Social media marketing: our one-stop guide for getting started

5th November 2020

Gone are the days of taking out an advertisement in your local newspaper, placed in the hopes that your target market will see it and be compelled to visit your store. Thanks to social media, connecting with, and converting, your audience – whether they’re sleep-deprived new moms, rookie sourdough bakers, or vegan doughnut lovers – is easier than ever. If you know how to capture their attention in the first place, that is.

  Anyone can post something on Instagram or Facebook, but if your efforts aren’t strategic, your post will be lost amidst the noise. Fear not! I’ll walk you through the golden rules of social media marketing so that every single social media post works hard for your brand.

Engage first, convert later

Too many brands mistakenly use social media solely as a way to advertise their products. While there’s a time and a place for product posts, remember that the entire point of social media is to connect with and engage your followers.

Only once you’ve done this can you successfully convert a follower into a customer. It’s also pertinent to bear in mind that “salesly” posts typically don’t generate a lot of engagement and if they make up the majority of your posts, Instagram and Facebook’s algorithms will take note and show your posts to fewer followers.


First things first. As I mentioned above, without a plan, your efforts are for nought.

Posting whatever you feel like when you feel like it is fine for personal accounts, but when sales are on the line, haphazard posting doesn’t cut it. Not only can you inadvertently land in hot water, but where tensions are running high, all it takes is one wrong move and your brand will be cancelled before you can say “oops”!

Remember that everything you say or do online represents your brand so in the current socio-political climate, it’s best to separate your personal views from your brand.

Disjointed, aimless posts will only serve to paint your brand in a less-than-stellar light. Ideally, you need to know exactly what you’ll be posting days, or even better, weeks in advance. (I’ll detail what your plan should entail a little later in this article.) 

A caveat: sometimes, posting on the fly is needed – hello Covid-19! – but before you press “post”, make sure you give your post a once-over, checking spelling and grammar, ensuring any included links work, and if you’re using any images that aren’t your own, that you credit the owner. Asking for permission first is always a first port-of-call.

Compile a style guide or brand bible

How you say something is just as important as what you’re saying. Before you start posting, spend some time establishing the following:

Your tone of voice – Is it quirky? Serious? Youthful? Sarcastic? This is, in essence, your brand’s personality. Try and encapsulate the je ne se quoi – that little something special – that makes your brand unique in three words. Refer back to these whenever you’re at a loss about what to post.

Words or phrases to be avoided – For example: a high-end brand like Investec would never use the words “cheap” or “bargain,” while a budget-friendly brand like Kulula would never use the words “exclusive”.

Your brand’s lexicon – In the same vein, some brands have their own vocabulary. MTN uses “Yello” instead of “hello”, and the National Lottery uses a mixture of isiZulu and English in their slogan “Tata ma chance, tata ma millions”. Incorporating a catch-phrase or slang that’s unique to your brand is an effective means of facilitating brand recognition by lending a distinct voice to your brand. 

Identify several different topics or post "types"

These will differ depending on your brand, but common types of social media marketing posts include:

1) Product posts:

These should be used sparingly. Yes, your followers want to know about your products, but if yaour entire social media feed consists of one advertisement after another, followers will lose interest and scroll on by. As I mentioned above, salesy’ posts typically generate very little engagement, which algorithms pick up on, resulting in them displaying fewer of your posts.

2) Engagement posts:

These should make up the majority of your social media marketing content. Engagement posts will look different depending on who you’re aiming them at, but the golden thread running through them is that they’re about topics that your audience is interested in or curious about. Your goal is not to sell anything; you’re aiming to inform or entertain your audience. If you’re in the sports apparel industry, you could talk about fitness, nutrition, workouts, etc. If you own a plumbing business, you could post about home DIY tips, pest control, plumbing hacks and the like.

3) Newsworthy/ trending topic posts:

If a current event can be tied back to your product, go ahead and post, but if you’re grasping at straws trying to find something relevant to say, leave it.

4) Competition posts:

Competitions typically generate a lot of engagement – your job is to ensure they’re engaging the right audience though. Too often, brands run competitions that offer prizes that appeal to a wide range of people, which results in high engagement for the duration of the competition, but very little conversion once the winner has been announced. 

5) Link to blog posts:

If you have a blog, drive traffic via a brief recap or teaser, and update your bio with a link to the post in question.

6) Behind the scenes:

Whether you’re a mom and pop shop or a large-scale operation, people love to see the faces behind a brand. Importantly, behind the scenes glimpses into a workplace foster a sense of trust and lend an air of authenticity to your brand’s social media marketing.

7) Video:

Mix up static posts with short video clips of your products in action, happy customers, or your physical store – the list is endless. Keep footage to a minimum though – no one wants to watch a feature-length biopic when a 30 second clip will do.

Plan everything out in a spreadsheet

Sometimes old school really is cool. You don’t need anything fancy to plot out your social media marketing posts: an old-fashioned spreadsheet will do the trick. Plot out a month – or even better, two – in advance, detailing the following:

  • Date
  • Type of post
  • Social media platform
  • Link to image to be included
  • Copy to be used

Having a master overview of what you’re posting when, eliminates the need to panic post, and ensures that you’re posting a variety of content as opposed to regurgitating the same thing ad nauseum

Pro tip: Simplify your life by using a posting scheduler tool like Hootsuite or Buffer.