This article originally appeared on Sprout Social’s blog.
A couple of years ago, small business owners were questioning whether social media was a worthwhile investment. Now, it’s no longer a question of should you be using social media, but rather how you can use it efficiently and effectively to drive your business forward.
According to research from LinkedIn, 81% of small businesses use social media. An impressive stat no doubt, but it also means there’s still a significant number of SMBs not taking advantage of social media for their marketing campaigns. That’s mind blowing when you consider the following:
With all of that potential for success, there’s no reason to be watching from the sidelines. Our guide focuses on using social media for small business. We’ll cover everything you need to get up and running, and how to sustain your online presence once it has been established. First, we need to review some marketing basics.
Define Your Goals
Using social media for small business is obviously a great idea, but you may wonder what’s the the real benefits for doing so? You won’t know if your efforts are truly paying off unless you have something to measure against. We’ll take a closer look at measurement a bit later when we talk analytics, so for now, let’s focus on objectives.
Not all social media strategies are created equal. Some are designed to drive awareness while others are built around engagement and specific calls-to-action. There are a lot of elements to social media. For instance, Facebook is a single platform that has many moving parts. You don’t want to approach it haphazardly. It’s inefficient and only creates more work for yourself.
By forming and actually writing down thoughtful and achievable goals, you’ll have a solid understanding of whether or not your social media efforts paid off. A study found 76% of participants achieved their goals through specific goal-setting strategies. There are numerous approaches to goal-setting.
SMART goals are one of the most popular goal-setting frameworks for businesses.
- Specific. The more specific you can be with your objective, the easier it’ll be to see what it is you need to do.
- Measurable. Can your goal be measured? How will you track your progress and know if your goal has been achieved?
- Attainable. Think realistically. Is the goal you’ve set for yourself possible to achieve?
- Relevant. Does your goal drive your business forward? Is it the right time?
- Time. Goals are meaningless without deadlines. Give yourself one.
Define Your Audience
When it comes to marketing effectively, you wouldn’t walk into the center of a crowded room and start yelling at people, so why do the same thing online? Social media is one of the best ways to reach your target audience, but first you have to figure out who they are. Those details will help you figure out which social platforms are best for you and the type of content you’ll share.
When identifying your target audience, consider factors such as:
Remember, the more specific you can be, the better. This will enable you to create a strong social media marketing strategy around these individuals and take a more targeted approach to each the right people at the appropriate time.
Research the Platforms
Now that you know who you want to reach, you’ll need to figure out where they are. Social networks have varied user bases—some cater to niche groups while others are digital melting pots. As a small business, your time and energy is very valuable. It doesn’t make sense to invest it on one social network if your primary target audience is more active on another.
B2B & B2C Considerations
In a broad sense, the industry you’re in will help you decide which platform to use. B2B and B2C businesses use social media differently. Consider this when you’re trying to decide which platform to use. In Social Media Examiner’s 2015 Social Media Marketing Industry Report, B2B respondents listed LinkedIn as their number one choice for social networking. while B2C businesses go to Facebook, and in larger numbers.
If you’re B2C, you’ll need to become very familiar with the key social media players and their demographics. It’s a time consuming endeavor, but not to worry because we’ve put together a complete guide to Social Media Demographics for you. Read through it for detailed insights across seven social media platforms.
Platform Strengths & Weaknesses
Going beyond just demographics, you need to know the strengths and weaknesses of each platform. If you specialize in video content, for example, then you’ll want to choose the platform that best supports that type of media.
Specifically on YouTube, 300 hours of video is uploaded every minute, but 67% of Facebook users in the US said they discovered the videos they watch on the social network.
Do you want to work within a six- or 15-second time constraint, or would you like your content to disappear after it’s viewed?
How often do you plan to publish content? Is Facebook or Twitter better for engagement? If you’re going to update multiple times a day, then Twitter’s fast-moving stream might be the right fit. But if you only plan to post a couple of times a week, you don’t want that content to become buried minutes after it’s been published. Facebook has a longer lifespan than Twitter, making it easier to stay relevant without burning out on content.
Using social media for small business isn’t only good for driving awareness and engagement; it’s great for relationship building as well. When customers try to reach you with a question or complaint, many do so on social media. So which platforms are best equipped to help you handle customer service queries?
Consumers complain about brands 879 million times a year on Twitter, Facebook and other social media sites. What’s worse is brands aren’t responding. Seven in eight messages to brands go unanswered within 72 hours.
Being responsive and engaging has never been more critical, especially for a small business where the loss of a customer could be substantial. You have to think about which social media platforms are best equipped to help you handle customer service queries. Although Instagram is great for engagement, it might not be the best place to direct customers with questions about your product or service.
Twitter and Facebook tend to be a customer’s first support resource because of their accessibility and private messaging capabilities. While you should monitor every platform you’re on for mentions of your brand, pay extra attention to Facebook and Twitter.
Without a dedicated social media team, many small business owners are stuck juggling responsibilities. Creating and distributing content is one of the most important things you can do, but coming up with unique, quality content each week can be time–consuming and expensive.
One way to keep up with the demand for new content is to look to your audience. User-generated content is created by your customers and can be anything from images to videos to blog posts. When you’re looking to be active on new platforms, consider your content strategy and ask yourself what type of UGC you could collect.
For example, if you want customers to submit Vine videos, it’ll help if you’re actively present on the platform to easily gather video submissions. At the very least, you should be active on Twitter because the two services integrate almost seamlessly.
Adopt a Social Media Management Tool
One of the easiest ways for small businesses to fail at social media is by trying to take on too much at a time. In the beginning, it’s tempting to be on every platform, blasting out as much content as you can to anyone who will listen, but that’s not what social media is about. Essentially, social media is creating value and establishing real relationships.
But as we said, small business owners often juggle many different responsibilities and need to optimize their time. Social media management tools like Sprout Social make it easy to share content across multiple networks, track brand mentions and get detailed reports and other crucial tasks every small business needs.
Automate Where Possible
Let’s say you maintain a company blog and you want to share your posts with customers across different social networks. One way Sprout Social can help is with its RSS Scheduler. This feature lets you set up a feed to automatically publish content.
For example, you can connect your Twitter account to your blog so it will auto-Tweet messages when new posts are live. This can be configured in the Publishing tab underPost via RSS.
That said, a human touch is still important. Don’t let automation consume your social media efforts. You have to authentically participate and engage with people in real-time to get the best results.
Know Your Numbers
We touched on this a bit earlier when talking about objectives. Your goals have been established and you’ve defined parameters around what success looks like. Now, it’s time to focus on measuring that success. How close are you to achieving your goal? What tactics bring you closer or further away from reaching your goal? The only way to answer these questions is by tracking social media metrics.
If you have a Facebook Page you’ll probably want to track:
- Page Likes
- Post Reach
On Twitter, you’ll want to keep a close eye on:
- Tweet Impressions
- @ Mentions
- Tweets Linking to You
Wash, Rinse & Repeat
Social media is constantly evolving and new platforms or features are popping up frequently. Using social media for small business, or any size business for that matter, is a continuous job. You’ll always be re-evaluating your goals and experimenting with new types of content on different platforms.
As your business grows, so will your online presence. You’ll discover new goals and new ways of using existing social media features to your advantage. At this early stage, the key is to pay attention to what works and what doesn’t. But you cannot let a little discouragement stop you from moving forward.
When things start to feel overwhelming, employ a social media management tool or a dedicated social media manager to help take your marketing goals to the next level.