Social Media Marketing: the Definitive Guide to 5 Leading Platforms
How’s your social media marketing progressing? Are you just starting out? Are you struggling to see positive results?
In this in-depth (5000+ words!) article, you’ll learn all you need to know about free social media marketing. (Paid marketing is a topic I will discuss in a future article or articles.)
I dive into 5 of the leading platforms to discuss their…
- Optimization strategy
- Proper etiquette
These are the 5 platforms I discuss in this article:
Get the guide that goes along with this article! A FREE Download!
The 5 Leading Platforms
With only 140 characters per tweet, Twitter is known and recognized for its quick updates and fast-paced activity. The platform offers several key features with its tweets to consider using:
One of the great activity features that many marketers find beneficial is Twitter chats. As real-time conversations, Twitter chats are events where you join a group of Twitter users to discuss a specific topic or theme. They usually happen once a week.
Another handy feature Twitter offers is its advanced search, which gives marketers a way to find exactly what they need to improve their own activity. For example, you may want to see the different factors that go with a certain hashtag, such as who is using it when, how and where.
Check out Buffer’s guide for advanced search to learn more:
As a marketer, it’s important to use each of these features to your advantage. You might not see any of the following benefits if you don’t use Twitter to its full potential.
Twitter has some of the most useful benefits of all the platforms for marketers:
- The fast-paced environment allows for lots of real-time conversations with your audience.
- It offers the ability for you to do great customer service for your customers as you can respond to them promptly.
- People are more likely to interact with your content on Twitter with retweets and replies.
- You can build strong relationships with your followers: potential customers and current customers.
- You can also build a strong influence in your industry when you share content of value in your tweets.
- There are many services out there that can help you automate and measure your Twitter activity for best results.
First, you need to have an optimized profile. Your images and bio are both very important to your activity because it’s what people see first from you.
- They see your profile and cover images whenever they search for you on Twitter.
- Your bio is where you can add keywords easily found by those in your industry and those looking for services relevant to what you offer.
So how do you optimize your profile? These are just a few suggestions, but if you want a more thorough guide, I recommend going over to this article by Keyhole:
- Use your company logo, in high-resolution, as your profile pic. It’s best to use these dimensions: 400 x 400. You want to be easily recognized in search, so your company logo is best.
- Use a custom cover photo that promotes something of yours, such as a new product, or make it resemble your business in some way. The recommended dimensions are: 1500 x 500. Be aware that part of your cover image will be cut off where your profile image is located.
- Your bio should describe who you are, using relevant hashtags and keywords, and include a personal touch to give your account a human feel. Some businesses add the social media team’s handles. Others add a fun fact about their company. Make sure your bio is optimized for search by using relevant keywords and hashtags, but don’t go crazy. You want to sound natural to the human eye first before focusing on search.
- Your website should be your homepage or a specific landing page, and I don’t recommend using a shortened link here. People want to know where you’re leading them to, so use the full URL. If it’s too long, consider a shortened link, but otherwise, keep it as the full URL.
Now for your activity. These are just a few of the many tips for making the most out of your tweets:
- You don’t have to use a link or image every single time. Add some variety to your tweets.
- Images increase engagement, so make sure you share ones of value with your tweets. Have the proper image sizing: 1024 x 512 or 800 x 400 is best.
- Use shortened links rather than have the full URL cut off. I recommend using Bit.ly.
- Don’t overwhelm your tweet with hashtags. Use no more than 3 per tweet.
- Only use hashtags when they’re relevant and useful. If no one is following that hashtag, don’t waste valuable real estate on it.
- Ask questions that show you care, especially ones that don’t directly relate to your business. You’ll see your audience enjoys responding to questions when they can tell you’re interested in their answers.
If you want to know more about writing optimized tweets, check out this article by Hootsuite:
While you might think that it would be easiest to just schedule all your tweets and automate everything, you should be careful.
People like talking to people, not getting ignored by robots. You need to have a strategy for how you’re going to communicate with users in real-time.
This can help with your brand image and customer service / business ratings.
- When you take a moment to respond to people who reach out to you, you improve your reputation.
- When you take the time to reach out to others, you build stronger relationships and influence.
Ideally, you should be doing both of the above: responding and reaching out. Twitter is not a place for broadcasting. It’s not a press release platform. It requires real-time interaction with your audience, so be prepared.
Another etiquette element is direct messaging. Do you have these set to automatically go out to your new followers, using Crowdfire or another service? I recommend you stop that immediately. It’s equivalent to spamming people.
Direct messages need to be about welcoming followers and offering them something relevant and of value to them. It shouldn’t be a generic message sent to everyone with an advertisement or self-promotion.
If you don’t have time to customize your DMs, don’t use them.
It’s best to use them right or not use them at all.
One last piece of etiquette advice is about your tweets. Some say self-promotion is okay, but in moderation. Others, it’s all they do.
I recommend a simple rule: 70/20/10. It means 70% of your tweets should provide content of value to your target audience. 20% should be real-time interaction, and 10% can be self-promotion.
Twitter is a social network, so building influence and relationships should be your top priority. If you overly self-promote, you’re essentially pushing your audience away. People don’t want to see a bunch of ads. They want to be educated and entertained.
Feed your audience with content that they want to see, not necessarily what will bring in sales. If you give your audience what they want, they’ll be more likely to seek more information about your business, products and services. Thus, it’ll help with sales in the long-term
Twitter advertising article (stay tuned)
Some say this platform is losing its marketing users because of its limited reach without a cost, but it’s important to note:
Facebook is the largest social network out there. It has the biggest audience and tons of features that marketers can and should take full advantage of.
With Facebook, you have so many choices for what to do to reach your audience:
- You can create a Facebook page and post content regularly from there
- You can create a Facebook group dedicated to a specific group or topic
I highly recommend creating a Page rather than using your personal profile to do your marketing as an individual. Name yourself a Business Person or something more relevant to who you are.
Profiles mean people have to be added as a friend or follower and is too personal. People might be put off by the friend request process, knowing that they aren’t actually your friend. Followers can only see posts you make public.
When it comes to the actual content, Facebook offers so many choices:
- Create notes for longer content to share. I share sneak previews of my upcoming posts every Friday.
- Share images and videos, even videos from your computer rather than as a link.
- Schedule your content to go out whenever you want or save drafts for future use.
- Share a new offer, promote an event, or share a new milestone.
Facebook pages also have the option to customize their profile tabs to include things like:
- Blog subscription forms
- Twitter feeds
- Download options
- Contact forms
Pages also can customize a button next to their “Like” button to say “sign up,” “contact us,” “send message,” or other choices.
Facebook offers great insights into your page’s activity, showing you how your posts are doing, when you should post to reach your target audience, and much more.
Social Media Examiner goes into more detail about these insight features in their article:
I could go on and on about what features Facebook offers, but I would rather just stop here and recommend you play around on your own to see what features you might want to use with your own marketing.
You can also check out HubSpot’s article on some of the more neglected Facebook features:
Again, Facebook’s organic reach is extremely limited. I rarely reach 10% of my fans with each post.
However, if you’re willing to put in the $$$ for promoting your content and boosting your page’s visibility, you will see better results.
You can also reach a wider audience if you want to advertise your products or services directly with Facebook ads.
Kim Garst offers a fantastic guide for Facebook advertising in her eBook:
Need more convincing as to why Facebook is worth it? Check out this article by Brian Honigman:
Brian does a great job at giving readers the stats and recommendations to keep content marketers interested in Facebook.
To start, you need to create a Facebook page that is effective and complete. The folks at Buffer provide a complete guide for this in their article:
The article leads you from the very beginning to when your page is complete and beyond. It is great for those of you who need help with every step of the way, or you can simply pick and choose which piece of advice you need help with.
My advice for optimizing your page’s activity is simple:
Facebook isn’t meant to be used as a serious, formal platform like LinkedIn. You can share almost anything as long as it’s appropriate and relevant to your business.
- You can share fun content about the inner workings of your company and staff.
- You can share images that fit with weekly trends, such as Throwback Thursday or share a Happy Friday post.
- Your posts can highlight company milestones, such as reaching 1,000 fans, where you can also say a huge thanks.
When it comes to your posts themselves, you need to make sure they’re crafted effectively. Here are some of my suggestions:
- Posts don’t have a strict character limit like Twitter (Facebook posts can reach thousands of characters compared to Twitter’s 140). Use this to your advantage by expressing your thoughts and content thoroughly but in the clearest way possible.
- However, be aware that content gets cut off when shown in people’s newsfeeds, and they’ll have to click “read more” to see the rest.
- Share images with your posts to increase engagement. People like seeing visuals that fit well with the text being shared for easier content digestion.
- Share links, but don’t forget to remove the URL after the preview appears.
- Also, you have the option to choose the image that goes in the preview, even if the link goes to content not your own. Take advantage of this feature when you can.
- Ask questions to get more interaction from your fans.
Facebook is a more casual social network, yes, but there’s a fine line between casual and inappropriate. In order for you to do your social media marketing effectively on Facebook, you need to follow these guidelines:
- Stay relevant to your industry. People follow you for a reason, so going off topic can end up bothering your fans. There are a few exceptions:
- Trending events
- Fan count milestones
- Don’t ignore those who engage with you.
- If they comment, write a reply.
- If they send you a private message (which you should allow), promptly send a response. Facebook even rewards pages that are prompt.
- If they mention you in one of their own posts, write a comment to them.
- If they write a positive review, thank them. If it’s negative, respond with helpful concern.
- Have all your features set up to benefit your fans, such as allowing people to send you a private message or write on your wall.
- Post helpful content that is not always self-promotional.
- Be human. Share content that demonstrates the human side of your business.
I’ve shared my key etiquette points, but if you want to read more about this subject, I recommend this article by HubSpot:
Facebook advertising article (stay tuned)
LinkedIn has been widely embraced as a B2B and individually professional platform with its company pages and profiles. It has a lot to offer everyone, not just B2B though:
- Long-form thought leadership articles through LinkedIn Pulse
- LinkedIn groups
- SlideShare integration
- Job board
- Profiles and company pages
Check out some more LinkedIn features for profiles in this Constant Contact article:
If you’re looking for a platform that avoids all the silliness and chaos of the other platforms, LinkedIn is a much calmer, professional alternative.
LinkedIn offers users a wide variety of benefits through its services, including:
- Using profiles and company pages to build a professional presence online
- Sharing long-form articles to increase influence and exposure in your field
- Using its job board to find and advertise new jobs and careers
It’s a great platform for anyone and any business hoping to maintain a more professional image online.
The profiles can be filled out with tons of different parts to make it appealing to employers and followers alike.
The company pages can help companies gain exposure without the fast-paced environment of Twitter or craziness of Facebook.
Want to know more about how LinkedIn can help you?
Check out this Vertical Response article about publishing via LinkedIn Pulse:
Social Media Today also goes into further detail about LinkedIn benefits in their article:
Just like with any social platform, you shouldn’t get on LinkedIn if you’re not going to take full advantage of its features.
- You should optimize your profile as an individual and page as a company.
- You should have an active presence through your own account, groups and the publishing service.
When you take full advantage of any social network, you reap far more rewards than if you left it abandoned or static.
These are just a few of the ways you can optimize your LinkedIn activity:
- When posting regular updates that involve other users, such as sharing their work, cite them in the post using the @ symbol to get LinkedIn to notify them of your update. Only do this when it makes sense and won’t aggravate the other user.
- Make sure your profile is filled out to the brim. The more you have there, the more exposure you’ll get.
- Use keywords where applicable to get found in search.
- Make your top summary attractive and relevant.
- Add media, such as work samples and links.
Learn more about how to optimize your profile by visiting this article by John Chen:
- With a company page, you also need to take full advantage of all its settings. When setting it up, keep these things in mind:
- Use a high-quality logo for your profile picture and add a cover photo that matches what you do/offer.
- Pay attention to the analytics LinkedIn offers when you publish updates.
- Don’t be afraid to fork over a few bucks to advertise and promote your page.
Social Media Examiner has an article on this subject worth looking at as well:
Beyond what I’ve offered here, there are two other sources who go into more detail about how to use LinkedIn to its fullest, either as an individual or a business:
First, there’s this Kissmetrics article:
You’ll find lots of great tips for you as a professional. It gives great advice about how to set up your profile and build relationships through groups and networking. It’s a thorough article worth checking out.
The other article is from HubSpot:
These 35 tips help anyone and everyone on LinkedIn, both individuals and businesses alike. The article goes into detail about setting up an effective profile, creating content for SEO on your profile, and much more. It even gives you the option to download a full guide if that’s preferred.
LinkedIn is not the place for staff party photos or funny jokes/memes. It is the place for sharing industry news, company updates, and job openings.
Neil Patel wrote an article for Forbes that sums up LinkedIn etiquette for individual users:
Although his article pretty much hits every point, I must add a few rules of my own:
- Don’t ignore your connections. Talk to them. Use the relationships feature on profiles to sort how you met the person with tags and notes.
- Stay in touch with them, and the relationship will grow stronger. You’ll reap more rewards in the long run.
- Don’t hide your account from being visible when you view other profiles. Unless you’re a recruiter or HR person scoping out candidates, there really is no need to be invisible.
- If people see that you’ve viewed their profile, they may reach out to you. That’s something you should want.
- Don’t abuse keywords in your profile, especially in the summary section. It’s important to sound natural and human first before you focus on being found in search.
- Don’t connect your other social network updates to LinkedIn. Hashtags don’t work, and people can tell when your content doesn’t belong or originate on LinkedIn. It looks lazy and sloppy.
The Muse has an article on LinkedIn etiquette worth checking out as well. It goes over more rules for individuals:
As a business, what rules apply to you and your company page?
I didn’t find any sources talking about this area, which surprises me. However, I do have a few recommendations of my own for your page:
- Steer clear of irrelevant or too-casual content being published from your page.
- Use your employees to represent you by asking them to share your content from their own accounts.
- Be clear about who you are and what you do/offer in your page description. People want to know right away why they should click on that “Follow” button.
- The focus should be on getting them to follow and then direct them to your website.
- Fill out “Specialties” with keywords that match your offerings only. Don’t abuse this area with keywords that don’t directly relate to your company.
- Respond to people who interact with your page with post comments, even if they don’t ask a question. There’s always something you can say, even if it’s a simple “Thank you for sharing your … (ideas/thoughts)”
- Say their name in the response. Mention something about what they said. It shows you were paying attention. This applies to all social networks.
I bet you can think of more rules you should follow and habits you should break as a company or individual, and I welcome you to share them in a comment at the end of this post.
Instagram is a fast-growing social platform that businesses can no longer ignore. It has a very large, global audience, and it offers a lot for marketers to use to reach their target audience.
Some of its widely used features include:
- Sharing images and short video clips
- Liking, commenting and sharing posts
However, Instagram also has some lesser-known features users don’t often take advantage of:
- Private sharing
- Syncing with photo editing apps
- Changing the thumbnail of your video
- Editing your caption after posting
- Adjusting which filters you see when sharing posts
See more features in this Mashable article, including some of the more unused options Instagram offers:
As a side note, it’s important to point out that Instagram is an exclusively mobile social network that can only be accessed via a cell phone application.
As with other platforms, Instagram can be a great place for you to connect and build relationships with your existing and potential customers.
You can learn what your potential customers are interested in, which can help you develop or update your personas accordingly.
Instagram is a very visual social platform. Thus, it has shown significantly higher engagement rates than some other social media sites.
Instagram ads have been effective for increasing sales as well.
Find out some other Instagram benefits in this Constant Contact article:
Your Instagram presence can have the potential to prove a high ROI when you take advantage of these benefits.
You won’t find the best results from your Instagram marketing if you’re not optimizing both your profile and activity. Here are just some of the tips to consider:
- Be consistent in your profile with your other, linked social networks.
- Use the same, high-quality profile image, such as your logo
- Add a similar bio
- Use a custom landing page as your profile URL OR frequently change it to a webpage based on a promotion or new blog post.
- Don’t use shortened links, such as Bit.ly.
- Let people see where they’ll go when they click.
- Post as often as you have content to share, but make sure it’s worth it.
- Don’t go ignored, but don’t overwhelm people’s feed with poor quality posts.
- Use the captions section to describe your image / video.
- Add hashtags as a comment after posting rather than in the caption.
- It allows you to share your post on other networks without it looking cluttered.
- Follow users with similar interests or who could be potential customers / influencers.
- On a similar note, follow back when the user follows the same criteria.
- Don’t worry about hashtag limits.
- You can use as many as you want as long as they’re both relevant and helpful to you and your audience.
- Interact with other users by liking, sharing and commenting on their content.
- Don’t ignore your home feed.
- Don’t focus exclusively on self-promotion.
- Share your location(s) if you have more than one.
- This works great if you’re a remote company or have multiple locations around the world.
If you want to see some other great tips on making the most of Instagram, I recommend you check out these articles:
Relevance gives you 5 content types to try out for getting the most out of your marketing:
Another article that’s worth checking out is from Buffer. It includes 10 ways you can build your Instagram audience and influence:
You can’t be on Instagram without paying attention to how it works and the best practices that come along with it.
If you ignore the rules, you hurt your results and you hurt your brand image, which you’ll be hard-pressed to recover.
Some of the common rules include:
- Be social.
- Don’t use Instagram to hard sell your products.
- Share fun posts or other content of value for your audience.
- Use the right hashtags.
- Keep them relevant to the content you’re sharing.
- Don’t use hashtags if they have no value to both you and your audience.
- Don’t beg for followers or attention.
- Begging like this is unattractive and puts people off.
- Avoid hashtags that beg for followers.
- Don’t go crazy with the “likes.”
Using social media comes with responsibilities we all must obey, and Instagram is no exception.
Instagram advertising article (stay tuned)
I’m very new to Pinterest, but I’ve already noticed its value for marketing and overall enjoyment potential. It’s a great place for companies who can create visual content regularly, such as infographics.
These are just a few of the features you should be aware of:
- Pinning your content or others’ pins on your board
- Adding websites to your pins
- Pinning titles and captions
- Using Categories
- Creating Business accounts (vs. personal ones)
There are also some lesser-used features to pay attention to:
- Using keywords
- Sharing pins by email
- Adding collaborators to your board(s)
- Adding the Pinterest widget to your website
- Sharing pins directly to other social networks
There’s an article on Business 2 Community that goes more in-depth about Pinterest features that you should check out for more information:
Many businesses have doubted whether they should be present on Pinterest. It’s a relatively new platform (2010), but it’s growing rapidly.
These are just some of the many benefits you can see from using Pinterest as part of your social media marketing:
- Pinterest brings website traffic.
- Through its hovering website links on pins
- Through its Pin widget for Chrome
- Pinterest is a great market research tool.
- Industry Trends
- Audience Interests
- Pinterest includes free marketing from fans.
- Direct shares
- Pinterest pins last longer.
- Compared to other social networks’ content
- Pinterest helps you build authority.
- Through market research
- Through an active presence
Jeff Bullas has an article that includes more benefits than just these 5, so take a look:
Pinterest is all about being relevant and visually appealing, so keywords and high-quality images are a must.
With its new “smart feed,” your content has to meet a strict criteria to be seen at or near the top:
- The pin has to be of high-quality.
- The pin source has to be of high-quality.
If you don’t meet these criteria, be ready to see a lower ROI from your content.
With a business account, it’s essential that you confirm your website. It doesn’t require more than just a little code on your website. When you do this, you get access to much more from Pinterest, including great analytics.
Create keyword-rich descriptions for your pins. If you want to be found by the right audience, you need to use the right keywords.
Are you wondering about the frequency and timing of your Pinterest activity? Here are just a couple tips to get you started:
- Depending on your content output, you can pin 5 – 30 times a day.
- Weekdays and mornings are the least popular times to pin.
Buffer has even more optimization tips in their article:
Of course, you can have optimized activity, but without an optimized profile, you’re missing out on even more positive results.
That’s where this Social Media Examiner article comes into play. It gives you the best practices for optimizing your profile, and it includes 5 other Pinterest marketing tips to check out:
As with all social media marketing, you have to pay attention to platform rules and etiquette.
Pinterest has its own rules to keep in mind if you don’t want to upset your chances at growth but rather increase its ROI instead.
Here are just a handful of rules I find especially important:
- Be ready for Pinterest marketing before you start pinning.
- Have your account ready
- Have a strategy in place
- Use the original source of the pin when pinning to your own board.
- Be interactive with other users.
- Comment on pins
- Tag users you’re talking to/about
- Say thank you
- Don’t overly self-promote.
- Curate other users’ content sometimes
- Share pins of value
- Give credit where credit is due.
Summing Everything Up
Are you ready to make the most of your social media marketing now that you’ve seen what you need to do and how?
I went into a lot of detail here, but it is my aim that you are better prepared now as a result.
Please leave a comment or contact me directly via email if you’d like to discuss this topic further.
I may have left out your choice platform, but please note that these social media platforms will be discussed in future articles:
An even more in-depth analysis of Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and Pinterest