Social media can be a useful platform for small business advertising and marketing. But that’s only true if you know what you’re doing.
One of the oldest truisms in advertising is that you go where your customers are. In the old days, that means advertising on TV and radio. Today, that means going online. More specifically, it means advertising using social media.
That’s because that’s where the people are, at least for US consumers. Just about 3 out of 4 adults in the US use social media, and the kids are using it too. It means this is the platform you need to be on if you’re a small business owner.
The problem is that many SMBs simply don’t know how to use social media. Many complain that they end up spending too much time on social media while reaching very few people. It seems like it’s not worth all that trouble.
However, you can make social media work for your small business. To help you out, here are some easy tips that you can use:
1. Come Up with a Plan
Didn’t you first plan out things before you started your business? You need the same approach for social media marketing. You can’t just dive in and figure things out as you go along. You need to have a plan. Without it, you don’t even have a definitive goal to achieve with all your marketing efforts.
Your plan should contain the following elements:
- Objectives. Exactly what goals do you wish to achieve? These goals should be definitive and measurable. In addition, go for metrics that matter, such as increasing the number of conversions. These goals tend to be more important than the number of “likes” you get.
- Evaluate Your Current Methods. If you’re already on social media and you’re unsatisfied on how you’re doing, you should conduct an audit.
- 80-20 Rule. Make sure that your social media efforts aren’t all about just trying to promote your brand and your products (or services). You’ll just annoy your potential customers. Instead, use the 80-20 rule as your guide. About 80% of your social media content should be either entertaining or informative. Limit the promotion to just 20% of your posts.
- Check Out the Competition. Find out what your competitors are doing, and see how they’re succeeding. This isn’t cheating—you’re just using proven methods. It’s like how If a method works for a business similar to yours, then that method will work for you too.
- Look to other industries. You may find that the social media tactics used by companies in other industries can work with your business as well.
2. Pick the Right Platform
Just remember that you’re not limited to a single platform. You can go with both Facebook and Snapchat. However, you need to tailor your posts to suit the platform you’re using. For example, a post on Facebook can lead to your campaign page. But your Instagram post can make it easier for viewers to buy what you’re featuring on your post.
3. Find Out What Your Customers Like and Dislike
You need to know what kind of images resonate with your target audience. This may require some testing on your part. Check which images are liked more often, so that you can use these as templates for your next posts.
The same goes for the keywords you’re targeting. Go beyond the “obvious” keywords and seek their other interests. For example, some consumers prefer that they buy items that are eco-friendly.
As you know more and more about your intended audience, you should be able to form a definite idea of what they look like and what they like. This image of your typical customer will then affect your future marketing efforts, including the words and tones you use.
4. Aim to Increase Viewers
One goal you should always have in mind is to reach more people with your social media strategy. Losing customers to rival brands is a fact of life in business. To stay in business, you better make sure you get at least just as many new customers as you lose. To grow your business, you have to make sure that you get more new customers than the number of customers you lose over time.
5. Forge Relationships
Social media is great when it comes to emulating the “small town” approach. It’s not about reaching out to a massive audience. It’s about reaching out and forging a deeper relationship with each customer. It’s about the quality of the relationship with the customer, not the quantity of the customers.
In fact, social media was built for building relationships in the first place. That’s the course that your business must follow as well if you don’t want to alienate your audience.
It’s a rather indirect way of turning someone into a customer. First, you turn them into a friend. Once there you’re a friend, they’re then more apt to buy what you sell and use what service you offer. After all, weren’t your friends and family your first customers? It’s the same principle at work here.
Once a customer is your friend, you also have a more loyal patron. They’re less likely to switch to another brand. They’re more apt to try new products and services. More importantly, they can serve as your brand ambassadors. They can recommend your business when they know of someone in need of the products and services you offer.
This means you will need to engage with your audience. When you post something that elicits reactions and comments, you post a reaction to those as well. If they have questions, you provide answers. If they have complaints, you better have an apology ready or at least an explanation for the problem.
The nice thing about social media is that it is very easy for your fans to share your content. They will only bother to do so if they’re fans of yours in the first place, and one way to turn them into fans is to engage with them.
6. Don’t Forget Visuals
Too many people focus too much on just what words to use. But the visuals you use are important too, and sometimes they’re even more important than the accompanying text. After all, a picture’s worth a thousand words.
The popularity of platforms like Snapchat, Pinterest, and Instagram proves the importance of good visuals. Even text-heavy Twitter agrees with this. Twitter even acknowledges that tweets get more attention if they come with a cool GIF or image.
You can use photos of your products, but you can also try posting images of your workers or even of yourself. You can post photos of satisfied customers as well. Images tend to make something more real, more than any descriptive text. As they say, to see is to believe and images let people see.
Even stock photos can help, and you can find plenty of sites that offer free or inexpensive stock photos. Try to put in an image for every post—they make each post a lot more interesting at first glance. An interesting photo pulls in the interest of a viewer and invites them to delve into your text.
In a way, posts are like magazine articles. Haven’t you noticed that articles without graphics aren’t very inviting? As a reader, you’re faced with an intimidating block of text. But put in a photo and nice graphics, and somehow the words are easier to read and understand. Some graphics, such as charts, can make things a lot clearer than words can ever express.
7. Quality Content
Just as social media focuses on the quality of the customer relationship vs. the quantity of the customer, you also need to heed this principle when it comes to your posts. In other words, it’s better to have fewer but higher quality posts, than a lot of bad posts.
What this means is that when you post on social media, you better make sure that the post offers some kind of value to your viewers. Either you offer them education content or you give them something amusing or entertaining.
It’s best that you first stick to offering informative content. We’re assuming that as a small business owner, you know about your business. By offering informative content, you’re then demonstrating your authority and authenticity. You actually know what you’re talking about.
The importance of authenticity cannot be overemphasized. One survey even revealed that 86% of consumers based on their choice of brands according to their authenticity.
8. Productivity Tools
Many small business owners complain about tiring themselves out trying to produce quality content and engaging with customers, all to very little effect.
But you don’t have to do everything yourself, you know. Instead of drawing your own graphics and taking your own photos, maybe you can instead get free stock photos online. You can get a single dashboard to manage all your separate social media accounts. There are also ways for you to obtain free analytics so you know how well your social media efforts are working.
Just remember that there’s only so much you can do yourself. As your company grows, you probably need to assemble a team of workers to share some of the workloads. The same goes for your social media campaigns. Find online tools that can help and make things easier for you.
Check out there 21 Excellent Productivity Apps for Entrepreneurs
9. Monitor and Respond
In the old days, communications between a company and its customers were mostly one-way. The company talked through ads, and the customers listened. That’s about it.
Now, they can post comments for each post you make. One way of boosting your relationship with customers is simply acknowledging these comments and questions. A response from you means so much, and it proves that you’re not just another corporate machine interested solely in efficiently creating profits. Responding to these comments humanizes your brand.
In fact, this is so important that you need to be aware of online conversations that center and focus on your brand and your business. Tracking these conversations is known as social listening. It’s about monitoring various social media channels for mentions of your brand, and for any other facet of your industry.
Social listening can be very illuminating and can tell you the real concerns and opinions held by potential customers. From these conversations, you can get authentic insights on what they want from the products and services you offer. Listen to complaints, and use these comments to tweak and improve your products.
Not only can you get insights in real-time, but you can even join these conversations and make our voice heard. If there are negative rumors about your brand being brandished in these conversations, then you can dispel these rumors with your proof. If they have questions about your brand or your products, you can provide answers.
10. Create a Proper Schedule
It’s easy to lose yourself into social media, not realizing that you’ve spent too much time in it while neglecting other facets of your job. Social media can be vastly entertaining, and it can be addictive too.
But you can make a calendar so you can limit how much time you reserve for social media activities. You can also create your posts in advance, and then use scheduling tools to post them at their scheduled time.
Succeeding in social media can be difficult, and the truth of the matter is that more people fail here than those who succeed on a regular basis. But you can do it.
Just start small, with a single social media platform or two. Focus on what you’re doing. Don’t be locked into your plan if it’s not working. Try to improve as you go along. Make sure that you use analytics to tell you how you’re doing, and where you’re failing. Make corrections, and you’ll be on your way.