What Is Social Media Marketing?

How individuals and businesses reach people on today's web

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

Photography of white chicklet keyboard showing yellow letters that read "like" on top
 Getty Images/jayk7

What is Social Media Marketing For?

Most companies use social media to develop brand awareness. These make up the standard corporate communication arsenal of social media marketers, including advertisements, product launches, special event announcements, 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 advertising, a primarily one-way stream of information passing from the company to the customer.

But social media enables two-way communication, as well, and can go beyond mere advertising, providing a customer service and communications hub for your brand. From offering 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 exchange communication with brands. 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 that 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 significant outpost in modern culture; people regularly post and repost screenshots of conversations with Wendy's. The original tweets boost organic engagement numbers tremendously.

Why is Wendy's so successful? Because the brand has an unmistakable 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 primarily because it was unexpected. 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 the cultural expectations of social media to be effective. Some brands opt for safe, unexciting corporatism (posting sales and discount codes). Others choose risky but potentially engaging content (jokes, memes, youth-focused content). Either way, finding a balance that works for branding and marketability is vital. A distinct, consistent voice is necessary for effective social media marketing, regardless of what they choose to say.