Almost every­one has come around to rec­og­niz­ing social media’s impor­tance for mar­ket­ing and adver­tis­ing. After all, social media mar­ket­ing can help entre­pre­neurs spread the word about their ven­ture and recruit new cus­tomers, which some have described as the hard­est part of start­ing a new busi­ness.

And every­one from the biggest brands in the world to star­tups less than a decade old have seen suc­cess by lever­ag­ing their social media accounts. For instance, Peel, a cell­phone case com­pa­ny, has leaned into social media to high­light its prod­ucts and fre­quent­ly uti­lizes Face­book video to tell its sto­ry. Thanks to its social media cam­paigns, the com­pa­ny has achieved three times high­er ROI and a sig­nif­i­cant spike in rev­enue. So, the poten­tial is clear­ly there, but when it comes to reach­ing a spe­cif­ic audi­ence via social media, there are still plen­ty of chal­lenges.

Most com­pa­nies take a broad approach to audi­ence tar­get­ing on social media, which can be a good way to start. But tru­ly tar­get­ing your desired audi­ence requires a high­ly gran­u­lar approach that will vary depend­ing on which plat­form you use, the amount of atten­tion you can devote to it, your mes­sag­ing, and your bud­get. In addi­tion, to reach the mem­bers of your audi­ence, you first need to know them. To help you on your path to social media mar­ket­ing star­dom, I reached out to indus­try experts and entre­pre­neurs to dis­cov­er their favorite tricks of the trade.


1. Jon Brody, Co-Founder and CEO of Ladder

Brody advices tru­ly know­ing your audi­ence mem­bers before you try to tar­get mes­sages to them. After you’ve built cus­tomer per­sonas, you need to deter­mine where they spend their time in order to dis­cern the best chan­nel to reach them. Then, fig­ure out what they find appeal­ing about your prod­uct in order to hone your mes­sag­ing.

Brody acknowl­edges that in the ear­ly stages of get­ting to know your audi­ence and devel­op­ing your social media mar­ket­ing strat­e­gy, “Guess­work is some­thing you’re forced to con­tend with. Ulti­mate­ly, it’s why struc­tur­ing your strat­e­gy around high-vol­ume tests that allow you to mea­sure your impact is your best for­mu­la for find­ing suc­cess. It allows you to replace guess­work with val­i­da­tion.” So, do some research on your audi­ence, craft a hypoth­e­sis, and test out your the­o­ry. Brody also says that repli­cat­ing AdWords cam­paigns into Bing and using Facebook’s algo­rithm to build Looka­like Audi­ences can help you craft a win­ning strat­e­gy.

2. Jean-Michel Lebeau, CEO of Cortex

Lebeau has learned that you can’t under­state the impor­tance of con­text when craft­ing your mes­sage. “Based on the fact that we know our reach is pret­ty indus­try-spe­cif­ic, we try to make sure we post rel­e­vant con­tent that will gen­er­ate engage­ment from our fans,” he says. “We ask ques­tions, chal­lenge ideas, and try new things to cre­ate some kind of buzz with­in our net­work, which will expand to the participant’s net­works. Be rel­e­vant. Be bold and chal­leng­ing. Cut the cor­po­rate talk and speak the same lan­guage as your audi­ence.”

Cor­tex pri­mar­i­ly uses Face­book as a recruit­ment tool. Lebeau said the tech com­pa­ny wants its mes­sag­ing on social to res­onate with the top tal­ent in the indus­try and has noticed that, not sur­pris­ing­ly, top tal­ent wants to work on top projects. Keep­ing that con­text in mind, it posts inter­est­ing case stud­ies that fea­ture recent projects and high­light the oppor­tu­ni­ties avail­able at the com­pa­ny.

3. Danielle Narveson, Marketing Technologist and Director of Strategy at LIFT Agency

Because organ­ic reach isn’t what it used to be, Narve­son warns that to dri­ve val­ue from social media cam­paigns, you now have to be ready to pay to play. “It’s a lin­ear chan­nel; you have to pay per engage­ment, where­as it used to be viral,” she says. “While many lead­ers still expect organ­ic trac­tion, they need to rec­og­nize the shift and not expect crazy viral­i­ty. How­ev­er, there are oppor­tu­ni­ties to tap into the nat­ur­al shar­ing mech­a­nisms of these very sticky social net­work plat­forms and adapt your social media approach accord­ing­ly.”

For instance, ads on Pin­ter­est can be pinned like any oth­er post. Once they’ve been pinned, they’ll be shared with a user’s friends and fea­tured on sim­i­lar boards, so there’s an oppor­tu­ni­ty to make paid social ads work hard­er by tap­ping into the way net­works have been designed.

4. Ryan Myers, Creative Director at Sapper Consulting

Myers observes that using the right tool to tell your sto­ry can heav­i­ly influ­ence your suc­cess on social. “It’s impor­tant to dis­sect which parts of your sto­ry are most con­ducive for dif­fer­ent plat­forms and how/why your audi­ences are spend­ing time on each plat­form. For exam­ple, we lever­age Insta­gram more for recruit­ment because the visu­al nature of the plat­form gives peo­ple a win­dow into our cul­ture at Sap­per. On the oth­er hand, we use LinkedIn to expand on our busi­ness nar­ra­tive.” He explains that Sap­per sees a more engaged audi­ence on LinkedIn because the audi­ence there is more busi­ness- and net­work­ing-focused than audi­ences on plat­forms like Face­book, where fam­i­ly pho­tos and cat videos abound.

So, ensure your mes­sag­ing plays to the strengths of the plat­form you’re post­ing on in order to dri­ve the most engage­ment. Myers con­cedes that going from “prospect likes tweet” to “pay­ing cus­tomer” isn’t always a clear­ly defined jour­ney, but he advis­es that “pro­vid­ing rel­e­vant con­tent that builds trust and cred­i­bil­i­ty with your audi­ence should be your North Star.”

5. Leonard Kim, Managing Partner at InfluenceTree

Kim has man­aged social media for a bil­lion-dol­lar aca­d­e­m­ic med­ical cen­ter and found suc­cess in using sub­com­mit­tees and Face­book groups to speak to a niche audi­ence. He elab­o­rates, “You have to be able to pic­ture your­self as the end con­sumer. What do they do for work? What do they like to do for fun? What is their lifestyle like, and what are their inter­ests? I put myself in their shoes, and then I put my focus into (a) where they hang out online, and (b) what they want to hear.”

Fig­ure out where your audi­ence mem­bers spend their time and then see whether you can be a part of closed groups such as those on Face­book and Red­dit. Reach out to admin­is­tra­tors and offer to host a vir­tu­al event or pro­vide a resource for the com­mu­ni­ty. When it comes to mes­sag­ing, be as spe­cif­ic as you can with your tar­get­ing. If you’re after indi­vid­u­als look­ing to lose weight, tar­get a 45- to 50-year-old demo­graph­ic that has inter­est in weight loss pro­grams near your ZIP code. When your mes­sag­ing is rel­e­vant, your audi­ence is more like­ly to respond.

6. Marina Byezhanova, Director of Candidate Experience and Co-Founder of Pronexia

Byezhano­va says that Pronex­ia is going through a tran­si­tion that oth­er entre­pre­neurs are like­ly famil­iar with: veer­ing from its tra­di­tion­al sales mod­el to one that lever­ages social media. “Our two core areas of focus are build­ing brand aware­ness vis-à-vis posi­tion­ing our­selves as sub­ject mat­ter experts and build­ing a robust fol­low­ing of ‘rav­ing fans,’” she says. “My team’s main con­cern has been to ensure that our mes­sage does not drown in all of the online noise.”

Pronex­ia decid­ed to focus on LinkedIn not only because it could reach its audi­ence there, but also because the plat­form has lit­tle “noise.” In addi­tion to cre­at­ing con­tent native to the LinkedIn feed, Byezhano­va cred­its Pronexia’s social suc­cess to sur­vey­ing its tar­get prospects to find out what keeps them up at night and craft­ing the company’s con­tent accord­ing­ly. She advis­es busi­ness­es to stick to pro­vid­ing val­ue in their con­tent and cau­tions against craft­ing con­tent with sell­ing or pitch­ing in mind.

7. Jason Ganahl, Owner/Maestro of Meat at GQue BBQ

Ganahl has found that visu­als can make a pos­i­tive impact on your social mar­ket­ing strat­e­gy. “We put good-look­ing pic­tures of our food to get people’s atten­tion and cred­it prop­er use of hash­tags with tar­get­ing BBQ peo­ple and food­ies. We have a huge fol­low­ing, rel­a­tive­ly speak­ing, which I attribute to our high-qual­i­ty pics.” His con­clu­sion is borne out by research that shows con­tent with images gets more views and more shares.
It all comes down to get­ting your audi­ence to see — and share — your posts. Ganahl encour­ages brands to embrace video, which prompts even more social shares than image con­tent. Like Narve­son, he says that brands should con­sid­er­ing pay­ing to boost posts. It’s not some­thing GQue BBQ does now, but he admits it’s becom­ing more nec­es­sary to ensure posts get seen. He under­stands that start­ing a social media account can be an intim­i­dat­ing endeav­or — at first. Your audi­ence might not like your con­tent right off the bat, but Ganahl says you’ll learn what works as you go.

Social media mar­ket­ing is a huge indus­try for a rea­son. It’s an incred­i­bly effec­tive way to engage with an audi­ence, and the leads it gen­er­ates can dri­ve incred­i­ble val­ue for a com­pa­ny. In addi­tion to pick­ing both your audi­ence and your plat­form with care, focus on the above tips to hone your strat­e­gy and opti­mize your spend­ing — and then watch your results rapid­ly improve.