By Jonathan London on 11th May 2016

Social Media for a Small Business

If your business isn’t on any social media channels you’re missing out on a huge (and free) slice of marketing cake.

The key word here is social. The whole point is to engage with your audience: people buy from people. If you build a good rapport and form relationships with your audience, they’re more likely to want to work with you.

Social media helps facilitate that engagement; it lets your potential customers get to know the people behind your brand and shows your customers what you’re really about.

Breakdown of different channels

It seems like there’s a hot new social media channel moving onto the block every 5 minutes. And that’s cool, it’s great to stay connected and interact with all sorts of new people. But it can make choosing which channels to prioritize difficult from a marketing standpoint.

The good news is, you don’t have to be on all of them right this second. Of course, it’s great to have a wide range of options through which your audience can share your content or interact with you, but start with two or three to begin with and then build up from there.

FacebookFacebook

Many would argue that Facebook is dying, but it’s still a great marketing tool – if you know how to use it correctly. It already has a massive user base (with over 1.23 billion profiles and counting) which gives your business huge potential for traffic – in fact, 33% of Millennials are more likely to buy from a company if it has a Facebook page.

People on Facebook are more likely to be friends with people they actually know, as opposed to strangers on the internet. So anything that gets shared is much more likely to have an impact on purchase decisions because friends and family are key influencers.

Joining groups related to your niche market and interacting with other members helps give your brand that human touch.

TwitterTwitter256

Twitter has a fast paced, real time feel, which is a must for people who feel like they need to know what’s happening as it’s happening. With 305 million monthly active users and the ability to get noticed by anyone, anywhere, simply by using a popular hashtag makes Twitter one very attractive marketing channel and a huge player in viral marketing.

Retweeting is also a powerful tool which can push your message to multiple networks in a matter of minutes, meaning there probably isn’t a quicker viral technology out there.

LinkedInLinkedIn

LinkedIn is the channel of choice for professionals, making it excellent for B2B marketing. It’s also the 3rd most popular social media channel, just behind Facebook and Twitter.

It’s a brilliant place for sharing content with an abundance of groups dedicated to sharing articles, infographics, tutorials and so on – this makes targeting your content really easy.

Research also shows that referral traffic has the highest visitor-to-lead conversion rate among social networking sites (higher than Facebook or Twitter).

InstagramMulti-Color_Logo_thumbnail200

Instagram is another social network that’s almost become a necessity for businesses, no matter what you’re selling. 400 million active monthly users and 75 million active daily users make Instagram a no-brainer when it comes to picking social media channels, but because it’s image based, Instagram can be a tricky one to get right for some businesses, especially things like software.

The key here is to have some really strong branding and some high quality images ready before you launch.

PinterestPinterest

Similar to Instagram, Pinterest is also image based, but you have the option of categorising your images (or “Pins”) into different groups called “Boards”.

This makes it a lot more organised than Instagram and easier for people to find what they’re looking for, making it a great choice for businesses – however it also has far less users at just 100 million. You can add a buy button to your Pins, which is a really cool feature and great for converting your audience into customers.

How do you choose?

It all depends on what you’re looking for from a business standpoint. The best advice would be to start with Facebook and Twitter simply because they are the biggest, then if you’re a B2B company, go for Linkedin, and if you’re a B2C company, get yourself on Instagram and think about which other sites might be better for capturing your audience. A good idea is to look at what your competitors are doing and what’s working well for them.

Strategy

It’s important that your social media channels have the same look and feel as each other. This will help your audience identify your business and build their trust. Choose account names and images that reflect your brand as well as your other online presences.

What is your end goal? What do you want to achieve? Do you want to gain 2000 followers in the first month, or generate a certain number of leads?  You should figure this out before you launch on your social media sites so you can get your strategy and assess how successful you are.

Facebook Likes

You’ll want to get a posting schedule together. Not just because it’s good to keep things consistent so your audience will know “oh, it’s one o’clock, that company that posts those awesome articles I like to read around this time” but because it will be so much easier to automate and schedule posts instead of scrambling at the last minute for ideas.

You’ll want to have a backlog of content ready to post when you launch – for Instagram/Pinterest especially, that means sourcing some high quality images that will keep you going for a few weeks.

Social media is also great for showing the human side of your company.

Think about covering the events you attend and run throughout the year. Creating hype for these events and then live tweeting about these are great for community engagement. Creating your own hashtags for these events is a good idea.

Take a look at this example from SAP, a company that sells accounting services. They run their own event with its own hashtag, which has been successful in generating engagement. (Of course it helps that these guys have Coldplay on their side, but the point still stands!)

SAP

Think about who your audience is. This will massively reflect the type of content you post. If you’re a retailer, for example, you’ll probably post a lot of promotions, feature products, etc., whereas if you’re a B2B company – CRM software, for example – you’ll probably find your audience is more interested in things like articles that help them run their business. But that’s not to say you have to adhere exclusively to “this” or “that”. It’s good to post a range of different types of content – who doesn’t love cat GIF’s?

Think about how you will engage with that audience. Remember, the key word is social – you will need to engage with your audience. Will you be running competitions? Inviting them to create content? Will you simply use your social media channels as a means of customer service? Or all the above and  everything in between? Take a leaf out of  O2’s book; their customer engagement is second to none.

O2 Customer Service

Monitor what works. If you notice people are specifically really enjoying blog posts, webinars, or something else — keep offering it! How can you tell what content’s working? Monitor comments, likes, shares, and clicks and then post more of the targeted content that’s working.

Paid ads can be great for social media reach, and you’ll probably end up using them. They will work differently depending on the channel you’re using – so for example, Facebook Promoted Posts let you pay to have your regular posts appear higher (and more often) in news feeds, so there’s more chance your  audience will see them, wherea Promoted Tweets are regular tweets that you pay to promote to more people (which means they’re not as targeted as Facebook Promoted posts).

Tools

There are tools out there to help you organise and manage your social media channels. Here are some of the most popular ones:

Scheduling

Buffer and Hootsuite are they top players in scheduling your social media posts. Both have analytical elements and both are powerful tools, it might just be a case of choosing which interface you like best.

IFTTT connects your apps and replicates any changes to one account on other accounts. So if you change something in Instagram, the same changes will happen in Twitter (e.g profile picture, description etc) if you tell IFTTT to do so.

Snip.ly – attaches calls to action to every link.

Link shortening

Ow.ly and Bit.ly are both great, but if you’re using Buffer or Hootsuite, you can set up personal shortened links, so your business’s name is used.

Imagery

Pablo is great for overlaying images with text.

Giphy is a great resource for finding GIF’s. If they file is too big for sharing on Twitter you can use ezgif to resize it.

Unsplash has a library of high quality, royalty free images you’re free to use and share.

Getting started on social media doesn’t need to be a pain in the neck – as long as you have your strategy set out before you start posting and make use of the variety of tools out there to help you, building a thriving and engaging community should be a breeze.

Chat to one of our friendly small business accountants today for more advice on running your business, freelancing and contracting.

Jonathan London Written by Jonathan London

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