Content Marketing Blog

What is the role of social media in digital marketing?

As a digital marketer you’ve probably had more lectures on the importance of social media than you’ve had hot breakfasts.

With everyone (including us) harping on about the benefits of social, it can be tempting to just set up a few accounts, post every now and then and call it a job well done.

In reality, this blanket approach isn’t going to work. Appreciating that social media is a multi-tool, rather than a hammer for bashing home your message will yield far superior results in the long run. Knowing the whys behind social is the difference between a strategy and a Hail Mary.

So, what are the roles of social media in digital marketing, and how can they benefit your business?

1. Knowing your audience

Your digital marketing plan, and that of the business as a whole, is only going to succeed if you’re addressing the right people, at the right time, on the right topics.

You need to understand your target market’s pain points, what motivates them, and whether they already know if your company is ready and waiting to help them.

Yes, we’re talking about user personas here. These documents should be among your marketing department’s most highly prized possessions as they will be instrumental in ensuring your output is cohesive and correctly targeted. There are two primary ways that social media can help here:


All of the major social platforms are veritable gold mines when it comes to gathering facts and figures about your online audience. Among a plethora of metrics you can monitor here are gender, age, geographic location, the times at which they’re most active, and the content they’re most engaged with.

Social listening

You can add colour to this picture by observing the digital conversations potential leads are having. This practice, known as social listening, takes advantage of the fact that social media has opened up new avenues for people to register their thoughts and experiences with brands.

As well as specifically looking out for people mentioning your brand, and responding to questions or feedback in a timely manner, you can monitor relevant industry keywords. By doing so you gain authentic insights into ways your product or brand voice could be tweaked to more directly meet consumer desires.

There are heaps of intuitive tools out there that make social listening accessible for you to dive straight into. Some of our favourites include:

    • Sprout Social – As well as collating key metrics from all your social channels on one dashboard, Sprout Social’s trends and listening reports enable you to track the keywords and hashtags your audience is using with ease.
    • Buzzsumo Just type a topic, or your company name, into Buzzsumo and the app will show you how people are engaging with it across a variety of different platforms.
    • Tweetdeck – Often used by journalists to find the next breaking story, you can also use Tweetdeck in your marketing efforts. This is a great place for starting out with social listening on Twitter, by following hashtags and mentions.
    • Brandwatch – Going beyond simply notifying you that your company has been namechecked on social media, Brandwatch will analyse what type of mention it is – for example, influencer mention or press coverage.

2. Delivering customer service

Exposing your business to the often cruel and unforgiving world of social media can be daunting, but these days your customers expect you to take the plunge.

In fact, 63 per cent of consumers anticipate that companies will offer customer service via social media, according to Smart Insights.

While this is intrinsically linked to social listening, we felt it deserved its own section. Why? Two reasons:

  • Customer experience impacts revenue:

Given that social media should now be a consumer touchpoint, it needs to be just as well-oiled as any other customer service offerings you may have.

A report from PwC found that 75 per cent of consumers said that a good customer experience is an important factor when deciding whether to buy. Furthermore, according to professional speaker Ruby Newell-Legner, it takes 12 positive service interactions to make up for just one negative one.

The last thing your digital marketing team needs is to be the unresponsive, or blundering, department costing the company important leads.

  • Engaging offers a chance to learn:

Being unreachable on social not only risks frustrating the very people you’re trying to impress, it’s also is a lost opportunity to do market research,

Learning from any mistakes you make (and the stuff that goes well!) is crucial for informing the future direction of your digital marketing strategy. There’s only one thing worse than making a mistake in social media land – making it again. If something goes down brilliantly with your target audience, you need to know about it.

3. Promoting content

While digital marketing now benefits from the reach and audience engagement of social media, this is a double-edged sword. You know more about consumers, but they also know more about you … and your competition.

In the age where every difference of opinion can be instantly resolved with the words, “I’ll Google it”, consumers have much greater capacity to conduct research prior to purchasing.

There are now more reviews, tutorials, and unboxing videos out there than you’d care to think about, and, according to Deloitte’s 2018 Consumer Review, the onus is on you to create educational and informative content that will help guide potential customers through an elongated sales funnel.

88 per cent of Australians, and 74 per cent of Kiwis are active on social media.

Creating this content is a good first step, but will remain as such if no one sees it.

And how do you get people to view your content? Promotion via social media.

Statistics from the Yellow Social Media Report 2018 show that 88 per cent of Australians have a social media profile, and 34 per cent of users check it more than five times a day. New Zealand isn’t far behind, with a joint survey from Hootsuite and We Are Social showing that 74 per cent of Kiwis are active monthly on social channels.

If you find the right platform(s), and use analytics to determine the whos, whats and whens of posting, social media can be hugely successful at delivering your content directly to the eyeballs of the people your research has told you will value it most.

4. Raising brand awareness

It’s hard to write an article about digital marketing without mentioning branding.

Your brand should permeate every aspect of your business strategy, from the letterheads you use when addressing business partners to the tone of voice you take when responding to a potential lead on Twitter.

The reasoning is simple: trust in brand translates to sales. Indeed, respondents to PwC’s Global Consumer Insights Survey 2018 listed this factor among their top three reasons for shopping with a specific retailer.

You can see where we’re going here: If a potential customer consistently sees your branding associated with high-quality, thought-leading content on social media, you’re onto a winner.

Even better is when happy customers use social media to repost branded content. The fact that an individual has been so bowled over by your product or service as to feel compelled to share your content voluntarily smacks of the authenticity that modern users crave when researching their next purchase.

And, honestly, is there any better feeling than when that witty meme you posted on your company page gets picked up and shared around, proving once and for all that you do have a great sense of humour?

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Al Hall
Al Hall About the author