Many small business owners have a love/hate affair with social media. Everyone who is anyone tells you that you should be on it, and not only that – using it to amass hordes of followers, some of which (you hope!) might end up becoming customers.
When applied the wrong way, social media marketing can easily end up becoming a massive amount of time and money without the prospect of any real results.
We’d hate you to get caught the same way, so we’ve drawn once again on the latest and greatest advice from across the web to help you avoid any potential pitfalls.
Social Media: Firstly, Let’s Go Over the Benefits
All we hear about is how social media can help your business, but what does that mean? What are the key benefits … you know, *specifically*? And how might they be relevant for you as a small business owner or manager?
Here, we’ll review three of the top benefits for small business owners wishing to delve deeper into social media.
Of course, there are a range of additional benefits beyond the ones we’ve identified here, so if you’d like to add more justifications to the list, a good Google search should do it!
For some answers, we turn first to the folks at Forbes.
According to contributor Jayson DeMers, one of the key advantages of social media for business is increased brand recognition. As he notes, any chance you get to increase your visibility as a business is valuable, and social media offers many opportunities to create those chances.
Whether it be a new customer discovering your business through one of their friends, or an old customer becoming re-acquainted with you after a long absence, social media is a good way to make sure your brand is ‘top of mind’ when it comes to your industry. (Admittedly, this is more about the why of social media… when you might be wondering more about the how … as in, “now how the heck do I do that, exactly?”
But we’re coming to that, don’t fret.)
In addition to brand loyalty, being active on social media also gives businesses the opportunity to gain valuable customer insight through analyzing relevant data about your client base and target audience, as Emily Copp, writing for the Hootsuite blog, notes.
Social media accounts generate a veritable goldmine of useful information for the astute small business. And the best part? You don’t have to spend a small fortune on a market research consultancy to get your hands on it!
Even if you aren’t taking advantage of the great functionality that comes standard with many of the social media analytics tools (and mostly available for free, might we add), there is also some opportunity to do some “social listening.”
This translates to eavesdropping on what your customers are saying about your industry and brand via social media (and even though it sounds a little creepy, we assure you it is above board! You are listening to the public, not private conversations, so it’s all good.)
Lastly, let’s not forget what small business is all about, and ultimately that’s the bottom line. As Inc.com reminds us, social media marketing is, at the end of the day, intended to increase sales. However, we say that with a big caveat, and it is here that small business marketing folks should tread with extreme caution. Going into your social media strategy as a gung-ho marketing exercise that is all about marketing you and your product/service in the hope of generating instant sales is not the right approach.
In fact, it’s probably not overstepping to say that this method may even earn you more critics than fans. Social media marketing done properly is a delicate exercise, all predicated on your company building trust, and through this, relationships, with your valued customer base (and future customer base), which should, all other things being equal, generate more sales in the long run. In other words, spoiling it all with a heavy-handed, in-your-face marketing blitz is not the path to choose, young grasshopper.
Some Ideas for Your Small Business Social Media Strategy
Hopefully, we’ve convinced you that social media marketing is a concept worth investing some time and effort in. However, we are also great believers in the old saying that if something’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well!
In other words, just paying lip service to your social media efforts will likely end up in pretty lackluster business results (unless of course you strike it lucky and go viral without trying. But given your chances of that are probably about as good as winning the lottery, we hope you will stick to a more strategy-based approach!) And this is where we are in luck because of ideas for social media marketing – the right way – are in plentiful supply out there in the good ole interweb!
Once again, we’ve saved you some time by carefully curating (with love) the best of them here for you, but if you have a little more time to invest in taking the search further, the world is your oyster!
- Run a regular series This idea, borrowed with appreciation from Sprout Social, involves you producing and sharing content of relevance to your audience on a regular basis. Be it daily, weekly or monthly – whatever you have the capacity for and you think your audience will tolerate – make it consistent enough that your followers will be looking out for it. Hint: for extra points, go further and develop your unique hashtag so that your series is easily discoverable again through search.
- Keep an eye on the competition Ian Cleary, via the Social Media Examiner blog, has another great idea for you: use widely available tools to research what your competitors are successfully posting on social media, and use this to inform your social media marketing strategy. As he notes, this is not about copying and plagiarism, but rather, about noting what topics seem to be of interest and covering these from your perspective.
- Run a contest A simple way to engage your customers and promote your brand at the same time is to run a contest over social media, as suggested by marketing services company Blue Steele Solutions. As they note, one of the significant advantages of games and competitions is that they can be extremely cost-effective; sometimes the only real cost is incurred by purchasing the competition prize. If you want to take your contest to the next level, some apps will help you do this; check out this article by Practical Ecommerce for more resources.
- Schedule your posts In an article filled with many great ideas, Capterra recommend investing in a scheduling tool to best support your social media content strategy. You can’t be everywhere at once, right? It might also be that you want to reach markets that are outside your local time zone. Or perhaps you want to put the phone aside for half an hour to enjoy dinner with the family. Whatever the reason, scheduling tools help you automate the process of distributing social media content so that you don’t have to physically be posting all the time … a significant timesaver for any social media marketer!