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One of the major goals of Social Media Marketing (SMM) is to increase brand exposure and expand customer reach, but it is not as easy as simply posting an ad on Facebook and waiting for the sales to roll in. This post is focused on a few things small business owners should know about SMM before diving in.

Know the difference: Organic vs. Paid SMM

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Similar to SEO, the most successful companies use a balancing act of both Organic and Paid posts in their social media marketing strategies. Organic social media marketing is the practice of creating high-quality, relevant and interesting posts to increase engagement without paying to promote the content. You aren’t paying for organic marketing, so you have to earn your way onto people’s newsfeeds. This means you must be careful how sales-focused your posts are, because sales-based content is rarely enjoyed, and engagement won’t come without enjoyment. Organic marketing can be hard work and rather time consuming, but it plays an important role.
Paid or sponsored Social Media Marketing is when you pay the social networking platform to target specific demographics of your choice and place your post where it will be most visible to your target demographic. Notice how at the top of this post it says, “Boosted Post”? That’s how we know that we paid to get this information in front of the right people that will engage with it.
You can also choose to use paid advertisements, which work similarly in that they are tailored to show up on the feeds of those who would be most interested in whatever you’re selling. An example of paid ad targeting on Facebook would be choosing to target 25-year-old men who live in Wyoming that are interested in fishing and earn more than $40,000 a year. On Twitter, you can go as in-depth as targeting women in the US who follow @KrispyKreme and have tweeted about donuts.

Capitalize on timeliness!

A great way for an Organic post to garner a ton of traffic is by making it timely and relevant. A superb example of an Organic post going viral due to timeliness is Oreo’s tweet during Super Bowl XLVII. When the power went out in the stadium for 34 minutes, the cookie company took advantage of the opportunity by tweeting a graphic of an Oreo that said, “You can still dunk in the dark.” According to 360i, the digital marketing agency behind the Oreo magic, the tweet was retweeted and shared on Facebook more than 20,000 times. It also received more than 525 million earned media impressions – which is five times the number of people who tuned in for the Super Bowl.

Use pictures, videos and GIFs

Using pictures, videos and animated GIFs in your posts and ads can give your brand more of a personality online. GIF stands for “graphics interchange format.” It’s a compressed image file format that turns out to be a video-like animation which plays on a loop. Photos, videos and GIFs are more likely to be shared and draw more attention to your site than posts with text alone. Popular social news and entertainment company Buzzfeed thrives by using pictures, videos or GIFs to draw attention to their site filled with even more pictures, videos and GIFs.

Use hashtags

Hashtags can brand a social media post and act as a tracking device. One way you can measure the success of a social media campaign or get a good idea of how many people are talking about your product or service is by tracking how often a specific hashtag is used. A great example of prime hashtag usage is Coca-Cola’s 2014 #ShareaCoke campaign. Coke switched its logo out in favor of over 250 popular names as well as generic ones, such as “Mom” or “BFF.” Many people were able to find their names on cans in stores, and consumers were encouraged to use the hashtag #ShareaCoke to share pictures of their personalized cans on social media. There was also an option to personalize and share virtual Coke cans on, which allowed those who couldn’t find their names in stores to be included in the campaign. According to The Wall Street Journal, Coke tracked more than 125,000 posts using the hashtag on social media from June 2 through July 14, proving it was an incredibly successful campaign.

Track your success

Tracking the success of your posts is of the utmost importance because it clues you in on what works, and what doesn’t. If the main goal of SMM is to drive traffic to your site to increase sales, you’ll want to keep spending money on ads and posts that help achieve that goal and ditch content that hinders your success. You can track ad and post success on Facebook through Facebook Insights, a free tool that can help you understand the social impact of your campaign in depth. Twitter can measure your ROI by tracking the actions people take after interacting with your ads through conversion tracking.
There are many other sites that offer social media analytics tools to help track your success, so do some research and pick the one that best fits your company’s needs. Trial and error with posts and ads on social media only makes for more focused, engaging and effective content down the road, but tracking your SMM efforts will save you money and time in the long run.