Social media marketing essentials for small businesses

Effective social media marketing helps to create awareness, communicate with your potential clients and improves your search engine visibility. There is no investment required as you start, however you are investing your time and social media can be very time consuming. So we put together a guide with the essential information you need to know as you make social media part of your regular marketing communication.

We looked at some recent research focused around why individuals and businesses use social media and these are some interesting figures we found:

  • 84% of users choose social media to tell the world about the causes and brands they care about
  • 78% of social media users are on various social networks to grow their personal and business relationships
  • 69% of people active on social media use it for a sense of self-fulfilment and participating the the world
  • 68% of people and businesses use social media to define and present themselves to others
  • 49% of user choose social media to bring valuable and entertaining content to others

To put it all very simply these are the key principles that you should remember:

  • Social media marketing is all about communication between people
  • Social networks are the tools – they can only be effective if used correctly
  • Building relationships requires regular communication

  1. Where to start?

Let’s be honest – 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 social media profiles and activity interesting and start interacting with others.  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, you’ll be in a decent place.

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. 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.

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.

2. What to post?

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:

  • Pictures

You could improve your photos, not only by using special visual filters but also adding a bit of text within the picture.

  • Stories

A relatively new feature available on Facebook and Instagram, you can record short stories which will disappear within 24 hours – a great way to grab attention!

  • Infographics

You don’t need lots of data to create an infographic. Pick a niche enough topic and instead of writing about it, see if you can make it visual.

  • Visual quotes

You can either quote others or come up with your own – you could even pick a sentence or two from your blog or website.

  • Quizzes

Who doesn’t love a good quiz! 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Polls

If you can think of an interesting topic that would get your followers engaged, try running a quick survey to capture their views. For a free easy survey tool, try https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/

3. Where to post?

There are many social media platforms to chose from. The key is to pick the ones that are relevant to your audience and focus on those – you don’t need many, but you need those you use to be effective:

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 social network 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.

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 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.

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.

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!

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.  It’s quite a lot going on in there, so you will need to make sure your profile stands out.

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.

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.

4. How to be seen?

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:

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

5. How to track progress?

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.

  • 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 or online shop. 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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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