5 social media marketing tips for beginners and professionals

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It doesn't matter if you're a small business or a large corporation. Every marketer has a desire, nay, a NEED, to connect with your target audience on a deep and personal level. If you listen to what your target audience is asking for, you can use social media marketing to point them in the right direction, usually to your website or blog.

Once there, you have the opportunity to engage them and convert them into subscribers, leads, or even customers! But first, ask yourself this question:

What social media outlet(s) is best for reaching my target audience?

Do you use Twitter? Facebook? Pinterest? LinkedIn? Google+? Some combination? Or all of the above? Here are some generalizations to consider. Twitter is great for short messages and a younger demographic. Facebook allows for longer posts, reaching a crowd between the ages of 20­50. Pinterest is great for imagery, so if you're in the art industry, that's the way to go. LinkedIn and Google+ attract more B2B business professionals.

So now that you know which outlet(s) to use, here are 5 tips to keep in mind with your social media marketing posts:

1. Be Aware of Time

Social media marketing can be a time­consuming effort. Use a social media aggregate like HootSuite to tie all of your accounts together and schedule posts during your downtime so you don't have to constantly post throughout your workday. Also, don't forget to consider the time changes. If you post something at 9pm EST, it's likely that most of your audience in the UK will be in bed, missing out on your marketing message.

2. Be Unique

What sets you apart from your competitors? Show off your uniqueness by posting links to blog posts that highlight accomplishments, news, and other advantages. Leveraging these items is a cornerstone of a fruitful social media marketing campaign. Come up with your own hashtags for use in Twitter and Facebook. Share pictures and host caption contests. Ask questions that only people with expertise in your field can answer. I hate to be cliche, but think outside the (text) box!

3. Be Genuine

Don't always be pushing for sales on social media. Use it as an opportunity to get to know people in your industry. Create and nurture mutually beneficial relationships with both your potential customers as well as thought­leaders. It's these influencers who can make a significant impact on your social media marketing success. A single retweet or like for a key influencer can put your content in front of hundreds, maybe even thousands of eyes!

4. Be Engaging

Have you ever went to a party, only to find out that you don't know anyone there, and the few people you do know, won't introduce you to anyone else? This is how social media marketing can feel at first. No one likes that feeling. That's why you have to follow people and engage them. Help people find what they're looking for. Answer questions. Take a few minutes every day to comment on key influencer accounts. Offer your honest opinion and expertise. If you do it genuinely and intelligently, you'll start capturing people's attention and building your network quickly.

5. Be Real

People want to interact with other people, not bots. They don't want to be constantly spammed. We've all got feelings, so take advantage of that. Make people feel good for interacting with you. Thank them for following, posting, and sharing your content. Try your best to return the favor when you can.

As you grow your businesses, eventually you can hire someone to take over your social media marketing efforts, but until then, start by following my five tips. You'll get into a rhythm and create your own unique social media marketing voice and style. Your style defines how your audience perceives you. It's up to you to make that spotlight portrayal a positive or negative one!

Do you have any other social media marketing tips? I'd like to hear them. Thanks for sharing!