Thumbs UpSocial media marketing is one of the biggest buzzwords today as more and more brands, businesses and organizations are recognizing its importance. However, there are many who fail to understand what the best social media agencies do. They believe social media marketing is just about knowing your way around Facebook or occasionally sending out 140-character tweets. Why hire an experienced social media marketing agency or specialist when any Internet-savvy teenager can easily navigate social networks? Why invest in someone who’s just going to write up some quick statuses?

Effective social media marketing goes miles beyond that. That’s why.

True, quality digital marketing does involve Internet proficiency and familiarity with today’s most popular social networks, but it also requires specialized marketing knowledge and a deep understanding of audience behavior. Here are some of the tasks that only a truly skilled and experienced individual or agency can contribute to a campaign.

Setting Goals

An effective social media marketer must understand the company’s objectives and base campaign goals around them. These goals should be clear and specific and ambitious, yet they must also be realistic. Knowing how to reach these goals is essential, but setting the right goals for a brand or campaign is even more crucial.

Identifying and Understanding Audiences

The success of any marketing campaign relies heavily on targeting specific audiences and understanding what strategies work best with those demographics. Every update must be made with the target in mind. A good social media marketer should understand their demographics’ habits, desires and personalities and use that information to optimize content, wording and timing.

Focusing on Conversions

Maintaining a brand’s social media presence with fun, interesting content is great, but many fail to connect the purpose of these updates with the real goal: sales. Congratulations, your Twitter account has tens of thousands of followers and that last Facebook update got a thousand comments, but are your customers merely entertained, or are your social media marketing efforts actually producing conversions? Anyone can amuse audiences, but critical in social media marketing is understanding what needs to be done to actually sell the product.

Analytics and Measuring ROI

A key component of any marketing campaign is understanding its results. A social media manager should not only create effective social content, but also continuously analyze the campaign’s performance, tracking against the goals to see what works best with audiences, measure return on investment and make corrective adjustments to the campaign. Don’t forget that analytics go beyond simply tracking the number of followers, likes or comments; more important is accurately measuring conversions.

Reactive Engagement

After initially engaging audiences, many marketers fail to continue interacting with fans. You’re patting yourself on the back for posting a photo that got a big response, but don’t stop there. Go back and react to the engagement you’ve sparked. Reply to fans’ questions and comments, taking every opportunity to lock in brand loyalty. Most marketers who do this focus on responding to negative feedback, but don’t limit your reactive engagement to complaints.

Integrating Other Tactics

Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest can go a long way in a web-based initiative, but a marketer should expand the campaign by integrating tactics beyond the usual social networks. Online video, interactive games, contests and innovative content can lift marketing to its full potential. This requires knowing which tactics will be the most useful in a particular campaign and finding, organizing and managing the talent that can produce this content.

Predicting Trends

Social media management is about understanding current trends and employing them well, but beyond that, it’s about predicting what comes next. Marketing can be effective if it sticks to tried-and-true social media techniques, but if you want to blow it out of the water, you must be ahead of the curve and utilize the next big thing in social media, whatever that may be. That’s what will truly intrigue customers and get people talking about a brand.

While anyone can manage a company’s social media, few can manage it effectively. When investing in social media marketing, brands should choose an agency or specialist who truly understands digital marketing and will make their investment worthwhile.

Kirstie is Supercool Creative's Digital Marketing Specialist. She is a graduate of UCLA who has been fascinated by all things Internet-related since an early age and is passionate about the ever-evolving world of online marketing.