Social media can be a boon for small business owners. It helps you to expand your reach by connecting with new audiences and prospective customers, and provides a platform on which you can advertise your products or services.
One study shows that consumers are 71% more likely to buy a product or service after a positive social media experience, while the number of social media users in 2018 reached a massive 3.196 billion. This was 13% higher than the year previously.
In fact, so powerful is social media that some businesses use it exclusively to advertise and generate sales.
However, like any marketing channel, it’s crucial to target your customer segment and communicate with them in the right way. Failure to do this will result in your efforts landing on deaf ears, which is a huge waste of time and money.
So, take a look at these top 6 tips on how to create an effective and sustainable social media strategy for your small business.
- Identify your target audience and make a plan. Before you post a single word, work out who you want to connect with on social media and for what reason. For example:
- Prospective customers for lead generation and sales.
- Existing customers for relationship building and customer service.
- Stakeholders and investors for future backing.
- All of the above.
Of course, you can engage with more than one group simultaneously on a single social media channel. But it’s important to narrow down your audience in order to recognise their needs, and understand how your service can solve their problems. Sometimes it’s beneficial to first understand who you are NOT targeting — such as a certain age group, geographical area, or business type — so that you can hone your content to make it more relevant to your readers. That way, you’re more likely to gain traction with your followers and encourage ‘likes’ and shares, which will spread your brand to a wider audience.
- Monitor your followers. Social media is all about attracting followers so you can communicate with an engaged community of people. However, while the initial aim is to build lots of followers to increase your reach, you should monitor your followers and be ready to clear out ‘spam’ accounts.
Any time you publicly share information, there is a risk of attracting the wrong people. This is of particular concern for small businesses who don’t have the resources in place to monitor and handle privacy concerns. This article explains some of the social media mistakes that can lead to privacy issues, and you can help prevent these by taking some basic steps.
Firstly, protect your home and personal information by using a registered business address. If you work from home, you can use a virtual office as your company office. This provides a business address with mailing services and on-site workspace, which provides a corporate environment for your company without the cost of a full-time office.
You can then use your virtual office for all your public social media and marketing accounts. For instance, register a web domain name under your virtual address, your social media accounts, your company letterhead and business cards, website ‘contact’ page, and more. It will add a layer of protection and separate your business from your home life.
- Research your competitors. Getting started on social media can be daunting. One of the best ways to speed up the learning process is to follow what your competitors are doing. Make sure it’s a well-followed social media account with plenty of recent positive activity, and draw inspiration (but don’t copy!) from the type of content they post. You can also look at successful social media profiles of businesses from other industries to see how they engage with their followers.
At the same time, don’t be afraid to check out some of the poorer efforts to see what NOT to do. You’ll soon figure it out — if you find yourself skimming messages with no inclination to click or share, they’re not hitting the right notes. Learn from their mistakes.
- Choose specific social media platforms. One of the biggest mistakes businesses make is to sign up to multiple social media platforms. Our advice is to start with ONE social media platform with a view to add a second, and later a third, once you have found your stride.
So which one to choose? You might have an idea that Facebook or Instagram is better for lifestyle products, while Twitter and LinkedIn suits B2B service businesses. Even if you’re familiar with social media for business, don’t make assumptions — research as much as you can before taking the leap. This report from Hubspot is a great place to start, as it provides detailed demographics information for all of the major social networks and will help you gauge where your audience spends their time online.
- Create a content calendar. So once you’ve established who you’re targeting and which social platform provides the best way to reach them, it’s time to start posting. Start by creating a content calendar detailing which type of content you will post, and when.
A golden rule of social media marketing is: don’t ‘sell’ too much. Try to avoid posting bland product listings and special offers. Aim for the 80:20 rule: 80% of your social media content should be informative, educational, or entertaining. The remaining 20% can promote your brand or highlight products for sale.
That means you need good, useful content that’s not overly promotional. This can include your own blog posts and editorial content (as vps company MVPS does), but you can also look to external sources for helpful information. Keep a lookout for articles, free guides and how-to information that you can share on your social media profile. Add a short comment explaining why the post is worth reading and how it can help.
TIP: Always tag the original company or author in your post, as they are more likely to acknowledge your tweet and return the favor by sharing it on their own profile. That effectively broadcasts your brand to a whole new audience.
- Post regularly and build your audience. Social media is all about consistency. Post regularly, ideally at the specific times when your audience is most active. When is the best time to post? That depends on your target audience. Check out this detailed guide from Sprout Social for solid information on the best publishing times for each major network and industry.
To help keep things running smoothly, you can schedule posts to go live by using a tool like Hootsuite or Tweetdeck — this ensures that your posts will continue to appear even when you’re out of the office.
One thing to remember about social media is that it’s not all about ‘me, me, me’. It’s SOCIAL media — think of it as a two-way conversation and rather than simply publishing a steady stream of one-way messages, aim to communicate with your followers and respond to their posts in the same way that you aim to garner responses from them.
Above all, your social media activity should always add value. Whether it’s a useful step-by-step guide, a special offer to help your customers save money, or a lighthearted Friday afternoon post to raise some laughs, always aim to provide relevant, engaging content that resonates with your audience.