For over a decade, social media has been changing the way we communicate. The question small business owners ask is no longer, “Should I use social media to promote my business?” but rather, “How should I use social media to promote my business?”
As a small business owner, your time is a valuable and finite commodity. You don’t have the time or resources to spend all day navigating a dozen social media platforms (or to hire a social media specialist to do it for you).
Understanding these limitations, I spoke with marketing experts, social media specialists, and small business owners and asked them about the goals they set and the strategies they use to plan their social media presence.
Their advice is clear: When you invest in strategic social media marketing, your small business will see increased traffic, better brand awareness, and healthier customer satisfaction.
1. Schedule beyond the 9-to-5
You know that time is a precious commodity at a small business. One of the most effective ways to save time is to schedule your social media content.
I asked Christina Hager, head of social media strategy and distribution at Overflow Storytelling Lab, how she approaches the task of scheduling social media activities.
What do you do with all this content you’ve created? Hager gave me three excellent suggestions:
Create an editorial calendar to track what you post
An editorial calendar will help you keep track of original and curated content in one place. It also allows for easy updating and collaboration, which is key if you share social media responsibilities across your team.
Hire an intern or marketing student to do your posting
Spend your time and money to develop a strategy, then hire someone with great enthusiasm for social media to do the posting, create extra content, etc.
Use a scheduling tool
Hager always uses Hootsuite to schedule posts and advises her clients to do the same. “It is a huge timesaver,” she explains. “You can block out time and get your entire week (or month) done.”
2. Customize for your target audience
An engaging social media presence isn’t just about how often you post. As Hager points out, what you post is just as important.
Without a strategy and a specific audience to target, your social media efforts will be spread too thin across a sea of content.
“Instead” Hager says, “focus in on your target audience, and build up a social media presence that seeks them out and speaks their language. Find out where your target demographic is, and then utilize social media data; check out reports by Hootsuite to find out which platform they are most active on.”
If your small business sells handmade baby clothes, your energy is best spent sharing information and tips that build value and trust with new, busy moms. Or, if you are trying to market gear for adventurous travelers, think about that personality and demographic and make your content, copy, and images speak to them.
3. Cut through the social media noise
Once you’ve identified your target audience, how do you cut through all the social media noise and catch the eye of a potential customer?
Facebook had 2.23 billion monthly active users as of the second quarter of 2018—how can one small business ever hope to break through that kind of traffic and find their potential customers?
I spoke with Dean DeCarlo, president of Mission Disrupt, an advertising/marketing company that drives growth for brands using digital channels. To DeCarlo, what makes a social media strategy stand out in the crowd is authentic content.
“Companies that blast out product information and even promotions will more than likely see lackluster engagement and reach” says DeCarlo.
Specifically, DeCarlo says they have great success at Mission Disrupt when they create original video content. They produce weekly videos on marketing tips as well as how-tos for marketers, which gives them a platform to spread thought leadership and best practices.
4. Leverage your community
The key to ensuring that your content has reach and engagement, DeCarlo notes above, is a focus on community.
Whether that community is geographic or topical, if a business is not first and foremost focused on the community surrounding them, they are missing a key opportunity to positively influence how a potential customer perceives their product or service.
DeCarlo points to the auto industry as an example—let’s say you are the CEO of a local car dealership. “Instead of posting about promotions or photos from around the office, I would instead decide to dedicate my account to showing off exciting, luxury cars.”
This entices both the topical community of devout car enthusiasts, and the rest of us who can at least appreciate a photo of a sleek Porsche.
If you’re a brick-and-mortar retail boutique, you can leverage your community geographically. Try engaging on profiles using your city’s location tag to get people aware of your presence in their city.
5. Measure what you can act on
With these solid methodologies in place, the last question to ask is this: Did it work? How can you track and measure the effectiveness of your social media activity?
Nathalie Couet, communications, marketing, and partnerships manager at Dashthis.com, says it’s important to learn how to separate vanity metrics from metrics you can act on. A stat that looks good but is not actionable (such as number of likes on a post), is a vanity metric.
Remember the important difference between followers/subscribers, and likes on a specific post: The former indicates that individuals are knowingly asking for more of your content in their lives.
It’s also important to give yourself goals and benchmarks.
“Just saying I want to increase my followers neither holds you accountable, ” explains Couet, “nor does it give you specific methods with which to reach that goal. Instead, say something like: ‘I want to double my number of followers in the next 12 months, which I will do by posting content twice a month, boosting one post per month to my target audience, thus increasing followers X% each month.'”
This gives you something concrete to hold onto and allows you to see if you’re going in the right direction, or if your goals and methods need adjusting.
6. Delight your customer to ensure they come back
As your social media presence grows, it will present you with opportunities to interact with your customers directly. Take this chance to delight your customer with personal attention and responsiveness.
Zach Hendrix, co-founder of GreenPal, told me about the innovative way he focuses on customer delight on social media.
After brainstorming, they came up with an idea that would allow them to leave a lasting and delightful impression on their customers.
They did it through pets.
“When a homeowner signs up for our service,” explains Hendrix, “we ask them if there are pets in the home so our lawn vendors know to be careful when entering the lawn.”
Zach and his team at GreenPal decided this was a golden opportunity to wow their customers, and decided to send a personalized gift to their customers’ pet, addressed specifically to the animal.
“This really wowed our customers” says Hendrix. “We received personal thank-you notes, videos of their dog chewing the bone we sent posted to Facebook, and thank you tweets. It worked really well for the time and money we invested.”
The original author of this piece was Dylan Echter; it was updated by Samantha Bonanno on 10/10/2018.
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