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Whether they’re tweeting their views on a new product, sharing the day’s headlines on Facebook, or snapping their lunches for Instagram, a huge number of people are interacting with social media every day. A well-run social media content marketing campaign is absolutely necessary in today’s marketing landscape. Having one ensures your brand’s marketing messages reach your online audiences where they are.

Social Media Content Marketing in 9 Simple Steps

The number of social media users increased by 13 percent to 3.196 billion in 2018. That represents a whopping 42 percent of the world population. By January 2018, there were 2.167 billion active Facebook users, and 1.5 billion YouTube users. The numbers speak for themselves. The quantity of social media users is increasing rapidly, and represents a huge market for savvy businesses to tap into.

As with any form of marketing, you can’t rush into a social media content marketing campaign and expect success. The market is crowded. And, every company has its own message to spread. The key is to approach the challenge with a structured plan and a solid content marketing system.

1.) Set Your Goals

The first step in any social media content marketing campaign is deciding what you intend that campaign to achieve. A well-defined goal helps everyone in your marketing team to pull in the same direction. It also improves overall efficiency, limits the margin for error, and makes it possible to define a metric for success. If you don’t know what you’re trying to achieve, there’s no way to measure how well you’re doing. Keep in mind that you need some kind of return on your investment. If you can’t see how a campaign element moves your brand forward, you need to re-evaluate.

2.) Learn Your Market

Social media content marketing creates opportunities to interact with your customer base. It fosters engagement to deepen your relationship and engender trust. But that level of engagement means you really need to know who you’re dealing with.

Considering your existing customer base. It’s possible to identify trends and personality traits to use as the basis for personas. Use these personas to target your content to speak directly to the people who engage with your brand.

3.) Know What Works

Social media content marketing is loud and fast-paced, and trying to stand out in a sea of information may seem daunting, but there are ways to make your voice heard. Restaurant chain Denny’s has had incredible success on social media by using Twitter to share an oddball brand of (often pancake-related) humor. In 2017, they benefited from one of the most popular brand tweets ever, a picture with a darkly humorous undertone that encouraged people to waste a few moments hunting for hidden text as a distraction from “overwhelming existential dread.”

Meanwhile, when Glu Mobile wanted to increase the number of installations of their game apps, they generated interest by creating photographic adverts with a bold “install now” call to action that they posted to Instagram. The campaign was even more successful because they used food imagery to tap into the growing number of foodies who enjoy posting and viewing food-related content on the platform.

4.) Create a Strategy

At the heart of any social media content marketing strategy is quality content, but your online persona and the actions you undertake online are also part of the package. Every post represents your brand, and every comment you leave directly reflects on the character of your business. Don’t just post and run. Stick around, monitor responses, and engage with your customer base. Reports suggest 48 percent of users are likely to make a purchase from a company that’s responsive on social media, while 42 percent are likely to do business with a company providing useful content. Even just being funny has the potential to win the hearts (and expendable cash) of 36 percent of users.

5.) Assemble Your Team

Keeping up with the fast-paced world of social media content marketing requires a great deal of commitment. Some social media professionals are spending up to two days per week performing administrative tasks to keep their systems running, and a survey of 200 professionals revealed that 63 percent expected the amount of time they spent working on social campaigns to increase over coming years. The serious drain on time and resources is something you need to consider from the beginning. If you aren’t in a position to keep up with the grueling schedule, you may not see the results you want. If you don’t have the in-house staff, outsourcing may be the best option.

6.) Use Influencers to Spread the Word

Social media is in full flow, and there are already personalities who have developed large audiences. These social media influencers are a powerful tool in the right marketing campaign. Working with a well-chosen influencer who specializes in your industry makes it possible for you to position your brand where a large, targeted audience sees it. Unfortunately, getting the right influencer on board for a social media content marketing campaign is sometimes costly. But if you’re going big, the return on investment may be worth it.

7.) Keep Your Finger on the Pulse

When you’re working on a social media content marketing platform, you’re playing by someone else’s rules, so keep your finger on the pulse. Know the restrictions of the platform, and ensure you aren’t violating any terms of use. A policy change — such as Twitter increasing its character limit to 280 in 2017 — could instantly undermine your strategy, forcing you to rethink your campaign. If you can’t react quickly to such changes, you may lose valuable ground. Furthermore, you need to know current trends dictating customer interests so that you can stay relevant and visible in the churn of daily content that social media customers experience.

8.) Define Your Success

Your social media content marketing campaign is only a success if you can prove it’s a success. Without a quantifiable metric for measuring the return on your investment, you’ll never know if the money you put in was money well spent, or if other factors were responsible. Take the time to analyze results, find ways to measure engagement, and use what you learn to adapt your strategy and find new and better ways to provide the content your customers want.

9.) Keep Your Audience Engaged

The number of social media users is on the rise, and ignoring this demographic is ignoring a huge group of potential customers. But these users are internet-savvy, and have access to a near limitless supply of information, pictures, videos, and advertisements, so making your mark isn’t always easy. Find a way to express the message of your brand, provide the content people want, and keep it fresh by regularly updating posts and engaging with customers at every opportunity. By getting someone to engage with more than one post, you improve the chances of that person making a purchase.