Social media marketing leverages social media channels such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube, and TikTok to connect with a target audience. According to Hootsuite’s Digital 2021 report, more than 4.48 billion people use these platforms daily, making social media marketing a smart choice to help drive website traffic, build a widely-known brand, and gain revenue. Using modern techniques and 21st-century tools can generate more engagement, more followers, and ultimately more financial gain. With the internet and online commerce continuing to grow at an astounding rate, social media marketing is critical for global visibility and is a powerful way to quickly reach a large number of people and propel your business.

Types of Social Media Marketing

There are two types of social media marketing: paid and unpaid. Unpaid marketing is creating content designed to spread quickly that resonates with your target audience, leading to organically building a following. Paid marketing involves paying to reach your audience across various social media channels. Everyone’s business is different, so plan to customize your social media marketing strategy to best connect with current customers and help gain new ones.

Unpaid Marketing

In the words of web influencer, marketer, and entrepreneur Neil Patel, “shares are the currency of the social media world.” Unpaid marketing is any organic marketing and advertising effort. Every share, every like, and every click helps promote visibility and credibility online and propel a business forward—without costing a penny. Unpaid marketing can include creating content like social media posts, photos, and videos. It also includes “earned marketing,” which is when your product is promoted by likes, comments, shares, or organic celebrity influence.

A crucial element of unpaid marketing is engaging with followers, niche groups, influencers, and experts in your industry. Unpaid marketing offers a budget-friendly way for businesses large and small to build their online presence as well as connect and strengthen relationships with current and potential followers/clients. However, while unpaid social media strategies can take time (building a following, relying on users to share content, and allowing forward movement to happen organically), paid marketing can offer results much faster, and as more businesses turn to paid ads, it can become harder to reach clients organically.

Paid Marketing

Paid social media marketing means paying for sponsored content, promotions, and ads that target a specific niche audience. In 2021, social media advertising spending is expected to top $47 billion, a number that highlights the explosion of paid marketing and especially where companies are placing their advertising dollars to reach the greatest number of people: in social media. Types of paid marketing can include sponsorship, branded content, influencer-generated content, pay-per-click, and display ads.

Companies with cash to spend on advertising would be wise to use it on social media marketing: In June 2020, eMarketer found that almost 30% of respondents in the U.S. had used social commerce to make a purchase. Luckily, paid advertising isn’t just for big companies with big budgets: as Hubspot notes, “Paid social media advertising is one of the least expensive types of advertising available in the traditional and digital market.” With the ability of paid social media marketing to target specific groups or users, small businesses and startups can figure out pricing that works for them. For example, rather than spending money to advertise to all your followers, you can pay to market your product or brand just to the certain ones you choose.

How to Use Social Media Marketing

Marketing professionals use both paid and unpaid social media marketing for just about any marketing effort these days, from creating dynamic advertising campaigns to promoting products and services to creating and building a personal brand. There are five essential pillars of social media marketing. These central techniques work together to help businesses strategize, connect with their audience, grow, advertise, and ultimately create revenue for their product, business, or brand.


The first part of a successful social media marketing plan is strategy. During this phase, you’ll focus on figuring out your goals and dive deep into how social media marketing can help you reach personal and professional aspirations. Once you’ve solidified your goals, you’ll decide which social media channels to target to help you achieve those goals. Finally, you’ll determine what type of content you want to share to best attract your target audience.

Planning & Publishing

Whether you’re a small business just starting or a large company working to attract new followers, adding and sharing content is integral to your company’s success. But it’s not as simple as sharing spontaneously—planning out the optimal time and how often to publish on your social media channels to reach the most people is key. Understanding your audience, knowing when and what to publish, and being consistent will help keep your followers engaged and drive more traffic your way. There are even scheduling tools available so you can plan your posts ahead of time.

Listening & Engagement

Maintaining a brand online involves more than simply engaging with fans (or fighting with trolls!) in the comments of your posts. As a product, company, or brand grows, it can be hard to keep up with all the DMs, mentions, and shares. That’s when social media listening and engagement tools come in. These tools can help you stay on top of the conversation even when you’re not directly communicating with your followers or customers. You can see what you’re doing right, as well as quickly resolve any problems or issues that arise, identify chances for growth, and even keep an eye on the competition. Listening and engagement tools provide a unique opportunity to receive feedback and make changes. These tools will condense all messages and mentions of your business, product, brand, and/or targeted keywords and hashtags into one place so you can keep a pulse on how your brand is being received. Social listening also provides a way to stay on top of ever-changing social media trends, can help identify new revenue streams, and get important industry tips.


Similar to listening and engagement and equally important in social media marketing is analytics. Social media analytics involve collecting, tracking, and analyzing user data on your social media accounts so you can figure out how it’s working for you. You’ll glean crucial information on engagement such as your campaign’s reach, what kinds of positive (and negative) mentions you’re getting online, how many people are seeing your posts and if they’re being shared, if your brand’s hashtag is performing well, and other details to help improve or change your strategy. Having access to this data allows you to better focus on future marketing efforts, ultimately saving you time and money.

While many social media platforms provide basic information about how your business or brand is performing, for deeper analytics as well as to look at data over various platforms, it’s wise to use a social media analytics tool. These tools provide the analytics you need to understand how your brand, product, or business is performing from a social media perspective. These tools help determine when to post content so it will reach the most people, how the content performs, which social media platforms are the best match for your brand, and give insight as to what isn’t working so you can change your strategy. Additionally, social media analytics tools can generate reports to share with your team, investors, and others involved in your brand’s success.


Finally, after all the strategizing, planning, publishing, listening, and poring over data, you’re ready to advertise! Creating advertising through your content or paying outside sources to promote your product or business can help build your following, nourish brand recognition and loyalty, and reach potential customers outside your network. Advertising on social media presents chances for more engagement and more sources of revenue. Because of the metrics available through listening and engagement and analytic tools, it’s easier to pinpoint your target audience, and often, you’ll only pay to advertise to them. Ultimately, it’s your decision whether paid advertising is worth the return on investment for your business, product, or brand.

Social Media Marketing Careers

As more companies’ dollars continue to funnel toward this burgeoning industry, professionals with a background in social media marketing are in rising demand. Social media marketing skills can lead to jobs in digital marketing, content strategy, data analytics, social media management, and consulting. Additionally, understanding how and when to use these valuable tools can work to your benefit as an entrepreneur or small business owner. Despite having plenty of digital tools available, social media marketing still requires a human touch. Superior social media marketers find the sweet spot between personal and digital.

According to Glassdoor, social media marketing professionals can earn a yearly salary between about $42,00 and $140,000. This is quite a wide range and can depend largely on location, company size, skillset, and experience. No matter where you’re located, if you’re interested in a career in the industry, it’s a good idea to add social media marketing skills to your toolbox.

Learn Social Media Marketing

Social media marketing courses teach how to use the various platforms to your advantage. Those ready to dive into the field can check out Noble Desktop’s social media marketing classes. You can attend in-person classes at Noble Desktop’s New York City location or attend live online social media marketing courses from anywhere in the world. You can also find other social media marketing courses, bootcamps, and certificate programs in your area using Noble Desktop’s Classes Near Me tool.