Social media continues to advance with new platforms and marketing methods developing rapidly. How can a busy business owner choose the right way to effectively promote their business? There are solid strategies entrepreneurs can use to elevate their profile and increase sales. Review our tips to get started.
The Value of Social Media for Small Businesses
Social media isn’t all about sales. There are solid reasons to market your business directly to customers. They include:
- Brand Awareness The first stop for consumers looking for products or services is usually an online search. If you have a robust presence online, customers will be more likely to engage with your brand. SmartBiz Customer Amir Zaki has had tremendous success using Instagram stories and images to establish his brand. “The thing that has really taken off for us is Instagram. It’s a unique community of positive people who trust each other. We have over 35,000 followers and my wife has become our social media guru. These days, Instagram drives 80% of our sales completely organically, without any paid advertising.” Read his story on the SmartBiz Small Business Blog: Success Story: The Infinity Strap.
- Responsive Customer Service Social media is a great way to answer customer questions and solve problems. Because it’s forward facing, unlike a phone call, others on your page can see that you’re responsive and care about your customers’ happiness. Facebook Messenger allows fans and followers to interact directly with someone on your team behind the scenes. The FreshSparks Blog takes a detailed look at social media customer service best practices: 6 Key Elements of Using Social Media for Customer Service.
- Other Forms of Customer Engagement In addition to customer service, social media is a great platform for having conversations with your customers. Since these conversations are internet-based, customers can respond to you on their own time, and this flexibility can increase their engagement. This improved engagement can convert up to 71% of potential customers.
- Increase Website Traffic and Search Ranking You don’t have to be an SEO (Search Engine Optimization) expert to elevate your profile online. The Google algorithm is always improving to eliminate spam websites and rank legitimate ones. A social media presence can positively influence your search ranking.
- Free Content Platform With A Huge Audience Social media platforms cost no money to join. You also won’t pay to post your content, connect directly with customers, and share it with a potential audience of millions (with the exception of ads).
Tips to Get Started
- Get to Know Your Audience When you started your company, you had a target customer in mind. If you offer products or services to a specific demographic, (like parents, millennials, locals, women, etc.) that’s who you should engage with on social media. Take a look at your business plan to nail down the audience you want to reach and target your content to them.
- Pick a Platform This can be the hardest part of crafting a social media strategy. You don’t want to waste time or spread yourself too thin on platforms that won’t produce the results you want. The InfusionSoft Business Success Blog has done the research for you. Review this post to learn about which platform is targeted to different audiences. For example, Facebook is best to reach those 55+ while Instagram is best for millennials and women: Which Social Media Platforms to Choose for Your Small Business.
- Focus on Relationships A social media marketing strategy in which you speak about your brand without giving others a voice isn’t as engaging. Your social media posts should seek to start conversations with customers and other figures in your field. Two easy ways to achieve this goal are to:
- Start a Facebook Group Perhaps as part of your email marketing approach, you can invite those who purchase your products into an exclusive, private Facebook group. In this group, customers can ask each other – and you – questions about your product or service. This way, you can strengthen customers’ relationships with your company without any additional social media posts.
- Work With Influencers in Your Niche When influencers promote a product, the company’s customer base may quickly increase. Influencers have high engagement rates since their audiences trust them, so being connected to an influencer can lead to quick relationships with their followers too.
- Keep Up With Trends If you know what people are seeking on certain social media channels, you can tap into these trends to inform your content. For example, if you’ve realized that your target audience uses Instagram to get local food recommendations, cater your content to meet this need. Or if your customers are flocking there for gorgeous photography instead, incorporate user-generated content into your plan.
- Sell Directly From Social Media While it’s always best practice to operate your main webstore from your website, social media platforms are increasingly becoming standalone sales hubs. In fact, nearly one in every five Americans has bought a product directly from Facebook, and just over one in 10 have done the same on Instagram.
Enabling these purchases is increasingly important in social media management. Platforms like Facebook and Instagram make this easy, too, allowing you to list and tag products directly on the platform.
- Schedule And Automate Your Posts Posting on social media can be tedious and time-consuming. Scheduling and automating your posts solves this problem. With a posting schedule in place, your content will appear on a regular basis with far less work on your end. Plus, you’ll get more time back to engage directly with customer responses to your content.
- Fine-Tune Your Brand Voice With some companies taking to social networks to post sardonic content instead of explicit calls to action, you’ll need a unique social media presence to stand out. An unusual brand voice can help you achieve this goal. Go for a style that’s at once natural yet atypical, and use it to start posting about your products in unexpected ways. If MoonPie’s viral Twitter success is any indication, correctly following this social media marketing tip could drastically boost your brand awareness.
- Analyze Your Competitors Although replicating the exact types of content your competitors share is ill-advised, you can (and should) learn from their examples. If one of your competitors sees high engagement on its photos, add more visuals to your social media content. Or if you see a competitor using its Twitter as a rapid-response customer service portal, try that approach on your channel.
- Analyze and Revise Perhaps the most important of all social media tips for small business owners is that what works today might not work tomorrow. To counter this challenge, you should consistently analyze and revise your content. All social media business platforms come with free analytics tools you can use to see how well your content is leading to sales of your products or services. Use this information to adjust your approach as needed.
Define Your Plan
- Goals What do you hope to achieve? Brand awareness, lead generation and customer engagement are just a few goals you can consider when nailing down your strategy.
- Audit You can get tons of information and ideas by looking at big brand websites along with competitors. See what content they’re producing and how followers are interacting. What’s working and what isn’t? This information can help craft your unique strategy.
- Calendar Develop a social media calendar to schedule content and post times. SmallBizTrends has an easy-to-use template available in Word, Excel or a PDF document for a free download here: Social Media Calendar Template for Small Business
- Evaluate and Adjust It’s important to evaluate and test how your efforts are paying off. Social Media experts SproutSocial have developed a comprehensive guide to help you gauge how you’re doing: The Ultimate Social Media Testing Guide
Create Your Content
- Add Videos Images and Visuals It’s no secret that visually appealing posts will get attention. After all, people go on social media to be entertained. Use images, videos, GIFs and memes to engage your audience. These days, you can even snap a high quality photo on your phone and quickly upload it to a social media platform. Get inspired by taking a look at brands that have caught your eye to learn how they are successfully (or unsuccessfully) using visuals. Take a look at how this pet product company is using eye-catching visuals to engage their audience: EarthDog Instagram
- Quality over Quantity Posting constantly, posting the same message over or posting irrelevant content can cause follower fatigue. In a battle between quality and quantity, quality wins. As you build your online community, post relevant content. You’ll likely see an increase in views, likes and shares. Ask yourself if it’s helpful information and relevant to what the audience is looking for. No matter what you’re posting, check the analytics to determine which posts are most successful.
Social Media Management
"It takes discipline not to let social media steal your time." These words of wisdom are from Alexis Ohanian, an Internet entrepreneur who co-founded the social news website Reddit.
Business owners are busy enough without getting tangled up in social media management. Some entrepreneurs might have the bandwidth to handle the ins and outs. If not, don’t give up. Task a person on your team with social media responsibilities or hire an outside professional. To help you find the right fit, review this article from the SmartBiz Blog: How to Hire a Social Media Strategist