A Beginner’s Guide to Social Media Marketing

Social Media Marketing

By Frances Chiu

When you hear the term digital marketing, a few examples may come to mind. Perhaps you can remember a viral campaign on Facebook, sponsored ad on Instagram, or popular YouTube personality acting as a spokesperson for a certain product. These are all common forms of social media marketing — which most of us see every day.

In recent years, social media platforms have emerged as a popular — and essential — channel for digital marketers to reach their target audiences. With 2.46 billion people worldwide using social networks today, according to the statistics site Statista, this is a huge online audience that marketers can’t ignore.

Social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram have developed many advanced features that allow marketers to target different user segments based on their demographics, geographic locations, languages, interests, online behaviors, and more. Ad formats may include sponsored posts and various types of banner and video ads.

With so many platforms, though, it can be overwhelming to determine which ones to utilize, and how best to leverage a particular platform’s features to reach specific segments of users.

Before carrying out a social media marketing campaign, you must first ask yourself the following three questions:

1. What is the objective of your campaign?

Marketers launch campaigns for various reasons, including building brand awareness, generating sales, strengthening customer relationships, or acquiring new customers. By answering this question, you’ll know what KPIs (key performance indicators) to set and who you want to target. For example, if you want to acquire new customers, your target audience would be people who fit into your customer profiles, or personas, but are not yet your customers. Your KPIs could be the number of new potential customer email addresses you want to collect, and how many new buying customers you want to acquire through the campaign.

2. Which social media platforms does your target audience use?

Find out about the demographics, geographic coverage (i.e., where the platform’s users are based), user interests, and behaviors for each social media platform you’re considering using. This will help you track down and reach out to the target audience that you have defined based on your campaign objectives.

3. What is the mindset and intention of users on different social networks?

On a professional network such as LinkedIn, users want to display their professional competency, improve themselves professionally, and connect with business associates or authoritative people within certain industries. On personal networks like Facebook and Instagram, users look to display their lifestyle and beliefs, entertain themselves, and connect with family and friends.

Therefore, a user may be more receptive to a software promotion ad on LinkedIn than on Facebook. Similarly, a leisure travel ad might perform better on Instagram than LinkedIn. So, reach out to your audience where they are “tuned in” to your message.

In conclusion, choosing the appropriate social media platform — where your target audience is present, plus, tuned in with the right mindset to receive your type of marketing message — is already half the battle in creating a successful social media campaign.

Managing Your Social Media Marketing Assets

Once you’re on a social media platform, there are three types of marketing assets you’ll manage and leverage:

  • Owned: Company-created content, e.g., the company’s Facebook page, Instagram account, Twitter feed, or YouTube channel.
  • Paid: Sponsored ad placements, including video ads, promoted Facebook events, or Instagram photo carousels.
  • Earned: Content published about your company that’s distributed or created by your fans or users, such as tweets, Facebook reviews, or Instagram photos of your product.

Marketers need to create a well-thought-out content calendar and publish high-quality, engaging, and relevant content on the owned social channels. The paid campaigns should amplify the messages on the owned channels, driving more users to the company’s owned assets. Well-managed owned and paid assets will help grow positive and high-quality earned assets generated by fans or users, and over time lead to increased cost-effectiveness and success of your social media campaigns.

Social Media Marketing at General Assembly

As part of General Assembly’s part-time Digital Marketing course, on campus or online, we look at emerging trends in social media marketing, including the market positioning, user base, and user profiles of various social media platforms. We also explore the pros and cons of collaboration with social media creators on content marketing and affiliate marketing. Students also learn about the various targeting capabilities and advertising formats offered by each platform, and have a chance to create sample social media campaigns for selected companies or a company of their choice.

Students complete class with an understanding of the social media landscape, trends, and ecosystem, so they can:

  • Integrate social media marketing as part of an overall marketing strategy.
  • Effectively evaluate and select the appropriate social media platforms for different campaign types.
  • Execute and measure the success of various social media marketing campaigns.

Meet Our Expert

Frances Chiu has over 17 years’ experience in IT and the internet industry. She has worked for leading companies including Apple, Yahoo!, eBay, and AT&T, and held Asia Pacific senior management roles in product management, marketing and PR, and channel management. Frances is currently an instructor at General Assembly in Hong Kong and a lecturer at Hong Kong University’s School of Professional & Continuing Education. She also runs her own management-consulting company, Solitude Productions Limited.

Frances was born in Hong Kong and lived in Sweden for 13 years. She holds a Master of Science degree in industrial engineering and management from Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden.

“In recent years, companies have started to realize the importance of digital marketing, as their target customers are spending more and more time online. Therefore, the demand for digital marketing skills has grown rapidly.”

Frances Chiu, Digital Marketing Instructor, General Assembly Hong Kong