The social media universe can be an overwhelming place for small businesses. And, as a small business marketer, you’re likely strapped: for funds, time, and/or manpower. That means you need to enter the space with a game plan, because without a game plan, social media marketing can be as much of an exercise in existential crises as Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland.
So where do you start? What do you post? How do you measure?
Luckily, many people have been through this looking glass before, so they can provide some guidance.
I asked the experts for their best social media tips, and here’s what they had to say.
Jump to a section:
- Getting Started
- Where Should I Post?
- What Should I Post?
- Boosting Engagement
- Measuring Returns
The rabbit-hole went straight on like a tunnel for some way, and then dipped suddenly down, so suddenly that Alice had not a moment to think about stopping herself before she found herself falling down what seemed to be a very deep well.
It can be very easy, when it comes to social media, to think of it as a rabbit hole: it’s a fairly simple concept, but who knows what it’ll require of you once you begin. When making the case for yourself or a team member to get started with social media, here are some things the experts suggest you keep in mind.
1. A lack of social presence makes customers question your legitimacy.
“It’s no longer a question of “if” you should get on social media, but instead “what” social media you should focus on. Any business with a social media presence is automatically viewed as more competent, focused, and thoughtful than competitors that do not. An active social media presence is even better, since it shows customers that your company runs smoothly and takes care of everything, down to the online marketing presence.”
2. Combat that lack of presence by front-loading new profiles with content..
“When you’re just getting started, I suggest pushing as much as content as possible, as consistently as possible. Don’t worry so much whether “it’s brand appropriate;” you just want to get started and build content.”
3. That said, you don’t have to be an every-man. In fact, it might be more effective if you’re not.
“Marketing on social media takes finding your niche and building a relationship there. Trying to reach a broad audience will fail.”
4. Knowing your target customer can help develop a niche voice on social.
“Developing buyer personas is a great way to narrow down your target audience. Your product/service isn’t for everyone, so make sure you’re speaking to the right people.”
5. Don’t over-process your posts.
“Be human! A lot of organizations are afraid of making mistakes on social – they’ll run their posts through 20 different people and approval processes before actually posting, and the result comes across as robotic and bland. People don’t respond to that!”
Where Should I Post?
“How do you know I’m mad?” said Alice.
“You must be,” said the Cat, “or you wouldn’t have come here.”
There’s been a prevailing attitude over the past decade or so that you need to be on platform X, or that you may as well not exist if you’re not on platform Y *cough FACEBOOK cough*. But the winds are changing. And today, no platform is a requirement.
6. Start where your customers are.
“Just because you love reddit doesn’t mean your customers are there. Figure out where your ideal customers are already hanging out and learn how to use that platform to reach them. It’s much easier to go to them than to try to bring them over to your favourite space.”
7. Take on what you can handle–and nothing more.
“Planning, creating, scheduling social media content and having conversations with potential customers takes time. If you sign up for every social media channel under the sun, you will be spreading yourself too thin and your content will perform poorly”
8. Don’t sweat it if you’re not on the latest craze.
“Some businesses may never make it to Instagram or Snapchat – but that’s okay! Concentrate on your target audience and your goals from social media. In the world of choosing social platforms to concentrate on for small businesses, less is often always more.”
What Should I Post?
“Who in the world am I? Ah, that’s the great puzzle.”
What sort of content is your audience interested in? It’s going to take a lot of trial and error to figure that out. But these experts provide a good jumping off point:
9. Take your cues from the successes of others.
“You can find ideas anywhere; be sure to analyze and watch what your competitors are doing/posting. It’s also important to monitor what other businesses and companies are doing that catches your attention. Sign up for social media articles and tips from experts so you can daily or weekly receive emails with all sorts of tips, new information and social updates.”
10. Entertaining and useful content is better than promotional content.
“People go on social media to be entertained, not to be marketed at. Therefore, whatever your company puts on social media should be built to engage first and market second, if at all.”
“Being ‘useful’ to your followers is crucial for engaging an audience. A genuine approach actually enables business owners to save time… one well thought out post will bring more engagement than 10 terrible posts.”
11. Images are key.
“Use high quality, crisp visuals. Recent research shows images increase social media engagement: Twitter updates with images in them receive 150% more retweets than those without and Facebook posts with images in them receive 2.3 times more engagement than those without. Canva is a fantastic resource for creating custom images, with free and low-cost options available.”
“My dear, here we must run as fast as we can, just to stay in place. And if you wish to go anywhere you must run twice as fast as that.”
― Through the Looking Glass
Social media can seem like a daunting task; there’s always more to do and little time to accomplish it. With so much to do, how do you accomplish it all?
12. Consider a posting plan, to start.
“Lots of small businesses get so caught up in ROI, strategy,and SEO that they forget the most important part: to post consistently. So many businesses are so wrapped up in the overthinking that they leave their pages out of date by months or years – dinging their credibility when a potential client looks them up online to see what they are all about. My best tip for small businesses just getting started is to come up with simple posting plan to start – and then actually carry out that plan consistently over time. Once you get comfortable posting on a regular basis, you can invest more time and money in a deeper strategy.”
13. Invest in a scheduling tool.
“Investing in a scheduling tool, like Buffer for Hootsuite, to schedule your social posts in advance. These tools will save you hours of time each week. Social scheduling tools allow you to schedule posts across multiple social channels for the day, week or month. This way you don’t spend 30-60 minutes every day on social media.”
“How puzzling all these changes are! I’m never sure what I’m going to be, from one minute to another.”
Social media moves quickly, so you need to be a little more reactive than other channels. You need to be engaged with what’s happening; if you plan on just setting something up and walking away, you’re going to have a bad time.
14. Engagement is a two-way street.
“When people mention your company on social media, let them know that you’re listening. If it’s a question or positive comment, respond ASAP. If not, make sure to like or favorite the post so they know you saw it. Little gestures like this go a long way.”
15. Look local for cross-promotion opportunities.
“Engage locally and authentically! Look for local organizations with whom your business has a natural affinity of demographic crossover.
Find them, follow them and engage with them. Retweet and repost their content and look for opportunities to feature them in your content. Soon enough, if the connection is real, you’ll find their audience becomes your audience, too.”
16. Set yourself up for success: Optimize your other channels/content for social sharing.
“You can also use email to promote social media. Include your social icons/links within the footer of your emails to build an audience.”
“Include social share icons with proper functionality on your web pages. Icons with ‘share’ functionality should be placed on article pages, and icons with ‘follow’ functionality should be placed in the footer or header.”
“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.
― Chapter 6
One of the biggest challenges any social media manager faces is proving the return on investment. It’s easy to say ‘we need to be on social media,’ but–for small businesses where resources are sparse–the executive team often needs to see how you’re moving the needle.
17. Take advantage of the built-in analytics tools.
“You can’t manage what you don’t measure, but measuring social media ROI doesn’t have to be expensive. Small businesses can take advantage of the wealth of information provided in built-in, free analytics tools like Facebook Insights. The key is know what to measure – don’t worry too much about gathering a million followers. The important numbers to watch are engagement and impressions.”
18. Define what success looks like to you and build from there.
“In terms of measuring ROI, it depends on your business objectives. If increasing your following is a major goal, create a simple shared doc or spreadsheet with others on your team and record the number of followers per channel at the beginning of the month. Then, once a week or once a month, go back and write in the most current follower counts. This will show you where you’re growing, stalling or losing ground…
If web traffic is a goal (and it probably should be), set yourself up with a Google Analytics account so that you can measure all of the pertinent metrics that show where your visitors are coming from, which channels are the sources of valuable traffic, how long do people stay and read your content before bouncing, and whether they leave your page quickly or visit other pages on your site. This data will help you develop a solid strategy and ensure you’re not simply spinning your wheels with social media or blogging efforts.”
19. Don’t get swayed by vanity metrics.
“Most businesses only focus on vanity metrics like number of followers, likes, and retweets. Those can be a good measure of your success, but they can also be deceiving. Not every follower is useful to you. Is it better to have 1,000 great followers that could potentially be customers one day or 10,000 followers that are in a different country that will never buy from you. It’s pretty obvious that you’d rather have the 1,000. High numbers don’t always mean great success.
I’d recommend figuring out what action you really want your followers to make. Do you want them to click through to your website? Do you want to start more conversations with them through social? Do you want them to claim an offer that you’re sharing specifically through social media? Define the action that you want them to take and start tracking it. Social media is at least as much about branding as it is marketing so if you make sure that you’re putting your best foot forward and branding yourself as an authority in your industry, you’ll be just fine!”
20. Test constantly
“Testing of your social media content needs to be ongoing, and there should always be a monthly, if not weekly discussion as a team on what content is performing either well or poorly, and what can be done to remedy that. This can be fixed by optimizing timing of posts, stronger call to actions, curation of industry content, etc.”
21. Be patient! It’s a learning experience.
“Be patient! A lot of small business owners don’t know about all of a platform’s capabilities, or get frustrated when they don’t see a high engagement rate or grand following right away. If you’re not getting the results you want, spend a little more time going back to basics. Optimize your Facebook Page, follow relevant accounts on Twitter, post regularly to Instagram, and so on.”