Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram… so many opportunities, so many platforms, so much confusion. There's little doubt that a strong social media presence can help grow your business. But where to start?
Check out our tips for getting the most bang for your social media buck.
The truth is, social media is a must for small businesses. There's doubt that the impact of social media can help you build brand awareness, gain new customers, and connect directly with current customers.
The strength of viral marketing might be even more meaningful for small businesses as part of their outreach strategy than for corporates. That's because it allows you to express your personality.
People do business with people. Therefore, social media is the perfect way to express your individuality and talk to clients and potential clients one-on-one in ways that were fundamentally not possible before the internet.But getting started can seem daunting. Let's look at our top ten social media tips and tricks for small businesses.
Before you jump into social media with both feet, it's best to ask a few preliminary questions about what your goals are. What do you want to achieve? Do you want to directly increase sales or get a more personal approach to customer service? Or maybe you want more eyes to see your brand?
Providing answers to these questions first will help steer your social media efforts. You're presumably going to spend a lot of effort on social media. So time spent now on your primary objectives will enable you to benchmark and track your progress further down the line.
There's not much point figuring out what you want to say until you've worked out your message. This core idea will be behind everything you do. Even your choice of platform.For example, if you're talking to millennials, you'll want to focus on Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube. For homemakers, probably Pinterest. Facebook works for just about everybody.
The social media platforms for the business that you choose will ultimately depend on what your business is trying to achieve. Research the options and your specific audience carefully before making any big decisions. Check Google Analytics to see which social media sites your readers are originating. Look under Acquisitions → Social.
Now that you've focused on your social media targets, you've taken the first step in learning how to use social media for small business owners. Now we can look at the content you're going to offer your audience.
Social media can take over your life. And, while it's an important cog in the machine, it's not the machine itself. So it's advised to think in advance.
Pick one day a week to post to all your social media business platforms and then check in each day to respond to comments and reply to questions.You can sync, organise and schedule posts to your social media accounts on platforms such as HootSuite, Sprout Social and Buffer.
It also helps to choose strategic times to post. Morning hours might be better so that you can be around for questions and comments, rather than making the journey home.
Although, according to Sprout Social, the best times to post on Facebook are Wednesday at noon and 2 pm and Thursday at 1 and 2 pm. On Twitter, it's Friday morning between nine and ten.You might also consider your audience here – if you do business with the US, it's worth remembering that they're a few hours behind the UK. So it could be worth posting later.
No, we don't expect you to work in a museum. Curating on social media is how you put together content.Curating content is a great way of keeping your social media wheels turning without much effort on your part. You probably read plenty of relevant content in the course of your work. All you have to do is share it.
For example, you might run an organic pet-food business. You probably read plenty of stuff online every day by vets and animal dietitians. So long as you credit the right people, there's no harm in sharing this content on your social media platforms. The authors will appreciate it – and might one day return the favour.
They take a little getting used to, but hashtags are the new must-haves in social media. They can expose your business to a much broader audience.If your bag is bathroom supplies, simply stick a hashtag before the words, join them together and you'll find thousands of posts and infographics that are captivating. In fact, on Instagram, you can follow hashtags themselves.Use common hashtags for your sector, and you'll mine a rich seam of potential customers. But before you jump in, let's go over a few ground rules.
Check Instagram's tag tab for how often others are using a particular hashtag. Let's say you sell food mixers. The leading hashtags will be #foodmixer and #foodmixers. If you scroll down, you'll see more options. Use all these hashtags to connect with people interested in food mixers.Don't grovel for followers. Hashtags such as #followme and #like4like aren't at all cool.Check out the Throwback Thursday hashtag on Instagram (#TBT). You'll find over 400 million TBT hashtags.
Don't go mad – people won't have the patience to read through an overwhelming menu of hashtags. Insert the most relevant ones at the start and the humorous ones at the end.Also, long hashtags can be hard to read. Consider capitalising each word.
You can get into the minds of your audience in many ways. If you're releasing a new product, drop a few hints in advance, to keep people tagging along.Another great function is the polls on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. Offering opinions on a ‘topic du jour' allows people to engage with you and your brand. Or maybe you could pose a question. People aren't exactly shy about putting forward their point of view on the web.
It's also favourable to make your website easily shareable. Get familiar with the Social Bookmarks or Shareaholic plugin for WordPress and add one-click share buttons to your social media sites.Images can help, too. So use a plugin such as WP Facebook Open Graph Protocol to post automatically on Facebook with an appropriate image.
People's expectations are higher than ever. Blurred photos just won't cut it. If you're a professional business, your public will expect you to have a social media image to match.That blurred photo might be OK on a tiny-screened smartphone, but blown up on a 27-inch desktop monitor on Facebook, it'll look terrible. And reputations turn on details such as this.
If you can't run to professional imagery, find online tutorials on how to take decent shots with your smartphone. Or find a friend with a good camera and a fraction of talent to take photos of your office, employees and products.
Social media should be a jolly wheeze – a place of escape. So let's keep it that way. Present a positive, humorous front. For inspiration on how to do that, check out the Innocent Drinks Twitter feed.
Get together with your marketing people to work out how you want to come across online. Then discuss possible angles. These might include showcasing your wackier employees, talking about your best and most fascinating clients, or tagging on to notable dates such as Halloween, April Fools, Christmas and even Star Wars Day (May 4).
You could also share fun facts or motivational quotes. It's all about popping with personality and sharing an upbeat vibe.
Don't slavishly copy your competition on social media. Instead, use their ideas to spark new ones of your own. Check out their hashtags, what are engaging their customers, what questions they're asking and what polls they're running.
It's also worth investigating who they follow, and who follows them. Maybe you could add yourself as a follower, too.You could even make friends with your competitors – like and retweet their posts. Many rivals develop mutually beneficial relationships, trading information and even passing work projects between themselves.
Not much point being on social media unless you promote your wares. But make them easily accessible – obey the one-click rule. Note, however, that it's easier to link on some platforms than others. On Instagram, you can do so only through bios or stories. And Snapchat is only a recent convert to providing clickable links.Did you know that over 70 percent of Millennials look for codes and coupons before buying online? If you continue to provide them for your products or offer free shipping, you'll keep people hooked. Everyone loves a bargain.
It could also pay you to connect with the great and the good of social media. Influencers need collaborators. Connect with them and offer products in exchange for promotion on social media. You'll enjoy a personal endorsement plus a whole new army of potential followers.
Finally, you could do worse than buying ads on social media. One of the benefits is support from the platforms themselves – many of them can work out potential followers and customers using algorithms based on bios and app usage. After all, we've all recently learned how much Facebook loves to collect data on us.
Social media ads can be cheaper than pay-per-click alternatives such as Google Adwords. You also get to target your ads and pick from a range of pricing options.So, now that you're clued up on the ins and outs of social media, all that remains is for you to get out there, make it fun and fish for your first like or retweet. We expect great things.