Social media basics for small business
Rob Bradburn / February 17, 2014
A lot of small businesses struggle to use social media effectively and may even find themselves asking why they are bothering at all. Once the initial enthusiasm to build a twitter following or maintain a facebook page has diminished, the task of maintaining a social media presence can seem like an uphill struggle.
Every business can find a benefit from social media in some way. If your business is struggling to understand how or even why to use social media, then the tips in this blog post will give your social media strategy a kick-start...
How can social media benefit your business?
Before considering which social channels your business should be using, make sure you understand how the business could gain from using social media. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Do you want know your customers better?
- How would you benefit from engaging with your customers online?
- Is it useful to communicate with others in your industry?
- Are you looking to increase your brand presence online?
1.) Set your social media goals
These can be broad general intentions of what you are trying to accomplish, whilst not specific they form the purpose of your social efforts. Example of social media goals:
- Assist customers with online sales enquiries
- Collect customer reviews and feedback online
- Position company as knowledge leaders within the industry
- Increase awareness of your product online
Your social media goals should align with those of the business, once the goals have been defined you then need to set some specific, tangible objectives in order to achieve them. By setting SMART Objectives (objectives that are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timed) you will give direction to your social strategy.
Example of some SMART social media objectives:
- Increase unique visitors to the site through social channels by 5% each month
- Ask every customer to leave an online review
- Reduce recruitment costs by 25% using online channels
- Increase number of email subscribers by 50% in 6 months
2.) Understand your target audience
Think about who you are trying to engage with. This could be your typical customer, perhaps contacts within your industry or a potential job prospect. Can you segment them by age group or interests? Are there any other characteristics you can identify such as buying habits?
By identifying and defining your audience, you can decide the best way to talk to them, and which social platform they are likely to be using. Read more about who is using what channel here - UK Social Media Statistics for 2014.
3.) Which social media channel should your business be using ?
Obviously not all channels suit every business; a Linked-in profile is unlikely to have any benefit for a local pub, and a haulage business is not going to need a facebook page - don't spread yourself too thinly, focus your efforts on mastering only the channels right for you.
The biggest channels in the UK in 2014 are currently Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Instagram, Pinterest and YouTube. They are all free for your business to use, so which one is right for you?
By the far the most used social network in the world, it is the obvious choice for B2C businesses. With over a quarter of all users within the 25-34 year old range, Facebook consists of more consumers than any other platform.
Tips for using Facebook
- Services like 5 minute fan page can help you create professional looking pages
- Collect email subscribers within the Facebook page using the Newsletter signup form
- Keep the cover page image updated regularly, e.g. change the image to reflect the season
- Use the Facebook Insights dashboard to see which of your posts are resonating with your audience
- Offer your customers Facebook exclusive deals to incentivise repeat purchases
Users of Twitter are interested in other opinions and like to share their own. It is a great way of monitoring what people are saying and approaching your target audience.
Tips for using Twitter
- Craft tweets as if they were newspaper headlines
- Leave space at the end (15 characters) so people who retweet can add their comments
- Add in plz RT (this means please retweet - use sparingly for important tweets)
- Use tools like Hootsuite to monitor brand mentions and automate tweets
- Find out when your tweets are most likely to be read using Followerwonk
- If appropriate, use a popular keyword in the name of account
- Find influential tweeters in your local area using Twellow
- Read these tactics for increasing twitter followers
This B2B channel is often dubbed facebook for business, not only is it a great way to start connect and communicate with other people and businesses in your industry, it is also an incredibly useful recruitment tool.
Tips for using Linkedin
- Create a company profile page to show your services and expertise
- Create a personal page, reach out to other users and build relationships
- Join relevant groups available in your niche, it will allow you to connect to key partners and spread awareness of your company amongst the industry
- Participate in relevant group discussions by helping others, join conversations and offer advice and recommendations
We are still waiting to see just how Google+ will take off with users, but for now having a Google+ business page is undoubtedly a crucial component of your local SEO strategy. A properly optimised page can improve your position in search engine results - Read more here.
Tips for using Google+
- Connect the content you create for your blog or site to your Google+ page using Google Authorship or Publisher tags
- Encourage customers to leave reviews through your Google+ page
- Ensure your business address exactly matches the address used on your website as this will affect your presence in location searches
- Fill in the about us section with as much information as possible using keywords your customers are likely to be searching for
- Google+ hashtags appear in #searches on Google, so strategically place them in your posts
Pinterest users post pictures of cool things they have seen online. If your business sells attractive products then you want to encourage users to pin your products on their wall and share them with friends.
Tips for using Pinterest
- Ensure products on your website are pin-friendly and can easily be pinned
- Create boards not just of your products, but also boards that will inspire your followers. Create boards for locations, new ideas, people or moods
- Company boards are a great way to showcase your brand personality and values
Instagram is a good way to show users the personality of your company, and it can be used as a platform to share the story of the business to your followers.
Tips for using Instagram
- Share images from behind the scenes; showcase employees at work, images of the office, products being made or historic photos telling the company story
- Dont just use the same filter on every picture you post
- Instagram video allows for 15 second mini-clips
Producing a video to share with your customers no longer needs to be hugely expensive. For relatively little you can create videos that potential customers will find useful or can build trust in your company.
Tips for using YouTube
- Create useful content such as How-to videos, videos of events you were at, presentations you delivered or insider interviews with key staff members
- Use annotations - link to content/product or related videos
- A week after sharing your video online, embed the video on your blog with a transcript of the dialogue and repost it to your other social channels
- Moderate all of your video comments
4.) Techniques for effective Social Media
Friendly conversation goes a long way
A really handy tip from Penny Power, a government advisor on Social Media, is quoted within this Guardian article advising users to treat social media channels like they would their local pub. By this she means that you wouldn't ram your profession down peoples throats in a blatant attempt to tout for business, instead you would chat to people, get to know them and let them know what you do - once they are aware of your service they may consider using you in the future, or perhaps suggest you to a friend.
With social media it is easy to follow, listen and participate in conversations. Facebook pages, Twitter searches and Linkedin groups are all good places to start engaging with your audience - when you do start to communicate, ensure it is friendly in tone and useful to those reading it.
Integrate social media with your content strategy
Your social media presence will only build if you are sharing unique, quality content. When you produce any content, whether it is an article on your blog, an Instagram photo or video for your YouTube channel ask yourself is it informative, interesting or entertaining - ideally it is more than one of those.
We shall be posting about developing an effective content strategy later in our blog series - foundations of ecommerce marketing in 2014.
Put some budget aside for paid social media promotion
Social media channels may be free to use, but competition is fierce and the only way to stand out from the crowd may be to use paid promotion of your services or content. In 2013 we saw nearly every social media platform evolve their advertising models.
Social media channels are becoming very powerful tools for marketers looking to accurately engage with a target audience. For example, Facebooks promoted posts allow you to segment a very specific user demographic, this will ensure your message is only delivered to a highly relevant audience who will be more likely to react.
Promote your presence everywhere
You want your customers to easily find your social channels. Carefully position your social sharing icons on your website to ensure maximum exposure, for example, if you sell products on your site, ensure they are pin-friendly so visitors can easily share them on Pinterest.
Place links to your social channels on your email signature so every person you interact with can see them.
Think about your offline presence as well, for example, if you are a restaurant serving a signature dish, consider putting an instagram next to the item on the menu with the hashtag to promote social sharing with like-minded customers.
Amplify your content across the marketing platforms you use, for example, encourage facebook fans to enter instagram photo contents.
Forget the hard sell
Dont be tempted to use social media to push sales, it will fall on deaf ears. Instead focus on engagement, sharing value and nurturing relationships with your audience.
Light hearted posts, and those with engaging images are know to work well across all of the channels.
Dont neglect company pages, it is bad house keeping and sends off negative signals to the audience. Visitors and search engines like freshness, so keep the channels you use regularly updated. Assign time every day or week to maintain your social presence, interact with your audience and deliver new content.
Ensure the social media accounts you set up can be fully controlled in-house so that if an employee leaves the company they can no longer post messages or content remotely.
Try to get staff members actively involved in your social media communications. People will follow personalities who share valuable opinions and insights, they will not be interested in mindless company promotion.