Social Media Marketing: The Complete Overview

Janie S.
Janie S.
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There's an ongoing debate about social media in our modern society. A growing body of evidence suggests that it may negatively affect teenagers. Others argue that it can create opportunities to develop genuine connections. Regardless of your stance, there's no denying that it has become an integral part of our lives.

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This fact is largely being recognized by businesses and organizations, who are finding ways to use these platforms to promote their products and services.

Today, we bring you the complete guide to social media marketing for beginners – everything you need to know to get started and maximize the potential of this powerful tool. Let's dive right in.

What Is Social Media Marketing?

Social Media Marketing (SMM) is a form of digital marketing that focuses on creating campaigns with specific goals. It utilizes social networking websites and apps we all know as social media platforms to promote products or services.

In other words, there is a clear marketing agenda – the goal is to drive traffic and engagement through campaigns tailored to social media audiences. Building a community, connecting with potential customers, and engaging with existing ones are all common ways to achieve this goal.

Importance of Social Media Marketing for Businesses

You might be wondering if there's any real incentive for social media marketing. The answer is a resounding yes. First off, consider that more than half of the global population has a social media account, resulting in a staggering 4.76 billion active users. That is an incredibly vast audience, and utilizing social media marketing to tap into it can hugely benefit your business.

Social media also helps you establish a presence online, build relationships with potential customers, and increase brand awareness. On average, people spend roughly 2.5 hours daily on social media platforms, meaning they are exposed to a lot of content. This increases the likelihood of people coming across the content of businesses with an active presence. Every time a user sees your company, it reinforces your brand, which can help boost engagement and sales.

Moreover, 75% of internet users utilize social media to research brands and products before making a purchase. Without it, you might not inspire trust and lose out on potential customers. In short, investing time and resources in SMM can result in the following:

  • Increased brand awareness
  • Lead generation
  • Competition monitoring
  • A new customer service channel
  • Cost-effective marketing
  • SEO improvements
  • Social proof

However, these advantages did not always exist. Only through the development of the channels and features, social networks have become more and more interesting for companies. Here is a brief overview of the evolution.

Evolution of Social Networks

Social networks have evolved in three main stages:

1995-2002: Early Days

  • First social networks like GeoCities,, and emerged.
  • Their primary purpose was to facilitate communication between distant individuals.
  • Basic text messaging was innovative.
  • Users manually searched for people or information without feeds or recommendations.

2002-2003: Expanding Features

  • Social networks started to introduce features like image uploads, audio, and video sharing.
  • Celebrities joining these platforms boosted their popularity.
  • Besides connecting with friends, online dating has become a trend.

2004-Present: Modern Era

  • Facebook first enters the market and grows rapidly.
  • The "smart feed" was introduced to show users the content they are most interested in first.
  • Features like video calls, live streaming, blogging, and advertising emerge.
  • Social media platforms began to refine their algorithms for personalized recommendations, establishing the infinite scroll - a feature that fills the user's feed with related posts with no end to it.

Today, the role of social networks transcends just communication. They've evolved into comprehensive platforms useful for business, entertainment, showcasing talents, and addressing crucial matters. Over recent years, their capabilities have only continued to grow.

Key Elements of Social Media Marketing

As fantastic as the above stats and evolution may sound, the unfortunate reality is that social media marketing is not an easy task. You'll need to develop a comprehensive strategy if you want to succeed, and that starts with understanding the different parts of social media marketing.

Social Media Marketing Fundamentals Infographic

Profile Optimization

The very first step in building a social media presence is optimizing your profile. Your profile page is the equivalent of a digital storefront and needs to be as attractive and informative as possible. Different platforms have different limitations regarding profile design, but the goal is always to make a great first impression.

Think about the customer journey. A user happens to find one of your posts interesting, clicks on it, and lands on your profile page. This is their first impression of your brand. You need to ensure they see the most important information first: who you are, what you offer, and what makes you special.

Profile optimization includes:

Choosing an Appropriate Profile Photo

Humans are visual creatures. Chances are, your profile picture will be the first thing people notice when they land on your page. Think carefully about what you want to convey with it, and make sure it looks professional. It's also what they will see when scrolling through their newsfeed, so make it memorable.

Company colors and logos work great for this purpose because they are easily recognizable. If you are the brand itself, make sure you choose a good photo of yourself. Remember that on most social media platforms, profile pictures must fit in a relatively small area, so keep it simple and well-visible.

Many platforms also give you the opportunity to create a profile banner. Use this larger space to indicate what your business stands for or what you do.

Writing a Descriptive Bio

Your profile bio is your chance to tell others about yourself and your business. It should be concise, informative, and not too salesy. Not everyone will be familiar with your company by name alone, so here's where you can introduce yourselves in a few words.

Like the profile picture, your bio will undoubtedly have limitations when it comes to length. Try to squeeze as much useful information into that space as possible without sacrificing quality or readability. Adding emojis can be a good way to break up text sections and make them look more aesthetically pleasing.

Using Relevant Keywords and Hashtags

Keywords and hashtags are important for SEO, as they help people find your profile in search results. Do some research on what words or phrases are most commonly used when people type things related to your business into the search bar and sprinkle them throughout your bio. Don't overdo it, and make sure that they are relevant.

Hashtags can also belong in your bio, but they should be placed near the end and ideally limited to 2-3. Your chosen social media platform determines which hashtags work best, but the general rule of thumb is that they should be as specific to your business as possible.

Including Prominent Links

Finally, your profile should act as a bridge to your website or app. If a user is interested in learning more about your business, they should have a straightforward way to do it. You can include links to any relevant pages on your site, such as the home page, blog, or contact form. Links to other social media accounts can also be included if appropriate.

If you have multiple links you want to promote, consider Linktree or a similar service that allows users to view all your links on one page. This helps to keep your profile neat and organized while giving users easy access to the information they need.

Twitter Bio Calm App

Calm’s Twitter Bio with Custom Shortlink


Publishing content is the most important part of social media marketing. Once your profile is polished and ready to receive visitors, the real fun begins. Social media marketing revolves around content, which you post in the form of pictures, videos, stories, and other types of media. Your goal should be to create engaging content that is informative or entertaining.

Your content needs to be tailored to your target audience and your chosen platform. For instance, a B2B company will have different goals than a fashion brand, so they have to create different types of content.

When creating content for social media marketing purposes, it helps to get started with the 80/20 rule: 80% of your content should be educational or entertaining (with no strings attached), while 20% focuses on promoting your services or products. Again, this can be customized for your business over time. For example, a fashion brand can easily get away with posting only outfit shots 100% of the time. Testing and adapting to what works is the key.

The main types of content you can use to achieve your business goals are:

  • Images: Perhaps the most versatile content type, images can be anything from photos and illustrations to infographics. They work great on platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest.

  • Videos: Videos are great for grabbing the viewer's attention and telling stories in an engaging way. They work particularly well on YouTube and Instagram. What works exceptionally well are short-form videos, such as Instagram Reels, Youtube Shorts, and TikToks.

  • Live streams: Live streaming is also popular on social media and helps you connect with your audience in real time. Platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube all offer live-streaming tools that you can use to engage with followers.

  • Text updates: Text updates are the most basic form of content, and they're great for sharing short pieces of information or pushing out calls to action. Think of Tweets, Facebook statuses, and Reddit posts.


While you might post to your personal social media account whenever you feel like it, that's not the case with SMM. To make sure your content is seen by as many people as possible, you need to stick to a consistent posting schedule.

Scheduling can be done manually using calendar reminders or, if available, through the tools of social media platforms. However, we highly recommend using a social media management tool because you don't always have to log in to all social media platforms separately and can manage everything from one place.

The advantage of scheduling your posts is that you don't need to be stuck at your computer all day. Instead, you can plan out your content ahead of time and have it posted when the time is right. Your target audience isn't necessarily online at all hours of the day, and timing your posts correctly can make all the difference.

When it comes to scheduling, there's no one-size-fits-all solution. Platforms have different posting guidelines and "best practices" for sharing content.


SMM isn't a one-way broadcast like traditional advertising. It's a two-way street where interactions are exchanged with your audience to build meaningful relationships. This is known as engagement, and it's an essential part of SMM.

Engagement can mean different things on each platform, and it involves yours and the users’. Just like people are responding to your content, you can respond back or actively react to the content of others. On Instagram, it could be commenting on someone's post or liking their photos. On Twitter, it could be replying to tweets or retweeting content. Every platform allows you to respond to comments, messages, and direct messages. Following, adding friends, and joining groups are additional ways to engage with your audience.

Both sides of engagement are important to growing your business.

It's also essential to remember that you aren't explicitly interacting with potential customers. Anyone who shares an interest in your brand is a potential collaborator, partner, or influencer. Taking the time to build relationships with these people can be highly beneficial down the line.

Most notably, make sure you keep your engagement organic and authentic. Don't just answer questions with canned responses. Take the time to genuinely respond and have conversations with your followers.

Building a Following

Getting started with social media marketing means starting with nothing. In order to be seen by others on a continuous basis, you need to build a following. Most platforms use the "followers" model, where users can follow your page to see your new posts in their newsfeed.

To grow a following, it's critical to post regularly and engage with other users on each platform you are using. Focus on creating interesting and relevant content and use hashtags so that your content can be found when people are explicitly searching for something your content covers. The more followers you have, the easier it will be to reach new people and drive traffic to your website.


The early days of any social media account can be challenging. It can take a lot of time before you see a steady flow of followers, so don't get discouraged if your numbers aren't growing as quickly as you would like.


Next is paid advertising. Unlike organic methods, paid ads allow you to reach a larger audience quickly and with precision targeting. When it comes to paid social media advertising, you can choose to target users by age, gender, location, interests, or a combination of all of these.

There are several types of paid advertising, including:

Boosted Posts

Boosted posts are an easy way to promote your content. You can boost any post you've already created and make it visible to a wider audience. It will blend nicely with the organic posts on your audience's newsfeed, making it less intrusive than other forms of advertising. Boosted posts are most useful for driving traffic to your website or increasing the visibility of a particular piece of content.

These posts are easy to set up since you only need to select the existing content you want to boost and enter your budget. You can also set a timeline for when you want the post to be visible and customize your target audience.

Regular Ads

Regular ads differ from organically boosted posts in that they are specifically designed for advertising. They also give you more room for customization and targeting options to match your campaign exactly with your goal. However, this also means that the setup usually takes longer since the campaign goes through a more thought-through process.

Paid social media campaigns can effectively reach new customers and spread the word about your business. They can also be used to align campaigns, for example, by showing follow-up ads to people who have already seen or interacted with your initial ad. Due to the bidding-based nature of these platforms and their advanced strategies, it can be tough to get the most out of your budget. Many choose to hire a digital marketing specialist to help them with their campaigns since the good ones have the knowledge and experience to maximize ROI.


Influencer marketing can also fall under paid advertising. This strategy involves paying an influencer to promote your product or service through their audience, such as on YouTube or Instagram. Influencers typically have thousands, if not millions, of followers, making them an ideal channel to reach large numbers of people quickly.

You can reach out to influencers directly or work with a platform like an influencer marketing agency. A contract will then be drawn up outlining the terms of the collaboration, such as what type of content will be created and any payment due.

This type of advertising can be highly effective if you choose an influencer who aligns with your brand identity and has a large, engaged following. Alternatively, micro-influencers are smaller influencers with a more niche following who may be cheaper and better engaged.


A social media marketing campaign is no different than any other marketing effort and should be measured to determine success. Without tracking the performance of your campaigns, it's impossible to understand what's working and what isn't.

There are several metrics you can track, depending on the goals of your campaign. The following infographic highlights the main KPIs to measure when running a social media marketing campaign.

Top 5 Social Media Metrics for ROI


Gathering these metrics is easily done with analytics tools, which can help you measure the performance of your social media campaigns. Most platforms have in-built analytics tools that allow you to check out relevant metrics such as engagement rate, reach, and impression share. You'll see which posts are performing best and can adjust your strategy accordingly.

Alternatively, there are plenty of third-party tools available to monitor your campaigns. Use our Comparison Tool for SMM software to view the different analytic features on offer and see which providers offer the capabilities that fit your needs.

Social Listening

As your follower count grows, keeping up with all the comments, posts, and questions directed at your brand may become challenging. That's why it's essential to use social listening tools to help you sift through the noise and identify key trends.

Social listening tools are designed to track conversations about your brand or industry and give you insights into what people say. These tools can alert you to positive and negative sentiments, allowing you to respond quickly and build customer relationships.

Social listening also enables you to better understand your audience's pain points, challenges, and preferences. You can use this knowledge to create more targeted content that resonates with users.

Vista Social Listening Feature

Vista Social's Listening Capabilities

Where does this type of marketing take place? While it can be done on any platform, a handful of standout social networks are best suited for business campaigns. We've compiled a list of the most popular SMM platforms so you can decide which ones are best for your business.

These strike a balance between a high number of active users and the ability to make marketing campaigns successful.

  • Facebook: Still among the largest social networks, Facebook remains an excellent platform for digital marketing. Its wide range of targeting options makes reaching the right people for your campaigns easy. Audiences of all demographics can be found on the platform, and the versatility of content that can be posted makes it a top choice for many.

  • YouTube: The undisputed leader in the world of video, YouTube is a robust platform that can be used to a great effect when marketing a product or service. Its vast library of content ensures you can always find helpful resources related to your niche. Paid ads are also popular on the platform, playing before, during, or after videos.

  • Instagram: Another leader in the visual space is Instagram, which boasts over 2 billion monthly active users. It excels for influencer and organic campaigns, as well as paid ads. With its vibrant interface and short-form captions, it's easy to reach out to customers with interesting visuals and stories.

  • Twitter: Twitter offers a unique opportunity to establish your voice and engage with customers directly. It's also great for monitoring trends and conversations about your company or industry and seeing what people think of your products in real time. The character limit helps you stay concise and focused, while the hashtag feature allows you to join existing conversations or create your own.

  • TikTok: Famous for its short video format, TikTok is the ideal platform for creating engaging content. Its audience skews towards teenagers and young adults, so it's great for reaching a younger demographic. The algorithm is known to favor creative content, so you can use it to showcase your products in a fun and lively way.

  • LinkedIn: LinkedIn is best for B2B marketing, as it focuses on professional networking. This platform allows you to create company pages and share educational content to engage potential customers. From long-form blog posts to multi-page infographics, you can use LinkedIn to build awareness and drive leads.

  • Snapchat: A relatively overseen player in the game, Snapchat is still a great option for marketers. Its unique story format and disappearing content make it great for creating exclusive experiences and drawing attention to your brand. With its youth-focused user base, Snapchat can help you reach a younger demographic with creative campaigns.

  • Reddit: Building a community is one of the goals of social media marketing, and Reddit offers a powerful platform for doing just that. Its various subreddits cover any topic you can think of, so you can easily create one related to your niche. Note that Redditors frown upon blatant advertising, so you'll need to be subtle and engage in authentic conversations.

  • Pinterest: A classic content-sharing platform, Pinterest is great for creating visually stimulating campaigns. It works mostly for tangible products, so it's ideal for retail and fashion brands. Your followers can pin your content to their boards to remember it later, helping you promote your products for a longer period of time.

Getting Started with SMM

If you are starting to venture into the world of Social Media Marketing (SMM), you might feel unsure of where to begin. As with any marketing strategy, having a plan and clear objectives is crucial before you launch your campaign. Here is the rough outline of what you need to do:

Establish Goals and Target Audience

The first step is clearly defining your goals and target audience. What do you want to achieve with your campaigns? Is it brand awareness, customer acquisition, or something else? Once you have a clear idea of what you want to accomplish, you can identify your ideal customer and tailor content accordingly.

Use your customer personas and, if available, analytics tools to better understand your customers. Understand what kind of content they are engaging with and how they interact with your products.

Choose the Right Platform(s)

Next, it is time to decide which platforms will be best suited for your campaigns, goals, and target audience. All major social media platforms have different features and characteristics that can be used to reach followers. Each one should be evaluated in terms of its potential return on investment (ROI).

Consider everything from your target audience's demographic to the type of content you can share. For example, platforms like Snapchat and TikTok might be better suited for your campaign if you're targeting a younger demographic. But if your main form of content is written pieces, then LinkedIn or Twitter would be better options.

Use a Social Media Management Tool

Social media management tools can make your life as a marketer that much easier. These tools help you manage multiple accounts, schedule posts in advance, track engagement metrics, and more. They also help you keep track of conversations and respond to customer comments and feedback.

Our Best Picks for Social Media Management tools provide a comprehensive list of the best tools available on the market. Find the ones that look most interesting to you and use our Comparison Tool to see their differences side by side to narrow down your choice. These tools vary in price and features, so choose wisely.

Create a Content Plan

Now that you have the tools in place, it's best to create a content plan. Doing so involves planning the type of content you want to post, when, and how often. Your content should be varied and exciting, but always reflect your overall business goals.

A content calendar can help you easily manage your posts and track what content is going out. If you're working with a team, assigning specific roles and tasks to each member will help you stay organized.

Analyze and Adjust

Finally, remember that social media marketing is an ongoing process. You will need to constantly monitor the performance of your campaigns and adjust your strategy accordingly. Analyze the data from each platform and use it to inform future decisions.

Don't be afraid to experiment with different strategies and approaches. What works for one company may not work for yours, so try a few different things until you find what works best.

For more detailed information, visit our complete guide to creating a social media marketing strategy. It will help you build a long-lasting social media presence with steady growth.


The golden age of social media is far from over. With the right approach and strategies, any business can leverage social media to grow its brand and build customer relationships. By keeping the basics in mind, you'll better understand what social media marketing involves and have the necessary tools to make it work for your business.

It's never too late to get started. Go out there and create an effective social media marketing strategy that will help you reach your goals and build a strong omnichannel presence for your business.


How often should you post on social media?

What is a brand voice in SMM?

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I make sure that companies don't forget who they are and what they stand for. Social media marketing is more than posting a vivid picture or video every now and then. Consistency and strategy are the drivers of any successful brand.