Social networks are for many people an everyday routine. When companies use these channels to acquire new customers, retain customers and increase their awareness, we speak of social media marketing. This article will show you how to use it for your business and create a strategy for it. Also learn how advertising works on social media and get to know exciting tools to support your work.

Remember: You can always visit our category ‘ online marketing ‘ for more articles.

Social media marketing: the 4 most important questions at a glance

Almost every company benefits from social media marketing. It is an important addition to classic marketing measures. The following questions explain roughly what this is all about:

  • What is social media?
    These are virtual platforms on the web through which members can present themselves and network with one another.
  • What are the most popular social media outlets?
    Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and Twitter are the networks with the most active users worldwide.
  • What is social media marketing? This includes all paid and unpaid marketing activities that run through social media.
  • What can social media marketing be used for?
    The main goals are branding, increasing brand awareness, acquiring new customers and retaining customers.

Statistics show how important social media are in everyday life. Find out more about this and the special features of the individual networks in the next section.

Facts & Figures: Social Media & the most important channels

Statistics show the importance of social networks and how they are mainly used. Here are some examples of the figures published by Statista:

  • 89% of 16 to 24 year olds, but also 22% of over 65 year olds in Germany, use social media.
  • 34.9% of German internet users are regularly active on social media with mobile devices.
  • Average daily time spent on social networks (Germany): 64 minutes
  • Global market share of Facebook (by page views): 67.73%

The following social media are of the greatest importance in America and Europe:

  • Facebook
  • YouTube
  • Instagram
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
  • Snapchat
  • Xing

Each network has its own profile and is preferred by certain groups of people. Find out more about the individual social media channels in the following paragraphs.

Facebook

Facebook is currently the social network with the largest market share. Registered users create profiles through which they can share content and network online. Facebook is used by all age groups, although the older age groups are also relatively well represented compared to other networks.

Many companies have their own Facebook page for social media marketing. The network also offers extensive opportunities to advertise target-group-oriented.

  • active members worldwide: 2.7 billion
  • active members in Germany: 32 million
  • Advertising revenues per year: US $ 55 billion

YouTube

The video platform YouTube offers registered members the opportunity to present their own videos. All internet users can access it free of charge, even without registration. With Account, it is possible to comment on the videos, to network and to use some other functions.

Companies can use YouTube to publish their own videos, which can be integrated into their own website if necessary. The advertising opportunities are also interesting. Since YouTube is a subsidiary of Google, advertisements are placed via the Google Ads account.

  • active members worldwide: 1.9 billion
  • active members in Germany: 6 million
  • Advertising revenues per year: US $ 14 – 15 billion

Instagram

On Instagram, the focus is on sharing photos and videos. Since this is often about lifestyle presentations, Instagram has a special meaning for influencer marketing.

But around 38% of online shops also have their own Instagram profile. Instagram is part of Facebook and offers similar advertising opportunities via a business account.

  • active members worldwide: 1 billion
  • active members in Germany: 18 million
  • Advertising revenues per year: US $ 10 billion

Twitter

Twitter is designed to regularly send short messages to your own followers, who can also comment and share them. For companies, this is a way of staying in touch with customers. There are also advertising opportunities.

More than half of the online shops in Germany have a Twitter account. Especially creative and original tweets can go viral very quickly thanks to the brevity on the web. Many companies and people in public life consciously use this effect to increase their own awareness.

  • active members worldwide: 330 million
  • active members in Germany: 2.5 million
  • Advertising revenues per year: US $ 2.6 billion

Pinterest

With Pinterest, visual representations are in the form of photos or graphics at the center. Every user can publish this on a virtual pin board and, if desired, share it with others. The purpose is to collect ideas and inspiration. Pinterest offers a visual search engine for this.

As an entrepreneur, you have the opportunity to publish your own content online and generate traffic by linking it to your own website. Every profile on Pinterest also has its followers, making it suitable for social media marketing. It has also been possible to place advertising since 2019.

  • active members worldwide: 322 million
  • active members in Germany: 7 million
  • Advertising revenues per year: US $ 1 billion

LinkedIn

LinkedIn, which belongs to Microsoft, differs from the previously presented social networks in that the focus here is not on maintaining relationships with customers, but on business contacts and the search for employees. Job seekers or employees who are interested in new contacts put their CV online and can make contacts.

LinkedIn is internationally oriented, which is why the profiles can also be created in several languages. Topic groups can be opened to establish and maintain contacts. You can also advertise your own products on company profiles.

  • active members worldwide: 303 million
  • active members in Germany: 11 million
  • Total annual sales: US $ 6 billion

XING

XING pursues the same purpose as LinkedIn and works in a similar way, but is regionally limited to the DACH region, Luxembourg and Spain. Here, too, the focus is on mediating between job seekers and companies, as well as maintaining professional networks.

For entrepreneurs, in addition to the search for personnel, the possibility of self-presentation, professional exchange and advertising opportunities are also of interest. XING has proven itself for announcing events such as trade fairs, congresses and seminars or for searching for them.

  • active members worldwide: 16 million
  • active members in Germany: 14 million
  • Total annual turnover: € 252 million

Social networks: comparison at a glance

Here you can see the numbers of the networks presented in direct comparison (status 2018). The number of users is constantly developing. Not all platforms publish their advertising revenue, so estimates are sometimes used.

network founding year Advertising revenue per year Active users or members
Facebook2004$ 55 billion2.7 billion
YouTube200514-15 billion US $1.9 billion
Instagram2010US $ 10 billion1 billion
Twitter2006US $ 2.6 billion330 million
Pinterest2010US $ 1 billion322 million
LinkedIn2003US $ 6 billion (total sales)303 million
XING2003€ 252 million (total sales)16 million

Learn more about how you can use social media marketing as an entrepreneur in the following sections.

Social media marketing – the advantages

Social media marketing is associated with effort and costs. Nevertheless, it is worthwhile and offers some advantages compared to classic advertising. These are the reasons why social media is worthwhile:

  • Large reach :
    You can quickly reach a lot of people online via social media if your content is shared frequently. There is also no regional restriction.
  • More attention :
    Postings via social media are perceived less than advertising and therefore more consciously.
  • Diverse targeting options :
    Advertising in social networks can be played out in a very target-group-oriented manner due to the extensive amount of data available.
  • Relevant for every type of company :
    From the large brand group to the small business, almost every company can benefit from a presence in social networks.
  • Direct exchange with customers :
    The direct communication options with customers and interested parties are a great advantage of social networks. This strengthens customer loyalty and you receive valuable feedback.
  • Rapid dissemination of information :
    Sometimes it is important to be able to react quickly to current developments or to spread news. That’s not a problem on social media.
  • Good options for measuring and controlling success :
    The success of social media marketing can be evaluated and controlled with the help of appropriate tools. In this way you avoid wastage.

Keep in mind that many customers now expect to be able to connect with companies via social media. That alone is a reason not to close yourself off to these possibilities.

Goals and areas of application of social media marketing

Why do companies deal with social media marketing and how do they use social networks specifically? Find out more about the general goals and the individual areas in which you can be active.

General goals of social media marketing

Social media offer companies several options for realizing individual projects. Which of the following overarching goals is most important has an impact on your social media marketing strategy:

  • Branding : Brand characteristics can be communicated very well via social media. What information you publish and how will shape the perception of your brand. Start-ups can consciously build a new brand via social media.
  • Increase brand awareness :
    Use the wide reach of social media to make your brand better known. However, you can only achieve this goal if you are regularly active in the networks and follow a uniform strategy.
  • Customer acquisition :
    You can win new customers through social media marketing by having satisfied customers share or comment on your content and in this way recommend your offers to their own friends and followers. Target group-specific advertisements are another way of acquiring new customers.
  • Customer loyalty :
    Social networks are also very suitable for not only winning customers but also keeping them. This includes regular postings and reactions to comments and questions.

In the following section, you will learn how as an entrepreneur you can be mainly active on social media.

What companies specifically use social media for

Companies use social networks for different purposes. In most cases, the focus is on the customer. But there are also other areas of application:

  • Sales :
    The focus of social media marketing is often on selling one’s own products. Matching posts or advertisements lead potential customers directly to the online shop.
  • Customer service :
    If customers have questions about the product, the order process or other service questions, it is customer-friendly if they can also ask them on social networks.
  • Customer communication :
    Communication with customers about service issues is also an important part of social media marketing. This is how you strengthen the bond and receive feedback.
  • Recruiting :
    LinkedIn and XING are mainly interesting for recruiting personnel, but Facebook can also provide valuable services here.
  • Internal company communication :
    Some companies also use social networks to communicate with employees. It’s an easy way to share information and stay in touch with the workforce.

A high reach is an advantage for the success of social media marketing. How you can increase this is explained in the next section.

5 strategies for organic growth in social networks

Organic growth means increasing your reach on social media even without paid advertising. Different focal points can be the focus:

  • Increase in the number of followers :
    The more followers you have, the more people will see your posts and may also share them. This is the most important requirement for increasing your awareness.
  • Increase the reach of the post within the target group : The reach of a post indicates how many people have seen it since it was published. This range should be as high as possible, especially within the target group.
  • Increase in the interaction rate :
    The more your followers feel addressed by the published content, the more actively they interact, i.e. they like, comment or share posts. This has a positive effect on the range.
  • Promoting virality :
    This is specifically about sharing. Only content that is considered particularly valuable is shared. A high virality of individual contributions can increase your reach and awareness quickly and sustainably.

There are certain strategies you can use to drive organic growth on social media. The next few sections introduce some of them.

Strategy 1: Content Marketing Posts

Inspire your followers with high-quality content. Whether specialist information, videos or podcasts, which offer added value to the visitors of your profile, is often accessed and shared.

For example, a nursery can regularly publish gardening tips on its own YouTube channel. Or an IT company provides whitepapers for download on the website and links them to social media. Very good content can go viral and increase your number of followers.

Strategy 2: competitions

You can quickly increase your number of followers with free competitions on social media. This is especially true if liking the page is one of the game conditions. Please note the legal framework here.

But competitions also generally increase interaction and thus promote interest in your brand. Depending on the design of the game, it is possible to generate leads, if the specification of contact details is required.

Strategy 3: Ask me anything

With the AMA method, you or your company’s employees answer questions from your followers. Above all, this method strengthens the interaction rate and customer loyalty.

The questions can be answered in a live chat or live stream, but also with questions sent in advance. These are then answered in a recorded video or podcast or simply by written text on the social media page.

Strategy 4: Passion Pages

Passion Pages are social media profiles that a company supports, but this is not immediately recognizable. This is why these pages are not primarily perceived as corporate pages for advertising purposes and are accepted more quickly by many users.

If the profile stands out from others through high-quality, entertaining or particularly original content, the chances of new followers are great. Only the branding effect, i.e. the increase in brand awareness, takes a back seat.

The pages mostly relate to a specific topic, which makes it possible to address interested parties in a target group-oriented manner. For example, a provider of triathlon equipment can create a thematic page on the topic of triathlon.

Strategy 5: Use animated GIFs

Animated GIFs are very commonly shared on social networks. If you occasionally publish a GIF that you have created yourself, in which you also include your brand, you can achieve a high level of virality and promote the branding effect.

GIFs that express emotions are cheap. 

Social media marketing via paid ads

In addition to the measures for organic growth, paid advertising on the platforms is also part of social media marketing. Social networks offer excellent opportunities for this.

Advantages and goals of social media advertising

The extent to which social media advertising is worthwhile for your company depends on your individual goals and the situation. The following points speak for it:

  • very precise target group-oriented approach through analysis of extensive data
  • Additional personalization options for advertising by evaluating cookies ( retargeting or remarketing )
  • rapid increase in range possible, e.g. to push new profiles, product launches or special promotions
  • better perception of advertising than with traditional advertising media due to more active users
  • Can be used both for new customer acquisition and customer loyalty
  • Advertising opportunities for companies of all sizes
  • Easy to implement and control via the account

The benefits are always offset by costs. Learn what these depend on in the following section.

Social media advertising costs

There are different billing methods for the costs. The usual price per click (CPC) is where you only incur costs when someone clicks on your advertisement.

There is no fixed price for this on Facebook. Rather, you enter a maximum bid. The ad matching the criteria with the highest bids is then always displayed on advertising space. Because an algorithm simulates an auction process in the shortest possible time (real-time bidding).

The actual click price can therefore also be lower than your maximum bid. On average, the prices per click on Facebook are between 40 and 50 cents – but there can also be large deviations up or down. Decisive for this are, among other things, the advertising format and the target group.

Another cost model that is sometimes offered is CPM. A price for 1,000 impressions is agreed, which you must pay in any case.

Implementation of a campaign on Facebook

Creating a social media advertising campaign is no problem on all platforms thanks to user-friendly tools. The process is described here using the example of Facebook or Instagram or Audience Network (advertising in mobile apps):

  1. Creation of the campaign via the Facebook ad manager
  2. Selection of the overall target of the campaign from several options
  3. Definition of the campaign name
  4. Create ad group and name it
  5. Definition of the target group by selecting several characteristics such as age, interests or location
  6. Choose placement for Facebook, Instagram or Audience Network (automatic placements also possible) 
  7. Select options for the delivery of the ads
  8. Determine the schedule
  9. Set a running time or daily budget
  10. Specify the highest bid for the click price
  11. Create ad
  12. Select display format (e.g. picture, video, slideshow)
  13. Upload media or use templates and write text
  14. Selection of further options (e.g. Facebook pixels for analysis)
  15. View preview and confirm
  16. possibly create additional ads or ad groups

First, Facebook is reviewing the campaign. If everything is in order, the ads will be displayed according to your selection in a target group-oriented manner. Payment is made according to the agreed options.

Strategy for Social Media Marketing: Step by Step to Success

Don’t start social media marketing without a plan. Your efforts and financial investments are more likely to pay off if you are strategic. The following steps are recommended:

  1. Situation analysis :
    Do you already use social networks? How successful has your social media marketing been so far?
  2. Goal setting :
    Do you want to maintain customer relationships, increase brand awareness or win new customers?
  3. Target group definition :
    Social media marketing can be designed in a very target group-oriented manner. Therefore, the exact definition of the target group is an important success factor.
  4. Competitive analysis:
    How active are your direct competitors on social networks? What do you notice positively or negatively?
  5. Resource planning :
    What human and financial resources are available to you?
  6. Selection of networks :
    Which social media does your target group mainly use?
  7. Set up accounts :
    When you have decided on one or more platforms, set up the accounts.
  8. Schedule posts :
    Schedule not only the content of your posts, but also the timing of their publication.
  9. Place any paid advertising:
    Advertising campaigns complement the posting and promote your reach.
  10. Success control :
    There are tools with which you can control the success of your campaigns and optimize them.

A well thought out strategy is important to your success. But also note the tips in the following section.

7 tips for working successfully with social media

Certain factors particularly influence the success of social media marketing. This is how you can avoid mistakes and make better use of the potential of social networks right from the start:

  • Create value-added content : The content you post must be of value to your followers. They should either be informative or entertaining.
  • Adapt content to the platform :
    When selecting the social networks, consider what you want to post. Complex topics are not suitable for Twitter and longer texts are not suitable for Instagram.
  • Appear friendly :
    Always respond to comments in a friendly and factual manner, even if you are wrongly criticized.
  • Communicate authentically :
    Do not use automated or standardized formulations, either in posts or in responses to comments.
  • Strive for virality :
    Make some of your posts particularly original. With a little luck, these will go viral and increase your reach many times over.
  • Post regularly :
    You don’t have to post daily, but you do need to post regularly. Think about the rhythm your followers expect.
  • Use hashtags :
    Use hashtags occasionally. This will give you more attention.

Successful social media marketing requires experience. They also collect these by monitoring your campaigns and measuring success. The next section explains how this works.

Don’t forget: measuring success in social media marketing

Engagement in social networks does not always have a direct impact on economic success. This often only occurs later as a result of increased awareness and good customer loyalty. Key figures that can be used to measure specific goals are therefore particularly suitable for measuring success :

  • Number of followers :
    The number of followers is an indicator of how your reach is developing.
  • Interaction rate :
    This shows how often your posts are liked, shared and commented on, i.e. how active your followers are.
  • Virality Rate :
    This is all about sharing. Posts with high virality rates increase your brand awareness.
  • Post coverage :
    How many times the post was seen since its release? You can also use this metric to determine when your target group is active.
  • Social Share of Voice :
    How often is your brand mentioned on social networks?
  • Social Media Traffic :
    This measures the visits to your website. Social media marketing is designed to help increase traffic.
  • Leads :
    Leads are used when visitors to your website leave contact details for a download or a newsletter subscription. Then you can assume a fundamental interest in your offers.

Tools, which usually have other useful functions, will help you with the analysis. You will get to know some of these in the next section.

Tools for social media marketing

Social media tools not only help with success analysis, they also offer other interesting functions. So you can publish posts at the optimal time through automation. Get to know three of these tools below.

Hootsuite

Hootsuite offers a wide range of functions and allows you to manage up to 35 social networks at the same time. The tool is relatively complex, so it is mainly suitable for very active social media marketing.

You can post several hundred articles, which are automatically published at the optimal time. Mentions of your own brand can also be filtered out of the social networks. Extensive reporting functions are also available.

Buffer

Buffer isn’t as complex as Hootsuite, so it’s also suitable for beginners. The main function is the timing of the postings. The tool can automatically determine when the posts reach the most followers.

In addition, Buffer offers its own program for graphic design with Pablo. You can use reporting to monitor the most important key figures. Buffer can be used in conjunction with Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest and LinkedIn.

Fanpage Karma

Fanpage Karma specializes in monitoring Facebook, YouTube and Twitter accounts. Automatic posting is also possible. However, the focus is on analysis, where you can also include competing sites and search Facebook posts for trending topics.

Teamwork in social media marketing can also be organized when it comes to replying to messages. A Shitstorm Alert shows you where to react quickly.

Social media threats to companies

Social media marketing offers companies many opportunities. On the other hand, there are typical dangers which, in serious cases, can lead to great damage. Pay special attention to the following:

  • Shitstorm :
    Negative comments from individual users also encourage others to express themselves critically. Sometimes this leads to a wave of indignation. Then react quickly, be friendly, and come up with solutions to the problem.
  • Data protection :
    Note the provisions of the Federal Data Protection Act and the GDPR. In connection with social media, the handling of personal data plays a role. You may not collect, save or use these without the consent of the person concerned, nor use them for purposes other than intended or pass them on to third parties.
  • Copyright Infringement :
    Posting is considered publication. You are not allowed to publish photos, graphics, videos or music from other authors without further notice. There are free and freely usable materials as well, but always check the source and terms. If you have bought stock media, make sure that the author restricts its use for certain purposes.

Are you unsure about these dangers or are you unable to cope with the effort of social media marketing yourself? Then hiring specialized external service providers is a possible alternative.

In-house or through an agency: What social media marketing costs

Professional social media marketing is complex and requires experience. That is why there are specialized agencies that offer their services in this area. For companies, the question arises whether they should rather take over social media marketing themselves or commission it. Consider the following advantages and disadvantages of an external solution:

benefitsdisadvantage
Experience in this complex fieldusually higher costs than in-house solutions
lower staffing requirements in the companyAuthenticity in social networks can suffer because followers do not communicate directly with the company
flexible booking of servicesCommunication effort between company and agency

The all-round service of an agency with content creation, support, advertising and answering inquiries can cost around € 2,000 per social network per month for small start-ups and around € 5,000 for medium-sized companies. But these are only guidelines, because there are very different price models and many factors also influence costs.

It is also possible that companies only purchase individual services, e.g. the content creation. Think about which tasks you can do in-house, what new hires are worthwhile and what you would prefer to commission. To do this, compare the costs of the alternatives.

Conclusion: Social media with high potential for success for your company

Social media marketing offers excellent opportunities for branding, new customer acquisition and customer loyalty. If you are committed to it, your company will benefit in the long term.

Take particular care to monitor the success of your measures. Over time, you will be able to take a targeted approach and reach the right users.

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