What Is Social Media Marketing

June 13, 2017 Marketing

Social Media Marketing is using social media to grow a business.

Often you’ll see the word “promote” used and I think technically that’s the right word.

But whenever I see the word “promote” in the context of social media marketing I think of businesses directly talking about their products and services. Kind of saying “buy this”.

And that’s not bad, but social media is kind of weird. We’ll get into that along with some other elements of what social media marketing is.

The Nature Of Social Media

I’ve told the story before, but in the Spring of 2005 I was sitting in my dorm room. A buddy came down the hall and popped his head in and said:

We’re getting Facebook.

I had no clue what he was talking about. What is Facebook? We’re “getting” it? What does that even mean?

Over the next few months Facebook kind of took over our campus.

Kids joined. They filled in their profiles. They connected with everyone that requested. They posted pics. Mostly from parties and dorms, etc.

From the beginning the pull of it all was learning and knowing more about the people around you. People that you’re connected with. In this case it was through college. But even with close friends. You might know them very well, but on Facebook they might share different kind of information and you could learn more about them.

The key thing, though, from the beginning was that Facebook was very personal. It was about the personal side of life.

I remember a year or two after that one kid that worked at a bar used his .edu email address to start a profile for the bar. He would submit friend requests and would use the profile to share updates about bar events and things like that.

That was my first introduction to social media marketing and how it could (and couldn’t) really work.

Traditional Business Advertising

When we think of traditional business advertising we think of some kind of ad like a commercial or print or whatever that is actively promoting an item.

And it’s promoting that item somewhere along the middle to late stages of the sales cycle.

The end of the sales cycle is the moment when a person decides to buy and then they do. That’s where a lot of advertising focuses.

“Buy Now”

But you’ll see other advertising that focuses a little earlier in the cycle. More of something like:

“Check Us Out”

“Have You Seen…”

And this advertising certainly works. And it works on social media. Over the last decade the social media sites like Twitter, Facebook and all of them have this kind of traditional advertising.

They have ads in the sidebars or in the news feeds where businesses actively promote their products and services. And it works pretty good. Facebook is one of the biggest companies in the world because this advertising works.

But I like what Chet Holmes says based on his lifetime of experience in sales:

Only 3% of any market is in the “buying mode” now.

That 3% is pretty much what drives Facebook’s revenue. It really drives any advertising-type revenue on TV, radio, newspaper or whatever.

But where I think social media marketing is working well for some businesses is the other 97% of the time.

Content Marketing & Social Media Marketing

Content marketing has been around for a long time. Many businesses have published things like magazines, newsletters and all kinds of things to entertain and educate current and potential customers.

Content marketing is more about communicating with customers when they’re not in buying mode. The business goal is still that you’re connecting with people. You’re earning trust. You’re building a connection.

But it’s not about focusing on the buy. At least not right now.

And social media, like any other medium before it, works about 97 to 3. People on social media are probably in buying mode 3% of the time.

But the other 97% of the time they’re looking for content that is interesting, entertaining, educational and enlightening.

The source matters, but maybe not as much as you think.

People want to see what their friends are doing, but they also don’t mind getting interesting information from businesses.

So that’s how you want to approach social media marketing.

3% of the time you can actively promote your business or products and ask people to buy something.

But the other 97% of the time focus on earning attention and trust.

Share things that are interesting to your customers.

Share things that are educational to them. Enlightening to them.

Let’s take a dentist.

3% of the time they might ask people to schedule an appointment.

The other 97% of the time they share news about the community. Company news and updates. Funny pics. Gifs. Videos. A guide on better oral health. All kinds of things.

And the goal is to build a larger following with that content and sharing so that there are more people around and more people to be in buying mode 3% of the time.

Branded Content

You may have heard the term “branded content”.

Branded content is content funded by a brand or business or organization.

It’s really the future.

It’s becoming more and more difficult for people to monetize content.

Newspapers, magazines, radio, TV and even online publications. Online publications have gotten really bloated and bad with ads. It’s just too challenging to monetize content.

The reason is that anybody can create content and a lot of people do. It might not be as good as what’s created by a professional, but there’s not so much of a difference that people are willing to pay for it by looking at ads all the time or by paying subscriptions.

Journalism will continue to exist. Just not as much. You’ll probably see more niche journalism where the quality is so much better so that people subscribe. Or they’ll support with things like Patreon.

But otherwise the only way to monetize content is with branded content. The business can justify it because content helps grow an audience, earn trust and then sell a product or service.

When a business shares content on social media it’s a form of branded content.

Is there bias?

Yes. But people know that. They take that into account.

And it’s not really different than a newspaper with advertisers. That paper depends on those advertisers. You can’t tell me that the writers aren’t influenced in their writing by the advertisers.


Social Media Marketing is interesting. At its core, social media is very much about the personal things in life. What’s affecting our personal lives and that includes friendships, family, news and much more.

People are looking also for entertainment, education and enlightenment. Also known as things that are interesting.

The future for social media marketing is focusing on the interesting things 97% of the time and direct promotion the other 3%. You’ll catch people when they’re ready to buy, but the other content will build your audience so there are more people to convert when they are in buying mode.