What Is Social Media Marketing?

How individuals and businesses reach people on today's web

Photography of white chicklet keyboard showing yellow letters that read

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Any post by a corporation on a social media platform can be considered a kind of social media marketing, and it's important to consider and find an effective "voice" for your company's social media accounts before you start posting. Whether it's on Facebook, on Twitter, or other social media, the rules are the same.

What is Social Media Marketing For?

Most brands use social media to develop awareness of their brand. These make up the standard corporate communication arsenal of social media marketers, including advertisements, product launches, special event announcement, and sales. Discount codes, feel-good stories about employees, and photos of corporate events all fit within this type of social media marketing. It's effectively advertising, a mostly one-way stream of information passing from the company to the customer.

But social media enables two-way communication, and can therefore go beyond mere advertising, providing a customer service and communications hub for your brand. From providing support for your customers to encouraging your best customers to become evangelists for your business, customer service communication makes up the remainder of social media marketing.

Even if you only want to build brand awareness, customers will force you into customer service. Customers understand social media to be a place where they can communicate back and forth with brands. So, if your brand has a social media presence, customers will contact you with customer service requests. And if they don't get a response, they'll be unhappy, and they'll let everyone know. So, if you're planning on hanging up a social media marketing shingle, be ready to handle a significant volume of complaints and questions.

Striking the Right Tone With Social Media Promotion

Brands interact with customers and fans in a casual, social way. People want to engage with a human being, not a logo. The strength of social media is you can communicate with your audience in a friendly environment, to associate your brand with the dimensionality and humor of a real human being.

For examples of successes, look at Wendy's. The fast-food giant's irreverent and genuinely funny voice won fans instantly, and Wendy's has maintained a major outpost in modern culture; screenshots of conversations with Wendy's are regularly posted and reposted. The original tweets boast organic engagement numbers most marketers could scarcely dream of.

Why is Wendy's so successful? Because the brand has a voice. And better still, it's a voice unlikely many others. While imitators have flocked behind, Wendy's was one of the first major brands to adopt the timbre of young people in significant branding communications.

Immediately, the irreverent energy was a huge hit with customers largely because it wasn't what we expected. But before you think you can mimic their success with similar tactics, consider this: novelty is always exciting, but it wears off fast.

Companies need to find a tone that fits with the cultural expectations of social media to be effective. Whether they opt for safe but unexciting corporatism (posting sales and discount codes) or risky but potentially engaging content (jokes, memes, youth-focused content), they need to find a balance that's safe for their brand and marketability. A clear, consistent voice is necessary for effective social media marketing, regardless of what they choose to say.