Written by Dan Barraclough Published on 29 November 2019 Keen on social media but don’t know where to start? We’ve got you covered…Social media marketing is something your business can’t ignore. These days, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are like the A,B,C of digital marketing.But what is it exactly? Simply put, social media marketing is a form of digital marketing which involves creating shareable content across social media platforms in order to improve brand awareness, and make sales. But why should your business be using it? Because your customers are. Social media is thriving in popularity – there are over 3.2 billion social media users around the planet, equating to 42% of the world’s population. It's also an affordable way of promoting your business online, with most platforms offering quick sign-ups and free-to-use business tools. Want to know more about social media for business? Well, you’ve come to the right place – we’re here to explain the pros, cons, do’s, and don’ts of the most important social media platforms that you should be using.What's on this page? 01 | Facebook for business 02 | Twitter for business 03 | Instagram for business 04 | How to create a social media strategy 05 | Next steps Facebook Why wouldn’t you want to advertise your business on the world’s third-most visited website? Facebook has over 2.41 billion monthly active users. But you already knew it was a popular platform – so what makes it an effective marketing tool? To save you flicking through Facebook’s features page, we’ve highlighted the best pros and the most dangerous don’ts of using Facebook for your business. Facebook marketing: the pros✓ Wide audienceWe’ll start with the most obvious advantage. By advertising on Facebook, you’re exposing your business to one of the world’s largest online communities, which will massively increase brand awareness.✓ Increase trafficYou can also drive traffic to your website by posting links on Facebook. It’s like those McDonald’s direction signs you see on Oxford Street – you can increase the amount of visitors to your website simply by redirecting them from other popular sites, aka Facebook.✓ ToolsFacebook for Business provides access to free marketing tools and analytics features. You can target your audience by age, gender, location, job description, and other factors, meaning your adverts will reach the right people. Better still, you can see which content is – and isn’t – gaining interactions, using the ‘Facebook Insights’ feature.✓ Generate leadsHarvesting ‘likes’ on Facebook allows you to generate high quality leads (customers). How so? Because with your field of ‘likers’, you have a whole crop of actively engaged users who’ve shown an interest. You can also create interactive Facebook competitions to gather customer emails to help build your marketing list.✓ MessengerWhile only 9% of companies use live chat, it’s been proven that customers prefer this type of interaction to anything else. In fact, ICMI found that live chat had the highest customer satisfaction level for any customer service channel, with 73%, compared to 61% for email and 44% for phone. Therefore, Facebook Messenger allows you to give your customers what they want: instant satisfaction. In fact, Live chat and chatbots are fast becoming one of the latest and greatest digital marketing trends.Facebook marketing: the cons✘ Time, sweet timeCreating a Facebook business page and building a community can be time consuming. It’s particularly difficult when you have other business tasks to focus on like invoicing, pitching, or selling. ✘ Social skillsAlso, if you don’t know the social media marketing best practices, you’ll also need to spend some time learning the skills. But where there’s a will, there’s an easy way. You can hire a digital marketing agency to handle all of your Facebook marketing for you – from campaign creation to comment-replying. With this option, you can exchange a small part of your budget for big marketing results – the business dream!✘ Engagement algorithmFacebook filters posts to minimise spam and to improve the user’s experience. In other words, Facebook’s algorithm will filter your adverts to users that have either engaged with your brand previously, or have similar interests to what you’re offering. Therefore you cannot simply advertise to the whole world of Facebook.Facebook marketing do’s and don’ts✓ Do✘ Don’tPost between 7-9am, 12-3pm and 5-8pm – use Hootsuite to post ‘commuter content’, scheduling posts for when your audience are scrolling through Facebook.Post too often – you should focus on quality over quantity to avoid overloading your followers with information.Consider paying to promote your important posts with the ‘boost’ function to reach a wider audience.Leave your ‘About Us’ section blank – displaying useful information will improve the user’s experience.Reply quickly to customers – consumers are impatient, so make the most of Facebook Messenger to reply immediately.Argue with customers in public view – you should contact customers via phone or email instead.Twitter With over 500 million Tweets sent per day, Twitter shows no signs of slowing down in terms of popularity and readership. As with Facebook, your business can’t afford to miss out on Twitter’s huge follower base – just think of all those potential customers browsing, reading, and Tweeting at this very moment.Twitter marketing: the pros✓ Reach everyoneUnlike Facebook, there are no algorithms on Twitter that filter your posts to specific users based on user engagement, which means your posts will always reach your followers. On the flipside, users will only see your Tweets if they are online, so make sure you stick to our commuter content times.✓ Affordable (and sometimes free)Sure, you can pay to promote some Tweets, but you can also sign up and run your Twitter account without spending a penny. However, we’d only recommend the free option for very small businesses, because on Twitter, you need to spend more to reach more people. If you’re running a larger brand, then you should think about hiring a social media expert to take control of your company’s Twittersphere.✓ Build brand personalityTwitter is the most tangible social media platform on the market. By this, we mean Twitter allows you to actually connect, talk, and interact with users in a conversational manner that can help to build your brand’s personality. You can then use this personality to appeal to your target audience.✓ Ace customer serviceTwitter is similar to a public forum, in that you can easily create a two-way conversation with customers that anyone can see. This allows you to solve issues in the public eye, so make sure your customer service skills are up to scratch! Better yet, you can use social media listening tools to see what people are saying about your brand online.Twitter marketing: the cons✘ Spamalot Twitter is rife with fake accounts, which can lead to complications if you accidentally click on dodgy links, images, or videos. On top of that, you’ll never know for sure if some Tweets are genuine, especially if that account doesn’t have a profile image.✘ Time sensitiveAs we mentioned before, your tweets will only be seen if your target audience is online at that specific time. If those users aren’t online, then your tweet runs the risk of drowning in the sea of memes.✘ Public criticismYes, you can save a customer’s day in the public eye, but you’re still open to the elements when it comes to criticism. There’s nothing stopping John from Barnsley from hurling abusive tweets at your business, which can obviously reflect badly on your brand. But that’s just another opportunity to save the day by sending John a carefully considered response that respectfully debunks his insults, provides assistance, or offers to continue to conversation via direct message.✘ Character limitMark Twain once said, “I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead”. With that, it’s safe to say he wouldn’t enjoy using Twitter. Why? For each tweet, you’re restricted to just 280 characters, making it trickier to create persuasive, informative content than it would be on Facebook or LinkedIn. However, if you simply practice refining your tweets, then you’ll be…well, fine.Twitter marketing do’s and don’tsMany of the Facebook do’s and don'ts also apply to Twitter. For example, commuter content is king for both these platforms, and you should never argue with customers in public. But below we have some unique advice for the Twittersphere:✓ Do✘ Don’tUse images. Tweets with images generate 150% more retweets than those without.Use too many hashtags in your tweets – it looks messy, spammy, and unprofessional.Remember to repost your top tweets to avoid your vital info drowning a sea of memes. Twitter is time-sensitive when it comes to viewing figures.Rely solely on automated and scheduled tweets – to be successful on Twitter, your business needs to be reactionary to trends and quick to respond to customers.Hashtag wisely. Tapping into #trends and #topics will keep your brand current and on the beat, which reflects well on your business, but only use one or two relevant tags per tweet.Be boring and predictable – yes, you can follow the rules, but sometimes taking risks reaps rewards. Just make sure you plan your strategy, and don’t be afraid of failing.Instagram The second-most downloaded free app in the Apple Store has over 1 billion active monthly users. Does Instagram need more of an introduction? If it does, then you should know it’s a photo and video sharing platform, ideal for product-based businesses looking to connect with consumers in a creative way. Below is a snapshot of Instagram for business.Instagram marketing: the pros✓ Powerful insightsNot only can you share some sleek snaps, you can also analyse your content to see which posts are performing well. With Instagram’s ‘Business’ profiles, you can see total impressions for the week, the times that your followers are most active on Instagram, top locations, and much more.✓ Make money directlyInstagram has recently introduced shoppable posts, allowing businesses to add tags to products with ‘shop now’ buttons. This is great for the user’s experience because it reduces time spent flicking between sites, which is ultimately good news for your business. Happy customers mean happy profits.✓ Influencer opportunities Like Twitter and fake accounts, Instagram is rife with influencers. These are online celebrities who can promote your product to their own large follower base. This technique provides exposure for your business to a much wider audience than you could reach with your own business account.Instagram marketing: the cons✘ Overdressed?Your business needs to look professional, right? One downside to Instagram’s ‘Business’ accounts is that they can appear a bit too smart. With these accounts, you page will be branded as a business, your buttons will aim to convert visitors, and you’ll lose the casual individuality that we all love to see on Instagram.✘ Free isn’t freeDespite advertising ‘free’ analytics tools for businesses, Instagram will restrict the outreach of your posts to encourage you to use paid advertising. In short, the social media platform will limit your growth and almost force your hand into paying more money. Paid advertising is Instagram’s largest income avenue from small businesses. Instagram marketing do’s and don’ts ✓ Do✘ Don’tEncourage UGC (user generated content) – sharing media that your followers have created themselves builds trust. In fact, 92% shoppers worldwide trust word of mouth over advertising.Be too salesy – Remember that, on average, 80% of sales come from 20% of the customer base, so just keep your content relevant, interesting, and unique to encourage sales.Use Instagram Stories – the content lasts 24 hours, which gives your business more freedom for creativity, while lowering the number of posts on your newsfeed.Ignore comments – social media is all about staying current, so don’t ignore comments and fade away from the user’s mind. Get interactive!Direct to your bio – unlike Twitter, Instagram allows you to post links in your bio, which can help drive lots of traffic to your website.Delete negative comments – this will only weaken your brand image. Instead, respond to negative feedback with constructive, considerate solutions. How to create a social media strategyYour social media strategy is just one segment of your digital marketing umbrella, but an important segment at that. Not only is it the most contemporary method of connecting with your customers, but it’s also one of the fastest growing means of communication in the world.How can you compete with those companies that have mastered the best digital marketing strategies, then? After researching some of the biggest brands, we’ve got a few top tips to help you tackle your social media strategy…Research your audienceNever assume – that’ll make an ass out of your marketing efforts. Use the social media analytics tools to learn the who, what, and where of your follower base, which will help you to create content that your audience can relate to. To help you decide which platform to use, check out our graphic below, showing the favoured social media channel of each generation:SnapchatTumblrYouTubeInstagramTwitterPinterestLinkedInFacebookTwitterAlign your contentOnce you’ve decided which platforms you’ll be using, you need to align your social content to match your overriding content strategy. By this, we mean that your social media content should match your brand values and tone of voice, and your messaging should be consistent across all social media channels. The type of content may change, but the message itself should remain the same to ensure consistency and build brand trust.Set achievable goalsFigure out what you want to achieve, and set targets that will help to overcome your challenges. Let’s face it, you’re not going to crack the internet over night, and you won’t gain a million followers in a year. Instead, be realistic and set small, achievable, and affordable targets. Social media success is a marathon, not a sprint. Remember, you can use social media monitoring tools to give eyes and ears to your business online.Create engaging contentIt’s crucial that you curate content that people love to share. The ‘shareability’ of your content will directly correlate with the success of your strategy. Use videos, research what your competitors are doing, stick to a theme, use social media monitoring tools to see what your customers are talking about – you name it. Get creative! Next stepsWe’ve given you some of our favourite tricks of the social media trade, now it’s time to get your business out in the social media world! When it comes to picking the right platform for your strategy, just remember the pros, cons, do’s, and don'ts for each channel.If you don’t have time to create and carry out your social media strategy on your own, then we have a simple solution. Working with social media experts can really take the strain off your strategy, and will allow you to focus on other tasks around your business. These agencies and pros know the do’s and don’ts of each platform inside out. To get involved, simply share some details about your social media ambitions, and these experts will get in touch with some tailored quotes to suit your business. Dan Barraclough Dan’s a Senior Writer at Expert Market, specialising in digital marketing, web design, and photocopiers, amongst other topics.