Social media offers small and medium-size businesses a huge opportunity to reach target audiences, engage with customers and earn third-party recommendation. But how can you decide which channels are best for you, and deploy your resources effectively?
Whether your small business is already active on social media or you need a helping hand getting started, there are few businesses that can afford to ignore social media as a marketing tool. It’s not just the popularity, prevalence and low cost of entry that makes social media attractive; the value is the personal way that it allows businesses to interact with existing and potential customers.
But for the small business owner with limited time and resources, there’s a danger of grinding away with little outcome. Good decision-making and strategy are vital: which channels to use, and how to avoid not ending up spending hours of time ‘doing’ social media for little tangible return.
Not sure how to promote your business on social media? Here are a few social media marketing tips to get you started on the right foot.
A changing social media landscape
In a rapidly shifting social media landscape, General Dwight Eisenhower’s famous quote that ‘plans are useless, planning is indispensable’ could certainly apply. As one of our newest forms of marketing, social media best practice is constantly evolving so it’s essential to remain in the loop.
A mistake that a lot of small businesses make is to start posting on social media before developing a strategy or vision of what they are trying to achieve. The most important thing to consider is not how you can get thousands of followers, but how you are going to engage your target market. What platforms are they actively using? And how are they using them?
Results will rarely happen overnight, so it’s important to be patient and give it time to reveal its benefits. Social media is fantastic for small businesses in the long term, as it allows them to be themselves and engage more naturally with their customers than a big corporate might.
Social media engagement ideas
As mentioned above, the golden rule of social media above all others is to engage, not simply broadcast, so community management is essential. People don’t want to be bombarded with sales messages as they browse their feeds, they want to be involved in conversations.
By starting and encouraging these conversations, it gives your business the chance to gather the views of people who are – or could potentially become – your clients or customers. You can do this by commenting and sharing other people’s posts or asking questions via your accounts that will spark responses from your followers. Of course, there are risks associated with working with the public, so be sure to have the appropriate SME insurance in place to protect your business.
Social media platforms for small business
The most popular social media channels are the ones that you’ve heard of: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Snapchat, along with networking big-beast LinkedIn. For a small business, there’s a Napoleonic danger of getting caught up engaging on too many fronts.
It’s better to do one network well than several half-heartedly. Developing a well-established community on one platform will prove far more valuable than gaining a small following on half a dozen, as they’re more likely to be engaged with the messages you are communicating.
Don’t start using platforms purely on the basis that other people are or because it’s the hottest new trend, as it’s possible that it won’t be relevant to the market that you are trying to target. With this in mind, your social media strategy should be clear in terms of which network is right for your business. That could be directly, in terms of funnelling traffic to your site, or more gradually in terms of establishing trust, credibility and connections.
Each platform has its own unique strengths, for example, Facebook and Instagram are great for spreading messages about what you do, while LinkedIn is a powerful networking and referral tool.
How to measure your social media success
One of the most compelling aspects of social media for promoting your business is the ability to measure and track activity. But this doesn’t mean that tangible results will be immediate. It’s important to think in terms of longer-term strategy, such as growing a loyal community, building trust and showing the personality of the business. Set clear metrics and KPIs that you can monitor over time.
As a business owner, you’re probably always on the lookout for new ways to engage with potential customers and clients. And if your target market is using social media, so should you!
With the right tools and the correct approach, you’re sure to see the value of harnessing social media marketing over time. The trick is to always learn and improve; always strive to be more relevant, more creative and – at the heart of it – more social.
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