What is Social Media Marketing?

Headshot of CareerFoundry contributor Afoma Umesi.

With more people on social media than ever before, social media marketing has never been more critical for businesses to reach their target audience. Consider the following statistics:

Social media marketing is now a significant marketing channel for companies to build awareness, create leads, and drive sales. As a result, more social media roles are in high demand. If you’re looking to enter the social media marketing workforce and are looking for a comprehensive guide to get you started, you’re in the right place.

Here’s what we’ll cover:

  1. What is social media marketing?
  2. Advantages of social media marketing
  3. Disadvantages of social media marketing
  4. The core pillars of social media marketing
  5. How do I make a social media marketing strategy?
  6. Social media marketing tips
  7. The best social media marketing platforms
  8. What kinds of social media marketing jobs are there?
  9. Social media marketing courses
  10. Summary

Ready to learn more about social media marketing? Let’s get started!

1. What is social media marketing?

Social media marketing is a form of digital marketing that uses social media to create brand awareness and drive conversions. By publishing on social media platforms, companies can reach their target audience and interact with them, building trust and driving traffic that may lead to sales. 

Marketing via social media goes beyond simply posting on your company’s account. It requires that you have goals and create a strategy to hit them. This requires an understanding of the analytics and metrics you need to monitor to decide whether or not your strategy is working.

In addition, social media marketing is an evolving field, with social media platforms releasing new features and new trends popping up. It means you need to have your finger on the pulse and adapt to a quickly changing landscape.

2. Advantages of social media marketing

Social media marketing, like other forms of marketing, has many benefits for businesses and their brands. Some of the benefits include:

Creating brand awareness

Before consumers make a purchase, they must be familiar with the business and its products. With social media marketing tactics like paid ads, user-generated content, and influencers, it’s easier to reach customers and spread the word about your products and services. 

Increasing traffic to your website

Most social media platforms allow users to add links to their websites whether on their profile, or to published posts. So when users visit your profile, they’re only one step away from your website. You can also encourage more visits by using offers and discounts that direct them to your business’ website. 

Increasing sales

The opportunity to showcase products on various platforms creates an avenue to convert prospective customers to actual customers. Platforms like Instagram and Pinterest now also have ecommerce features that allow users shop and check-out in-app. Tons of users also now thrift on Facebook marketplace.

Improving customer service and satisfaction

Social media provides a chance to respond directly to customer queries—if you’d like. Customers appreciate tailored responses to their questions and complaints rather than generic automated messages. In addition, the experience of speaking to the company directly usually improves customer service and general satisfaction.

Telling your brand story

Social media allows you to tell your brand story, giving prospective customers a reason to buy your product. It’s a great way to consolidate your brand identity by the use of curated visual assets and even the kind of content you re-share.

Improving brand loyalty

Social media marketing gives you the chance to interact with your customer one-on-one. Repeatedly positive brand interactions help to build trust and brand loyalty.

Connecting with your audience 

Social media listening can help monitor your audience and join their conversations when necessary. It can help you discover their pain points with using your product and allow you to find the best ways to address them. 

3. Disadvantages of social media marketing

Without a doubt, social media marketing has many benefits, but there are some downsides.

Building a thriving community takes time

With so many accounts and posts battling for the attention of social media users, it might take a while for your target audience to find your brand. You have to create content for them even before they are around.

Implementing social media strategies is time-consuming and expensive

Social media marketing requires a lot of skilled effort, and the cost of advertising can accumulate based on your industry and the type of campaign you want to run. It also requires constant engagement with users and consistent posting, which not all businesses can readily afford.

Analyzing campaign success can be difficult

Since many factors can affect a campaign’s performance, it can be challenging to analyze the metrics accurately. For example, one-time scenarios where a page with a large following shares your post, or when an unexpected event makes your post go viral cannot always be factored in. So even when those campaigns perform well, there’s no definite way to replicate the success. 

No full audience ownership

Building a brand on social media alone is like building on borrowed land. Algorithms change, security breaches happen, and accounts get deactivated for no good reason. In such cases, brands can lose their connection with their audience and years of brand-building go down the drain. 

4. The core pillars of social media marketing

Social media marketing is multi-faceted and the strategies can differ from platform to platform. However, these five pillars are always consistent:


Strategy is the backbone of social media marketing. Your strategy includes your goal for marketing, the platforms you want to focus on, and the kind of content your target audience will be interested in. 

Planning and publishing

Publish content that will be beneficial, informative, and entertaining to your target audience. These may include videos, photos, infographics, and memes. You need a posting consistency that will keep your brand and products in the minds of your audience. You also need to know the days and times of the day your target audience will be available to engage with your post.

Listening and engagement

Social media listening is monitoring the platform to know when your brand is mentioned and what people say about it. Sometimes, you may need to step in to offer guidance, explanations, or apologies where necessary.

You may need to use social media listening and engagement tools to do this effectively. When users engage your post, you should engage them by liking and replying to their comments.

Analytics and reporting

Most social media platforms provide a basic analysis for each post, but you may need additional tools to measure your performance. Analytics help you decide which efforts to discard and which actions to intensify. It also informs you of the best times to take specific actions. So you need to make sure you’re not only posting but also measuring your performance.


Social media marketing is not always free, and growth is not always organic. Effective social marketing may require you to pay for advertisements. You’ll need to run highly-targeted ads to reach a large specific audience that do not follow you.

Related reading: What are the main marketing channels?

5. How do I make a social media marketing strategy?

Creating a social media marketing strategy will keep you focused on your marketing goals, and every platform requires its strategy. Here’s a rundown on how to create a strategy:

Determine your target audience

You need to determine your target audience based on your product offering and services. Once you know your audience and their preferred social media platforms, you can research the content types that would interest them. 

For example, B2B businesses might benefit more from using LinkedIn and Twitter, whereas ecommerce companies do better with Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok. 

Set smart goals

Your marketing goals should be aligned with your business goals. With clear goals, you will know the metrics to track and analyze. Some goals could be to increase your following, cultivate more engagement (link clicks, comments, retweets, and so on), and drive more sales.

Choose the ideal social media platform(s)

There’s no right or wrong social media platform. The best social media platforms for your business are where your target audience spends most of their time and which has the best features to share your preferred kinds of content. While video content may do well on TikTok and Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter do better with text-based content.

Analyze the competition

Analyzing the competition will give you an idea of what works in the industry and guide you on what to avoid. It can also help you spot gaps that you can fill. Be careful to avoid copycat content as most stand-out brands are loved for striking a unique tone with their audience.

Create a content calendar

Planning your content gives you room to create quality content and jump on trends when it aligns with your brand, not because there’s nothing else to post. 

Social media marketing tools like Buffer, Hootsuite, and Sproutsocial can help you lay out your content weeks in advance. It also helps to consider national holidays, social issues, and other things that might influence what you decide to post on a given day.

Use a range of content types

Find out what your audience finds entertaining by experimenting with different formats. Give them a reason to pause and interact with your brand. Don’t be afraid to diversify: use images, videos, text posts, and even audio content. We’ve got a guide to the most-used content types in this article.

6. Social media marketing tips

Successful social media marketing is planned and deliberate. It may seem daunting because of the many moving parts, but here are some tips you can use:

Create a solid strategy

Once you set your goals, you should create a social media marketing strategy. Each social media platform needs its strategy since the type of content that works may differ. Your strategy will also determine whether you’ll be working with influencers, posting products on your page, or posting user-generated content (such as images posted by customers using your products).

Post engaging content regularly

Millions of posts are published across social media platforms daily. If your brand will stand out, your posts should be engaging. Your followers should find them insightful, entertaining, and shareable so your account grows organically. 

Most social media platform algorithms reward consistency, so sharing regularly will increase your company’s visibility. Using a content calendar will help keep the posts rolling.

Measure performance accurately

Tracking and analyzing your metrics will help you know what’s working and is not. Avoid focusing on vanity metrics such number of likes and follower counts. Dwell more on engagement metrics like the number of real comments and link clicks from your posts and profile.

Stay ahead with social media tools

Instead of posting manually on all your social media platforms, use scheduling tools and free up time for other important tasks. Check our some of the best social media tools in this article.

7. The best social media marketing platforms

The major social media marketing platforms are Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, Snapchat, YouTube, and LinkedIn. However, the best platform to focus on will depend on your company’s needs and target audience. 

It’s best practice to choose a few platforms to consistently create content and engage followers, rather than be on all without measurable impact.

For a more detailed discussion about these platforms and how best to use them, you can read our post on the top 10 social media platforms all digital marketers should know about.

8. What kinds of social media marketing jobs are there?

With brands now recognizing the importance of social media marketing, jobs are more abundant than ever. Still, it’s worth knowing which facet of social media marketing you’d like to focus on.

Even though job descriptions may look similar because some key tasks are cut across the board, the goals of the different roles under the social media marketing umbrella differ. Sometimes, the difference in job titles is only industry or company based. Here are some common social media marketing roles.

Social media specialist

A social media specialist is someone with expert knowledge of how social media marketing works. They may be required to create and execute strategies, which include creating assets, tracking campaign results, and managing online communities. 

To learn more about being a social media specialist, check out our post on the top 11 must-have skills for a social media specialist.

Social media manager

A social media manager is responsible for a company’s social media marketing efforts. They are required to develop a social media strategy and measure the performance of campaigns. They may also need to manage the communities through listening and engagement. 

Ultimately, if there is a social media marketing team, they will be in charge of the team output and act as the gap between the team and the stakeholders.

For more on this topic, check out our post on what a social media manager actually does.

Community manager

Community managers focus on building strong audience engagement. They use listening tools to know where their company is mentioned and engage in a way to build a connection with the audience. 

The community manager must be familiar with the brand voice. They may also need to manage those communities online and offline.

Social media strategist 

A social media strategist is responsible for developing strategies for the company’s social media platform. Their focus is on the big picture. They need to stay abreast with social media trends and implement them to align with the brand voice.

Content creator

The content creator is responsible for creating media that caters to the interests of the company’s target audience. Content types may include pictures, videos, infographics, and polls, depending on the brand’s needs. 

For more details on social media marketing jobs, you can read our complete guide to social media jobs

9. Social media marketing courses

There is no specific qualification you need to land a job in the social media marketing field. However, getting some education on the skills, tools, and techniques required is an excellent first step to launching your career. 

There are tons of online courses that can take you from clueless to being able to build an impressive portfolio. These courses can be social media courses or digital marketing courses with a major focus on social media marketing. 

Depending on what you’re willing to invest in, there are some free courses while a lot more are paid. They also have different durations ranging from hours to several months. 

For a curated list of the best social marketing courses, check out our detailed post: 10 of the best social media courses online.

10. Summary

Social media marketing is vital for businesses to increase their brand recognition and improve sales. It is a field with opportunities springing up frequently. 

Due to the evolving nature of the social media scene, there’s always something new to learn. So whether you’re a newbie or have some experience in the field, use our additional resources to learn about recent trends and how to effectively carry out social media marketing for a business.

If you’re looking to get more hands-on with social media and digital marketing as a whole, why not try our free, 5-day short course? Or, if you have more questions about social media marketing, these posts will be informative:

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