If you’re not using social media as part of your small business marketing strategy, it’s time to get on board. There are over one billion active users on social media, and that’s an awesome amount of opportunity you could be wasting.
According to statistics from the 2016 Social Media Marketing Industry Report, 90% of marketers said that social media was important to their businesses, with 9 out of 10 who use it reporting that social media has generated more exposure for their companies.
More revealing statistics from that report:
- The top two reasons given for social media marketing are increasing exposure and increasing traffic
- Most marketers use Facebook (55%)
- LinkedIn comes in a distant second (18%)
- Snapchat is the up-and-coming social media for marketing
- Most marketers use video presentations
In today’s technology-driven business world, companies with a social media presence are seen as being more competent and focused than their competitors that don’t use social media. In other words, a lack of social media presence could make prospects and customers question your legitimacy.
Now that the case has been made, you’ll need to come up with a game plan before diving in. As a small business marketer, you might be strapped for funds and time, which makes a plan all the more critical.
Here are fifteen tips to get the ball rolling on your social media marketing plan:
1. Plan your strategy
Any marketing effort must begin with a plan if it’s to be successful. Don’t plan to reach a broad audience. Instead, find your niche and go deep into one or two social media channels. Rule of thumb: It’s better to be the master of a few channels than to get nowhere in many.
Start by breaking your social media channels into two groups—social platforms and social networking sites. What’s the difference?
Social platforms, which includes blogs and YouTube videos, is where you convey information to others. Simply put, it’s a vehicle for communication. Platforms allow you to share content that others can also share with their online connections. It’s a great way to establish your expertise and credibility.
Social networking sites— Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, etc.—are used to connect with other people. They are more like real-world networking events at which you’re hoping to get more revenue for your business ultimately.
Plan to focus on one platform and one network as you set up your social media marketing, and expand after you have become proficient at them.
2. Make sure your posts are relevant and entertaining
Resist the urge to send out predominately promotional content as you begin your marketing campaign. Of course, your social media content should be relevant to your audience but, just as importantly, it needs to be useful and entertaining because that’s why people go to social media.
The goal here is to engage your audience so your social media presence will grow. If your users like, comment, and share your content, it will reach a larger audience. Remember: entertain and engage first, market and promote later!
3. Use images to your advantage
Images are critical to successful social media marketing success. But don’t take shortcuts with them. While there are many stock images available online, make sure to use high-quality and unique visuals to increase engagement. Graphic design software, such as Canva, is an excellent resource for creating low-cost custom images.
Still not convinced? Consider this: Recent research indicates that images greatly increase social media engagement. Facebook posts that contain images get nearly 2.5 times more engagement than those without, and Twitter updates with images receive 150% more retweets than those that have none.
Images help clarify your message and grab someone’s attention. In blog posts, they help the reader comprehend the content, and they can easily be shared across multiple networks. Just make sure that the image you choose conveys your message well.
4. Know your target audience
Let’s face it, your product or service isn’t for everyone, so you need to be speaking to the right people. It’s vitally important that you find out who your target customers are, and start developing a niche voice on social media. The more you know about your audience, the better you’ll be prepared to post content and develop marketing materials that are relevant to them.
With tools like Facebook Page Insights, you’ll find the information that helps you understand who in your audience is most engaged with your page. You can then adjust your strategy accordingly.
5. Post often
How often should you post? Research indicates that if you want to increase audience engagement, you need to post frequently. Going inactive is bad; posting several times each day is good.
If you’re just starting out and have little content, push as many posts as possible and be consistent. And while you don’t want to be sending out unprofessional looking content, don’t get too wrapped up in being perfect. People engage with a post that sounds like it came from an actual human. So don’t over-process it by running each post past a dozen people until it sounds like a robot wrote it.
The bottom line: Keep your posting plan simple and consistent.
6. Know when to post
Posting when the mood hits you doesn’t work. You need to post strategically to reach the biggest possible audience. Knowing the ideal times to post will depend on your analytics, so find out when your audience is most likely to be on your preferred social media platform.
If you’re using Facebook and Twitter, the ideal times to post will vary between the two platforms. The following guidelines, taken from QuickSprout, can be a starting point:
– Posting at 1 pm gets the most shares
– Posting at 3 pm gets the most clicks
– Posting at 12 pm and 6 pm gets the best click rate
– Posting at 5 pm gets the most retweets
7. Know where to post
The simple answer is to post on those platforms where your customers are hanging out. Don’t waste time and money having a presence on every social media platform when the people you want to reach are only on one or two of them. Instead of spreading yourself thinly around the social media universe, focus your efforts deeply on those platforms with information that aligns with your business.
How do you find out where your customers are going? Each social channel has a search function. Simply enter the names of some of your customers in the search box on the social platform to determine if your customers are using it.
Or you can create a Google Alert to monitor what’s going on in your industry and find out where your customers are online.
8. Use your influencers
Influencer marketing focuses on using key leaders to drive your brand’s message to the larger market. A social media influencer applies that influence through social media. It’s important to find the members of your audience who wield the most influence and target your messages to them.
Influencers are important in every industry. They’re usually employed and are active on social networks sharing content and blogging. Once you get their attention, they could become a major asset in your digital marketing efforts.
9. Vary your content
Posting the same links and images over and over isn’t an effective strategy. You should update your posts, use surveys, include links, or show videos–anything to mix things up and keep your content fresh to increase engagement by your followers.
There are some who recommend that for every six items of content shared via social media, four should be from influencer’s target audience that is also relevant to your audience; one post should be original educational content that you created, and one post should be sales-related.
Not only does this provide variety to your posts but it also gets you noticed by your influencer, which could be helpful in the future.
10. Stay constantly engaged
If you’re planning on establishing a presence on social media and then putting it on auto-pilot, you’re going to be disappointed. Social media can move at the speed of light, so you must constantly be engaged to move with it.
If someone mentions your business on social media, you need to respond. If it’s a question, get back to them ASAP. But make sure to “like” anything that’s posted, so they know you saw it. These small gestures mean a great deal.
Find local businesses that have a natural kinship with your company and engage with them. Repost or retweet their content, and eventually, you’ll be sharing their audience.
11. Look at what successful companies are doing
Just as you want to imitate what successful leaders are doing, your social media marketing should take its cues from successful businesses—even your competitors! Take a close look at what other companies are posting that catches your attention. Register for social media articles and other literature from experts so that you can receive regular emails with tips, information and social media updates.
And remember, don’t only post your content on social media, but engage in listening to find conversations that are relevant to your brand. Then, engage in these conversations to maximize your outreach.
12. Consider outsourcing
Sometimes it just makes sense to outsource certain business operations. For instance, you could spend an inordinate amount of time writing content for your social media marketing posts, and still come up short of a professional-sounding blog article. A cost-effective alternative–hiring someone who writes for a living–would free you up for more suitable tasks and would result in a well-written article that shines a positive light on your company.
13. Schedule your posts
By investing in scheduling tools like Hootsuite or Firefuze, you can schedule unlimited messages across all your social networks. Scheduling your social posts in advance will save you hours of time each week. With any of the low-cost, easy-to-use scheduling products available, you can schedule posts for a day, a week, or a month. And the best part: No matter what else is taking up your time during the workday, you know you’ll be posting content often and consistently.
14. Measure your Return on Investment (ROI)
After your social media marketing efforts have been in place for a while, inevitably someone will ask about the return on investment. While everyone might agree that it’s a good idea to have a media presence, you’ll still have to show a positive ROI to the executive team.
Social media analytics tools—the free Facebook Page Insights, for instance—can provide a wealth of information. Just make sure you measure what’s important. The number of followers you’ve accumulated might make you feel good, but it’s of little value. Instead, look at the engagement and impressions that your content generates.
Testing should be an ongoing process. That way, poorly performing posts can be remedied with more effective writing, better timing, or stronger calls-to-action.
15. Be patient!
Social media marketing is a marathon, not a sprint. Small business owners often get frustrated when they don’t see high engagement rates or a large following immediately. Instead of giving up, optimize your Facebook page, start posting on Instagram, or follow pertinent accounts on Twitter. Getting back to the basics of social media marketing is a much better option than throwing in the towel!
Bonus tip: You can make it a lot of fun!
Social media marketing sounds like a lot of work…and it is! But it can also be a lot of fun. You could host a Twitter chat to mark the start of a new product or service or have pop-culture polls in which your followers participate. The possibilities are endless, and activities like these work as well as traditional marketing but add that important element of entertainment.