If you’re active on social media, you know exactly how much valuable and helpful information gets shared every single minute of every day on each platform. Yet, many small businesses aren’t using social media to its full potential because they’re simply not sure where to start or if it’ll be worth the time investment.
The fact is, social media is here to stay and offers a way for even the smallest businesses to create awareness of their brand and build a community. Marketers rely so heavily on social media because it’s a proven way to get in front of new customers and connect with existing ones.
Plus, social media has changed how we shop. Social networks are now the top source of inspiration for consumer purchases. In a PWC survey, 37% of consumers indicated they turn to social for inspiration when shopping.
Here’s how to make the most of social media for your SMB and our top small business social media secrets of success.
One of the biggest mistakes SMBs make with social media is jumping in without a plan. Having a social media strategy will help you create a consistent, professional presence on your social media platforms of choice. This includes choosing the right platform to connect with your customers.
Social Media Audit
The first step to creating your strategy is conducting an audit of your current social media accounts. If you’re starting from scratch with social, these are all things to consider.
For your audit, review:
Choosing the Right Social Platform
Once you know who your target audience is, you can decide which social media platforms make the most sense for your business.
Ask yourself: Which platforms do your target audience hang out on? What do they do while they are there? What state of mind are they in?
For example, if your customer uses Instagram as an escape and loves browsing the Cats of Instagram account at 10:30 p.m., they may not be in the right frame of mind to see a post about your local car dealership. In this case, you may be better served to think about where they would be looking for information about a car — or at least be in the state of mind that they’re going to pay attention to your post.
When deciding which social platform(s) to use, the first thing to know is that you don’t need to be on every single platform. In fact, you’ll likely get better results by taking a less is more approach — especially as you have limited resources as a small business. Remember, you can always become more active on other platforms at a later time once you’ve grown your audience on the first one or two.
Finally, keep in mind that just because you personally favor one platform, such as Facebook, doesn’t mean your audience does as well. Think carefully about the demographics and behavior of your audience before choosing which platform(s) to focus your efforts on. Also, identify which social platforms your competition is successfully using as that will provide clues about where your target audience may be already active.
What You Need to Know About Each Platform
Here are the most prevalent platforms used by small businesses and their audiences and what you need to know about each one:
With over 2 billion users, over 75% of whom check the platform daily, Facebook has the widest reach of all social networks. With robust features, including Pages, Groups, Marketplace, Messenger and advertising, Facebook offers a wide range of features to reach customers, sell products and create communities around your business.
With 59% of consumers favoring content that teaches them something, YouTube is the perfect platform to share how-to videos and other helpful content. Owned by Google, YouTube is search-driven, so this platform may be a good fit for you if you can carve out a niche sharing educational or entertaining content related to your product or service.
It’s important to keep in mind the time and cost associated with creating video. YouTube content is more polished and structured than video for Instagram or Snapchat, for instance. If you are on a limited budget, try those platforms first to see how your audience reacts to video content. If they are well received, investing in a video creation strategy for higher quality YouTube content might be right for your business.
With a focus on sharing visual content, Instagram is a popular choice for B2C companies, local businesses and lifestyle brands. This platform is growing faster than Facebook, with over 1 billion active monthly users, and offers a way to share images, video and content.
While image content tends to be polished on Instagram, Instagram Stories are a great way to experiment with low-cost video content. Most creators simply use their phone video to experiment with different types of videos. Keep an eye on your analytics to see what resonates with your audience.
Twitter remains a viable social media platform for many brands. In general, budget investment tends to be low as more conversational interactions and content sharing are how many use the platform.
But Twitter moves quickly, so to stand out on this platform you need to be willing to post multiple times per day and invest time in actively engage with other users.
Pinterest has 291 million active monthly users and is a particularly effective platform for consumer brands and ecommerce businesses. It performs a bit differently than the others, as it’s more like a search engine.
With Pinterest, users make purchases based on their discoveries. A Pinterest study found that 72% of respondents indicated they are inspired to shop even when they aren’t specifically looking for something on Pinterest.
This professional network occasionally gets a bad rap as a place that only job seekers hang out but depending on the type of business you run, it can be incredibly effective.
LinkedIn is the number one channel that B2B marketers use to distribute content, so if you’re in professional services, sales or serve B2B clients, it’s likely the place for you to invest your time and attention.
As the name implies, social media is all about being social, so to build an audience, you need to engage with them! You can’t just post promotional content day in, day out and expect people to want to engage.
No matter what platform you’re using, the lines of communication should always be open. Your business needs to be ready to start and lead discussions or share content that is valuable, informative or interesting to the community.
When consumers have a question or issue with a brand, 45% of social media users say it’s the first place they go for help. Check out this example from retailer Best Buy dealing quickly with a customer complaint:
Social media is the frontline of communications for your small business, so it’s critical that your accounts are as easy to find as possible.
Start by ensuring your website has social sharing icons. Consultant Michelle L. Evans includes branded icons in the footer of her website to make connecting with her easy.
Next, highlight your website URL in your social media bios or descriptions. Michelle uses her website link consistently across her social media platforms.
Producing Dynamic Content
The right content on social media enables you to establish authority and credibility for your business. Quality content should be consistently shared on your social media accounts with a mix of educational, entertaining and engaging content. Remember, you want to be helpful to your audience and make them want to learn more about your product or service (without being too salesy, of course).
If you’re not sure what to share on social media, check out these proven ways to make your content appealing to your audience.
Is it relevant?
Ensuring your content is relevant shows you are thinking about your audience. By tackling topics that are helpful and valuable to your potential customers, you show them that you understand them and can be trusted.
Inspiration: Dog Tag Bakery on Twitter
Is it informative?
The best content expands your audience’s understanding of a certain topic. Whether it’s addressing a commonly asked question or giving your take on a current hot topic, you want your potential customer to leave having learned something and seeing your business as an authority.
Inspiration: OutboundEngine on LinkedIn
Is it uplifting?
Not every topic can be rainbows and unicorns, but your content shouldn’t veer too far into the negative. You need your audience to still want to engage with your brand and have an overall positive feeling about it.
Inspiration: Clare Florist on Twitter
Is it clear and concise? Is it scannable?
Simple language that gets straight to the point is always your best bet when creating social media content. Ensuring someone can get the key points right away — even if they don't read the entire post — means you’re still providing valuable information.
Inspiration: Blue Point Brewing on Facebook
Is it shareable? Does it include a link?
If you want to up your profile on social media platforms, allowing people to quickly and easily share your social media posts (or even actively invite them to share it) means you’re increasing your odds of reaching a broader audience.
Inspiration: Yoga With Adriene on Facebook
Is it reflective of your brand?
Every brand has its own unique look and feel, and your social media content should reflect that. When the audience feels there is a disconnect between what your business stands for and the content you produce, they can quickly lose trust.
Inspiration: Flora Forager on Instagram
Is it aesthetically pleasing?
On social media, people can quickly get overwhelmed and may decide to find information elsewhere if what you’ve provided is too hard to consume.
Inspiration: Rainbow Chan Weddings and Events on Pinterest
Does it include images?
People are visual creatures, so including an image with your post that reflects the content you’ve produced is a quick way to draw the audience’s interest.
Inspiration: Instar Farms on Instagram
Build Community With User-Generated Content
You don’t want to miss out on the opportunity to invite your customers to create content for your business to share. User-generated content is very powerful, with 50% of consumers saying that chances of them buying a product via social media would increase after seeing user-generated content from others.
For small businesses, this is a way to get your customers excited and engaged while highlighting your products or services. This could be as easy as encouraging customers to share a picture of themselves using your product on Instagram with a branded hashtag or running a contest where users submit videos or images.
To get your customers excited, your call for user-generated content should be fun and allow them to unleash their creativity. For example, Boomf is a company built on the element of surprise with it’s exploding confetti cards. The company’s Instagram account is full of user-generated videos, and they encourage senders of the cards to film videos and share them.
Check out their Instagram account and how they’ve made use of their bio to ensure people capture the joy on people’s faces when they’re showered with confetti.
Check out this guide to user-generated content from Hootsuite for more tips.
Like any other marketing strategy, you should be monitoring your social media results to see what is working and what isn’t.
The most common metrics that are tracked include:
When measuring your results, use this data as a means to drive your strategy forward. If something isn’t working the way you hoped, be open to pivoting and trying something different.
Here’s how to track your metrics on each platform:
For Facebook, you’ll want to track metrics using the Insight feature on your business page. You can get started using this tutorial from Facebook.
Pinterest Analytics is available with only business accounts and provides reporting on audience selection, affinities and demographics. Find out more about how to track success on Pinterest with this tutorial.
By taking a thoughtful, measured approach to your small business social media presence and creating interesting content that speaks to your audience, you’ll be positioning your business for the greatest success.
Getting on social media and interacting with your customers (and potential customers) means you’re meeting them where they are, and the small business social media secrets to success that we’ve shared should provide the template you need to get your strategy up and running.
Feature Image: Unsplash / Georgia de Lotz
All screenshots taken by the author, June 2019.
Image 1, 13: via Facebook
Image 2, 14: via YouTube
Image 3, 15: via Instagram
Image 4, 7, 16: via Twitter
Image 5, 17: via Pinterest
Image 6: via LinkedIn
Image 8: via Michelle L Evans
Image 9: via Michelle L Evans on Twitter
Image 10: via Michelle L Evans on Facebook
Image 11: via Michelle L Evans on Instagram
Image 12: via Boomf on Instagram