What is Social Media Marketing?

Social media marketing is when companies use social networks to promote their brand or products.

Social networks can be any number of platforms or applications where people gather online. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, LinkedIn, Google + and YouTube are all examples of social networks.

So what does this look like in the real world?

Let’s imagine you’re a gift shop owner.

You’ve just received a new shipment of Jellycat toys. You want to get the news out about your new toys, encourage people to see the collection or make a purchase online.

To promote your new product there are lots of things you can do via social media. You could, for example:

Share an image (or even a mini album of images) of the toys on Facebook
Post a ‘Meet & Greet’ event on Facebook, where people can come down to your store and get a free gift or discount if they purchase one of the new toys.
Share a video on YouTube unpacking the delivery, or reviewing the new collection
Pin images of the toys listed on your website on Pinterest
Tweet as the toys in a “Twitter Takeover”
Post about the toys in Google + Communities
Tag toy lovers on Instagram when you share new images of the collection

I could go on but you get the idea.

Why is Social Media Important?

As a business owner social media allows you to update your current followers about your business. It also lets you reach out to new potential followers through groups and hashtags.

Simply put, social media allows you to find the perfect audience for your business, wherever they may be in the world. An audience that can be turned into leads and customers.

Types of Social Media Marketing

Each of the social media networks has it’s own flavour and attracts its own communities. Knowing which platform(s) will be best for your business will take a little research and even a little trial and error.

The networks change and develop but they tend to revolve around text, images and video.

Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn users post text, images and video content.

Pinterest and Instagram started as image based sites, but both have branched out to include video elements.

Last but not least is YouTube, which is dominated by video content.

People like to consume content in different ways and social media platforms allow companies to use different formats to reach customers.

Who is Social Media Marketing For?

Joining social media platforms is free and usually only takes a few minutes to get started, so it’s an easy marketing channel for any greetings or giftware company.

Indeed my research into how card and gift companies were promoting themselves online found that social media marketing was one of the most popular marketing activities.

As the content posted on social media channels is usually bitesize, a few lines of text, one image or one video, it’s easy to see why it’s popular.

Social media seems like a good option for even the most time-poor business. This however isn’t the whole picture. Social media updates may be small, but they need to be regular. To make an impact with social media you have to show up in people’s feeds and you have to be social. Most importantly you have to measure its impact.

Through research and testing companies need to evaluate which social media channels is right for their business. While social media marketing is for all, not all social media platforms will suit all businesses.

What Does Social Media Need?

As I mentioned earlier getting started with social media is usually relatively easy. All the platforms are the same; you set up your profile with contact details, text and images; then you’re ready to start posting and growing your network.

Each platform will have its own unique elements, whether it’s communities, groups or hashtags and you’ll get involved with these as you go along.

Other than an account and a bit of time, there’s not much social media really needs, which is probably a good indicator of why it’s a popular option for marketers.

Social Media and the Card and Gift Industry

As stated above my initial industry research found that the card & gift industry seemed to embrace social media marketing.

76% of the 642 companies reviewed had at least 1 social media profile shown on their websites.

& almost two-thirds, 66% used between 1 and 4 social media platforms.

As one of the oldest platforms I wasn’t surprised to see Facebook was the most popular channels. I didn’t however expect to see Instagram inching ahead of Pinterest into 3rd place.

I have carried out a more in depth look at how the industry uses each social media platform, which I will be publishing in the coming weeks, but I think it’s fair to say that the card and gift industry is using social media to promote and reach new customers.

To balance things out I should probably highlight that I have also heard tales of fellow card and gift folks questioning the value of social media. When done properly social media marketing can be time consuming, so it’s important that the time is repaid.

In future articles and training I will be looking at each of the platforms individually. I will also be looking at how you can build a social marketing plan that effectively measures the result; answering the question of whether social media is a good fit for your business.

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