The complete guide to social media marketing

The world of social media marketing is ever-evolving. With new platforms being launched all the time, algorithms changing, and new trends popping up daily, it can feel pretty overwhelming, even for the most avid social media users. 

While it can be tough to keep up, it’s important for businesses to learn how to navigate the various social media platforms to take advantage of the lucrative opportunities that they present. When it’s done right, social media enables businesses to grow, gain brand visibility, and form deeper connections with their customers and audiences. It’s a channel for brands to assert their position in the market and even claim a larger market share. 

The question is, how? How do you leverage social media to enable growth in all aspects of your business?

Social media allows businesses to grow, gain brand visibility, and form deeper connections with their customers and audiences.

Luckily for you, you’ve come to the right place to find the answer. This is the complete guide to social media marketing, where we not only cover how to build your social media strategy, grow a community, create compelling content, and more, but we also share expert advice on how to do it better than the competition. 

In this guide:

Ready to learn how to dominate the social media game? Let’s do it. 

Understanding the power of social media marketing

the power of social media marketing

Imagine if you had the ability to reach millions of people to tell them all about your brand and product or service, for free. That would be a game-changer for your business, right?

Well, the thing is, you do

Social media is a free tool that can connect you to millions upon millions of potential customers.

As of April 2023, 60% of the world’s population — or 4.8 billion people — uses social media, and that number is continuing to rise. The average user spends around 2 hours and 24 minutes on social media per day, which some social media users (this social media user right here) would actually consider to be pretty low… 

Social media users may have their personal favorite platforms, but that doesn’t mean that they’re not active across the board, with the average user visiting 7.2 social media platforms per month. 

While this doesn’t necessarily mean that your business needs to be active on all social media platforms, it does mean there will be advantages to establishing a brand presence on multiple platforms.

Speaking of advantages, let’s take a closer look at the benefits of social media marketing for businesses. 

The benefits of social media marketing

The benefits of social media marketing

Increased brand exposure

According to Statista, industry professionals cite increased exposure as the top advantage of using social media for marketing purposes. That would make plenty of sense, considering the huge potential reach that social media marketing poses among the billions of active users across the world. 


No more shooting in the dark when it comes to reaching your ideal audience. On social media, communities form around the most niche subjects, making it easier to seek out your target demographic. By crafting your social media content toward your ideal customer persona, you’ll engage with an audience that’s genuinely interested in your products or services.

Cost-effective marketing

Traditional marketing methods can be costly, making it difficult for small- to medium-sized businesses to compete. 

Social media platforms allow you to share organic content for free, or they’ll even pay you, in some cases. 

Even if you do decide to use paid marketing on social media, it’s still a fraction of the cost compared to traditional marketing approaches — but we’ll cover more of that later on in this guide.

Drive sales and conversions

While using social media can be great for building your brand and community, it’s also an excellent tool for increasing sales.

However, in order to be the most effective, you don’t want it to feel too “sales-y” for your audience. They want to feel that they’re getting value from your social media content, not just having ads pushed on them. If not, you’ll risk losing their attention.

Boosted audience engagement

Interacting with your customers on social media humanizes your brand. It gives businesses the opportunity to allow their brand personality to shine, solidifying their brand values.

By offering frequent communication and valuable content, you’ll begin to build a highly engaged, loyal audience that trusts your brand. We’ll expand more on this further down. 

Real-time customer feedback

Once you’ve built your social media following, you’ll have a community of existing or potential customers who can provide you with real-time feedback on your products and services.

The key is to listen. When you truly hear their preferences, pain points, and needs, you’ll be able to fine-tune your business offerings and stay one step ahead of the competition. 

Now that you know the power and benefits of social media marketing, let’s get started on creating your very own social media strategy!

Creating a solid social media strategy

In today’s digital era, simply having a social media account and sharing random content won’t cut it. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to build a strategic and refined social media marketing plan.

Step 1: Set clear goals and key performance indicators (KPIs)

First things first, you’ll need to define what success is by setting your business some goals. 

Make sure that your goals are SMART — specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound — to help you track their progress.

Some common examples of goals include:

  • Increasing brand awareness
  • Driving website traffic
  • Generating leads
  • Increasing sales and conversions
  • Improving customer engagement

Step 2: Know your target audience

Your target audience can’t be everyone. Unless your messaging is highly targeted and personalized, even your most suitable audience may just keep scrolling past your content. 

To get to know your audience better, we’d suggest creating specific customer or audience personas. Include information such as:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Income
  • Region
  • Job title
  • Interests
  • Preferred social media platforms
  • Values
  • Pain points
  • Etc.

Step 3: Know your competitors

It’s always a good idea to observe what your competitors are up to on social media. Conduct a competitor analysis and take notes on what they’re doing well, or what you think could be improved. 

For instance, if you’re a bakery and your top competitors are sharing static images on Facebook, but they haven’t yet made it to TikTok, that could be a fantastic opportunity for you to share unique video content where your audience is underserved. 

Step 4: Choose the right social media platforms

social media strategy

In order to choose which social media platforms you’d like your business to be active on, you’ll need to know where your audience is virtually hanging out — which you’ll determine in your marketing persona research. 

It’s also good to think about the type of content that you want to create, in order to pick the right platforms. Here’s a quick breakdown of each of the leading social media platforms, as well as the user demographics and main content types. 


Instagram originated as a photo-sharing platform but has since evolved to incorporate video, messaging, and in-app shopping. 


TikTok started off as a platform where you could share videos up to 15 seconds, but now allows users to share photos and videos up to 10 minutes long. It also features messaging and in-app purchasing.


YouTube is a video-sharing platform that’s suitable for longer-form content. However, they have launched YouTube Shorts to compete with TikTok and Instagram Reels.


Facebook is a platform that connects people with their friends and family through photo and video sharing, as well as text updates.


Pinterest is a photo-sharing platform. Users can save photos into a digital mood board and share their own content.

Twitter (X)

Twitter — which has recently been rebranded to X — is a text-based platform that also allows users to share photos and videos. 


Threads is essentially a newer version of Twitter, made in response to some of the issues Twitter has been facing. It launched very recently in July 2023. 


LinkedIn is a social networking platform that allows professionals to connect and share updates. While this is primarily text-based, it does also allow photo and video sharing.


Snapchat is primarily a messaging platform that also caters to photo and video sharing. 

When you’re active across several social media platforms, it’s key to maintain consistent branding. This applies not only to your logo, but also to the social media handles, brand colors, values, and your brand voice. 

It’s important to optimize each profile to achieve maximum visibility. That involves using targeted keywords in your bio, as well as succinctly conveying your business and brand in just a few characters. 

Step 5: Plan your content

Planning your content is the best way to ensure that it will stay consistent and that you’ll have a good mix of topics and content types. 

Choose your content pillars

Content pillars are topics that relate to your brand’s niche and will resonate with your audience. It helps to bring variety to your content, without losing focus. 

For example, a florist could just post pictures of their flowers all day, but they might end up losing the interest of their followers after a while. Through research, they might determine that their followers are also interested in learning about how to put together floral arrangements, as well as some behind-the-scenes content about running a florist shop. They can use these as content pillars to keep coming back to!

Create a social media content calendar

When you know which content type you’re posting on which day, you can make sure to stay one step ahead and never miss a posting time. Scheduling your content can also mean that you can consistently post at the best times of the day, allowing you to reach more of your audience and drive further engagement. 

Step 6: Craft engaging content

This step is where you take all of your learnings from steps one to five and apply them to your content. 

You can spend all the time in the world figuring out the best time to post on social media, finding the best hashtags, and using all of the other tips and tricks to boost your content’s performance. But if your content isn’t up to scratch, it won’t perform well. It’s as simple as that. 

Content creation is an art. If you want it to perform well, you need to dedicate time and effort to planning and creating it. What you put into your content is what you’ll get out. 

That means coming up with creative, unique ideas, creating compelling visuals, and crafting targeted, relevant copy. 

You want your content to tell a story. Storytelling techniques help to capture and retain the attention of large audiences. Not only should each piece have its own standalone story, but your wider content should follow an overarching storyline.

For instance, if we revisit the example of a florist’s social media page, they could share a story of a customer who wanted a bouquet for his 10-year anniversary with his wife. The page’s overarching story could be following the growth of the florist’s business and success. 

Learning how to make truly great content can take years. Some of the best content creators that appeared to blow up overnight were actually grinding away behind the scenes for years creating content that wasn’t taking off.

If you don’t have the time to dedicate to developing exceptional content, worry not. There are teams of excellent social media marketers who can take care of it for you. 

Step 7: Engage with your audience

Social media is not a one-way communication channel. Your followers want to feel connected to your brand, but they can’t if you’re unresponsive. 

Make sure that you respond to all of your comments in a timely manner. If you respond a week after the content has been shared then you’ll probably have missed the boat. 

Not only is it important to respond to positive comments and messages, but you should also respond to negative ones. You should see negative feedback as an opportunity for your brand to twist it into a positive experience. It’s down to you to decide how you’d like to handle negative feedback, but you can take inspiration from some of the top social media brand pages. 

For example, Ryanair’s social media accounts found a way to take their (pretty frequent) customer complaints and spin them into one of their most entertaining content types. Here’s a tweet that was viewed more than 8 million times, mocking an angry passenger that was complaining about the random seat allocation system.

We’re definitely not recommending that you mock your customers, but humanizing your brand using humor is always favored by users on every platform. 

Step 8: Measure your social media success

Once you’ve started regularly sharing content on your social media pages, it’s time to take a step back and look at how it’s doing. 

You’ll be able to find the analytics on your social media profiles for data such as:

  • Likes
  • Comments
  • Reach
  • Impressions
  • Follows
  • Watch time
  • Link clicks
  • Website visits
  • Etc.

Don’t put too much pressure on yourself right from the start. As we mentioned, content creation is a skill that takes time, effort, and practice to refine. 

By taking a look at your social media analytics and tracking your performance, you’ll be able to see which pieces of content are resonating with your audience and which might not be performing so well. You can use this information to make data-driven decisions about your content, such as replicating the styles of successful content and steering clear of the ones that didn’t work.

We’d recommend doing this after sharing several pieces of content. You can’t make sweeping judgments about your entire strategy based on the performance of one or two content pieces. If it’s a one-off, its performance may be down to several different factors related to the algorithm — we’ll explore this in more depth a little further down. 

Instead, take a look at the wider trends of your content to get a more reliable view of what works or doesn’t work for your page. 

Ah, the infamous social media algorithms — AKA the bane of every social media manager’s life. 

Before we dive into the workings of social media algorithms, let’s quickly clarify what they actually are. 

social media algorithms

A social media algorithm determines which pieces of content will be pushed to a wider audience and which will not. Each platform’s algorithm is unique and based on varying factors, such as the amount of time that a person spends watching a piece of content, the number of comments it receives, the number of shares, and so on. 

For example, let’s say you’re watching a video on TikTok. The algorithm may have determined that you really enjoy watching “Day in the Life” of business owner vlogs. So, if one were to pop up and you scrolled on within 8 seconds of watching, the algorithm would probably note that as a lack of engagement and be less likely to show it to more people. On the other hand, if you watched it twice, left a comment about how great the vlog was, and sent it to your friend, the algorithm would probably determine that it’s a good piece of content that’s worth pushing out to even more vlog lovers. 

While each platform will have its own unique algorithm, it’s difficult to guess exactly what they are, because no one really knows. Sometimes, platforms will announce updates about their algorithms, but they do tend to hold their cards close to their chests. 

Rather than spending hours researching each individual algorithm, we’d suggest thinking of it like this: attention is the currency of social media. The more attention that your audience spends on your content, the better, so you want to curate each piece of content to quickly grab their attention and hold onto it for as long as possible. 

That goes for videos, photos, and text. You want your audience to watch to the end of your video, you want them to scroll through each photo you’ve shared, and you want them to read every last word in your caption. 

At the end of the day, social media companies want people to stay on their platforms. If your content is attention-grabbing and encourages people to stay engaged, the algorithm will reward you by showing it to more people. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship.

So, while we wouldn’t encourage you to overthink it and would encourage you to spend more time focusing on your content than the algorithm, we’ll list some of the factors that do influence algorithms:

  • Engagement rate: likes, comments, shares, saves, etc.
  • Watch times: the length of time users spend watching your content
  • Posting times: the recency of your content
  • Content quality: platforms don’t like low-resolution videos and photos
  • Regular posting: platforms reward users that post frequently
  • Trends: algorithms push trending sounds and topics, make sure to jump on them

Leveraging paid social media advertising

So far, we’ve told you all about organic social media content marketing, now it’s time to turn our attention to paid ads on social media. 

You can think of paid promotions as a way of beating the algorithm. With ads, you can tell the platform exactly which type of person you’d like to see the content and boost it to this targeted audience. 

It’s a hugely popular marketing tool for brands, with social media ad spending expected to reach over $268 billion in 2023

Here’s a breakdown of everything you need to know when it comes to paid ads on socials. 

Organic content can become ads

Got a high-performing post that was a key driver in hitting your KPIs? Once it appears to have finished riding the wave of organic engagement, you could boost it as a paid ad to get even more eyes on it. 

As it’s already tried and tested, it’s far more likely to perform well, getting you the results you want with a high return on your investment (ROI). 

You can hyper-target your audience

Remember those all-important marketing personas we made earlier? Get those out, because you can ensure that your paid ads reach that exact demographics. 

As you’re creating the campaign, you can provide audience specifics, including their age, location, interests, and more. 

Posts can be optimized with A/B testing

If you’re experimenting with a brand new campaign, it’s a good idea to run some tests first to help you get the most out of your ads. 

A/B testing is when you create two versions of your ad, with slight differences, and you test both versions with a smaller budget to see which one performs better. It’s like spot the difference but in the ad world.

If you find that version A is performing better than version B, then it’s time to invest a bigger budget into version A! This way, you’ll see better results than if you had just pushed version B without any tests. 

With A/B testing, you can test the:

  • Copy
  • Call to action (CTA)
  • Visuals
  • Ad placement
  • Audience
  • Etc.

You can retarget ads

Retargeted ads simply mean showing your ads to an audience that has interacted with your brand before. Rather than introducing your brand or product, you can talk about specific benefits to drive conversions. As they will have already seen your content before, they’ll be more likely to convert. 

It’s a learning curve

Just like organic content, paid ads are all about trial and error. Use your campaign results and analytics to see what went well, then continue to refine and iterate your plans to achieve the best performance!

Social media marketing with Scribly

Scribly is on hand to help businesses like yours navigate the complexities of social media marketing. 

Our team of expert social media marketers can help you to develop a solid social media strategy, create exceptional content, share it on your pages, and even track the performance. 

With us on your side, you’ll be freed up to focus on what you do best, running your business. Enquire about our social media marketing services today!