Digital marketing and social media opens up a world of opportunity for engaging and communicating with existing and potential customers. From Facebook to Google Adwords to email marketing the first step is to create a strategy for using these tools to achieve your goals. 

The resources in this section cover the basics, including an overview of the social media channels and how to get started creating a social media plan.

Why use social media to engage your customers?

Using social media as part of your marketing toolbox can enable you to reach more customers while enhancing relationships with existing customers.

Know your platform: An overview of social media channels


Facebook is a casual, friendly online environment. Getting your business on Facebook offers many advantages including branding, customer engagement, community building, market research and targeting, low cost marketing and SEO benefits - helping your business to be found online.


Twitter is a public forum where anyone can read and share messages. Made up of 140 character messages called 'Tweets' Twitter members can broadcast tweets and follow other users to receive their tweets. This gives businesses a way to communicate directly with present and future customers in real time.

Benefits include the ability to broadcast messages to thousands of people, instead of just one. With approximately 215 million active users, Twitter can be a great way to connect with your customers and get their feedback.

If you are not familiar with Twitter, take a look around and review how your competitors are using the platform. If you’re still unsure whether it’s the right fit for your business, Twitter provides a guide on the basics, information on marketing with Twitter, and some success stories.


LinkedIn is a social networking site for people in professional occupations, it is a social media platform suited to B2B (Business-to-business) marketing. LinkedIn is of a more conservative nature when compared to Facebook or Twitter. Users of this channel are generally seeking professional and informative content.

Setting up a LinkedIn company page can raise brand awareness, promote job vacancies and educate potential customers about your products and services.  You can use LinkedIn to generate business leads and strengthen customer relationship by sharing company updates. To find out more about how to set up a LinkedIn company page, and how to showcase your business on LinkedIn, take a look at their online resources.


Google+ is a social network and more, it integrates the entire Google toolkit, and carries significant weight for improving organic search visibility. It makes sharing and managing content across all Google services easier.  Google+ is a powerful tool for connecting with your customers, whether they are looking for your business on Search, Maps, Google+ or mobiles devices. Google+ pages perform well in Google search results, displaying key information such as your hours of operation and contact details.

You can also use your Google+ page to build a loyal fan base; customers can show their appreciation with ratings and reviews, endorse your content and re-share your posts. Get started by creating a Google+ page.


YouTube is the most popular video broadcasting website, with over 1 billion unique visitors every month. YouTube is also the largest search engine after Google — YouTube videos are around 50 times more likely to show on the first page of search results as part of the blended results shown by Google.

This social media channel could be right for your business if you can visually showcase your products or services, or would like to establish yourself as a leader in your field. YouTube is a powerful platform to tell your businesses story, and to let your customers tell their stories about your product or service.  The National Business Review provides an article on the many advantages of YouTube. 

To find out more about how to get started on YouTube take a look at the Creator Hub.


Instagram is a visual marketing platform. Creating a brand profile on Instagram can increase your brands visibility to an engaged audience. Photo and video content is a powerful medium for connecting with customers and creating an emotional response.

Photos can bring your products to life. Crowdsourcing photos and videos of customers using your product can be a powerful way to connect with your audience. Instagram is a lot like window-shopping on a phone or tablet, showcase pictures of current and upcoming products to build brand awareness and increase the visibility of your latest offerings.

The Instagram Help Centre provides a guide to the basics of getting your business on Instagram.

Quick guide to using social media

If you'd like to get involved on social media, but don't know where to start, take a look at our quick guide.

Find Your Best Fit

Start by considering which social media channels are most suitable for your business. Many businesses start off by setting up a Facebook page and then move onto developing other accounts. It can also be helpful to research what your competitors are doing in the social media space, and see what works for them.


Establishing a healthy social media presence can be a very slow process. You can’t expect your list of fans, followers or subscribers to grow overnight. It takes time and commitment to grow your social media presence. 


Once you have identified the social media channel you’re going to focus on, it’s time to turn your attention to the methods you'll use to engage with your users, and how frequently. Infrequent interaction is one of the main reasons businesses experience social media failure. Steady and consistent communication is one of the stepping stones to success, and it doesn't have to be hard. Consider creating a plan or schedule, this might include actions such as creating a certain number posts of each week, running a monthly competition, or tweeting daily. Setting aside time each day to monitor your social media accounts, respond to comments and engage with your audience ensures queries don't go unanswered. Social Media is a powerful tool for directly communicating with your customers, so make sure to respond when they reach out. The Golden Rule; don't let a week go by without generating content.

Create Good Content

Your fans and followers don’t want commercials, they want conversation. They don’t just want to hear how great your company is, they already like or follow you. Focus your content strategy on giving your audience information they want and need. A good rule of thumb is to create 80% valuable content with a focus on your customer and things that will interest and engage them, and 20% on promoting your business. Keep an eye out for interesting and relevant content to share and comment on as well as generating fresh content.

Run Competitions or Promotions 

Once you have a good following it can be worthwhile running a competition or promotion to keep fans and followers excited, interested and coming back. Most importantly, it’s a great way to get your business or brand in front of more people and build your audience. That doesn’t mean you need to run them all the time, you might like to focus on running promotions at key times per year (like Father's Day or Christmas) or every 2 months – you decide. Ensure you check up on Facebook's rules before launching a competition on your page.

The Government's social media toolkit provides a useful guide to social media and how it can be applied.  Although the toolkit is aimed at local government it is also a useful guide for small businesses.


How do you develop a social media plan?

There are many ways to create a social media plan. A basic plan could include the following:

Business Goals

Define what it is you want to achieve through your use of social media, for example is it to increase sales, build your customer database or increase brand awareness.  Make sure goals are specific, realistic and measureable. Ideally they will tie in with the overall goals of your business.

An Audience Profile

To create an effective social media strategy, start by getting a clear picture of your ideal customer. With this data you can match your social media marketing effort with the most appropriate social network for your audience.

Competitor Analysis

Competitive analysis is an effective marketing tactic. Review what your competitors are doing, and get to know their strengths and weaknesses.  This will provide insight into things to avoid as well as ideas for your own pages.

Content Guide 

To gain and engage an audience consider what content they want from you. Try to create value, without overselling. Consider providing discounts, and information around your products or services. Photo and video content are more effective than simply using text.  Also, read the section on Content Marketing Planning to help you create value for a customer in a way that traditional marketing doesn't.

Content Plan

Building a schedule of your planned online activity in advance can take some of the stress out of managing Social Media.  The section below on Content Marketing Planning includes more information on content plans and how to get started.

Writing Style Guide

Social media isn't a space for hard selling. Your tone is likely to be slightly more informal and conversational. Decide on the tone and keep it consistent throughout your posts or communications.

Don't forget to Monitor & Track Progress

Before you get started it can be helpful to conduct an audit of your social media sites, record how many fans and followers you have, and check the information contained on each site is up-to-date and links are active. Use this as a starting point to monitor interactions. Once you have activated your campaign, remember to track your progress, review analytics, see what’s working and what’s not and use this information to refine your ongoing activity.

If you need further guidance, the New Zealand Government provides a hands-on social media toolkit.

Content Marketing Planning

What is Content Marketing?

Content marketing is about providing consistent, regular, useful information to customers in order to build a relationship that leads to business, trust and loyalty. You want to become a resource that solves problems and puts you in a position of authority.

Why is a Content Marketing Important?

Traditional marketing channels are becoming less effective. We fast forward through TV adverts, surf the web in such a way we absorb the information we are interested in and automatically filter out the ads and banners. Content marketing provides the customer with value in a way that traditional marketing does not.

Why have a Content Plan?

The purpose of a content marketing plan is to facilitate the consistent delivery of your content marketing. It acts as a roadmap for the types of content you will create.

The planning should be done before you create the content.  A content plan should help you to;

  • Identify your content marketing goals
  • Identify your target audience
  • Determine the type of content that is best for your target audience and how you will deliver it(e.g. tutorials, guides, interviews, infographics, curated content)
  • Define your publishing schedule
  • Develop a promotion strategy (e.g. email list, social media, relationships with trusted sources)
  • Measure and track the success of your content

Content plans will be different, depending on the business, you don’t necessarily need a large formal plan, but you do need to take the time to think through your goals, identify who you are trying to reach and how you are going to do it and what your success metrics are. If you don’t have a Content plan you risk spending hours creating ineffective content.

How to Get Started with a Content Plan

There is a wealth of information on the Internet about how to create a Content Plan.  Check out our presentation on Slide Share which provides step by step instructions on how to create a content plan.

 Uncommonly Social provides a one-page content marketing plan which would be a great starting point for small businesses. The Victoria State Government provides a template for businesses to help them plan and manage content and some useful tips. TechSmith’s top 10 tips for planning your marketing strategy may also help you define your content marketing plan.

Think your business is too small or your product or service is boring? - Have a look at 5 content strategies for boring brands or check out these successful examples by small businesses.

It’s important to remember that for your plan to be successful it should generate a two-way conversation. As well as being shareable, your content should trigger discussions and encourage comments. Consider the issues in your industry, the questions people are asking.

Using a Third Party to Manage Social Media

Many businesses have identified that social media is an important channel to engage with customers, however not all businesses have the knowledge or resources to use social media to its full potential. Mastering social media marketing is often not as simple as it may seem at first glance and driving the best possible return on investment takes both time and experience.

Why should I consider using a third party?

Outsourcing can be a great solution to ensure consistent and strategic use of social media across the range of platforms your business decides to use. Outsourcing can also be a more cost effective option than dedicating your staff’s time, or hiring a full time resource to manage social media.

Some examples of agencies include;

Email Marketing

We have all heard of email marketing, and chances are you receive it in your inbox. But few of us know how to use it so it strengthens our customer relationships.

What is Email Marketing?

In simple terms, email marketing is when a business sends an email to a group of people, such as customers, using email. It can take many forms, such as a newsletter, adverts, announcements of new products or services, and specials or promotions. If done correctly email marketing can be a great way of staying in contact with your customers while also promoting your business.

Why use email to market your products and/or services?

Email marketing has become popular relatively fast because it allows a business to quickly and easily reach their target markets in a much more focused and less expensive way than traditional marketing such as radio, television or print adverts.

It can help you to stay in contact with customers who have purchased from you, while introducing them to new products or services. Or, you can use it to providing customers with useful information enabling you to build a relationship with them that can lead to trust, more business and loyalty.

Email marketing is currently more trusted and effective than social media in converting sales and maintaining ongoing relationships.  For more information read How email is crushing Twitter and Facebook.

Email Marketing Software

There is some pretty smart tools around to help businesses with their email marketing. Some tools even allow businesses to group their customers based on information such as – how long they have been a customer, their spending habits, likes and dislikes and demographic information. The business can then send out emails to specific groups providing them with ‘personalised’ emails containing information that is likely to be of interest to them.

Most email marketing tools will store emails in a database and provide some kind of campaign management capabilities. The more sophisticated software include CRM (customer relationship management) and salesforce management tools.

The great thing for smaller businesses is that many of the email marketing software providers offer a free version. Their logic is, that if you business' needs grow beyond the limits of the free product you will upgrade to their paid version, rather than search for a new product.

Before jumping in and choosing the first email marketing software you come across - do your research. Consider what your business wants to achieve. Talk to friends, colleagues and other businesses about the tools they are using. provides a great article on free email marketing tools, which includes a detailed comparison of 9 free email marketing tools.

3 Tips for Getting Started with Email Marketing

  • Grow your database - Include a sign-up form on your website and social media channels, and encourage customers to sign up to receive updates, specials and promotions. Consider running competitions or promotions to encourage your customers to sign up to your mailing list.
  • Don't overdo it - You want to make sure you keep in regular contact with your potential customers, but without flooding their inbox with your emails. If you contact them too often they will delete your emails without reading them, or ask you to remove them your mailing list. Once or twice a month is enough.
  • Plan your approach - Create a content plan. This is a schedule of your planned online activity, it identifies your target audience, topics, objectives, responsibilities and how you will measure the effectiveness of your emails. Having a content plan can take the stress out of email marketing. Refer to Content Marketing Planning for how to get started.

And, before you get started read these 9 common email marketing mistakes and how to avoid them. And, don't use PDF newsletters.

Why advertise online?

Given that 97% of NZ consumers search online for products and services there is potential that digital advertising could be a great way to market your business.

Find out some key information about your customers:

  • What industries are they from?
  • What size is a typical business?
  • Where are they based?

Information about your customers can help you identify websites that they might commonly access (eg: news sites, industry sites) and allow you to select the most appropriate sites to advertise on. Google Adwords can also be highly effective in driving traffic to your website.

Don't use PDF newsletters

Approximately 50% of emails are now opened on mobile devices. That means that every second email you send is being opened on a smartphone or tablet, and this figure is set to increase as mobile devices become more and more ubiquitous.

Now, consider the impact if you have sent a potential customer a PDF document. The PDF was designed to be a digital 'page'. A format for distributing content across the web and email, for printing out and reading, retaining the typefaces and graphics in exactly the location they were placed.

The reading experience of a PDF on a mobile is so bad that many don’t even bother to try.  – We have all been there, squinting at our mobile device - trying to read and navigate a school newsletter, white paper or restaurant menu that was designed to be printed at A4 size.  If your readers have to pinch and zoom to read your email then potentially you have lost them.  Some may wait until they are back at their desktop to read it, but by the time that happens 10 other emails can take priority and the opportunity is lost.

In content marketing you need to strike while the iron is hot, and in email campaigns that's when the email is first opened — if your content isn't readable and easy to share at that moment then you're practically throwing away half of your precious email database. "71% of subscribers delete emails that look bad on phones".

So make sure, whatever product you chose for email marketing, it enables Responsive Web Design so that your potential customers get the best possible reading experience regardless of the device that opens your email.