Social media marketing refers to the process of gaining traffic or attention through social media sites. Social media itself is a catch-all term for sites that may provide radically different social actions. For instance, Twitter is a social site designed to let people share short messages or "updates" with others. Facebook, in contrast is a full-blown social networking site that allows for sharing updates, photos, joining events and a variety of other activities.

Social media marketing has been on the minds of marketers since the rise of Facebook and Twitter more than a decade ago. In 2018, it is very important for every brand to invest time and resources in social media marketing.

With 30% of millennials saying they engage with a brand on social at least once a month, your strategy cannot be only about existence. Brands must be fully invested in their social media marketing strategies and focus on engagement. Otherwise, you will lose out on real customers, which means serious effects on your bottom line.

Leveraging the power of content and social media marketing can help elevate your audience and customer base in a dramatic way. But getting started without any previous experience or insight could be challenging. It is vital that you understand social media marketing fundamentals.

The goals of social media marketing cannot be just to gain likes, fans, and retweets. These things are not ends, but means to an end. Social media marketing is far more than an online popularity contest, and the better business owners understand that, the better they can use it for their companies.

We asked social media expert Cynthia Johnson at Bell + Ivy to share a few social media marketing tips.

How and why did you get started in social media?

I have always been a person who finds myself striking conversation with my friends, family and even strangers no matter where I go. Whether it was during my previous jobs in the food and beverage industry, sales, nightlife or being the CEO of Bell + Ivy, a digital marketing and personal branding industry, I found it interesting the different ways in which people cultivate relationships in various places and with people from all walks of life from even the briefest interaction. When social media blew up to become a leading form of communication, I was fascinated with social interactions that were taking place online and how they can vary, benefit and change traditional forms of communication and relationship development.

Which social platform do you think is the most under-rated and under-used by businesses?

Which social platform do you think is the most under-rated and under-used by businesses?I believe the most under-rated social media platform for businesses is Twitter because it can easily be dismissed for internet trolls. However, a carefully attended and active Twitter account is useful because a message and/or promotional action can be delivered quickly and directly to an audience who are already interested in your company. Additionally, Twitter is a great way to connect with influencers because while they may have a PR team checking their emails and monitoring their other accounts, Twitter is a tool they use directly and check constantly. Twitter is memorable and easily shareable. Find a voice, stick to a theme, be genuine and you may get to Denny's, KFC, Refinery29, Chrissy Teigen or Ryan Reynolds status!

What are some of the biggest mistakes you see people make in social media?

Some of the biggest mistakes I see people make on social media are getting too invested in others people opinions and comments, not assigning particular content to the appropriate platform to create maximum outreach, not curating meaningful content in the appropriate format and not representing their company's brand/values accurately through their social media content. It is easy to get consumed in other peoples harsh opinions and get into heated internet battles but it is important to separate and understand that there will be voices of opposition that must be handled maturely and thoughtfully. From a marketing perspective, understanding which content is more appropriate for ie. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram etc. is important because different people are on these platforms for different reasons and the audience/demographic of users targeted by companies vary. Twitter is great for direct marketing, IG is perfect for photos and linking while Facebook offers great space for videos and events. Given the word limit on Twitter and how easy it is for users to disregard spam-like posts and ads on social media, knowing how to effectively deliver a message while utilizing the appropriate tags and hashtags will separate a successful brand and/or marketing campaign. A brands social content should mirror the values and overall message it has. Pepsi does a great job streamlining content on Instagram with a red, white, blue color scheme represented in fun graphics and their product incorporated throughout the photos in meals, recipes and with people. They wouldn't feature other sodas or stray away from their original branding.

What are some ways that a brand can connect and interact with social media influencers?

I have always believed in direct messaging or DM-ing social media influencers via Twitter. You would be surprised how many influencers check and reply in real time through this method of messaging. However, do your research, check their social media platforms, see which one they use the most and go from there. Most influencers will also mention somewhere in their bio's where they would like to be contacted. Send a thoughtful, well-curated message and be specific; don't beat around the bush and have confidence in what you have to say and the message will most likely be better received. Additionally, create a relationship with influencers - engage with them and have a meaningful conversation. Like a post, reply, repost, share, agree/disagree and tag them in posts.