are short on social media, so you've only got a few seconds to get your point across. Also, a word to the wise: Keep track of trending topics before delivering your message. A post that seemed like a great idea yesterday could be misinterpreted based on the news today.

Choose the best social media platforms

There are many popular social media platforms on the internet, all with their own user-bases and cultures. Not all platforms will be right for your brand, so it's important to prioritize the ones your audience uses most.

Facebook is a safe bet for most brands, since it's become so ubiquitous. But for certain industries, such as fashion or food, image-sharing platforms like Instagram might provide a better rate of return.

Similarly, LinkedIn often works very well for B2B brands because it's geared towards professionals. Research and choose a couple social media platforms that will best benefit your brand before starting a campaign.

What next?

After building a plan and selecting the best platforms, you're ready to start promoting your brand. Here are some tips to improve the performance of your posts.

1. Focus on headlines

People will read your headline before they decide whether to read the rest of your content. Your headline must be compelling enough to grab readers' attention. It should contain a promise of value, information, or entertainment. Don't forget, you're competing with hundreds of posts from a variety of sources, so you've got to offer something exceptional.

Give yourself a leg up by testing your headlines. Don't limit yourself to just one; instead, create multiple headlines and conduct A/B testing to see which one performs best. Then implement the winner across your campaign to boost your performance.

Not sure where to begin? Tools like Buzzsumo can help you research and discover high-performing social media posts.

2. Customize the content for the platform

It's not an easy task to customize your content for each social media platform, but if you're serious about social media success, it's a necessary investment. You should optimize the headlines, images, descriptions, and even your tone of voice to match the platform you're posting on.

The same content that performs well on Facebook isn't guaranteed to perform well on other networks. For instance, Twitter has a character limit. Instagram only supports certain image sizes. The tone you would use on LinkedIn is likely quite different from the one you'd use on Snapchat.

This is another good reason to limit how many social media platforms you choose. By focusing on the most important ones for your audience, you'll have more time to craft content that feels native and authentic to the platform.

3. Embrace the visual

A recent study showed that visual content is 40% more likely to be shared than plain text content. And as you know, more shares lead to better reach and higher engagement.

Try to create attractive, eye-catching images not just for your brand's profile but also for every single post. Try experimenting with different types of visual content such as infographics, memes, and so on.

In the case of image-sharing social media platforms such as Pinterest, Instagram and Snapchat, posts with poor visuals have no hope of attracting attention or engagement.

4. Post at the right time

The timing of your post matters a lot. It's one of the most important factors in a particular post's potential for engagement. To reach the highest number of people, content must be shared strategically to catch them while they're online.

The peak times for various social media platforms are different. Conduct research to figure out the best times to post. There are tools like Facebook Insights and Followerwonk that can help you determine the right times to post.

5. Post multiple times

You've likely noticed this: many popular pages will share the same content multiple times, continuing to earn engagement each time. Most followers will engage with the content without ever knowing that it was reposted.

It's almost a given that your post will not reach your entire audience, so it's not a bad idea to share the same content multiple times. However, do take time to review and make adjustments to the headline, description and image before sharing the content again.

6. Ask questions

A great way to engage your followers is to ask questions relevant to them. Everyone wants to share their opinion, and the comment section is a good place for you to connect and interact with your fans. It helps your brand feel more human and build more personal connections.

There are plenty of creative ways to ask questions to your followers. Create a poll, a quiz, a would-you-rather, or a trivia question to stimulate conversation. Make sure someone is watching the discussion to keep it focused and productive—and to remove inappropriate comments if necessary.

7. Reach out to influencers

According to this study, an average return on investment for an influencer marketing campaign is $6.50 for every dollar spent. This speaks to the power of influencers and influencer marketing.

There are hundreds of influencers on social media platforms today, and each of them has curated a unique audience. Contrary to popular belief, you don't have to find influencers with millions of followers to be effective. You'll probably find that the best results come from partnering with influencers who share an audience similar to your own, so dig into your niche and make a shortlist.

Key takeaways

Many marketers expect social media marketing to be really easy, but this is not the case. Social media is challenging, just like every other form of marketing. It takes a lot of planning and hard work to succeed.

Around 95% of U.S. adults aged 18 to 34 follow brands online. You can generate great returns from your social media marketing if you manage to promote it the right way. Following these tips should help you plan and implement a social media campaign that will boost your brand's marketing efforts.

Ready to drive more leads and engagement with social media? Grab a copy of our free eBook: How to adapt your brand to social media

How to adapt your brand for social media eBook

Author Bio

Stevan McGrath is a digital marketing professional who specializes in brand design and development. Stevan is passionate about new and innovative online marketing strategies. He has worked as a freelancer and a contributor to ProvenSEO. He also writes blog posts on digital marketing trends. Follow him on Facebook or Twitter