By Marc Schenker
Why use social media to grow your business? It’s where your customers are. There are nearly 2.5 billion social media users across the globe. And more than 50 percent of small business owners in the U.S. rely on social as their primary digital-marketing technique because of it’s effectiveness for finding and connecting with new customers. It also doesn’t cost an arm and leg to use like some traditional marketing methods.
If you haven’t already, it’s time to join the many small business owners who are using social to build awareness, drive sales, and gain new customers. This collection of social media tips for small business will have you well on your way to do just that.
Social media for small business: 10 tips to set you up for success
1. Start with a plan
Just like a business needs a business plan, your social media actions need to be informed by a carefully crafted strategy. As we establish in our six-step guide to creating a social media marketing plan you must:
- Set social media goals and objectives. It’s important to go beyond vanity metrics such as likes and retweets and also focus on factors like leads generated, conversion rates, and web referrals. Use the S.M.A.R.T goal framework—goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely—when establishing your social media goals.
- Conduct a social media audit. This means determining who is already connecting with you on social, which networks your target audience uses, and how your social media presence measures up against your competitors. Here’s our social media audit template to make this a cinch.
- Create or improve your existing accounts. After choosing which social networks are best suited for your small business, build up your social presence on each network, in accordance with your broader business goals and audience. If you already have existing social accounts, ensure they’re updated to reflect your brand values.
- Find inspiration. Look at what content those in your industry are already sharing, and use social listening to discover insights about appealing to prospects and setting yourself apart from your competition. It’s also advisable to look at industry leaders (Nike, Coca-Cola, Amazon, etc.) to see what they’re doing right and how to implement those tactics in your own strategy.
- Create a social media calendar. This is an essential part of your all-important content marketing plan. It should include the intended dates and times that you want to publish Facebook and Instagram posts and tweets, as well as any other social media content.
- Test, evaluate, and adjust your strategy. You should be constantly fine tuning your strategy based on performance metrics. Analyze things like number of clicks per post, the reach of your social campaigns, and the number of page visits resulting from social— then adjust and improve based on this data.
2. Decide which platforms are right for you
Not all social media platforms will be suitable for your business and the goals and objectives you’ve set. Below we offer a high-level look at the most popular platforms.
- Facebook: The world’s most popular social media network with more than 2 billion users as of September 2017, it features the largest number of regular users, making it the most appealing network in terms of sheer reach. For more, check out our definitive Facebook marketing guide for business.
- Instagram: Instagram’s claim to fame is its visual-centric approach, where successful marketing is based in large part on the aesthetic appeal of the content you share. This platform also boasts the best engagement levels among all social networks at 59 percent, according to the 2016 Bloglovin’ Global Influencer Survey. Related: How to Use Instagram for Business: A Complete Guide for Marketers.
- LinkedIn: The world’s largest social networking site for professionals with more than 467 million users. Learn how to put the platform to work for your business with our comprehensive LinkedIn marketing guide.
- Twitter: Twitter is renowned for its brevity thanks to the 280-character tweet limit. Our essential guide to Twitter marketing will teach you everything you need to know about tweeting your way to social media success.
- Snapchat: A disappearing content platform that’s especially popular with younger demographics. Here’s everything you need to know about using Snapchat for business.
YouTube: An excellent resource for brands who have the resources to take advantage of the popularity of online videos. Learn more about using the platform with our post 18 Smart Ways to Promote Your YouTube Channel.
- Pinterest: What makes Pinterest unique is its users, who are searching to find ideas for all parts of their lives. This makes Pinterest ideal for driving action, such as a purchase or a visit to your website. Learn more in our comprehensive guide to using Pinterest for business.
With this information, you can begin the process of whittling down which social sites make the most sense for your business. It could end up being one, some, or all.
3. Know your audience
Determining the traits of your target audience is a critical component of market research. Without this information, you’ll have no idea how to appeal to them.
You need to know things like age, gender, location, pain points, goals, average income, etc.
One of the best ways to conduct successful market research is by creating audience personas for your customers. You can create an audience persona by:
- Collecting demographic data from social media, surveys, focus groups, and customer interviews
- Looking for trends within this data (behaviors, ages, occupations)
- Establishing their pain points and goals
- Turning these traits into representations of people, complete with names, job titles, career histories
Read our complete guide to creating audience personas to learn more.
4. Use social media to promote and sell your products
Using social for promotion isn’t as easy as simply tweeting about your brand every once in a while or using Facebook advertising. You need a strategy in place to optimize your results.
For starters, use the famous 80/20 rule (also know as the Pareto principle) of social curation: 80 percent of your social promotional and selling success (the event) comes from just 20 percent of the cause (your social curation). Therefore, your social content across all your channels should be no more than 20 percent promotional. The other 80 percent should be about your customers—engaging with them and sharing relevant content that they will find valuable.
Then, you have to use each social channel according to its strengths.
For instance, if you’re selling T-shirts or jewelry, your best bet is using Instagram or Pinterest due to their image-centric nature. If you’re an apparel, beauty or jewelry retailer in the U.S., you now have the ability to tag your images in Instagram, so detailed product information, as well as a link back to your site, appears alongside the image.
Similarly, on Pinterest, small businesses can sell their products directly on the site, thanks to Buyable Pins, allowing customers to make a purchase in only a few clicks.
5. Incorporate images, videos, and graphics whenever you can
Use visual elements as much as you can, no matter what social platform you’re using. Sixty-seven percent of marketing decision makers say that they use visual content on social media for its engagement value, according to Lewis’ The State of Visual Communications in 2016.
Incorporating visuals—from static images to videos, GIFs, and memes—in your social media content is easy. Just make sure that whatever visual asset you’re using is relevant to your content and the audience.
6. Choose quality over quantity
It’s tempting to put your brand on as many social platforms as possible in an attempt to reach as large an audience as possible. But there’s no benefit to spreading yourself too thin.
When quantity increases, quality usually drops because you’re more focused on quotas: a certain number of tweets per week or a certain number of Facebook posts per month.
Instead, focus on quality over quantity. Go where your audience is and deliver them value. You’ll be rewarded for it.
If you’ve done your research and created audience personas, you should know which platform(s) your target customers prefer. Focus your efforts there, sharing quality content that solves their problems, makes their lives easier, entertains them, etc.
Remember the Pareto Principle: The majority of your social content shouldn’t be promoting yourself, it’s about adding value for the audience.