9 Social Media Marketing Pros Share Their Best Advice for Today’s Entrepreneurs

Ten years ago, social media marketing was a lot different.

Competing online simply meant establishing a compelling presence that would spread organically. Choosing your channels involved only a handful of popular options. Creating “media” mostly meant writing posts and designing images.

But today, there are roughly 2.34 billion social network users around the world—a third of the global population.

New players are crowding the scene as it gets harder to tell the difference between Snapchat and Instagram. Brands are now paying just to compete for a few seconds of their audience’s attention. And the content they’re pushing now includes live video and augmented reality (e.g. Snapchat’s video lenses).

Social media is a constantly changing game where yesterday’s rules don’t necessarily apply today.

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So, I asked nine social media savvy folks who understand the landscape for their thoughts on the current state of social media marketing, where it’s headed, and how entrepreneurs should approach their social media strategy today.

Rand Fishkin, Founder of Moz

rand fishkin social media marketing

What is the biggest change/challenge you foresee in the near future of social media marketing?

Standing out from the crowd, amidst an increasingly noisy, competitive field. People only have so much time in their day to consume media and content, and social channels are fast becoming overwhelmed.

The deficit of attention means content creators and social marketers will need to be massively more unique, more valuable, and earn more loyalty from their audiences in order to maintain or grow their presences.

What channel should entrepreneurs be keeping their eyes on and why?

Facebook’s organic (and even paid) reach is getting much tougher. Video is working a little better, but everything else is working less well. Instagram is finally seeing some decline in participation/reach as well, after years of being the outlier. I’m also suspicious of whether Snapchat can maintain its reach and engagement numbers long term, especially for brands rather than individuals.

On the upswing side, podcasts look like they’re continuing to grow and be a remarkable channel for attention. I think that’s got a lot of growth, perhaps up until self-driving cars take over.

What’s your #1 piece of advice for entrepreneurs who are starting from scratch with their social media marketing plan?

Find the intersection of three things:

  1. Channels where your customers and their influencers are actually active and paying attention
  2. Channels where you can provide unique value beyond what anyone else is doing
  3. Channels where you have personal passion and interest.

If you meet those criteria, you can have a real shot at great social marketing. If not, it might pay to pursue other investments and leave social until you can find those intersects or hire folks who can.

What social network do you spend the most time on and what social media marketing tool could you not live without?

Twitter! I love the variety of content, the freedom of interaction, the character limit, and the quality of people you can find there. As for tools, I’m nuts for Buzzsumo. It’s an amazing source of discovery and inspiration for me.

Kara Burney, Director of Content at Track Maven

kara burney social media marketing

What is the biggest change/challenge you foresee in the near future of social media marketing?

The near future of social media marketing is all about creating immersive user experiences.

Businesses have gotten really good at distributing content on social media. But most are still not very good at creating content worth distributing in the first place. As the bar is raised for immersive content, broadcasting the same static content across each and every social channel won’t cut it anymore. Businesses have to figure out how to plan and invest in a channel-specific social media strategy.

What channels should entrepreneurs keep their eyes on and why?

Right now, Instagram is the channel to jump on.

At TrackMaven, we analyzed 51 million pieces of social media content from 40,000 brands on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram. We found that the engagement ratio for businesses is 10 times higher on Instagram than on Facebook (and dramatically higher than LinkedIn or Twitter).

But Instagram won’t stay that way for long; the engagement rate for brands on Instagram is already starting to come down to earth as the network monetizes. Now’s the time to build your Instagram brand quickly and cheaply.

What’s your #1 piece of advice for entrepreneurs who are starting their social media strategy from scratch?

To paraphrase Picasso: Good marketers copy; great marketers steal. The easiest way to scale a social strategy from scratch is to learn from the big players in your industry.

Conduct a competitive audit of the brands you compete with directly, the big players you aspire to disrupt, and major industry influencers. That will give you an understanding of the right channels to prioritize and relevant content topics. Then exploit the white space for brand differentiation and thought leadership.

What social network do you spend the most time on and what social media marketing tool could you not live without?

Twitter plays a major “second screen” role in my life — both professionally and personally. This year’s live stream of the 2016 Wimbledon tournament on Twitter forever changed my tennis and Twitter fandom.

Our marketing team couldn’t live without our own product, TrackMaven, which we use to track the impact of our marketing and keep tabs on competitors, or Sprout Social, which we use to distribute all of our social media content.

Peg Fitzpatrick, Author & Social Media Strategist

peg fitzpatrick social media marketing

What is the biggest change/challenge you foresee in the near future of social media marketing?

Keeping up with all the crazy changes. Facebook is getting more complicated as time goes on and I think this will make it harder for entrepreneurs and small businesses to keep up with managing their social media platforms wisely and effectively.

What channel should entrepreneurs keep their eyes on and why?

Snapchat is evolving into something really cool. It’s been snowballing with growth. I love that they keep it fresh by rotating filters in the app.

What’s your #1 piece of advice for entrepreneurs who are starting their social media strategy from scratch?

Don’t hop on every single social media platform. Figure out where your target audience spends their time and if that platform works with your product or service. It’s better to be amazing at one or two social platforms than suck on five or six.

What social network do you spend the most time on and what social media marketing tool could you not live without?

Instagram is my fave social media app at the moment followed by Pinterest which is technically not a social network but gets lumped in with them a lot. My new favorite social media tool is Planoly for Instagram and my constant daily driver is Sprout Social.

Casie Stewart, Lifestyle Blogger

casie stewart social media marketing

What is the biggest change/challenge you foresee in the near future of social media marketing?

Audiences and platforms are constantly changing so knowing what content to put where can be a challenge. You want to go where the people are, but their habits are changing too.

Should your video content live on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, IG Stories, Snapchat, Vine, Periscope? Platforms are moving organisms, adding new features all the time. If you wait too long to put a piece of marketing content together, you can miss the window of opportunity for something to be ‘cool’.

I was part of 12seconds.tv, a short video platform in 2011–12 before it was bought by AOL. After that, Viddy came along and was the “Instagram for Video”, but when Instagram added video, they were done.

Last month everyone was crazy about Snapchat and then Instagram Stories happened, and now Twitter Moments are rolling out. In one app update your whole strategy can be thrown off, you need to be agile, and ready for curveballs.

I also think we’re coming up to a shift in influencer marketing. It grew so fast, and now it’s like the wild wild west out there!

What channels should entrepreneurs keep their eyes on and why?

Never take your eyes off Facebook! They have the biggest audience and will buy up new technology (Instagram, Oculus, WhatsApp, MSQRD) so they can keep users engaged and checking the app.

They’ve made video a big priority and are constantly adding new features you’ll find on other apps (e.g. Instagram Stories, Facebook Filters). I like to think you don’t want to get too caught up in the specific app. Think about the content; the apps will change. A photo, video, gif—they can all be shared anywhere with a good narrative.

What’s your #1 piece of advice for entrepreneurs who are starting their social media strategy from scratch?

It’s important to hire smart people that really know the social space, platforms, advertising, and have their finger on changes as they happen. Also, know what you want for your brand and why. Remind yourself about that when you’re making content and think about who you’re making it for.

What social network do you spend the most time on and what social media marketing tool could you not live without?

I use Snapchat a lot, it’s fun, raw, the filters and features are great. I feel it’s the least edited version of my life. My heart belongs to Twitter though, I’d hate to live without it. I’ve been on it since 2008. I remember the race to 1M followers between Ashton Kutcher and Larry King. The first real breaking news story when a plane crashed in the Hudson River.

I’ve shared and experienced so many things with the platform. In the early days 2008–2010, the Toronto Twitter community was really small and we used to hang out together at Tweetups a lot. I made some really awesome friends, we’ll always have those Twitter memories.

Jay Acunzo, Host of Unthinkable

jay acunzo social media marketing

What is the biggest change/challenge you foresee in the near future of social media marketing?

Great content is always the biggest challenge to a great social media presence.

Corporations—especially large ones—are historically used to interchangeable parts. This is how you “scale” a team – you iron out processes and train people to be as interchangeable as possible. However, when the name of the game is creating content that stands out and deeply resonates (and that game is quickly becoming multimedia rather than text-centric), finding and retaining enough Creative Talent with a capital T is going to be THE differentiating factor.

This isn’t about programmatic. This isn’t about technology. This isn’t about quick-hit conversion-centric marketing. First and foremost, this is about building things that are meaningful and that others actually love in the world. You need really great creators for that.

What channel should entrepreneurs keep their eyes on and why?

If I’m the only one who says “Snapchat” in this list, I’ll run naked around my office … on Snapchat though, so it disappears 🙂

As of today, right now, while you’re reading this, more human beings will log into Snapchat in the next 24 hours and use it than our beloved Twitter. To ignore where all that attention is going would be foolish. We need to stop writing it off as “for kids” and stop avoiding it because “the analytics aren’t there yet”, and instead just dive in and start playing around and having fun with it. That’s the best way to learn.

What’s your #1 piece of advice for entrepreneurs who are starting from scratch with social media marketing?

Ditch all strategy decks and headlines you read and find a whiteboard. Write down your most important goal as a startup at the top – your business goal, not a marketing goal. Now write as many hypotheses as you can about what you think might hit that goal as it applies to social or marketing more broadly.

Then pick the 3 that just feel the most likely to succeed and test them quickly. If one works, drop the rest, double-down on the successful test, and add a few more tests while you’re at it.

In other words, startup marketing is much more about knowing how to find the answer than me sitting here saying, “THIS is the answer that applies everywhere.”

Also? Read Traction by Gabriel Weinberg or listen to his wisdom here.

What social network do you spend the most time on and what social media marketing tool could you not live without?

Snapchat all around! (I’m @jayacunzo over there.) I goof off, I show behind-the-scenes of my show, and I generally have more fun on that app than anything I do. It also doubles as tremendous marketing for my show, Unthinkable, since I show so much of my process and thinking (good and bad). The app allows for tremendous creativity and storytelling, and the people are just that—people—unlike so much of the behavior you find on other channels.

Neil Patel, Co-Founder of Crazy Egg & KISSmetrics

neil patel shopify

What is the biggest change/challenge you foresee in the near future of social media marketing?

Social networks have been adjusting their algorithms and making it harder for companies to do well “organically”. Essentially it is turning into a “pay to play” game which is going to take a lot of companies out.

What channel should entrepreneurs be keeping their eyes on and why?

Snapchat. It’s hard to say how you can make money from it or use it to drive more ecommerce sales, but the one thing we know is that Snapchat users are really engaged.

What’s your #1 piece of advice for new entrepreneurs who are starting from scratch with their social media marketing?

Don’t go for large follower counts. Focus on engagement. If you have extremely high engagement for the number of followers you have, your content is much more likely to spread virally.

What social network do you spend the most time on and what social media marketing tool could you not live without?

I spend most of my time on Twitter because it is an easy place for me to find out what is happening in the world.

As for tool, I love Buzzsumo as it shows me what type of content I should be creating.

Brian Peters, Social Media at Buffer

brian peters social media marketing

What is the biggest change/challenge you foresee in the near future of social media marketing?

One of the biggest challenges right now in social media marketing is figuring out ways to stay relevant in a social media landscape that is moving from organic to paid fairly quickly.

Brands and entrepreneurs with small or no social media advertising budgets can benefit from being scrappy with their marketing. The ability to pivot and jump on new tools, trends, opportunities before big players move into that space can offer a huge competitive advantage.

What channel should entrepreneurs be keeping their eyes on and why?

As many of your readers probably know, Snapchat is one of the fastest growing social media channels out there. It’s an authentic and engaging platform that offers brands an opportunity to connect and interact with their audience for free.

At Buffer (@buffersnaps) we receive anywhere from 400–600 views on any one of the Snaps that we put out and it doesn’t cost us a dime in advertising. Right now, Snapchat’s API is closed for 3rd party integration, but I can see that changing in the near future, offering brands even more ways to get creative in a space where younger generations hang out.

What’s your #1 piece of advice for entrepreneurs who are starting from scratch with their social media marketing plan?

If I had to pick one piece of advice for entrepreneurs just starting out on social media, it would be to choose 1 or 2 channels and get really good at them. Try not to stretch yourself thin on too many platforms at once. It’s unsustainable and may lower the quality of content you put out.

The bonus piece of advice to that is to choose the 1 or 2 channels your audience is on most. Don’t create a Facebook account just because “everyone else is doing it.” If your product or service is targeted at younger folks, start an awesome Snapchat account. If your product or service is for older folks, Facebook or Twitter may be a great play.

What social network do you spend the most time on and what social media marketing tool could you not live without?

It’s a dead tie between Snapchat and Instagram! Snapchat because that’s where all of my friends are, and Instagram because it’s my favorite channel to actually market on. Both are big players in the social media world and are two that I don’t see going anywhere any time soon!

Marcus Sheridan, The Sales Lion

marcus sheridan social media marketing

What is the biggest change/challenge you foresee in the near future of social media marketing?

I think the biggest challenge today, and in the future, comes down to where organizations can afford to put their time, attention and resources.

There are more and more platforms coming out all the time, and knowing “when” to focus on a new platform and invest time/resources into it is a major struggle for organizations.

The fact is, if a company tries to be a jack of all social media trades, they’ll very likely become a master of none. This is why you’re much better off being a “master of one”– dominating a single social media platform and putting all your effort into that instead of spreading yourself too thin.

What channel should entrepreneurs be keeping their eyes on and why?

This may sound lame, but we should all be paying attention to Facebook. They evolve better than all the other platforms when it comes to the marketplace. Plus, they are changing on a daily basis. Keeping up with that, and all the opportunities therein, is a challenge. Frankly, I feel like paying attention to other platforms at this point is oftentimes a distraction, and not a productive endeavor.

That being said, what we really need to be paying attention to on platforms like Facebook is the incredible evolution of video, virtual reality, augmented reality, etc. That’s where we should be spending our time and attention learning. That is where the future lies for all of us.

What’s your #1 piece of advice for entrepreneurs who are starting from scratch with their social media marketing plan?

Become a “master of one”.

Be leery of the “shiny object” syndrome most marketers suffer from.

Focus on results, not what’s “cool” or “sexy” or what everyone is talking about. Do what works. Focus on that which brings the greatest returns. Move past the rest.

What social network do you spend the most time on and what social media marketing tool could you not live without?

I spend the most time on Facebook, which has frankly become a religion to millions at this point. At this point, being on Facebook is almost like saying “I’m on the internet”

But personally, the reason I like Facebook is for its private groups. If you get in the right groups, it’s amazing.

The only major tool I use is HubSpot. Why? Because I can track the results. I want to measure ROI, and that’s my tool for doing it.

Guy Kawasaki, Chief Evangelist at Canva

guy kawasaki social media marketing

What is the biggest change/challenge you foresee in the near future of social media marketing?

The biggest change that I foresee is the inclusion of live video in social media marketing. For my efforts, Facebook Live is already the most powerful platform. Nothing increases my reach like Facebook Live video.

What channel should entrepreneurs be keeping their eyes on and why?

The social media channel is important, but still less important than the product or service. Entrepreneurs should primarily focus on creating something great. It’s easy to market something great. It’s hard to market crap—and no social media effort can fix crap.

What’s your #1 piece of advice for entrepreneurs who are starting from scratch with their social media marketing plan?

My #1 piece of advice is to build up your company’s social-media following on Facebook. This would be my primary focus because nothing comes close to Facebook’s power and utility, because there’s nothing that enables such precise targeting.

What social network do you spend the most time on and what social media marketing tool could you not live without?

I spend the most time on Facebook—as you would suspect. There are two tools that are indispensable for me: Social Champ and Canva. I use Social Champ to schedule most of my posts and Canva to create graphics. Note: I am the Chief Evangelist of Canva.

Change is Constant in Social Media Marketing

The common theme here seems to be that the social media landscape is an ever-evolving one. One player makes a move and the rest react—it’s a wildly unpredictable scene.

Facebook seems to be one of the strongest players due to its focus on encompassing new media formats. But when it comes to what consumers want from a social platform, there’s nothing quite like the authenticity that Snapchat encourages.

The only advice that stands the test of time is to focus on the quality of content you put out, and to make objective decisions about where you spend your limited resources.

As newsfeed algorithms change, as channels rise and fall, the companies that will continue to win will be the ones that can adapt quickly, produce intelligently and focus relentlessly on the people they’re trying to reach.

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