Everyone is on social media nowadays, even that annoying aunt of yours who you really wish weren’t. Your small business definitely can’t afford to miss out! Using social media for marketing purposes is an opportunity-filled strategy to showcase your business’ personality, reach a wider portion of your target audience, retain it, and generate more sales.
While the importance of social media for small businesses can’t be overlooked, it doesn’t mean that you should just open a few accounts and hope for the best. You first need a meticulously-planned strategy if you want all the cool kids (aka your target audience) to like you.
Why and how to use social media for small businesses
A social media plan is a versatile and cost-effective marketing strategy. Sure, you can do paid ads on most of those platforms, but you’ll mainly be dealing with organic posts. That’s exactly what we are going to focus on, today.
How is social media used for marketing?
Brands, companies and entrepreneurs use social media for marketing purposes to reach the right audience, increase brand awareness, engage with leads in order to retain them, drive more traffic to their website, and, consequently, increase their sales.
Even though they started out as personal accounts to interact with friends, these platforms have now earned themselves a central role in modern marketing. After all, 97% of digital customers have used them in the past month, and that’s also where a whopping 52% of all online brand discoveries happen.
Social media marketing revolves around the creation of multimedia content, from text-only posts to pictures and videos. Like any marketing strategy, it must be carefully planned and constantly analysed to know what works and what belongs to the as-irrelevant-as-My-Space folder.
How important is social media for small businesses?
Pics or it didn’t happen, right? Which, in our case, could translate as “does your business really exist if you haven’t got social media pages for it?” Whatever your personal approach to documenting your life online, you must accept the fact that social media are vital for your small business. Avoiding these social platforms basically tells your customers that you’re not interested in having a conversation with them.
Huge companies might have a bigger advertising budget, but we have great news: you—a small business—have a massive advantage over them when it comes to using social media for marketing. Engagement.
Those companies don’t have time to reply to all the comments that they receive, and, in all honesty, some of them don’t really care about it. You should. Social media are the best place for small businesses to shine!
It’s not a coincidence that 53% of customers prefer shopping from them: smaller companies are more community-focused, usually have a story to tell, and some inspiring ethos behind them. Most customers love feeling that they’re supporting these independent gems: they’re far more relatable and approachable than a massive multinational company with a billionaire founder who’s no longer even involved with the business.
Use this to your advantage!
Creating an excellent social media strategy that focuses on engaging with your target audience will also allow you to increase brand recognition without wasting lots of money on ads.
Which platform is right for your business?
Let’s say that you’re looking for your friends. Would you pop to the sticky pub down the road when you know that they’re all obsessed with the new cocktail bar in town?
No. You’d go where you know that you’d find them hanging out, right?
That’s the same with your social media strategy.
There’s no point in focusing all your efforts on Facebook if your target audience spends half of their day recording TikTok videos (or vice versa).
Before you start using social media for marketing, it’s essential to research your target audience’s demographics and habits to identify their virtual watering hole.
You can—and should—still be active on more than one platform, but wasting your efforts on a channel that your specific audience doesn’t actually use would be pointless and time-consuming.
How to promote your business on social media
The best way to promote your business on social media is actually to… not promote it.
Not all the time, at least.
If the reason why you’re interested in using social media for marketing is that you’re planning on spamming your followers’ feed with two or three hard promotions a day, you might as well not bother.
Here’s what you should do instead.
Have a clear social media strategy
If you already have some social media accounts for your small business, start by running an audit to see what’s working and what isn’t. It might sound cheeky, but it’s actually handy to look at what your competitors are doing, too (shhh, we won’t tell them).
Once you have a few good ideas as to what you should and shouldn’t post, set yourself some SMART goals. We recommend creating a calendar that follows the golden 80:20 ratio, with 80% being high-quality content that educates or entertains your audience, and only 20% promotional posts (unless you’re strictly eCommerce).
Yes, we’re serious.
Your social media channels should look and feel aligned with your website, your in-store experience (if you have a physical location), and the rest of your marketing strategy.
This doesn’t mean that you must post the exact same captions on all platforms, but you should maintain a consistent brand tone, as well as the same photography or video-editing style. Your followers should immediately recognise that it’s you even without looking at your handle or page name.
Being consistent with your posting is also important: your followers will know what to expect from you and when. Figure out a schedule that works for you and your customers (again, how often are your competitors posting? Are they getting good engagement rates when they post more often or less?).
Keep in mind that more isn’t necessarily better.
Many posts a day will come across as spammy. At the same time, you shouldn’t disappear for weeks. It’s always better to give yourself a realistic posting schedule that you can actually maintain rather than kickstart your new social media strategy by posting every day and then realise that it’s not sustainable for you.
Focus on content that brings value
This is probably the most important tip we can give you:
Don’t think of your social media as a place to brag about your products and achievements, but as a way of bringing value to your audience.
Users are now extremely selective about who they follow, and yes: striving to have more followers than accounts you follow is a thing, especially on Instagram. If your content isn’t visually appealing, if it doesn’t make them feel happy or inspired, or if it doesn’t get them thinking nor teaches them something new… they aren’t going to think twice before unfollowing you.
The type of content and what brings value to them will depend on what you sell and what your target audience likes.
Try and focus on showing the behind the scenes of your company, share multimedia content, get them to try your tutorials, educate them about your industry in an engaging way, link to the best blog posts from your content marketing strategy, and talk to them directly.
Your brand should feel human and convey a distinctive personality, and this strategy can help you reinforce that.
Engage with your audience
They’re called social media and not all-about-me media for a reason. Not just because ‘me’ and ‘media’ are too much of an alliteration, but because these platforms were created to make connections. Not a one-way conversation. Not yourself talking down to them. Actual interactions!
Engage with your followers by replying to their comments, answering their DMs, and thanking them for tagging you in that picture with your product or in your restaurant. Even better: try and actively start a dialogue with them by asking questions in your posts and stories.
They need to feel that you actually care about their feedback and input. If they do, they could bring you some free advertising, too: when they share pictures at your physical location or with your products, people who don’t follow you (yet) but follow them will find out about you. Yep, you’re reaching even more people for free. That’s also why it’s always good to encourage organic content from your audience!
If they see that you reply to those pictures or perhaps even share them in your feed and stories, they’re going to be even more likely to tag you in them.
Check your analytics
At the end of the day, social media is still marketing: you must analyse it regularly to see what works, what type of posts get the most engagement, what doesn’t really seem to resonate with your target audience, where your followers are from, at what time they’re most active, etc.
No matter what some gurus tell you, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all formula when it comes to social media: it’s all about trial and error. You can do this by checking your insights, or analytics, or metrics, or whatever your main platform calls their data. Do it on a regular basis (weekly, if you can), so that you can constantly improve.
Remember: using social media for marketing is about making connections and bringing value to your audience, rather than just sales, sales, sales. Those will come naturally when you focus on the rest.
Did you know that we’re social media experts specialising in small businesses just like yours? Let us take care of your accounts and create the right social media strategy for you while you focus on less time-consuming aspects of your business! Contact us to get started.