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  • John Walker

Social Media Marketing: A Guide for Business Owners

“We’re going to use mostly social media to launch this new product.” Said my client.

“Paid social media?” I asked.

“No. Mostly posts on our Facebook page.” She said.

“How many followers do you have on Facebook?” I asked

“107” She said.

I’ve had more than a few conversations like this with clients recently and it shows a misunderstanding about how social media works…even a misunderstanding about how marketing works. Let me explain.

Since Facebook became a public company, it has made a deliberate effort to limit the reach of a post on a Facebook Business page. Today, when you post on your Business Page, it may reach only about 5% of your followers. So that means if you post to 107 followers, just six will see it. And even if you have a ton of followers, let’s say 10,000, even then just 500 people would see any of your posts on average.

“But what about ‘viral,’ newsworthy posts that get shared a lot? Won’t that boost the reach?”

It could, but let’s be honest about what kinds of posts get shared. Anything that has Kim Kardasian’s name in it gets shared a lot. News about global pandemics, do. Controversies like the college admissions scandal might. But do posts about new product launches in the building industry get shared a lot? Sorry, they don’t.

And this takes us to a key point about any kind marketing. In order for marketing to work, you have to reach the right people with the right message a whole bunch of times. It’s really that simple. So where does social media marketing fit in? Let’s look at the major platforms.

Facebook: Facebook has a gigantic user base honeycombed with millions of small communities of friends and family that connect every day. Want to share photos with your kids? Want to stay in touch with old friends? Facebook’s where you do that.

As mentioned, the reach for “organic” (non-paid) Business Page posts is very low. If your business doesn’t pay for boosted posts or targeted advertising, your message may not get out. But if you are willing to invest in Facebook advertising, you can harness the most precise, targeted ad placements that have ever been available on any platform. And video ads enable you to combine the power of sight, sound and motion with this incredible targeting capability. It’s a powerful ad platform- if you target correctly and you’re willing to pay.

Facebook also offers in-app advertising, which means you can use the highly targeted ad tools in Facebook’s ad manager, and send ads to Facebook members while they’re on other apps. This means that Facebook users don’t even have to be logged in to Facebook to see your ads.


Because Instagram is owned by Facebook, and their ads are created using the same ads manager, posts, and ads on Instagram follow the same rules as ones on Facebook. Your Business Account posts will get suppressed, so few followers will see them. Conversely, paid posts (a.k.a. “ads”) can be sent to highly targeted audiences.

There are also Instagram accounts with hundreds of thousands or even millions of followers. These accounts are called Influencers, and many will post images with your product for a fee. These fees range from a few bucks to a million dollars for a post on Kylie Kardashian’s page. But paid posts on Influencers’ Pages are a great way to get big numbers of impressions and likes, and usually, increase your followers.

Like Facebook, Instagram also offers in-app advertising which delivers your ads to Instagram members when they’re using apps.

Twitter: Visiting Twitter is a bit like visiting Times Square in New York. It’s full of voices, sights, and messages all blaring at high volume in real-time. There are fake accounts, exaggerations, lies, and arguments flying back and forth. There are also legitimate posts by interesting people and the possibility of connecting intimately with people you’d never reach so closely any other way.

Is Twitter for marketers? I’ve never recommended it to clients as a platform for sending out their messages because it takes so much effort to cut through the noise. (none of my clients are national consumer brands). But I always recommend it to clients as a listening platform where they can see what’s trending, learn what people care about and see if news in their industry is getting loud enough to be heard nationally or internationally.

Also, over the past year, Twitter has been cleaning up its advertising programs and monitoring the platform more carefully. Twitter has also added in-app advertising, which means you can target ads to apps of people with Twitter accounts. For some businesses, especially those that want to reach men, this can be a good place to share your message.

LinkedIn: This the chamber of commerce mixer of social media. It’s where you present your best professional self, network with others in your industry, and stay in touch with old colleagues. It’s a critical tool for job searches and career changes.

LinkedIn offers targeted, paid advertising, and it’s a good place to reach business customers. For example, if you need to reach doctors in hospitals or just OBGYNs, you can target them on LinkedIn. While you may pay more per click than on other platforms, LinkedIn is the only social media platform that allows you to target by profession, title, or employer with some accuracy. And if you’re doing recruitment advertising, LinkedIn works very well.

Pinterest: This platform is about envisioning and doing. It’s where users go to get information about something they’re planning whether it’s knitting a Christmas stocking or traveling to Portugal. It’s a rich gallery for visual dreaming and it allows users to create “boards” of favorite posts (called pins) which serve as online scrapbooks for inspiration. While you might assume Pinterest is one of the smaller social networks, it’s actually the fourth-most-popular platform in America, exceeding even Twitter in size.

Posts and ads on Pinterest are called “pins.” Pinterest offers several types of ads including shoppable pins for e-commerce. While Pinterest is not strong at driving immediate sales (the average person buying from Pinterest does so within three months of first saving a pin) it’s a good platform for fashion, beauty, crafts, reading, travel, home products, gardening, and DIY products.

So how does social media fit into your marketing plan?

First, if you’re trying to reach lots of new customers, then social media platforms need to be used for paid advertising just like TV stations or billboards. Just making posts to your current followers won’t cut it.

Next, targeting is critical, especially with Facebook and Instagram. The power of these platforms for advertisers is their ability to deliver marketing messages to very narrow audiences. So make sure you’re targeting exactly the right prospects in the right places at the right time. In many cases, your targeting needs will determine which social media platform makes sense.

Third, take a hard look at how much effort (time, money, people) you spend making organic posts on social media. What kind of ROI are you looking for? How will you measure that ROI? Remember that “free posts” on social media are not actually free. You’re investing your employees’ time creating and monitoring the platforms, so make sure it’s worth it.

The days when social media platforms could trigger wide-reaching, free, viral messaging are over, if they ever really existed. Today the real power of social media for businesses is through paid advertising.

This post was written by John Walker with input from Mary Vergenes. John is the principal consultant at J. Walker Marketing. Mary is President of Cup O Content.

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