“As a small business owner, should I be using social media?”
The simple answer to that question is, yes. There are no two ways about it, all businesses in 2019 should be utilising social media to their advantage.
Gone are the days that businesses can simply rely on word of mouth or repeat custom from locals to keep their business afloat. Social media is undoubtedly the most powerful way of getting your products and services in front of thousands of people, reaching out to new audiences and encouraging previous customers to keep coming back.
The best thing about using social media? It’s free, so anyone can do it.
However, it’s easy to get it completely wrong. There are ways and means of ensuring that you are using social media in the most effective way for your business to get the best results. In this article, we highlight key tips and tricks that you should be doing to get the most out of social networking.
Choose the right platforms for your business
Things are a lot different now than they were 13 years ago when Facebook exposed itself to the public. There are now thousands of different social media networks out there, hoping to get a slice of Facebook’s success.
This is important to know, because social media marketing is only effective if you’re targeting the right people. So, you need to know where those people, in terms of which social networks they’re frequenting. Sure, Facebook now has over 2 billion active monthly users, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that’s the right path to take to get you in front of your target audience.
Not only that, but each platform has certain qualities that make them better suited for achieving different goals. Depending on your business objectives, you may want to look into which platform will be the best for generating leads – if that’s your goal, or building brand awareness if that’s what your main focus is. Let’s take a look at some of the most popular social networks and how they could work for your business:
- Facebook – A family and friends community orientated network, great for B2C and in some cases B2B. Facebook connects a variety of age ranges, with over 50% of users being between ages 18-34.
- Instagram – Best for B2C, Instagram relies on photo sharing and visual content, great for increasing brand awareness and improving company image. Instagram is continuously rolling out new tools and features to help businesses succeed, such as ads, external swipe-up links on stories and the ability for users to purchase products directly in the app.
- Twitter – 75% of B2B and 65% of B2C businesses market on Twitter. It’s a powerful platform which excels in delivering major news, announcements and other time-sensitive information to a huge audience immediately. Jumping on trending topics and engaging with your customers/prospects who @ your account is huge for succeeding on Twitter.
- Snapchat – A great network for getting your content in front of a younger demographic – 75% of Snapchat users are under 34 years old. One of the fastest growing social network platforms which provides personalised content and the opportunity for people to connect directly with brands and influencers.
- Pinterest – Capitalising on visual content, Pinterest is a great network to utilise for influencing purchasing decisions. From home décor to craft ideas and even travel destinations, many people head to Pinterest to get inspiration whilst in the mindset to buy.
- Linkedin – The number one social network platform to look to for building authority, a trustworthy brand name and engaging with people of importance in both the B2B and B2C markets.
Know your end goal
As with anything in business, it’s not advisable to jump in two feet first without knowing why you’re doing it, or what you’re hoping to achieve. In order to measure your success, you need to think about your end goal in social media marketing. Do you:
- Want to generate more leads?
- Increase conversions?
- Improve your customer service?
- Build brand awareness?
The answer to this crucial question will enable you to devise a strategy to ultimately lead you to that goal, and ensuring that everyone in your team is on the same wavelength.
Creating content and writing messages geared towards your objectives, posting relevant links and utilising product shopping features on social networks are all what will drive you to getting the results you want – but this won’t be possible without knowing what that goal is in the first place.
Pushing content out there for the sake of it is unlikely to get you anywhere if your main objectives aren’t clear, and this will prove to be a waste of time – time which could be better spent engaging with your audience and getting them on board with your brand.
Create a content calendar
Successful social media marketing requires maintaining a constant online presence on each platform you choose to be active on. This by no means insinuates that you need to be posting every day – in fact, far from it. You need to be smart about what you’re posting, and when you’re posting it in order to reach the right audience at the right time.
It’s possible to end up oversaturating your feeds though, so don’t do that. With platforms such as Linkedin and Facebook you don’t want to be posting more than once a day, whereas Twitter can handle quick-fire tweets with up-to-date news and important information. If you want to regularly stay in front of your Instagram audience, updating your story daily is the best way to go about this.
This is why creating a content calendar is hugely beneficial for all businesses – big or small. Planning your content ahead of time helps to keep everything on track and ensures that your social channels don’t dry up.
Create informative, good quality content and include promotional messages about your brand, products and services where appropriate. Reach your audience at times when they’re active and likely to engage for the best possible outcome, and don’t forget to stay active and respond to them when they reach out to you.
While this is a best practice, there’s no need to be too rigid here. Additional ad-hoc content as and when is also hugely beneficial for your company’s image, showing that you’re human, personable and can react to trending topics or discussions.
Engage with your audience
It’s one thing understanding which social media platforms your audience use, but the next step is to figure out how you go ahead and engage with them online.
Spend a bit of time planning out what types of content you think your audience will be interested in. What will they want to see more of? Remember, not everything you post has to be directly related to your products or services.
In a sense, you could say that there is a bit of psychology behind social media engagement. We often find that engagement rates will increase when we post content that generates an emotive response from the audience. If you can generate content that makes people feel something, be it happiness, sadness, outrage or anything in between, then they are much more likely to take action in the form of likes, comments and shares.
We’ve found great success when posting content that is educational as users will feel enlightened. You’re giving them a reason to engage with you.
Quality over quantity here, always. If you give people too much of a good thing you may run out of content pretty quickly, so drip your best content out at a steady rate and track which types of posts get more responses.
Social media is a two way street and the key is most definitely in the word – ‘social!’ If you can think of ways to generate conversation around your products or services then you are on to a winner. Giveaways are a guaranteed way of generating a buzz for local businesses and they can put your brand in front of people who otherwise would have never known you exist.
That said, the conversation doesn’t always have to be about you and what you are offering. On a local level, we see a lot of power in jumping into conversations with other local businesses who are active on social media. This sort of piggy-backing is known to work because:
- The general public can see that you are active
- You introduce each other to your audiences and share the engagement
- You become part of an amplified network on social media
Local trends and news stories are an opportunity to become a forum for online discussion. Keep an eye out for articles you can share and be sure to use strategic hashtags, too.
Experiment with video
Video is the most powerful form of content you can produce for social media. It’s that simple.
Rather than waffle on, here are a few statistics to help you understand the power that video has in 2019:
- Videos get shared 1200% more than text and images combined (Wordstream)
- 6/10 people would rather watch online videos than their TV (Google)
- A Facebook executive predicted that the platform will be all-video by 2021 (Quartz)
- 72% of customers would rather learn about a product or service through video (HubSpot)
- 92% of users watching video on mobile will share it with others (Wordstream)
So, why is this the case?
Social media is primarily accessed by mobile users and it is here where video content comes to the fore. Smartphone accessibility and optimisation means that users not only find it easy to scroll through content, they are actually encouraged to do so by way of the app design.
As part of its core news feed algorithm, Facebook actually pushes video content to the fore as it recognises that these are the types of posts that people are engaging with. Why wouldn’t they want their users to stay on the app for as long as possible? Just have a think about your own Facebook timeline, it’s no doubt chock full of video content from a wide range of accounts from your family and friends to the brands that you follow.
The beauty of video is that it doesn’t actually need a huge production budget to be effective on social media. There are a few methods you can utilise to generate good looking content without the need for an expensive camera and after-editing. If you have a decent smartphone then the camera will more than suffice, all you really need to invest in is a tripod for steady filming and a clip on microphone if you’re planning on narrating over the top.
When it comes to editing your bits and bobs together there are a variety of platforms that get the job done. Adobe’s Premiere Pro is the industry standard for feature video editing, but if you’re purely creating pieces for social media, then you may wish to consider web based tools like Lumen 5.
Here are some video ideas that you may wish to have a go at:
Explain your products or services to promote their USPs. If they are clear and educational then they will be appreciated by your audience. Be sure to include the important areas inside the first minute of the video.
Live streaming is hard to pull off but if done correctly it can be very rewarding. Just make sure you have tested everything first: sound, lighting, internet connection and so on all need to be on the money for this to work well.
As mentioned in the last point, educational posts can gain huge traction if they are interesting and informative. Combine that with video content and you’re on to a winner.
Track your performance
If you’re going to be putting all of this work into upgrading your social media activity then you’re surely going to want to know the results of your hard graft? How else will you be able to evaluate what you’ve done and determine the ROI?
Now, we aren’t talking monster spreadsheets and reams of data here. It won’t do you any good to be bogged down in massive numbers you don’t understand. It makes much more sense to keep things super simple by tracking the key figures that matter to you:
- Account followers or page likes
- Post engagements (retweets, likes, shares, comments)
- Post reach
How do you go about doing this?
To begin with, you can do this manually by looking at the analytics or insights section of any social media platform. Create a Google Sheet or Microsoft Excel document to track these on a monthly basis. You can make use of these insightful additions to sites like Facebook and Twitter by using their demographics and time reports. Do the people who are engaging with your page represent your target audience, and what times are they most likely to be online? Planning your content to fit these variables will help increase your chances of success.
Long term you may wish to automate your social media reporting and there are a wide range of paid options available to do this. We currently use DashThis for all of our digital marketing reporting, for example. This may become especially important if you begin to experiment with social media advertising, speaking of which…
Try pay per click advertising
Ensuring that everybody who likes your page or follows your account actually sees the posts you distribute is a tough challenge. Twitter recently changed its feeds from showing posts chronologically to an algorithm based system, while Facebook’s average organic post reach has taken a dive over the past several years.
Investing in your social media content can bring big benefits to your business, with different ways of spending your marketing budget depending on each platform.
The advertising types vary from platform to platform, but there are a few types of advertising you’ll find commonplace over most of them.
If you have a piece of content you want more people to see, you can “boost” it so it appears on news feeds to a wider audience. A great way of increasing post reach and interaction, and if the post includes a link through to your website, a method of getting better conversions and traffic from your social media.
This format is available on most platforms, with boosted posts able to be crossposted from Facebook to Instagram, sponsored tweets regularly appearing throughout users’ Twitter feeds, and a similar offering on LinkedIn.
If you want to shift focus from getting your posts delivered to more people, to increasing your core social media audience, you can pay-per-action to get people to like or follow your pages.
On Facebook, you’ll regularly see sponsored page like suggestions appear in the sidebar, with boosted accounts also appearing on Twitter across the feed, and in the search results. Again, similar options are available throughout all platforms.
If you have a video advert you want people to see, you can of course push it in the same way as the previously mentioned sponsored posts. However, you can also use social media for YouTube style pre-roll adverts.
Primarily on Facebook and Twitter, you’ll often find popular shared videos on your feed, that when you click play, serve you with a usually skippable advert.
Specifically a great feature for LinkedIn, this is perfect for those in a more B2B type environment.
You can send an email-style message to any LinkedIn user that you’re not connected with, simply by putting some budget behind it, and LinkedIn’s targeting enables you to ensure that your money doesn’t go to waste. You can target people by their business sector and/or job title amongst other things, enabling highly effective marketing.
A growing trend that started with Snapchat is the “stories” feature, something that has slowly been rolled out across Facebook, Messenger and Instagram.
In a similar way to sponsored posts, you can get a full screen piece of content to appear amongst a user’s organic stories, showing up as they watch what their friends or followed celebrities have been up to.
Use a scheduling tool
Social media marketing is something that needs to be kept consistent to work effectively. This doesn’t just mean keeping to predetermined branding, but also means regularly posting content, and not leaving your pages to go quiet and dry up in terms of interaction and engagement.
Ensuring this doesn’t happen is easier than trying to make time every couple of days to create content and post it out. Once a week, or maybe even once in a larger time period, you can create all of your posts for the rest of that time, and schedule them to post out automatically across your networks.
Hootsuite is one of the most popular tools for this, while Buffer is another commonly used brand. They allow you to connect all of your social media profiles to one account, load your content into it, and then set a time and date for them to be posted out. You can also use their tools to view all of your interactions in one place, helping to streamline your social media marketing process.
Use social media tools
There are so many tools available, both free and premium, that can be used to make your social media marketing easier.
As well as the scheduling functionality mentioned above, you can also use tools that can make creating visual content, both graphics and videos, simple even for beginners.
For more suggestions, check out this great post featuring 11 useful social media tools for beginners.