12 min read

Social Media Marketing for Beginners: In 6 Simple Steps

In this article, I explain how to approach social media marketing for beginners and include an expert case study.
Social Media Marketing for Beginners: In 6 Simple Steps

I worked for several years as a social media manager for a large British software company. Along with the help of a team, I managed multiple Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Pinterest business accounts.

We started with Facebook and built up a page with tens of thousands of followers via organic content. But, after figuring out how to build a popular business Facebook page, the platform leaned towards paid content and stopped surfacing organic content.

We also built out multiple LinkedIn profiles and groups. Then, an advisor from LinkedIn said we’d gain more brand awareness by consolidating all of our channels.

Despite having access to the resources of a corporate, I struggled with overwhelm in part due to changes across each network.

So what’s a lone or new content creator supposed to do? How can they figure out an effective social media marketing for beginner’s strategy without sacrificing all of their resources and time?

Ways Creators Can Use Social Media

Social media can help you and your creative business in several different ways.

You can connect with other thought leaders and exchange ideas. It’s a good place for getting real-world data and metrics about pieces of content. And it’s also great for promoting events and building personal brand awareness.

Social media can also help you find an ideal target audience and build a mutually rewarding relationship through content marketing.

It can also deliver an ROI. While working as a social media manager, we relied on Facebook and later LinkedIn to attract leads and customers, as part of a wider digital marketing campaign. Our team also used Instagram Marketing to build brand awareness and promote events for startups and small businesses.

These days, I use Medium to publish and share articles like this one for my personal brand. I use Twitter to engage with potential guests for my podcast.

I enjoy Twitter because it enables me to practice my copywriting skills in public. In short, if the tweet doesn’t get much engagement, I retry with different phrasing. I also rely on Pinterest to attract organic traffic for one of my websites.

I don’t use newer networks like Snapchat or TikTok as much, as I’m less comfortable with video content. Because content creation is also time-consuming, I try to focus on social networks and formats that drive the most results.

1. Identify Your Target Audience

Casual social media users turn to a network to connect with peers or friends. They like engaging with a specific type of content or following an influencer they admire. So, before diving into multiple social media, consider your target audience. What’s their:

  • Age group
  • Gender
  • Income level
  • Education
  • Preferred content
  • Language
  • Location
  • Purchasing patterns
  • Hobbies and interests
  • Challenges
  • Spending power
  • Other relevant demographics

Ideally, your content is specific to the profile or persona of a target audience for your social business. It’s in a format they enjoy consuming and sharing too. This content is part of a wider digital marketing strategy that leads your social media followers along a customer journey towards a digital product or offer of some sort.

After all, you’re not spending hours creating and sharing on social media channels because it’s a hobby.

Author and consultant Neal Schaffer is an expert in social media marketing 

Neal Schaffer is the author of The Age of Influence and a public speaker. He advises larger companies on their social media strategy.

Schaffer dialled in on his social media marketing strategy to connect with his audience. Today, he finds many business-to-business clients by posting relevant content on LinkedIn and Twitter.

“If you’re business-to-business, LinkedIn is the place to be. If you’re B2C and it is an extremely young demographic, it’s going to be more like Snapchat, TikTok,” he said.

2. Focus on One Social Media Network

Figuring out the specifics of each social media channel and spending time effectively on them is challenging for big teams with thousands of dollars of resources, let alone new content creators. So, use the power of constraint. Or as Schaffer says:

“Start with one network at a time, you can’t be everywhere and you shouldn’t be everywhere, and those that do best in social are active consumers of the platform themselves. The content format will decide where you end up investing a lot of time.”

It’s hard to say no to YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Medium and more. They all offer great opportunities for content creators. But ask yourself:

  • Which platform(s) am I most comfortable using?
  • What content formats appeal to me the most i.e. video, the written word, short form, long-form, etc.?

Once you’ve a target audience in mind and understand ideal formats, creating content becomes easier and faster. Remember, a new content creator grows a following on one platform before diversifying onto a second or a third platform. They also leverage their existing following as part of a wider social media marketing strategy. For example:

  • A business-to-business content creator could pick LinkedIn and publish business advice articles.
  • A blogger, entrepreneur or a writer could pick Twitter and turn their ideas into thought-provoking threads.
  • A business-to-consumer content creator who dislikes writing could pick TikTok or Snapchat and create short, snappy videos.

You can still open up other social media accounts if only to protect a handle. But, concentrate time and creative resources on one platform until it gains traction in terms of organic growth, reach or revenue. Give people a reason to share before moving on to another platform.

Read my article: How to Find Focus

Platform Primer

Instagram works best for visual brands and aesthetics. It’s also popular for thought leadership i.e. turning advice into image quotes.

Facebook is ideal for older social media users and business to consumer content. It’s where many content creators start too.

LinkedIn has great reach for creators who publish business advice content.

Medium is a good platform for writers and content creators targeting the startup community.

Pinterest has great reach for visual brands and content creators, e.g. food bloggers.

YouTube is ideal for long form video, while TikTok and SnapChat are better for targeting younger social media users.

Twitter is ideal for networking with your targeting audience and thought leadership.

In short, identify which platform will enable you to grow a loyal following while serving your small business. It should form part of your content flywheel.

3. Create Platform-Specific Content

When I managed a Facebook business page, we shared links to our blog posts, followers clicked through, and tracked all of that traffic in a weekly report. We got away with posting the same content repeatedly using different headlines and call-to-actions.

That all changed when Facebook focused on native content and paid advertising. Eventually, we switched to using Facebook ads to promote new content.

Other networks, like Twitter, followed Facebook. Today, each platform has specific content requirements. The algorithms also weigh towards native content that keeps people on a platform for longer.

So, rather than only sharing links across LinkedIn, Twitter and other channels, create content specifically for your platform of choice. Engage with followers and fans directly.

After publishing an article on your website or blog, don’t just share a link. Instead, extract three to five key ideas and turn them into a Twitter thread. Publish this type of Twitter-specific content consistently. Similarly, a video creator could focus on short videos for TikTok or longer ones for Youtube.

Creators have an advantage over casual or typical small business owners on social media. Using your creative skills, you can easily create content that’s engaging, informative, entertaining or inspirational. And that’s the fastest way to growing a following. It’s surprising how challenging this process is for many regular social media users. Schaffer said:

“Nobody builds influence without having content. The beautiful thing for everybody reading is you’re a content creator. You’re able to do something a lot of people can’t do… and will pay people to do for them.”

Repurposing content describes taking one piece of content and turning into native content for other platforms. Although you probably could turn a blog post into a podcast, short-form video, long-form video, Twitter thread and LinkedIn post, will you have the time and attention to engage with followers authentically across all of these platforms?

Repurposing content for more than one or two channels is time-consuming and challenging to get right. It’s still worth doing, but wait until you can afford to hire an assistant to help.

Tip: Many new content creators share content on social networks without giving the headline much thought. Learning a few basic copywriting hooks will dramatically increase the power of your content marketing efforts on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and elsewhere. Bonus points for tracking the headline formats that get the most engagement.

Proven Content Creation Types

If you’re short on ideas for native content, here are some staples that work for most channels and formats:

  • How-To, e.g. How to Use Twitter Reels
  • Lessons and mistakes
  • Quotes
  • Lists
  • Expert tips and strategies
  • Ways to achieve X
  • Tools, product and software round-ups
  • Trends
  • Intriguing stats
  • Original research
  • Reasons why…
  • Example and case studies
  • Demos and walkthroughs
  • Behind the scenes content
  • Interviews with experts
  • Question and answers
  • Polls
  • Curated content, i.e. tagging others

4. Direct Followers to Your Website

Effective social media marketers, like Neal Schaffer, rely on more than an algorithm or a feed to grow their business. An email list serves as a direct relationship between them and their readers, fans and followers.

Once you’ve built up a social media account, mix up organic content with an ask. After every three to five pieces of organic social media content, encourage your followers to join your email list. Although only a small percentage will follow through, this step acts as protection against a social media channel becoming ineffective.

“We can’t guarantee our content being visible on social media, the only thing we can guarantee is our own website and, more importantly, our own e-mail list,” says Schaffer.

Ideally, give something away for free on your website or on a landing page. Tease this item on your social media account or in an occasional piece of content. As your platform grows, occasionally encourage followers to visit your website, mixing up organic content with call-to-actions. Ask followers to opt-in with their best email address for this freebie.

Example lead magnets include:

  • Checklists
  • Reports
  • Additional video interviews
  • Bonus content
  • Discounts on your courses
  • Exclusive book chapters

Let's say you enjoy writing articles on Medium and LinkedIn and have built up a following. Both platforms will surface your latest articles to readers. But your work still competes with content by others.

Using your email list, you can let subscribers and potential customers know about a new article. You can also introduce subscribers to a back catalogue of content.

For example, many authors use their email list to involve readers in book launches. They send early book chapters for feedback and offer additional bonuses for preordering or buying multiple copies of the book. This strategy helps them earn more book royalties.

Remember to Publish SEO-Optimised Content

The sheer array of opportunities on today’s social media platforms is intoxicating. But remember to publish high-quality SEO-optimised content consistently on your website.

This content can inform what you share and create for social networks while also attracting organic website traffic. It’s the lynchpin of your social media marketing strategy.

“I have like 400,000 followers between Twitter and Pinterest and my Facebook page and LinkedIn and Instagram. I get 82 percent of my traffic to my website from search engines,” says Schaffer.

5. Track Key Social Media Metrics

Every social media channel offers powerful analytics and social media metrics about your content and followers.

Impressions describe how many times a post appears in someone’s timeline.

Reach describes the potential unique viewers of a post.

Reach and impressions, much like follower counts, are vanity metrics. It’s more helpful to consider if your content is actually driving engagement. Use this information to figure out how to create high-quality content. Consider:

  • Headline formats followers interact with
  • What’s attracting the most likes, retweets or shares
  • Ideal content-length: short-form versus long-form
  • If using hashtags makes a difference
  • Effective versus ineffective call-to-actions
  • Types of content driving the most retweets, shares or likes e.g. inspirational content vs informative content
  • Best times for sharing content
  • Image templates
  • Content driving conversions i.e. leads and or sales

In my old job, we used advanced social media listening tools for this type of analysis. However, this type of software is overkill for many new content creators on one or two channels. The native platform analytics are enough to begin with.

Tip: It’s easy to look at an influencer’s account and feel jealous of their follower count. But with social media, engagement rate and return-on-investment is what counts. If in doubt, focus on creating and publishing high-quality native content consistently.

6. Build a Relationship Over Email

The final step of social media marketing involves guiding followers towards a sale. And, more often than not, that doesn't take place in a feed.

Instead, it's over email.

A fan engages with a piece of content on Twitter, visits your landing page or website and opts into your email list for a freebie. Eventually, they buy one of your books, courses, consultancy packages or offers.

It might take five or ten emails before they buy. But, you can easily automate this part of your online marketing strategy by creating and setting up a welcome email sequence that onboards followers to your list and presents an offer.

“It takes 5, 10, 15 touches in order to convert followers or website visitors into a customer,” says Schaffer. “That’s where e-mail comes. That’s where you really deepen the relationship with people.”

Ask followers to visit your site and join your email list 

Twitter Case Study

James Breakwell (@Xplodingunicorn) is a comedy writer and author who built up a loyal following of over one million followers on Twitter. He implemented a social media marketing strategy similar to what Schaffer prescribes for content creators. Breakwell started by posting jokes on Twitter about life as a Dad to three kids. He told me:

“I realized, 'Oh, Twitter is its own thing.' You can’t just put out links. So, I started writing jokes and Twitter gave me something I never really had before with the blog, it gave me feedback that I could get immediately.”

“If a joke was good, people would share it and like it, and if it wasn’t good, they wouldn’t share it, it would just fade into obscurity, and that’s how I learned that what people really liked was jokes about my kids. So, I went all in. I treated it like a job."

Once Breakwell attracted thousands of Twitter followers, he asked fans to visit his website and join his email list. Then, he built a relationship with them by emailing colorful articles every Sunday. Meanwhile, Breakwell teased his audience on Twitter about his new content format:

“If you like reading 280 characters that I put out, maybe you’ll like reading 2,000 words. I just go and write a funny story that happened that week and, from there, people get engaged."

In other words, Breakwell started with Twitter before expanding to blogging and email marketing. Although his email list is smaller than his Twitter following, he said:

“Those people on that newsletter drive most of my book sales. There’s an entreaty to please buy my book and that’s kind of have been the best business model I found."

Social Media Marketing for Beginners: The Final Word

Finding enough time and resources for social media marketing is a challenge for many content creators. But with focus and the right strategy, you can build a social media presence that adds to your business’s bottom line.

Get specific about your target audience. Then create relevant content for them. Focus on a single channel and occasionally ask followers to join your list. From there, nurture followers with even more helpful content until the relationship becomes profitable.

Tips

  • Include links on all your social media handles and bios to your website or email list. Ask people to join or subscribe for insider content.
  • Breakwell recommends against posting links on Twitter as they don't appear in people's feeds as much. He suggests posting native content like stories and short Twitter threads instead.
  • Create content for a social media channel in bulk and schedule in advance. For example, it takes about half an hour to focus on writing a week’s worth of Tweets. Then schedule them all using a social media management tool.

Resources

Hootsuite, Buffer and SmarterQueue are all good social media management tools. You can schedule content in advance and use them for social ambient awareness. However, it’s still advisable to log in and engage with followers organically too.

What are the best social media channels for beginners?

Facebook is a good choice if you want to connect with older consumers. LinkedIn is ideal for reaching out to small business owners. Twitter is a good choice for networking and thought-leadership content. Lots of writers and authors use Twitter.

How do I get followers on social media?

Don’t worry about followers. Even if you're designing a social business, concentrate on creating high-quality content that drives engagement and which adds to your bottom line.