As a small business owner, you’ve probably heard it dozens of times before, “You need to be on social media.” But what does that mean exactly?
It may unleash a flurry of thoughts like: How can that help my business? I use it in my personal life, but I have no idea what to talk about when it comes to my business. I’ll run out of ideas. Nobody is interested in what I have to say anyway. I have no idea which ones to be on. Does it matter?
Or perhaps you just never took an interest in social media and avoided it altogether. So, you have no clue where to start. Why should you bother to learn?
Well, as much as you may dislike the idea of embracing social media—for whatever reason—it offers you a world of opportunity when it comes to increasing your bottom line. You really can’t afford to dismiss it.
Reading this article will help you realize what you’ve been missing or perhaps, doing incorrectly. We’ll look at everything from why you should make the leap to how to create a post. It might require some effort if this is all new to you, but it will be worth it.
What are the Benefits of Using Social Media for Small Business Marketing?
You’ll be more motivated to learn how to fully utilize social media, if you first understand what it can do for you. So, let’s take a quick look at the key advantages for your business:
- Visibility. If you can learn to master the use of social media outlets, you can get way more bang for your buck in terms of visibility than you can with traditional advertising. The more helpful and engaging content you create, the more likely it is to be shared, giving you a wider audience. So, for a relatively low cost, you can get in front of many eyes.
- Improved customer engagement. Beyond sharing valuable content and being seen as a reliable source, social media also gives you an opportunity to directly connect with customers. Responding to comments and messages cultivates a sense of trust and community. It helps to reinforce a positive brand image and build customer loyalty.
- Cost-effective marketing. If you, or someone in-house, can generate great online content, social media can be very inexpensive. Most social media platforms are free to use. Even their paid advertising options are cheaper than traditional forms of advertising.
- Improved search engine rankings. One of the criteria search engines use to rank websites is social media activity. So, using it can help you rank higher, making it easier for potential customers to find your business online.
- Increased brand awareness. When you share helpful, valuable content in social media, you’re establishing your business as an authority in the field and as a brand that can be trusted. It builds brand awareness and gives you more credibility when you share new products or services.
Quick Overview of the Steps to get Started on Social Media Marketing.
- First, you must identify your target audience. It can be helpful to start with your current customer base. What are their needs and preferences? This can help you identify the type of person you need to reach. Once you understand this, you can more easily target your message to their interests.
- Decide on your content strategy. What can you offer that will be of interest to your target audience? Your posts should be related to your business or expertise in your field.
For example, if you own a bakery, you could share some recipes—show how to make them and encourage people to post pictures of their versions. Keep in mind, you don’t have to put all your secret recipes out there, but it’s okay to share a few. Most people don’t want to bake it themselves anyway, so they’ll come into your store instead, especially if it’s a recipe that is time consuming to make.
Once you start brainstorming, there are lots of ideas. Host a scheduled Q & A so followers can get your expert advice for baking-related problems. Talk about the health aspects of certain ingredients, or substitutions for common ingredients. You could make a contest out of a special offering—have customers post their guesses for the secret ingredient. Enter all the correct guesses into a raffle for a prize.
- Identify your goals and objectives. What pay off do you want from social media? Do you want more website traffic? Improve customer satisfaction? Develop a mailing list?
- Pick your platforms. Don’t spread yourself too thin. Done correctly, it’s time-consuming to be on a platform, much less, multiple platforms. It’s best to figure out where your customer is most likely to be and establish yourself there. For instance, if you’re targeting middle-aged men, you don’t want to be on Instagram. Master one platform before adding more.
- Create a Content Calendar. For social media to be effective, you must be consistent.
Developing a content calendar is a great way to make that happen. It’s basically a schedule you will follow to assure you are posting with regularity. Some content calendars also map out the subject matter for each post weeks in advance so there will be no scrambling for a topic at the last minute. It keeps the posts focused and cohesive.
- Start posting. Create some video, take some pictures—don’t worry about getting things perfect, just start posting. The good thing about social media is that you look more real and relatable if it’s not perfect.
- Engage. Social media is not just about posting. It’s also about building relationships with your customers. Make sure to respond to comments and messages from your followers on your chosen platforms. This will help to improve customer loyalty and build a positive brand image. Social media is a give and take.
Best Practices for Creating and Sharing Engaging Content.
Not sure where to start with the creation of content? The following should give you the guidance you need to get started.
- Use visuals. Photos, video, and illustrations have become an increasingly important part of social media. Posts with images or videos are more effective at grabbing user’s attention. Think about ways you could use these elements. For instance, reveal new products or share a behind-the-scenes video.
- Be authentic. Avoid posting a lot of promotional content. In fact, some experts suggest social media is for building relationships with your customer, not for selling. There are a variety of opinions about how often you should be informative and how often you can be salesy. But the bottom line is the majority of your posts should be helpful or entertaining. If your audience sees you as providing value to them, they are more likely to engage with you. If they feel you are only trying to sell to them, they’ll ignore you.
There are many ways to interact without selling. Think about providing helpful tips, share a first peek at a new product, highlight interesting employees, sponsor a contest, or showcase your company doing good in the community.
- Use hashtags. Hashtags are a marker identifying subject matter in your post so that it can be shown to people looking at related subject matter. This can increase your reach. For instance, if you’re a clothing store and you just posted about new styles for the season, you could use hashtags like #fashion or #style.
A hashtag can appear anywhere in your post, but typically comes at the end. It is preceded by the “pound sign,” consists of a few words and has no spaces between the words. Use no more than 12 hashtags per post, some experts say no more than two. The tag must relate to the subject matter of your post.
It’s best to research your platform for their rules and guidelines. You should also research potential hashtags to ensure the hashtags you use aren’t a part of some negative conversation you won’t want to be associated with.
- Share user-generated content. Content, such as customer reviews and photos, can be incredibly effective at building trust and credibility with your audience. Consider reposting this content on your social media pages (with the user’s permission).
- Be consistent. Post regularly and use a consistent tone and branding elements across all your social media channels. This will build brand awareness and help keep your audience engaged.
Importance of Tracking and Measuring Social Media Metrics.
Tracking and measuring your social media metrics are so important, it deserves an article of its own. That’s because it allows you to analyze the effectiveness of your posts and adjust as needed.
The main metrics you’ll want to monitor are engagement rate, reach, click-through rate (CTR) and conversion rate. By tracking these four you can determine what is working and what isn’t. It will keep you from wasting time on dead-end posts that could prompt your followers to ignore you and move on to other things.
The engagement rate reflects the likes, comments, and shares a post receives. A high engagement rate is a good indicator that your audience is enjoying your content and likely to continue interacting with you.
Reach measures the number of people who have seen your content. A high reach indicates that your content is being seen by a lot of people, increasing brand awareness.
The CTR accounts for the people who click on a link in your post. A high CTR shows that your content is effective at driving traffic to your website or other online properties.
The conversion rate shows you how many people take a desired action, such as signing up for a newsletter, after seeing your content. A high conversion rate means your content is effective.
By tracking your social media metrics, you can tailor your posts after those that have the highest rates based on your goals.
Effective Time and Resource Management for Social Media Marketing.
Executing a social media plan can become a black hole for many small businesses if they don’t have knowledgeable staff to handle it. In that case, you will need to designate time for social media. In addition to maintaining a content calendar, you’ll need to schedule time to respond to comments, messages, and reviews.
If you’re going to handle social media in-house, consider creating a content library. Stockpiling pre-written posts, photos, and videos means you won’t be scrambling at the last minute to find content when a post is due. Plus, it allows you to schedule content in advance for automated posting.
Keep in mind, it’s better to focus on a few social media platforms and do them well, rather than spreading yourself too thin and doing nothing well. Concentrate your social media marketing on the platforms that are most relevant to the intersection of your business and your audience.
There are many tools available that can help you manage your social media presence more efficiently. They offer features like scheduling posts in advance to drop automatically, tracking and analyzing your metrics, and managing multiple accounts from one platform.
If you have the budget, you might want to seriously consider outsourcing this part of you marketing plan to a virtual assistant or social media management company. It will save you time and ensure your social media posts are professional and effective.
The Time to Start Is Now.
If you aren’t currently using social media, or you’ve only been dabbling in it, now is the time to get serious. Every day you wait, you are missing out on a great opportunity to expand your reach and increase your bottom line.