social media marketing.

Boris Dzhingarov is a business news writer who covers a wide range of issues.

Social media marketing is one of the many new ways to promote a business. Compared to the more traditional marketing and advertising methods, it’s so new many people don’t have a good understanding of it. So everyone – including some experts – are actually feeling their way around it. Of course, the experts do know more about this than the average small business owner. They have the experience, the data, and the tools needed to develop strategies to grow your business.

However, some hard truths must be admitted right now to prevent harboring unrealistic expectations. It has only been a decade or so since social media tools and sites became a global phenomenon. Here are some facts to know:

1) There’s no generic template that works for all. The truth is that marketing using social media can be somewhat unpredictable. Each client company is distinct, even ones in the same industry. At the same time, the social media platforms keep changing all the time. Then there is the audience, and they can follow various trends randomly. Seriously, who could have predicted the popularity of planking and the ice bucket challenge?

This isn’t to say that experts are running blind. They do have the proper tools to at least guide towards the strategies and methods most likely to succeed. But small business owners can’t expect to succeed by themselves just by reading tips from articles, even those written by experts.

2) A consistent strategy is needed for content marketing. This means producing content that’s relevant to the audience, and to tell stories efficiently. Timing is important. Get it right to trigger the right response from the audience.

Of course, that’s more easily said (or written) than done. There isn’t always enough time to create the content, not if you want to be both original and exciting. It’s not always easy to come up with enough of this engaging content, and sometimes it can be tough even to measure just how effective the content can be so it can be refined.

3) An engaged following is an absolute requirement. Build an attentive audience, and there are some convenient tools on hand to not only count followers.

But numbers aren’t everything, far from it. Social content isn’t like a TV advertisement. It takes more than the audience absorbing the message and content. The best thing is to have them engaged, which means they’ll post comments, engage in forum discussions, or share the content with their network of friends. That’s the real key.

4) Pinpoint the best influencers to help generate word of mouth. When the best customers become fans, they will recommend the brand to their friends. Fans write gushing reviews unasked, and share excellent products and services on social media platforms.

Employees can help as well. It’s not as good if they are forced to promote your brand. Instead, it’s better if employees feel like an integral part of the company so they support the brand on social media eagerly. While making it easy for them to do so can happen with the right software, good products and a feeling of belonging makes them enthusiastic in gushing about the brand on their own.

5) Marketing data requires proper interpretation. Again, this is why experts are crucial for social media marketing. It’s not enough to use the marketing monitoring tools to gather data. Obtaining the right insights from the data helps to finesse and adjust the overall marketing approach.

It’s true that social media marketing efforts can boost marketing ROI. But experts are needed because this field can be so confusing that dabblers cannot hope to generate the best strategy. That’s the plain truth about marketing with social media.