However, even when resources and time are limited, you simply cannot afford to ignore the power of social for your business. Whether your aim is raising brand awareness, connecting and communicating with potential and current customers, driving traffic to your website or boosting sales, social media is a fast and cost-effective solution. Small businesses have just as much to gain from a social presence as the big brands – and with the benefit of a more personal approach, can build up a loyal and engaged community of customers. It can be difficult to know where to start. Here’s how to get the basics right, and develop a solid foundation which will help you achieve your business goals.
It’s simple enough to set up your social platforms and start posting off the cuff, or perhaps just posting occasionally when you have a specific sale or event to promote – but this approach is unlikely to bring you much benefit in the long run. You need to approach social media like you would any other marketing efforts – and that means starting out with a research-based social media strategy. Consider:
- What is your overall aim for your social media efforts?
- What are your competitors doing on social?
- Who are you trying to reach, and what are their interests and pain points?
- What influencers can you connect with to amplify your message?
- What type of content will resonate with your audience?
Choose your platforms
Key to your social media strategy is deciding which platforms you are going to focus your efforts on. This should be determined where your audience is spending their time online. Instead of spreading yourself thin, try focusing on the two platforms which are most popular with the people you are trying to reach – and doing them well. Just remember that each platform requires a different approach. You can and should repurpose your content – but tweak it to suit the platform which you are posting it to. Thinking of using Twitter as one of your platforms? Check out my top tips.
Make your brand stand out
Your bio, profile picture and (where relevant) header image are prime internet real estate – your virtual shop front. Incomplete descriptions and poor or inconsistent branding could cause visitors to leave your page straight away, before they even see your brilliant content. A great bio will include keywords relevant to your business, explain what you offer and include a call-to-action with a clickable link – to your website, landing page or Facebook group perhaps. Make sure your profile picture and header image are on brand and work for the relevant platform. Your header can be updated regularly to include details of awards, events or promotions.
Engaging with other people’s content – liking, commenting and sharing – is just as important as sharing your own. Respond to all your notifications. Answer people’s questions. Show that you are interested in what your customers have to say and that you value the conversation with them. Being active in groups or Twitter chats – by adding value, replying to questions, and nurturing the connections you make, is a fantastic way of boosting engagement and brand awareness. Just be aware that simply broadcasting about your products and services in these forums is frowned upon and will not win you followers!
Use hashtags well
The point of a hashtag is to increase the reach of, and engagement with, your post. This won’t be achieved by tagging random words or using hashtags which your target market are unlikely to be searching for. Hashtags should be relevant to the content, well-used (but not overused) and used appropriately for the platform. Time spent on researching high-performing hashtags for your niche and business will pay off in increased reach and visibility, especially on Twitter and Instagram. Look at the hashtags used by your competitors, by influencers in your field, and by your followers. Jumping on trending and seasonal hashtags and awareness days is always a great idea as well – as long as they are relevant to your sector.
People come to social media to be entertained, inspired, and educated, as well as to connect. So when you start planning your content, consider whether you are meeting these needs. Don’t forget that people love to feel they are getting a deal, so discounts, special offers and competitions are also a key part of a good social content strategy. For a well-rounded feed that keeps people interested and coming back for more, try to mix it up ,with different types of post (how-tos, inspirational quotes, behind-the-scenes posts, customer stories) as well as different formats (blogs, photos, infographics, videos). Or you might create added value and a community for your customers through a Facebook Group.
Analyse your results
How do you know whether all this content which you are pushing out is actually resonating with your audience and helping you to achieve your strategic goals? This is where you need to get your boots muddy in the analytics of your platforms. Each of the social media platforms includes excellent analytics. Use them to gain insights to drive your strategy forward – for example, what type and format of content is performing best for you, the times of day and days of the week where you get the most engagement, and your audience demographics and interests.
Consistency is key
A consistent posting schedule, to ensure there is at least some activity on your platforms daily, will get better results over time than the occasional flurry of activity followed by radio silence. Of course, there will be days and times when you are not around to be posting, and this is where a scheduling tool, such as Buffer, Hootsuite or ContentCal, comes into its own. Scheduling a few pieces of content to go out can take the pressure off and save time – although always remember that this doesn’t take the place of actually showing up on the platforms and engaging with your followers. If people comment on your scheduled posts, you need to make sure you acknowledge and reply to them, if not immediately, then within a few hours.
Remember, it is supposed to be fun…
Finally, if you are running the social channels for your business, you really need to ensure that you can enjoy your time on social media. When it becomes just another chore, you are likely to end up abandoning it. If you really dislike a particular platform or struggle to create certain types of content, then you might want to consider focusing your efforts elsewhere, or outsourcing. At its best, social media is a positive place to be, a chance to show your personality and your brand values, to make connections and to build communities. If you approach it with these aims in mind and take into account the tips above, then you should be well on your way to creating a stand-out social media presence for your business.