Your mind is ready. Your body is ready. It’s time to take your first steps into social media marketing. And we’re here to say that we couldn’t be more proud of you.
More than 4.95 billion people are social media users. Worldwide, social users spend almost two and a half hours on social platforms each day. No matter your industry—accounting, consulting, dog-food manufacturing, wig-weaving—this is a captive, active audience that your brand can’t afford to ignore. (Find more eye-popping stats about social media here!)
But whether you’re a budding entrepreneur or a seasoned pro stepping into the digital landscape for the first time, we know that starting a social media marketing strategy from scratch can feel intimidating. The good news? We’re here to help. Think of us as your digital marketing doulas, here to demystify the world of social media marketing and help kickstart your journey.
So read on for everything you need to get started with your brand-new social media game plan, and a list of our favorite resources to help you grow from social rookie to all-star.
Bonus: Get a free social media strategy template to quickly and easily plan your own strategy. Also use it to track results and present the plan to your boss, teammates, and clients.
Whatever kind of business you operate, you need to know your target audience inside and out to succeed. If you don’t know who you’re talking to, how can you ever say the right thing? So before you even sign up for that Instagram account, you’ve got to do some homework. Identify your target demographic in as much detail as you can, including their interests, behaviors, and preferences. You might even want to make an audience persona: a prototype of a typical follower.
Once you know that your marketing is intended for little old ladies in Michigan or tech bros in New Dehli, you’ll understand just what type of tone and topics will resonate best… setting you off on the right path to earning engagement and brand loyalty.
Not everyone is on social media for the same reason. Some brands use social to offer customer service; others are there to build brand awareness. Figuring out your own brand’s objectives will help guide your game plan.
Are you interested in driving traffic to your ecommerce site, building engagement, or fostering community? Knowing the why behind your social media presence will help keep your actions focused, and allow you to clearly measure success or struggles.
For instance, while we don’t know for sure what Lululemon is thinking behind the scenes, content like this 10K training tweet indicates that one of its goals is to be a source of fitness education and support for its audience.
Level up your training—and your fun. Get access to our 10-week plan when you register for the 10K Tour in Scottsdale or Virtual on Strava. Sign up now. https://t.co/67STZYWVW9 pic.twitter.com/wEBkj1l5VS— lululemon (@lululemon) September 7, 2023
Need a little guidance? Check out our guide to setting and exceeding social media goals here.
Here’s a little-known fact about social media marketing: your brand doesn’t have to be on every platform. Each social media platform has its own unique personality, and not all are necessarily going to be a fit for your brand. (And if you’re considering just signing up for everything and cross-posting across all the platforms, we’ll just tell you right now: please don’t.)
A magazine targeting senior citizens, on the other hand, would be wasting its time posting on youth-oriented TikTok… while cool-girl makeup brand Glossier is right at home on the platform.
Where does your target audience hang out online? What feels appropriate for your editorial voice? Be selective about the platforms you want to have a presence on and then give your all—it’s about quality, not quantity.
Okay, we know that’s easier said than done. But the truth is that content has to be interesting or visually compelling, or there’s no point. The whole goal of social media marketing is to capture your audience’s attention, so take the time to craft content that actually offers value.
But! “Quality” doesn’t mean that it needs to be shot with a professional camera, or cost thousands of dollars. In fact, in some cases, a more improvised feel can actually add it the appeal of a post. It’s about being thoughtful and authentic… like this playful Bailey Nelson video that riffs on the glasses-shopping experience. Low-budget, and lots of fun.
POV: the Rich Aussie mum takes you glasses shopping at #BaileyNelson 🤓 @finns.vlogs♬ original sound – bailey nelson
Basically, no one wants to be constantly sold to. But sharing a how-to tutorial on using your best-selling products? Helpful! Giving followers a glimpse behind the scenes at your office? Humanizing. Think about what you would want to see, and let that guide your content strategy.
There’s no easy answer for how often to post on social media—every platform has its own best practices. But one throughline, from X to Pinterest, is that consistency is key. Posting regularly ensures you’re appearing in followers’ timelines regularly. It gives your fans something to count on. It appeases the algorithms. It makes your brand seem fresh and timely. Win win win win.
It can seem daunting to keep up with that sort of pace, but if you plan ahead, it’s more than manageable. Pick a few “content pillars” and spend a day (every week, every month, whatever!) when you’re feeling creative doing a big brainstorm of posts that could fit into those key categories. Then plug those posts into your social media scheduling tool to make sure you’re getting them out into the world at a good pace.
Tragically, not every brand has the budget for a whole team of social media content creators, and content creation is often the work of one brave marketer or solopreneur. But with the right tools in your toolbelt, it doesn’t have to be a slog.
We’ve compiled resources for the best graphic design tools, the best free stock photo sites, the best stock video sites, the best video editing tools, and even the best new AI tools. Bookmark these lists and supercharge your content craftwork.
If you’re making amazing content, but no one’s seeing it, it’s going to be hard to hit your social media goals (whatever they may be). To really achieve organic reach with your content, mastering the fine art of hashtagging is key. Research relevant hashtags, understand best practices (stick with 3-5 per caption!) and mix broad tags with niche ones for maximum reach. Here’s our post on how to use hashtags for every network if you want to learn more.
Similarly, it’s important to consider what keywords you’re including in your captions, titles, and alt tags. Social search is becoming more powerful every day. Read this post on social SEO to learn just how to level up your discoverability.
Social listening may sound like an advanced practice, but social media marketers at any level can do it. At its core, social listening is the practice of monitoring social media channels for mentions of your brand or relevant keywords—a practice that offers valuable insights into how customers feel about your products or services, what their pain points are, and what they’d like to see from you in the future. There are plenty of social listening tools out there, but we (obviously) recommend Hootsuite. The listening streams are really easy to set up. Read about social listening here, or watch this video (dealer’s choice!).
Successful social media marketing involves more than just broadcasting messages: participation and interaction are key to building connection and community. So don’t just schedule time for posting into your day; schedule time for actively engaging with your audience in the comment section or elsewhere on the site. Encourage conversations, ask questions, and participate in the community. Run polls, answer DMs, host Q&As, and do whatever else you can to give as much as you take.
Hair accessory brand Supercrush created this post to ask its audience to vote on product colors and everyone wanted to chime in.
Just as businesses analyze their performance metrics, social media marketers should be reviewing their data regularly, too. After all, how can you refine your strategies if you don’t know how things are actually going?
Remember the social media goals you set out way back at the beginning of your social media journey? Your social media analytics will reveal if your actions have paid off. Regularly check in on the metrics that are meaningful to you (reach, engagement, click-through rates, and so on)—looking back is what will help you move forward with confidence.
As you probably guessed, this is just scratching the surface of what’s possible with social media. We haven’t even touched on understanding the social media algorithm, creating social media guidelines, or advertising on social media. (Ooh, or employee advocacy!) (Or influencer collaborations!) (Or how to go live on social media!) (Someone please take our keyboard away.)
But here’s the thing: there’s always something more to learn about social. It’s a digital landscape that’s constantly evolving, so you’re never going to “finish” learning everything you need to know… which means you kind of just need to jump into the deep end and figure it out as you go.
Embrace the idea of learning on the job and experimenting. There are lots of resources for advanced learning out there (see below), but real social media education starts with getting hands-on (mouse on?).
Not to toot our own horn, but the Hootsuite Blog is a valuable source for articles, guides, and insights related to social media marketing. We cover a wide range of topics, including social media trends, best practices, platform updates, and case studies… and even do fun experiments. (Hot tip: do not buy TikTok followers.) Stay tuned to deepen your understanding of effective strategy and gain practical skills to help you improve your social media game.
Want to take your social media learning even further? Hootsuite Academy is here to help you really nerd out. This is a self-guided, structured online learning program that features courses and certifications on various aspects of social media marketing. We cover topics like social media strategy, content marketing, social advertising, and platform-specific skills. Whether you’re a beginner or more experienced marketer, there’s something for everyone.
Go ahead and subscribe to Hootsuite Labs on YouTube right now (we’ll wait). It’s a channel brought to you by our own social media team. Each week, we’ll deliver a new video featuring experiments, hacks, strategies, or explainers to help you understand just how social media works… and, more importantly, how to be successful.
Though it’s not focused solely on social media, Google’s Digital Garage offers a free course called “Fundamentals of Digital Marketing” that has lots of interesting info about online marketing and social. There are lots of practical exercises and real-world examples, so it’s a nice foundational resource.
Social Media Today aggregates content from various contributors in the social media industry into one platform, so you’ll have all the hot news from the frontlines of social media marketing in one place. Think: articles, insights, trends related to social media marketing, platform updates and strategic advice.
Former social media manager for Bon Appetit, Rachel Karten, writes a weekly newsletter that is one of Hootsuite’s social media team’s top resources when it comes to news, trends, and brands to pay attention to. By her own description, Karten’s newsletter is “about working in social media, creating clever content, and making sure your boss never asks you to “go viral”. And we highly recommend it!
Here’s another newsletter we love. Lia Haberman has been referred to as the world’s foremost creator economy expert, but her weekly newsletter is about digital marketing more generally (with a strong focus on social media marketing). We read it to stay up-to-date with industry trends (and also for her pithy and wise insights).
Save time managing your social media presence with Hootsuite. Publish and schedule posts, find relevant conversations, engage your audience, measure results, and more — all from one simple dashboard. Try it free today.