As a small business, it’s likely that your marketing department is relatively small to non-existent, so the world of marketing and social media, in particular, can be extremely overwhelming. Not only that, time, staff and funding usually come in short supply making it difficult for companies to establish an online presence.
Nevertheless, to stay relevant in today’s digital world, you must enter your business into the social space. The latest digital report by We Are Social and Hootsuite suggests that there are now 2.8 billion active users on social media across the globe – so it’s never been more important to tap into its benefits.
As consumption trends shift away from traditional media and towards digital and mobile, social is progressively regarded as the ultimate tool for promoting your brand, increasing public awareness and nurturing a connection with your target market – but how do you achieve quick success? Follow these social media tips to get your business started on social.
Be picky with platforms
Consistency is vital to make social work for you, so don’t assume you have to create a profile across all platforms. Adding more than necessary will result in sporadic, inconsistent activity, so focus on the one or two most relevant platforms for your audience.
So, which site will get the best results for your business? Here’s a quick guide on the main sites:
Facebook: The most popular social media channel with the largest user base. Lets people connect with friends, share links, photos, videos, and events, join groups, and more. There are options for promoting content organically and through paid promotions.
Twitter: Widely regarded as the best platform for engagement and growing more popular as a tool for social customer service. It’s fast-paced and allows reactivity. Users can post messages of up to 140 characters, share photos and videos, create custom lists, send direct messages, and more. Content can be promoted organically, with Twitter cards, or paid promotions.
Instagram: A visual social media platform based entirely on photo and video posts. Although demographics veer towards younger users, older generations are starting to embrace it more and more. Unlike the others, Instagram is almost entirely mobile and, although there is a web version, you can’t take photos or create new posts on it.
LinkedIn: The largest social media network for professionals. LinkedIn is a business-focused network where users add connections, share links, join groups, write recommendations, and search for connections by company, location, industry and skills. Paid-for advertising is also available.
YouTube: A video-sharing platform with over a billion users, where people can view, upload, rate, share, subscribe to and comment on content.
Follow a plan
Social media should be treated in the same way as any business function. There needs to be a purpose and you need to establish what your objectives are, plus what you want it to achieve for your brand. Do you need to boost sales, enhance brand awareness or increase engagement with your customers? Once you’ve set your goal, keep it in mind when planning your strategy. Take time to review competitor profiles, research relevant content and create a schedule of posts for each platform you are using. Think about broad campaigns that can be run via multiple platforms, like launching a promotion or competition, for example, rather than posting unsystematically. Brands can also take advantage of seasonality with content, so consider what’s coming up on the calendar and plan your posts to be relevant.
There is an abundance of tools that can help formulate your content and make regular posting much easier. If you create a business profile on Facebook, you have access to free publishing tools and post insights, and for other platforms, SproutSocial, HootSuite and Buffer are examples of free-to-use tools that will help you to schedule content.
Building a following requires interaction, so while content planners and strategies are important, reacting to conversation and engaging with influencers is essential if you are to make your mark. Share, retweet and comment on posts that are relevant to your brand, join groups and follow the key players in your industry. It’s helpful to monitor what they are talking about on social media and think about how you can get involved in the chat – whether it’s offering an opinion or striking up a new conversation, building relationships with influencers can open doors to potential new customers.
Become a valuable contributor
One of the keys to success on social is commitment. Once you’ve identified who you are trying to reach and relevant platforms, you need to provide valuable content that resonates with your audience. Sharing your expertise or knowledge, giving solutions and providing valuable market insight will motivate your customers or potential clients and keep them engaged.
However you choose to boost your social presence, preparation is the key – once the foundations are in place, you can then begin to have fun and build your following.
Dawn McGruer is head trainer at Business Consort.