This is a guest post written by Nina Pineda, a Content Marketing Specialist from Spiralytics.
It is no longer a question whether or not social media should be utilised by small businesses. It is now a question of how to make full use of it. This article will inform you of the current best practices of social media marketing and how to implement them in your small business.
Just a few years back, the value of social media for small businesses was a highly debated topic. Many brands had yet to jump on the social media bandwagon, and for some that did, they weren’t able to quantify a decent return.
These days, according to Social Media Examiner’s recent survey of 3720 small businesses, over 95% of them are using social media marketing to some extent. Furthermore, 70% of small businesses see a return on investment (ROI) from having a social media presence.
These suggest that the value of social media for small businesses is now less of a debate and more of an implied tactic, which is crucial for any successful marketing strategy.
The Difference with Social Media for Small Business
Large corporations with big marketing budgets have the capacity to create huge volumes of quality content crafted by the world’s top marketing agencies. Unfortunately, this just isn’t viable for smaller businesses who are likely to have heavy restrictions on their resource usage.
Rather than competing with the big boys, small businesses should use social media to enhance brand awareness, increase website traffic, promote customer engagement, and build a community of loyal followers.
Small companies don’t have the time, money, or stamina to beat large organisations at their own game, so smarter and more cost-effective tactics need to come into play.
Social Media Landscape
For B2C companies, Facebook still dominates the social media marketing scene with 93% of small businesses who are active on social media use Facebook to promote their brands.
Not far behind are Twitter and LinkedIn, followed by Google+ and YouTube. This being said, B2B businesses tend to use LinkedIn as their primary social networking platform because it is more geared towards professionals from various industries who make up the entirety of their target audiences.
Through a combination of paid advertising and social posting, businesses have been able to use social media platforms as a more cost-effective way to reach their current and prospective customers through various types of content to increase engagement.
Blogging and visual content have been the top performers with a 70% usage rate for social media marketing. Video content is just behind with a 57% usage rate, but it is steadily catching up, soon to be one of the most highly consumed content types.
Best Practices and Why They Work
- Create a consistent brand message.
Be sure that any communication by your brand on social media is in line with your brand image. Your audience wants to feel like they’re talking to a real person, but you also want to ensure that your message tone remains in line with your company’s goals.
This is important for social posts so that you don’t confuse your audience with mixed messages. The last thing you want to do is tarnish the flawless image that brands are expected to have.
- Engage with your audience.
Social media channels provide businesses a platform for two-way communication with their audiences. You don’t want to come off pushy with the information that your brand offers.
Respond to people that mention your brand and personalise your communication whenever possible. Your audience will really appreciate you taking the time to address them as individuals.
- Actively learn about your customers.
You’ll be surprised just how much information your audience is willing to share on social media. Make full use of this and learn as much about them as possible. This will help you discover what makes your customers tick and develop better communications in the future.
Join industry communities and discussions to get a better picture of your audience’s shared interests, concerns, and problems so you can start to address them directly.
- Use social media for customer service.
When customers try to reach brands with a question or complaint, many of them will look to social media for an answer. Be proactive and respond to these concerns as soon as possible, especially for small companies who may be deeply affected by the loss of a customer.
Having an image as a brand that cares about their customers will go a long way on social media. On the other hand, if your response to a concern is inadequate or lacking, customers will make it known to their audiences. Negativity spreads like wildfire and reputations will likely be damaged.
- Make use of user-generated content.
If you don’t have a dedicated social media department, which is likely for a small business, creating and distributing quality content each week can be highly demanding and time-consuming. One way to keep up with the demand for new content is to leverage your audience.
User-generated content is anything that is created by your audience, be it an image, a video, or a blog post. Don’t be afraid to ask your audience to submit their own content. It could provide a unique perspective and will definitely take some of the weight of constantly creating new content off your hands.
- Automate where possible.
Though it is important to humanise and personalise your communication as much as possible, being smart about automation can save you endless hours when it comes to social media management. Considering the fact that small business owners often juggle multiple responsibilities, it becomes pretty important to optimise your time.
Social media automation tools can help you schedule posts, share content across multiple networks, track brand mentions, and generate reports, along with an assortment of other critical functions.
Keep in mind that in order to get the best results from social media marketing, you have to be truly participating and engaging with people real-time. So, only automate where necessary.
- Continually measure your success.
You can’t improve on what you don’t measure. You should aim to improve your social media activities and generate better results as time goes on, as you can’t improve if you don’t know how well you’re doing.
Measuring the success of your efforts will help you identify which tactics are working and which aren’t. Commonly measured metrics for social media include reach, clicks, likes, shares, and mentions.
As your online presence grows, you will discover new goals and new ways to use social media to your advantage. Review your metrics regularly to ensure that your activities continue to match your brand objectives. Eliminate what isn’t working and elaborate on what is. Wash, rinse and repeat.
- Most importantly, have fun!
Social media marketing is an ongoing activity, so try to make the most of it. If you’re having fun writing posts, chances are that will show in your content
Social media users love a brand that knows how to inject a bit of fun into what could otherwise be a fairly sterile professional environment.
If you’re finding it hard to get inspiration, a great way to learn is to simply see what other companies in similar industries are doing. Find out what your competitors are doing successfully and do it better. After all, there aren’t any rules that say you can’t use your competition to your advantage.
When starting out, don’t exhaust your efforts across too many social media platforms. Stick to between one and three sites that your audience uses most, and remember to cater your content to match the style of the platform you’re posting on.
As opposed to traditional marketing campaigns, social media marketing requires an ongoing commitment. Posts get pushed down feeds so quickly that if you don’t remain present, you won’t be remembered. Users have short attention spans as well, so if you become inactive for a period, they will stop visiting your page.
Be open and flexible, you’ll soon find that social media is a great way to grow your business.
Nina Pineda has served a number of clients as a content marketing specialist for 3 years and online marketing industry for 8 years. She’s easily amused by Tumblr memes, funny YouTube clips, and TV series but keen and driven in achieving results and generating leads. You can find out more about her work at Spiralytics.com