Figure out your strategy before your first post
It takes seconds to sign up for a social media account, so many small business owners dive right in without a plan. But, to be truly effective, you need to have a long-term strategy that truly fits your business. So, before you get ahead of yourself, take time to decide how you want to present your business and what you want to accomplish through your online presence.
Choose your networks wisely
About 65 percent of the population uses social media. While there are dozens of social media networks, only a handful have the sort of user base that make them worthwhile for businesses. You don’t need to be on every one. That will over-extend your team while providing little benefit in return. Instead, focus on a few where you are most likely to find your perfect audience.
The usual suspects
Facebook – With over 1 billion active users, this is the most prevalent social media platform on the planet. Most companies should consider a page here, even if you are not in a B2C industry. Facebook allows the creation of shopping pages, message boards, and private groups; all of which render well on mobile devices.
Twitter – Twitter is a good choice for both B2B and B2C businesses. Your interactions here should include a mix of short, conversational messages, links to content on your website and a curation of insightful or useful posts that are relevant to your market.
Instagram – Instagram is a good choice for a company whose product line has a lot of visual appeal. Think restaurants, adventure guides, concert halls and others. This is also a very mobile-first audience, so it can help build your market-share with those users.
Pinterest – Another image-heavy social media platform, Pinterest boasts a heavily-female audience. If women are your target audience, this network should be at the top of your list.
LinkedIn – LinkedIn is a must for those in the B2B sphere. The platform allows you to post both short and long-form content. LinkedIn can be used to connect on a person-to-person basis with the decision-makers in your industry. If you’re toying with the idea of publishing blog content on your own website, you can validate your concepts on Linkedin Pulse, a publishing platform with incredibly far reach.
No matter which platforms you choose, make sure that your profiles are completely filled out, accurate and up-to-date. This doesn’t just help customers on those platforms connect with you, it also helps your opportunity to rank in Google for local SEO.
When you are getting ready to set up your social media profiles, set up a process for creating usernames and passwords. Use a tool like Meldium or Hootsuite to manage login information for multiple accounts. This way, multiple team members can get access and provide continuous coverage online.
And, make sure that there is a process in place to deal with turnover on your team. Many small and medium businesses get locked out of their old accounts due to employee turnover when either passwords get lost or disgruntled former employees delete accounts. By making sure that passwords are changed immediately, you can maintain your valuable contacts and content on social media. With a tool like Meldium or Lastpass, you can immediately revoke access to all of their accounts, without the hassle of updating every account’s credentials.
Create your brand’s social media voice
Before you send your first update, think about your audience and how they communicate on each network. No two networks share the same vernacular, so be prepared to craft each message uniquely, instead of auto-posting—a blanket push of content across all your channels is pretty lazy, and is obvious to your followers. As you become more comfortable on each network, develop a company stylebook to help create a cohesive voice for each channel no matter who is at the controls.
Increase your organic reach
Through careful observation and a few savvy moves, you can increase your number of fans and followers who see your posts on your social networks.
Make sure that you are posting at the right time of day for your audience. Facebook can help you with this with a tool called Insights. The graphs will show you when your audience is online and most likely to see your posts. Use this as a guide to experiment with messages scheduled at different times of the day.
Include a few relevant keywords in the hashtags on Twitter. The network’s offerings are now spidered by Google, giving you SEO reach that you did not have previously.
When to use paid ads
Many small business owners bristle at the idea of using paid placement on social media. Isn’t the whole point to get promotion for free? However, ads can get you the exposure you need far more quickly and with fewer personnel hours than a purely organic social media campaign.
Additionally, organic reach is not quite what it once was. Facebook has restricted the reach of business page posts, in an effort to keep the overall noise down. As a result, your fans will not always see your posts unless they interact with your page regularly. Researchers found that organic reach on Facebook pages dropped from 12 to 6 percent between 2013 and 2014. Ads or promoted posts can get messages in front of users who might not otherwise see them, and your investment can be as low as $5 per post.
Ads also allow you to target exactly the audience you want. You know your perfect customer best, so use Facebook’s demographic tools to target the people who are most likely to convert to paying customers.
Blogs to follow and more
HubSpot: Their social media marketing topic provides a wealth of information about the best ways to connect on social media.
Buffer: This blog offers well-researched content for people at all skill levels in social media marketing.
John Loomer: Filled with social media experiments and examples from real life, this Facebook-focused blog can help you increase engagement and learn how to reach exactly the prospects you want.
Podcasts to listen and subscribe to
The Social Media Marketing Podcast: Social Media Examiner’s Michael Stelzner provides actionable tips to help your business be more effective on social media.
The Art of Paid Traffic: Geared specifically at those who want to grow their business using social media ads.
Online Marketing Made Easy with Amy Porterfield: This podcast focuses on generating leads, growing your email marketing lists and transforming your current customers into passionate advocates for your brand.
The world of social media is continuing to develop, and it becoming more common for consumers to use these platforms as their primary online communication tools. Smart brands will continue to learn about their audiences and make sure that they are setting up the online dialogues that lead to happy and profitable relationships.