Social media guide for small business owners

Social media is one of the most effective routes to your target audience, it helps to build your brand online and it’s definitely worth making an effort to make it a regular part of your marketing communication.

GETTING STARTED

If your business is new and unknown, it’s unlikely that your followers will be coming to you. Instead, you will need to invest time and effort into making your pages and profiles interesting and start interacting with others. As with everything, it gets easier once you gain your first few, but don’t just stop once you have a decent follower base – keep them engaged and always be on a lookout for new ones, because as easy as it is to gain followers, it’s also very easy to lose them.

1. Pay attention to the look and feel

Marketing is not just about pretty pictures but they certainly help. Having a visually attractive profile with relevant and interesting updates is your first step on this journey. Content is what determines if others want to hear from you so if you can combine the two, that’s great!  Use the same description and images across all your social media to keep your online presence consistent.

2. Introduce yourself

Introduce yourself and your business to your potential followers – keep it simple and short. Avoid sales talk.. On Twitter, use relevant keywords and include hashtags to highlight those as it makes it easy for your profile and updates to be found. If you are setting up a Facebook or LinkedIn company page, ask your friends and connections to like/follow your page – as they do so, your page will become visible to their connections and give you extra exposure.

3. Interact with others

Once you are all set and have a few activities going on your profiles and/or pages, it’s time to start interacting with others. Search for other users based on relevant keywords and pick those that you could have a conversation with and continue interacting via re-sharing their content, mentioning them in your updates or liking what they got to say. The more you interact the more visible your profiles will become and your follower base will start growing organically.

4. Keep your communication regular

Even if it’s just once a day, try to interact with your social media audiences on regular basis. Some channels are more stable than others – LinkedIn and Facebook for example are relatively easy for maintaining your followers and connections even if you go through quiet periods. Twitter and Instagram are much more dynamic.

5. Include a call to action

Don’t forget that social media is the route to your business and the objective is to generate more work for yourself and your business. So make sure that you include a call to action and your contact details so when your followers require your products or services, they can easily contact you.

SOCIAL MEDIA CAMPAIGN IDEAS

Creating engaging content requires an imaginative mind and time, which could be challenging.  But if you see the value of spending time and energy creating hand made social media campaigns, here are a few campaign suggestions that could work for you:

1. Pictures

This sounds very obvious and it is exactly that. You could improve your photos, not only by using special visual filters but also adding a bit of text within the picture. There are many free web platforms that will allow you to edit your pictures – I use www.canva.com and it’s extremely easy to use. I also recently discovered a few great websites for free stock photos which are great if your funds are tight – see our recent post 7 Websites for free stock photos.

2. Infographics

You don’t need lots of data to create an infographic. In fact, I don’t think you need any. What you need is to simplify your message into a short visual demonstration. Pick a niche enough topic and instead of writing about it, see if you can make it visual. Again, I will point at www.canva.com as I used that one in the past, but there are many other helpful and easy to use web based platforms you could consider.

3. Visual quotes

This is an ideal compromise between a quote and a picture. It’s very simple – just put a quote into a template or just change the background. The most important thing here is to say something meaningful and relevant. You can either quote others or come up with your own – you could even pick a sentence or two from your blog or website. Or, a client testimonial is a great way to tell everyone how good you are at what you do.

4. Quizzes

I love a good quiz. I find them fun and engaging and there is always something new to learn. You can make these relevant to what you do or completely random. Go creative on the categories and visuals; just make sure they are short enough to keep your follower`s interest. Resources allowing, making these a regular thing will make them even more popular over time. You can create them just for fun or offer a prize at the end to make it a little more competitive.

5. Competitions

Games and competitions are designed to not only create, but keep the players interest for longer. Think about a competition that your followers might enjoy – it could be a one off “tag someone” or a continuous challenge with a compelling reward for the winner. You could consider running these online or even face to face which could be a great way to personally interact with those you only know online.

6. Short knowledge shares

The reason why you are successful at what you do is because you have the knowledge that not everyone has. Share it! Of course not too much of it, but consider doing a short “did you know..” or “how-to-guide” posts. They have the potential to get your followers curious and increase their interaction levels as they will want to know more. These can be as simple as status updates or simple visuals.

7. Polls

If you can think of an interesting topic that would get your followers engaged, try running a quick survey to capture their views. You will need to offer and incentive that your audience will find compelling – it could be as simple as learning something new. For a free easy survey tool, try https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/ . Once you have their responses, you’ll need to present the new findings so you can demonstrate that you listened – you might even want to consider an infographic for that.

For any campaign – don’t forget your tags, so your posts are not only seen by your current followers but also get you some new ones. More on how to make your posts visible on social media here.

CHOOSING THE RIGHT PLATFORMS

There are many. And picking the ones that work for your business best will help you save time, which ultimately is your most valuable asset. Here is a short review of the most popular platforms and why they might be a good fit for your business:

1. Google+

I find Google + to be one of the best web traffic boosters I know. Given that it is Google’s very own product, it naturally pushes your content up the search engine ladder. The more your content is shared, the easier it is to be found via the search engine. It works for both B2B and B2C and there are many ways you can interact with other users. The “Plus” function helps Google to identify content you like and makes the content they present to you more relevant. Users can also share their own content, re-share existing posts and engage in conversations within groups. As a user, you can set up as many pages as you like and you can co-manage them with other users.

2. LinkedIn

The place to be for all professionals is a great place for your business and yourself to be seen at as it is your virtual marketplace where you can connect with your peers and potential clients, join relevant groups and is a great way to keep in touch with your target audience. If you are targeting senior decision makers, this is definitely the type of social media that you should be using daily. Even if you don’t have your own content to share, you can build up your influence by re-sharing useful insights– your connections will associate the quality of the content you share with you and your business.

3. Twitter

Twitter is a universal platform that works well for all businesses, irrespective of size or industry. The thing to remember is its high velocity which means that things get lost quickly. You don’t need to sit there and keep tweeting all day – you can just set and schedule your tweets to go out throughout the day. You can form some great networks with fellow tweeters, as there is no need to approve connections and users follow each other based on the interest in the other person’s tweets.

I find that tweets with pictures get more retweets and favourites, and are also the main referrals to the website. Pictures, however take up space so you will need to shorten your tweet, but I recommend doing it. Use a URL shortener such as bit.ly or ow.ly to make the most of the word count. If you are sharing someone else’s content, it’s always nice to mention them in the tweet.

4. Facebook

One for B2C, but always helpful if you can get your friends help to promote your brand even if it’s in the B2B space. For your B2C campaigns, you can get your audience to like, re-share or tag a friend as part of your content strategy. That way you are extending your brand’s presence onto their connections. Visuals work well with Facebook, even better if supported by catchy wording to go with it. You can start a page and ask people to like it which will result in your page’s updates being included in their news feed. When asking your friends to like your page, spend some time thinking about the message that you will send  – avoid a blank invite to the page as they are more likely to ignore it. On your page, use relevant wording and keep your updates regular. Even if you don’t see much social interaction, it is a great reminder about your brand.

5. StumbleUpon

This is another great platform that will boost your web traffic. Works for everyone really, although I find it to work more effectively with visual content. The platform itself uses your bookmark to push relevant web pages in front of you, so tagging of your web pages is the most important thing here. You will need to pick your category and type in your relevant key words that describe the page.

To add a page, you will need to download a plugin and click the “like” button at the tool bar and then add the pages you like. Simple and very effective.

6. SlideShare

Ideal for B2B and businesses who use thought leadership as part of their marketing strategy and have presentations and PDF documents to share. It’s a great resource that can help you promote your expertise by simply uploading your documents and adding relevant tags. Great for learning too!

7. YouTube

For any business who uses video to market themselves, there is no better place to be than YouTube – no matter if you are targeting consumers or businesses. Videos are a very powerful tool to get your brand noticed and this platform provides an easy way to create your profile and upload videos. As always, tagging them with the most relevant terms is key. It’s quite a lot going on in there, so you will need to make sure your profile stands out.

8. Pinterest

Given its visual nature, it is more effective with B2C, but you can’t go wrong with using it for visual demonstration of data such as infographics, for your B2B audience. Similarly to StumbleUpon, you will need to download a plugin and then start pinning things to your boards. Creating clear and accurate descriptions for your boards will make it easier for other users to find your content.

9. Instagram

Like Pinterest, Instagram is set for visual content. You just need to hashtag your posts so you appear in searches. There is no limit to how many hashtags can you use, so use as many as you need to cover all relevant search terms.

MAKING YOUR POSTS VISIBLE

When you post on social media you do so because you want your posts to be seen, liked and shared by as many as possible. It all depends on what you are sharing, however sometimes great posts get lost due to the high volume of social media activities. Using some basic tactics can help to improve the visibility of your posts and ensure they reach the right people:

1. Visuals

Visual posts look better and attract attention more than text only posts. You still need a description to go with your visuals but including them will definitely increase the visibility of your post. Ensure your pictures are tagged with relevant key words and use a variety of visuals including infographics and videos.

2. Hashtags

Readers will find your content via hashtags so use them on each relevant word in if you are posting on Twitter, Google+ or Instagram. Using hashtags in your Google+ updates will not only make your posts visible on the platform itself but will also help your posts to show up in Google searches.

3. Regular posts

As posts get lost in the mix, it’s important to keep your social media activities regular. Focus on quality of your posts, but if possible try to post at least once a day to remind your existing followers and attract new ones.

4. Timings

You will find that some times and days work better than others. Keep track of different times and focus on those timings that are most effective. There are some best practice studies out there that can recommend ideal times for posting on social media so starting with those is a good idea.

5. Relevant titles

If you are sharing a link on sites like LinkedIn and Facebook, your post will come up as a visual update automatically. It’s easy just to copy/paste a link into your profile but this means that there is no title or description. Take the time to add a few words about your link – it helps your followers to understand what your update is about.

6. Community

Ask your friends and colleagues to share your updates – the more your posts get shared the more often and higher they will appear. If you are using LinkedIn, by posting content in relevant groups you will be able to reach a large amount of people who are interested in the topic you are posting about and it will help you to build your online profile.

7. Social interactions

The more you interact with others on social media,  the more visible your posts and your own profile will become. Follow others, share and like their content and they will be more likely to do the same.

FINDING RELEVANT CONTENT TO SHARE

1. Google Alerts

Irrespective of your focus, Google Alerts will help you keep on top of the latest news on the internet. You can set up as many alerts as your email box can take. If you are not sure what exactly should you be focusing on, use a variety of topics and cancel those that don’t really provide you with what yOu are looking for later. It’s all free and really useful.

2. LinkedIn Pulse

Although it seems like literally everyone is publishing their own content on LinkedIn, Pulse provides a great source of the best articles based on their popularity. You can set up your preferences and search for topics – and then simply share using the social media buttons on the page.

3. Flipboard



Flipboard is your online magazine offering great content on a variety of topics. Great for your own education, as well as sharing content that is relevant to your business. You can also create your own magazines to store all your articles in one place and read them later.

4. Pinterest

Visual content is easy to digest and more likely to be shared. Depending on your style and the focus of your business you can consider using infographics, quotes or actual pictures.

5. Visualistan


I find this site to be a great source of inspiration. Offering visual demonstrations of data created and shared by their own users I always find great things worth sharing. It’s not as well-known as some of the other similar sites, but the quality of content is great!

6. Twitter

Twitter is where referrals to good content live. Don’t just look at what your fellow tweeters are talking about but consider using the search functionality. Search for hashtags to find relevant content and start browsing. You will find a lot of interesting content that you can easily re-share.

7. Mashable

Mashable provides a good mix of content – some less serious than others but it’s a great way to have all things talked about in one place. You can also submit your own tips if you think they should be published on the site.

8. StumbleUpon

StumbleUpon works on a principle of pushing content in front of you based on your pre-set preferences. It’s great to find less obvious sources as anyone can submit their content which gets ranked based on popularity.

9. Medium

Medium is another online magazine put together by its users where you can find a lot of great articles worth sharing as well as submit your own. Great way to find articles on a variety of topics.

10. SlideShare

YouTube without the sound – this site offers endless amounts of PDFs and PowerPoint presentations full of great insights.

MEASURING THE IMPACT

Once things are all set up a running, it’s important to monitor what is and what isn’t working. Allow yourself enough time before making any conclusions, but don’t be afraid to test different approaches.

1. Web traffic

Social media platforms are the route to your business and not the end destination. Ultimately you want people to know about your business and there is no better place to tell them about what you do then driving them to your website. Measure yourself not only on the member base of the specific platforms but also on the number of hits coming through referrals from social media. Set yourself a month on month growth target – and monitor how you are tracking against your goals. In addition to the number of visitors, set additional criteria around the time spent on the page, forms submitted, etc. – anything that matters to your overall business goal is worth your attention.

2. Brand exposure

No, you probably won’t sell through social media – but the more people know about you, the more likely it is that they will remember you when they are looking for products and services you provide. Capture your month on month growth rates on specific platforms – and focus on the gradual growth of your audience. With social media platforms, the more people you have the more you will get. The first 100 is the hardest – but it will only get easier as you grow that number.

3. Audience engagement

It is not just about how many people follow you, but also about the number of social interactions they have with your business and how much they share. Set yourself some success criteria around the different types of social interactions such as mentions, shares, as well as number of views on your platforms and measure how you are tracking against those goals. To increase engagement, also consider looking at including your team in sharing content to help you drive awareness and build their individual profiles.

4. Lead generation

This is very tricky to monitor, however you can keep an eye on referrals through social media that link to relevant pages on your website or by including the “how did you hear about us” field in your forms. Generating leads that have a potential to be turned into new business opportunities is your top goal, so having measures around it will keep your efforts focused on what matters the most – clients.

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