In a time where brand awareness is everything, social media is giving small businesses a big voice. By engaging with the community in a friendly, informative or fun way, you can connect directly with the people who really matter. For a little time, and a very small amount of money, you can achieve the sort of targeted success unrivaled by any fancy advert.
- Be Selective.
As it’s so easy to set up an account on social media, it can be tempting to go crazy and create a profile on every website you come across. It’s important not to try and reach out to everyone, but rather select the best platform for your audience – this way you won’t be spreading your attention too thinly once you start using them.
LinkedIn is a professional arena, making it ideal for B2B firms who want to network with CEOs. Facebook can be perfect for shops and cafes targeting a local community, while Twitter’s microblogging system is great for giving a more personal voice to a brand. Pinterest is a very visual platform, perfect for photographers, restaurants or fashion retailers looking to create an aspirational image. Google Plus and Google Places work together to give customers the precise location of your business, as well as important information like your opening times and phone number. Google Plus allows you to build a following and interact with those in your Circles; customers can leave reviews, and you can respond to them here.
Facebook is the most popular option for SMEs and, with 1/7 th of the world’s population logging in monthly and a 65% referral rate for website links, it’s easy to see why. A dedicated business page gives you the option to pay for advertising through Facebook, which displays your ad to an extremely specific audience, or sponsor a post to give it that extra boost.
- Consider Tone.
Establish clearly who you are targeting through your social interaction. Picture a typical customer – this is who you are writing for. It’s worth bearing in mind 72% of Pinterest users are female, while LinkedIn is only really used by professionals. Twitter and Facebook allow you to be broader with who you target.
Develop a social media marketing strategy, no matter how simple, and stick to it. Marketing agencies can help you create a clear voice for your brand if you need assistance.
Websites like Twitter and Facebook are the perfect arena for toning down the formality if appropriate for your business. Think about the brands you follow with your personal account – it’s likely they take a fun, warm and chatty tone. Of course, this doesn’t work for all small businesses. A professional, inspiring or authoritative tone is usually better for a B2B looking to network with professionals.
Whatever voice you choose to take, ensure you sound human. This is how your social campaign differentiates itself from your website and marketing materials.
- This Isn’t The Place For ‘Hard Sell’.
While you should consider the purpose before posting anything, nobody likes a news feed spammer. Rather than selling your product or service directly, social media marketing is all about increasing brand awareness. Everything you post should be of interest to your target customer. Small businesses can prompt likes and shares with a pretty landscape photograph or by joining in with the discussion of an upcoming festival or fete. Aspirational pictures, how-to guides and funny photographs are often popular posts.
Basically, everything you post should be useful, interesting, or inspiring. A cookware store, for example, could post a recipe or a handy cook’s measurement conversion guide, or encourage followers to send in photographs of baking projects. Ask questions, encourage debates and think outside the box. Of course, it’s fine to post the occasional relevant website or blog post link, just not too often. And make sure it’s interesting when you do.
Generally, take a safe approach and don’t post anything which could be remotely controversial or offensive. Think twice before retweeting that witty comment on politics, or even that scandalous piece of celebrity gossip. It’s important to maintain a happy, open community where each user feels welcome.
- Stay Active.
This is partly why point 1 is so important. Neglected social accounts are just asking to be unliked or unfollowed. If you can only afford to invest an hour or two a week in your social marketing strategy, explore tools like Buffer and HootSuite. These enable you to write lots of posts whenever you get spare time, and schedule them to go out at allocated date and time intervals.
Whether you use these tools or not, it’s still important to log in directly. It only takes a few minutes to read and answer queries, and gives an impression of great customer service. Don’t panic if you receive a complaint through social media, but make sure to respond. Take a polite, helpful and friendly tone and solve the issue as quickly and calmly as possible.
General connecting with others is important. Search for industry-related phrases on Twitter and retweet posts which may be interesting to your audience. Use your expertise to help fellow users out and discuss relevant topics.
- Track Your Success.
The great thing about social media marketing is you’ll see how well you’re doing instantaneously. Check notifications religiously, and take note of which posts have prompted the most interaction. There’s plenty of advice online about the best times to post statuses and tweets, which hashtags to use and how to increase your follower to following ratio.
Getting to know your audience will be a learning curve, but you’ll soon be able to assess your own successes and failures. Social media tools like Buffer and HootSuite also detail the volume of responses and shares, and Google Analytics and Bit.ly can be used to assess website referral and conversion data.
Social media offers the perfect opportunity for small businesses to increase brand awareness, website traffic and even conversion ratios. By taking note of these key points, anyone can create a simple yet effective social media strategy.