Small businesses can’t afford to miss out on being active on social media. Engaging with customers through a Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter account keeps you tuned into your customer base and helps drive traffic to your website or brick-and-mortar store. In this Social Media Marketing for Small Business guide you’ll learn what it takes to be successful at social media marketing, without a lot of resources or dedicated marketing staff.
We endeavor to explain the key terms and definitions (covering everything from SEO to #hashtags) and tell you how to start finding and engaging with your customers online. You’ll learn how to make a marketing action plan that outlines your goals, team, and budget, and find time to implement your ideas. We’ll also talk about what content to publish on which platforms and the tools you need to measure the success of your efforts. But first, let’s take a sneak peak at the objectives of this guide.
As a manager or small business owner, you are busy, hiring staff, helping customers, and generally doing whatever it takes to run your organisation, and while you know social media’s importance, your time just can’t be stretched any further. How can you possibly add another item to your to-do list.
But this vibrant connection economy, if you want to keep your small business growing, you can’t afford not to be on social media, because it’s one of the best options available of connecting and building relationships with your customers and prospects. This Social Media Marketing for Small Business will guide you on how to use social media effectively and with limited resources to market and grow your small business.
This guide will teach you how:
Download this guide’s template files that will help you execute your social media marketing strategy. Download now.
So buckle up you social seat belts, it’s time to take a fresh look at what social media marketing can do for your small business. But first, let’s check: does your small business need social media?
I grew up in retail and watched my mom build a loyal community of customers around her grocery store in my home village. She got the word out in two ways: Traditional advertising and word-of-mouth. But my mom knew customer recommendations worked best, because people would come into the store and tell her a friend suggested it, and that’s why they wanted to buy from the stash she doesn’t display in the store’s shelf. My mom didn’t realize it at the time, but she was using social media to build her small business.
Ask anyone what social media is. Go on! Many people will give you a definite answer—Facebook! And while there are a billion and a half people on Facebook, social media’s a lot more than that.
It gives you a way to connect and build relationships with your customers. But it’s not a hard sell like many ads that smack you in the face every time you scroll through your timeline. It’s a more nuanced form of marketing. A conversation.
Some entrepreneurs think social media is just another channel you can use to talk about your business. And that’s the wrong approach. Social media is all about your customer and how you can help them. If you’re successful on social media, you’ll have an opportunity to interact with your customers one-on-one, deepen your relationships, and earn their trust even when they’re not on your website or in your store.
The first step is shifting your online marketing focus from you to your customers. Step into their shoes and try to see the world through their eyes. They’re busy people.
What do they need to get through their jam-packed days to accomplish the things they want to do? Ask yourself what social media channels they’re spending time on and whether they want to interact with you there. Then map your customers’ pain points and figure out the kind of content you can create to help solve your customers’ problems when they need it.
This will likely include a combination of blog posts, videos, visuals, white papers, forums, and of course, social media updates that help amplify your content and build community. Once you understand your customers’ needs, you can start to figure out how to connect with them on various social media channels and develop your online brand personality.
Social media marketing is a long-term commitment. So be sure you have the resources to maintain it. The most important thing to remember is to go where your customers are. Don’t make them come to you.
Before diving into this guide, let’s pull out our trusted copy of social media marketing dictionary and get a refresher on some key terms.
Content: Content is the whole bag of your organization’s stories, both online and off. It includes blogs, websites, social networks, videos, visuals, sales materials, email, posters, brochures, pretty much everything you produce to tell customers about your business.
SEO: This very common word stands for Search Engine Optimization or making your website or blog more findable in search. Often, you’ll work with a web designer to optimize your site but there are many things you can do, including understanding how to come up with a bunch of keywords and tags that answer your customer’s questions.
Keywords and tags: The terms keywords and tags can often be used interchangeably and are simply the words or phrases your customers use to type in the search engine’s search box. You include them in your online content copy or in ads in order to be discovered when people search.
Hashtags are keywords that start with a number sign or hash symbol and are used to categorise and follow conversations or topics on social platforms like Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. Unlike tags, different words in hashtags aren’t separated by spaces.
Mobile: Mobile refers to the content a person consumes or shares when they’re on the go, usually on a Smartphone. According to a combines research from Nielsen, Pew Research Center, comScore, SmartInsights, the average person spends over four hours a day on their mobile device. Because people spend so much time looking at a small screen, we need to take that into account when we communicate. This is especially true when you’re creating infographics and data visualizations.
Infographic: An infographic is an example of visual storytelling that integrates text and graphics to paint a picture of an organization or illustrate a trend. Here’s an awesome example of a great infographic about social media marketing from Dreamgrow.
Data visualizations are when you take complex tables of data and turn them into things like pie charts or colorful graphs that are easier for people to grasp. Again, keep them simple so people can understand them on a mobile device.
In many cases, infographics and data visualizations are created by a community manager.
A community manager is a jack of all trades. They’re part PR, part customer relations, part producer, and part marketing. They’re the face of your company to the community and the interface between your customer community and your company and they need special talents, including creativity and being good with people. They should also have excellent judgement and communication skills to manage issues and hopefully avert a crisis.
A lot of people are talking about livestream video.
Livestreams are simply videos your customers can watch live when they happen or later as an archive. Most livestream broadcast occurs on a mobile device. You could livestream from an app like Periscope or start broadcasting directly from Facebook. Livestreams are a great way to showcase a new product or an event. Just remember, as with any marketing tactic, you shouldn’t just wing it. If your business wants to livestream video, be sure to plan and rehearse your program before going on the air.
This is just a small sampling of the terms you’ll wanna get familiar with as you and your organisation dive into social media marketing.
If you’re reading this guide, like everyone else, you must be using at least one social media network, and most likely more than one social media networks. While some folks post way too much information, small businesses can use social media strategically to build awareness and deepen relationships with customers. The key is to pick the right platforms for your audience, and then create the type of content they can’t get anywhere else.
Here’s a starter playlist on what content a small business can share on social media.
Now, let’s think about your business, which platforms would you choose?
With over 2.3 billion users (Statista.com), Facebook has redefined the concept of mass media. In today’s internet world, many companies use Facebook to post updates, advertise, host contests, and publish news. Just remember, Facebook is a pay-to-play platform.
Organic posts, that is your regular unpaid updates, don’t have the same reach without paid promotion or boosting as its commonly known. To get the most out of paid promotion, select one of your posts that has good customer interaction. Figure out the audience you’re trying to reach, add in a budget and time frame, then you can turn it into a promoted post and get a boost by paying to reach a wider audience.
Does that sound like an ad? Well, it is. Facebook is really good at giving you automated suggestions for the content you want to promote, but you don’t have to take all their advice. Use your best judgment on what you think your audience will like.
Facebook also offers users the ability to stream live video.That’s a good opportunity to showcase a product launch, behind the scenes stories, news, and special events.
Useful instructions: How to setup your Facebook business page
Instagram, a mobile first app owned by Facebook is a photo sharing site. Keep your images creative and non-commercial. Fun behind the scenes shots of your staff can work well. A good rule of thumb on Instagram is not to post more than one photo a day.
I recommend Instagram for organisations whose products are visual or experiential and clients need to see photos or videos of experiences. For example a beauty shop, clothing retailer, tours and travel operator, furniture dealer, real estate agent, etc. Make sure you understand your industry’s hashtags and use them.
Useful instructions: How to setup your Instagram account
Over half a billion Tweets stream through Twitter everyday. People are talking about all sorts of things that interest them. They might be interacting with a trending topic, such as the launch of a new iPhone, learning about world events, talking about their day to day life or even interacting with brands like yours. Being a business on Twitter is about creating and capturing these conversations.
You might leverage Twitter to share details on a new product, behind the scenes look at your process or helpful tips that in turn can boost your attention, you might even convey your brands personality by sharing other news from your industry or adding an opinion to an existing topic.
Twitter is also incredibly valuable as a customer service tool, you can listen for people mentioning your brand and quickly respond to them in a public forum.
To be successful on Twitter you’ll need to take your core marketing objectives and break them down to what works on this platform. On a high level, what is it that you’re hoping to accomplish and how can you do so in small short tweets.
Twitter is all about these short messages, called tweets and you get a 140 characters to use them so you’ve got to really be creative but understanding your objective you’ll be able to identify whether or not your efforts are panning out.
Twitter is an incredibly valuable platform and it’s relatively easy to get started and set up and just like Facebook, they do have a paid ads platform which you can look more into, however, if you are active on Twitter and engaging with people directly and following hashtags, you’ll likely see tremendous success organically, as compared to Facebook, which you’ll need to pay for.
Useful Instructions: How to setup your Twitter account.
LinkedIn is like the Wall Street Journal of the social media world. It’s a place for business people to connect, network, and share updates. If you publish thought leadership pieces on LinkedIn you can promote them through your company LinkedIn page.
LinkedIn is a network of business professionals, each with a personal profile. But businesses can maintain a presence through the use of a company page.
Once you’ve created a business page, it’s great for generating business leads and strengthening your customer relationships. Choosing to share valuable and rich content will really help to speak to the business centered audience.
I highly recommend that you take the time to build out your LinkedIn business page, and encourage your employees to set up their LinkedIn accounts and identify that they work for your company,which will then create a link back to the business page that you’ve set up.
Useful Instructions: How to setup a LinkedIn business account
YouTube isn’t really a social network, but it’s a place to showcase your company’s videos. Be sure to optimize your channel with your branding, and a description of your video in the more section to help it show up in search. YouTube is owned by Google, which also owns the platform Google Business, and while fewer people are on Google Business, posting updates there may not reach your customers, but could boost your SEO.
Instructions: How to setup a YouTube Channel
The last of the major social media networks we’ll be talking about is Pinterest, and Pinterest is the most visual of them all. Pinterest is a lot like a scrapbook, a place for inspirational images about fashion, decor, beauty, and entertainment. If you have a lifestyle business, Pinterest might be a good option, as a majority of its users are women. One of the benefits of Pinterest is that the image you use points back to the source, so it can be a good driver of traffic to your website.
Checkout lynda.com’s business Pinterest page (image above), and you’ll notice that this looks very similar to the other social profiles we’ve seen. Cover image at the top, company name, as well as our logo. You’ll notice how many followers there are, as well as the option to follow, and I’m already logged in with a personal Pinterest account. Below this, we can see several links. An Overview, Boards, Pins, Activity, Followers, and so on. As I scroll down, we can see all of the latest pins from lynda.com, as well as the latest boards that they’ve created.
On Pinterest, Boards are a collection of Pins grouped into categories. And Pins are essentially pieces of content that someone has bookmarked, or wanted to save, and move into their board or onto their profile to interact with it.
People tend to interact with Pinterest by searching for content, or by seeing their feed populate with all of the Pins of those that they follow.
Pinterest requires a lot of visual creativity, but if it aligns with your target market, there’s a great opportunity to capture a unique audience.
To set up a business account with Pinterest, you’re going to go to business.pinterest.com.
I highly recommend that if your audience is on Pinterest, and if your brand resonates by using highly engaging visual imagery, that you take the opportunity to explore whether Pinterest ads make sense for your online marketing objectives. A great way to get started is to explore Pinterest in-depth by looking at other brands in your space to see how they’re using it. You can see what their success looks like, and if you think that there’s an opportunity for you to generate a meaningful ROI.
Social networks are a lot like the stock market, they go up and down, and there’s always a hot new item on the horizon. Experiment with all the platforms to get a handle on what they do, and it’s important that you make sure your audience is there before jumping in.
To better understand the landscape current in perspective customers and where the challenges and opportunities lie, you need to pay attention to the conversations your audience is having. You need to listen. Listening is a key part of research and it wasn’t long ago when that type of research was too expensive for most businesses.
If I can go back to my mother and her store, she did her market research on foot, literally. When she was searching for a location she stood on various street corners and counted how many people were carrying store bags. That’s how she found the high traffic areas where her business could thrive. My mom didn’t know it but she was practicing an early form of social media: watching and listening.
Social media has made market intelligence DIY. That doesn’t mean it’s free, you still need to spend the time researching, analyzing, and discovering insights. But it is more accessible than ever before. The first step in doing this is listening to the conversations your customers and prospects are having, understanding what they’re looking for, the problems they need to solve, and where your business can help. But with so much unfiltered noise on the internet and all the social media platforms, where do you start?
I like using a content management system or CMS like Hootsuite. With Hootsuite, you can organize your Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn profiles so they’re all accessible from one place. From there you can schedule updates, post to one or multiple social networks, respond to customers, conduct social listening, and see what’s going on with your feeds, all from a single dashboard. A good CMS simplifies the way you can manage your social media marketing programs.
Hootsuite lets me create and curate Twitter lists that include my best customers, competitors, influencers, and trade media and follow their conversations to get a handle on what they’re talking about in real time.
From my CMS dashboard I can monitor conversations in real time, spot emerging issues, deal with customer service problems, or just jump into a conversation. But don’t just jump into conversations, be sure you’re adding value, helping, not just shilling your products and services.
You can also do research on Google by adding those same key words and setting up Google alerts to tell you when there’s new content. That way you can see who’s writing thought leadership pieces about your industry and also what the influencers are saying. This can help shape your content marketing and the products you offer and you can add new influencers that you find to your existing Twitter list.
Social media marketing is based on four pillars, your customers, your resources, your goals, and your budget. It works best when you blend it with your other marketing programs. Let’s take a look at how to start integrating social media into your current marketing mix.
In today’s tech world, the term integrated marketing is very common, but what does integration mean? Integration is simply a way to combine your various marketing activities in a strategic way.
You’ve probably heard the expression “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts”. With integrated marketing, all the parts of your marketing plan are designed to build on each other and create a consistent story that reaches your customers throughout the day.
Say your small business advertises on radio because you know your customers commute to work. Maybe you’re supplementing that by using PR to reach media and bloggers, and then one of your employees suggests moving everything over to social media because it doesn’t cost anything.
Rather than picking up and shifting all your eggs into the social media basket, this is where you’d want to consider an integrated approach, but how do you know which parts of your existing program you should scale back, and what would your social media marketing look like?
Step one is asking questions.
What are your goals? What’s the best way to reach your customers? Which social and traditional media channels do they use, and where would they be most receptive to getting a message from your company?
Put yourself in your customer’s shoes, and map their day to understand the best times and channels to reach and help them solve a problem, and be sure your social media content is consistent with your brand personality so customers get a clear picture of your company wherever they are.
Next, consider your budget.
Social media isn’t free, even if you’re posting updates and photos to a social network, or having a staff member produce and upload short videos. All of that takes away from the time your employee could be doing something else related to your business.”
You’ve got to balance your resources, and you’ll need to put money aside for things like Google AdWords or promoted posts to boost the reach of some of your best updates.
Social media, like other marketing initiatives requires energy, planning, and resources. This is especially true when customers start to use it as a customer service channel and you need to respond in real-time or risk a reputation issue or a crisis.
When it comes to adding social media to your marketing mix, every business has to figure out the right mix of social and traditional programs that work best for your customer. It takes time to grow your social network, and you may not see the results overnight.
Whether you’re a small bakery that wants to let clients know it can create any type of cake, or a retailer set to expand across the country, every business has goals. For some, they’re lofty bags, as in big hairy audacious goals, others take a more conservative approach. Whatever you do, goals are like the destination to the great things you want your business to do, and they’re a fundamental part of setting a business strategy.
Then, once you develop your goals you need to establish a process to measure whether or not you’re achieving them.
Let’s say hypothetical small bakery ‘Nana’s Recipe’ wants to showcase their expertise by sharing some of their pro baking tips with customers to keep Nana’s Recipe top of mind. One way to do that is to encourage clients and prospects to sign up for a newsletter that could, for example, present case studies of how you’re achieving results for clients by creating the best cakes in the world, but is that social media goal? Are social media goals different from general marketing goals? In principle, they’re not.
Many businesses use social media to support their marketing or business goals. The trouble is, some people equate social media success with the number of likes their Facebook is getting. That’s the wrong approach. While you can measure likes, they’re a soft metric. A like is a passive gesture, similar to the nod two acquaintances might share when they pass on the street, you’re acknowledging the other person, but little else. Likes aren’t effective goals because they’re too ephemeral.
Instead, design your goals to measure outcomes. For instance, what action do you want your customer to take when they interact with you on social media? In other words, what do you want them to do?
Let’s go back to our earlier example about newsletter sign ups, and in this case Nana’s Recipe is using social media to encourage people to subscribe. Now, that’s something you can track because you can see if your social media updates are driving traffic to signups.
Once your goals are set, you’ll want to work with an IT or SEO consultant to setup your analytics so that they can track your social media campaigns and customer’s behavior. That means figuring out the type of data you need to capture at the outset, and the criteria you’re using to measure success.
Read later: How to setup a small online business
Don’t let yourself get lost in the popularity contest of likes, this isn’t high school. Social media, like all your marketing tactics, should be designed to move the business needle and help propel your company where you want it to go, and if it’s not doing that, then it’s time to adjust.
One of the most important things to consider when developing your small business’ social media marketing plan is picking the best channels and times to connect with your customers. In order to do that successfully, you have to understand the behavior etiquette for each platform. It’s a bit like traveling in a foreign country. Even with the best intentions, your actions can make you seem like a boorish tourist.
Pick your social media channels based on the ones your customers are using, and where they’re most likely to engage with you. You can find out a lot about customer social media habits by listening and seeing where, when, and how they’re most active. Observe whether they’re using social media personally to connect with friends and family, or if they also interact with brands. Maybe they use it to gather product information or get customer service when they have a problem and expect a speedy response, even after hours.
Get familiar with your customers’ behavior by watching what they do in the social media wild. You can also learn a lot about your customers’ social media preferences by asking them directly. There are many ways to accomplish this. If you have a mailing list, you can ask them to complete a brief survey. You could write a short article in your company’s e-newsletter and ask for comments. Does your company have a discussion forum with an active community? That could be a good place to start a conversation.
In a bricks-and-mortar location, you can have your staff inquire. You can also check your competitors’ channels. Because most social media’s public, it’s easy to see if your competitors’ posts are getting comments and shares, or maybe they’re just talking to themselves. Determine whether or not their content is working, and if not, figure out what you could do differently.
The answer to all these questions depends on what your customer is looking for and whether you can be helpful in a non-spammy way. While your post can be self-promotional some of the time, most of your content should be focused on providing value, not selling.
Small businesses should consider the rule of thirds, 1/3 of your content should be about yourself, 1/3 should be sharing other peoples’ posts, and a 1/3 should go to building relationships for your brand. Whichever social media platforms you choose, remember you have to earn your customers’ trust by showing and doing, not just telling, and that doesn’t happen overnight.
Social media is a two way conversation. That’s one of the best things about it and also one of the scariest because you never know when something will go wrong. When it’s done well, social media can humanize your small business and create a bond with your customers. But what happens if one of your employees takes that casual tone too far with your best customer and the fallout happens in public? This underscores the importance of having a social media policy and communicating it clearly to your staff.
Your social media policy offers a code of conduct for the way your company will behave online. It also sets the tone for your business’s culture and online persona.
For example, are you going to be serious and helpful, funny, critical, hard edge? It starts internally with the things you and your team members are saying. And then it extends outward by delineating the acceptable tone and language for all your company’s online properties, including your blog or website, social media channels, and customer forum.
As you develop your social media policy, it’s important to keep it straightforward and easy to understand. Some of the points you want to cover include acceptable behavior and language in your community, the importance of treating people with respect, accepting responsibility, honesty, transparency, community standards, and disclosure. Be clear about whether or not you moderate comments and what the criteria is for removing them.
For example, if you get a critical comment on your Facebook page, you should acknowledge it. Let people know what you’ll do better next time and thank them for the feedback. Never get defensive or pick a fight. But if someone’s comments are abusive or filled with inappropriate language, that’s when it’s usually okay to delete them.
At some point, you’ll want to run your social media policy by your lawyer to make sure you’re not saying anything that can get you into trouble. But don’t let your lawyer turn the house rules into hard to understand legalese. A start up in Toronto got kudos from their users for translating their terms of service into plain english. They used two headings. Description of service and basically, or what that means. Here’s a good reference from Social Media Governance, a site that lists various organizations’ social media policies. You can scroll through and check what many organizations have done.
The point is to write your social media policy in such a way that your staff and community will want to read it. Even a large company like Coca Cola has simplified its policy so anyone can understand it. And it gives you an idea of its culture. Here’s an excerpt.
Have fun but be smart. Use sound judgement and common sense. Adhere to the company’s values and follow the same company policies that you follow in the offline world.
That’s good advice for everyone, right?
Imagine you’re going on a road trip. You wouldn’t just get in your car and start driving, chances are you’d do some planning before you left home to figure out where you’re heading and when you want to arrive.The same is true of your social media marketing plan. Think of your plan as a key to getting to your destination, and that is achieving your business goals.
Remember Nana’s Recipe, our cake company? Let’s help them create a social media plan.
Step One is our goal, where we want to end up. In Nana’s Recipe’s case, let’s say it’s to position the company as the most creative and reliable cake-maker for events in the city.
Next come strategic considerations. That’s when we take an honest look at the business landscape and what things could stop us from achieving our goal.
After that, we need to put in some measurable objectives to determine whether we’re moving toward our goal or if we have to readjust. Your objectives shouldn’t be too easy or too difficult to achieve. How about increase sales of custom-shaped birthday cakes by 20 percent within three months. Notice our objective is time-based, measurable, and a stretch.
Now it’s time for the social media strategy, essentially the roadmap we’ll follow to reach our goal and objectives. You can have more than one strategy, but don’t go all over the map. A good strategy is clear and focused. For Nana’s Recipe, our strategy could be build relationships with top bloggers and encourage them to showcase its cakes.
Tactics support the strategic direction, and that’s where social media elements come in. Social media tactics are things like blogger outreach, social media updates, paying to promote your most popular posts, videos, photos, blog posts, and contests.
Let’s consider a few social media ideas to support our strategy of reaching local bloggers.
These are just a few of the things you could do. The sky’s the limit on creativity.
For budget, that’s another matter. Every plan also includes a budget, timeline, and explanation of how you’d measure success. As with any marketing effort, it’s important to figure out what your financial and staff investment will be before you start.
You’ll also want to allocate funds for the cost of designing graphics, buying ads, promoted posts, sponsorships, and video and audio production. It’s called a plan for a reason, and part of that is making sure you’re organized by assigning responsibilities and deadlines for each task.
You’ll want to establish success metrics up front, how you’re going to determine whether or not your plan’s getting you where you want to go.
If we think about Nana’s Recipe goal of increasing sales by 20 percent in three months, we first need a benchmark. That is, a measure of what the average sales are for a typical three-month period. Then we can determine if we’ve had 20 percent growth.
Be sure to review your results throughout the campaign and not just at the end, so you’ll know whether or not you’ll need to adjust. When you’re creating your plan, start with a goal, objectives, strategies, and then the social media tactics. And be sure to add in a budget, timeline, and ways to measure success so you can learn and adapt for next time.
Remember to download the social media marketing plan template we’ve provided at the end of this guide to help you get started.
Most small businesses can’t afford the luxury of a full-time social media team. Sometimes the responsibility falls to the owner who’s too busy juggling all the other priorities and may not have the time to give social media the attention it needs. Or maybe you try to spread social media responsibilities among your staff and they start complaining they’re overworked.
Some companies outsource social media to freelancers or small agencies like Burt Systems. Regardless of the route you take, some skills like creativity and visual storytelling are essential for a social media team.
Like the Internet, social media is a visual medium, so that means people who manage it for your business should have some skills in photography, video production, and design.
Your social media team should include a talented writer who can craft updates and blog posts, and a conversationalist who loves interacting with and helping your customers.
You also need a good researcher who can find ideas and content to curate and identify which influencers you want to connect with. What makes someone an influencer? They could be a blogger, someone with a passion for your industry and an engaged social media following, or a reporter who’s active on social platforms.
Your social team should know how to find, credential, and build relationships with your customers. Not everyone has the personality, attitude and judgment to become the social voice of your company. It’s important to have people who like talking with and helping customers. If you have the wrong person at the helm, the results can be devastating to your business and reputation.
In a small business, it’s natural to turn to your team. Ask employees if they’d like to add social media to their responsibilities, and then determine what their skills and hobbies are. You may be surprised to learn that you have a budding video producer on your staff who would be more than happy to create and share videos. Or maybe you have a few self-starters with a desire to learn new skills.
Some companies hire freelancers or a smart marketing agency to provide strategy and extra arms and legs to bring their content to life. It’s important to ensure that whoever you hire is a good fit and understands the culture of your organization as they’re going to be your public face.
If things go really well, you may find your business can afford an in-house community manager to oversee your social channels and build relationships that help achieve your business goals.
Ideally they should be part salesperson, part expert, part creative director, and part conversationalist. They should have strong writing skills and production expertise, so they can engage and inspire your customers with multimedia.
Whether you build from within, hire externally, or find a full-time community manager, you social media team needs to be aligned with your goals. Then they can help you engage your customers, grow your business, and take your company to the next level.
Because you have limited time and a small staff, that can make it seem like you’re swimming against the current just to keep up. So how can you organize your staff to keep the engagement levels high without sacrificing the time they need to work at their regular jobs?
Remember you can re-imagine past ideas as long as you keep them fresh. For instance, Nana’s Recipe knows it will post during grad season, Father’s Day, and for June weddings, so they can look back on what they did in the past and build on that.
We’ve included a Content Calendar Template at the end of this guide that you can download to get started.
You may also want to create a shared document where everyone on your staff can contribute links or ideas that can eventually be turned into social media updates.
Make sure you have a place for the person’s name, and then the idea and whether that idea is a blog, a Facebook post, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, video, or a combination. Encourage your staff to be creative, to write the text of the post, and suggestions for visuals. Add these to the document.
Like the Content Calendar, we’ve developed a template for the idea collaboration document. You can download it here.
Schedule social media updates with a content management system like Hootsuite. So start by going to Compose Message, paste in your Tweet, and then click on the calendar, and you can choose a time and a date for your message to go out. But be sure that you check back throughout the day and respond to any comments.
Also it’s okay to Tweet the same link more than once though you should change the wording to keep it fresh. On Facebook and Instagram, however, don’t repost the same content.
But if there’s bad news or a crisis, be sure to turn off your scheduled posts, especially if they’re promotional, otherwise it’ll seem like you’re insensitive or out of touch.
Sometimes questions or issues happen after hours, so have an on-call social media person to address thatand help you avoid a potential customer service crisis. Rotate the responsibility and be sure there’s always one person on-call.
Finally, have some fun. The great thing about social media is it lets you be social with your customers. You can help them, celebrate them, and showcase your company’s personality.
Content, that’s a word that’s thrown around a lot these days. In simple terms, content is all the ways you tell your company’s stories and express your brand personality online and off. That includes your company website or blog, Facebook and Twitter updates, and of course the YouTube video, a photo on Instagram, or a digital ad.
Content also includes non-digital assets, like brochures, signage, sales material, trade show booths, and they all work together to give your customers a picture of your brand’s personality.
The secret to creating great content is stepping into your customer’s shoes and figuring out how you can help them. Start by writing down all the questions they ask, then group the questions into themes and prepare a two line answer for each. While you’re doing this, imagine which format or platforms would work best for that particular subject, then add it to your content calendar.
Say you’re distributing a Do It Yourself (DIY) product, you may want to consider a series of how-to videos that are optimized for a mobile device. You may consider writing a blog post to introduce the series, and craft several social media posts with a link to the how-to video.
You don’t have to spend a lot of money on a super slick production, your customers are looking for authenticity over Hollywood production values, but you still need to create something of quality. For example, you can produce a simple video using your smartphone, just remember to use a tripod to keep it steady, get an external mic for better sound, and pay attention to framing and light.
In their book, Content Rules, authors Ann Handley and C.C. Chapman encourage businesses to speak in a human voice, solve a problem, and surprise and delight their customers. When it comes to social media content, remember the three P’s and think like a publisher to create the best story possible, a producer to add in multimedia assets, and a publicist to get the word out, then imagine how your story can play out overtime on different platforms.
You don’t have to create everything yourself, you can curate content by discovering posts your audience is interesting in and sharing those, just be sure you provide context and give credit by linking back to the original author. Who knows, maybe they’ll notice your post and will link to you.
When it comes to curated content, try to cut through the clutter so your audience doesn’t have to. For example, Nana’s Recipe could curate content about event planning because it knows many of its customers are planning parties and events.
Follow these three simple steps, find, filter, share. Find interesting stories, filter to make sure they’re relevant, and share them to your network. The best content helps your customers and showcases your businesses personality, and it’s not about volume, it’s relevance to your audience that counts, and that’s the content one-two punch.
Many people believe social media speeds up the relationship-building process, and that’s true to a point.
[Tweet “Lasting relationships are built on trust, and that doesn’t happen overnight.” ]
As they say, actions speak louder than words, and your behavior on social platforms sets the tone for how your customers will behave with you. All relationships are based on give and take, something called reciprocal behavior. If I give you something, you’ll probably give me something in return. A simple example of this is holding the door open for a person, chances are they’ll say thank you. That’s why you should always start a relationship by giving first, not taking.
Let’s go back to my Mom’s grocery & clothing store. When a customer walked in, my Mom never said can I help you, because when you do that people often become self-conscious and then leave without buying anything. She knew they had to settle in first and get comfortable, so what she did was start by saying hello, then she’d watch them, listen to their questions, and when she had a pretty good idea of what they were looking for she’d strike up a conversation and start to help. The same is true in social media.
Instead of pouncing on your customers the moment they land on your webpage or content, ease them into it. Try to watch their behavior, and then engage them. Unlike many marketing channels, social media is two-way, which means you can actually chat with a customer or a potential customer and they can respond. You don’t want the first thing to come out of your mouth to be a marketing message.
Here are three tips.
Tip 1: Help, don’t sell. Put your customer first, otherwise they feel like they’re a commodity. On social media, that means thanking them for a tweet, or reposting some of their content rather than just broadcasting your own.
Tip 2: Avoid a hard sell. This one is hard for many businesses to understand, that is yes, you’re there to make a profit, but don’t ever use a hard sell on social media, and be careful with the pop-ups on your site, don’t scare people away when they first arrive. Before you post ask yourself, are you a helper or a hucker? And if you’re the latter, tone it down.
Tip 3: Do something extra for your customers to show them how much you care. On social media, you can do that by writing a post on Facebook about all the wonderful charitable work your customer does in their spare time, add a photo and it really stands out. Relationships that go beyond a transaction can turn your customers into ambassadors, and that takes an investment of your energy. Like dating, it requires a lot of finesse. Remember, social media may be fast, but long-lasting relationships still take time.
One of the biggest benefits of social media is that it’s trackable. Take a look at a typical Google Analytics dashboard, the platform many businesses use to measure online marketing results. From Google Analytics, we can determine if our content is resonating with the people we’re trying to reach, or whether we need to adjust, but you don’t just dive into the metrics mid-campaign, you have to decide what you’re measuring up front, and how you’re going to measure it, and that takes planning.
That depends on what you’re trying to achieve. A good place is your business goals and objects. For Nana’s Recipe, success could be an increase in cake orders over a set period of time.
Nana’s Recipe could work with its IT or analytics consultant to setup a special campaign URL on Google Analytics with a tracking tag, and that shows them where the traffic’s coming from.They could give that trackable URL to a blogger who’s writing a story about their cake designs, or share the link on social media platforms, then they could track the traffic the customized URL drives to their site, and observe what people do when they get there.
For more on this, check out the Goggle Analytics Academy — Its free!.
Or maybe, Nana’s Recipe wants prospective customers to sign up for its newsletter in order to capture their emails and start marketing to them. First, they’d need to create a landing page with content that entices people, and encourages them to sign up. When that’s done, they would generate a campaign URL with a tracking tag for that particular page. They could include that URL in a blog post, or in their newsletter, this enables them to see how many people read the post, clicked on the link, and determined whether or not they signed up for a newsletter.
These are just two ways to measure your social media programs, and you can track the results back to the goals and objectives you established in your social media marketing plan.
“There seems to be some pervasive human habit that likes to make easy things difficult.”Warren Buffet
As with most everything you do, don’t over-complicate, and try to keep your social media measurement as simple as you can.
Before social media, marketing your business was easier to do. Maybe you’d produce an ad and place it on a local TV show, perhaps you’d try to get a story written about your business in a trade magazine. Once you had a plan you stuck to it, and often wouldn’t know whether it achieved your goals.
Today, you also need to develop a social media marketing program, and it’s important to realize that nothing is set in stone. That’s why you should test and adapt your tactics, and be prepared to adjust your campaign in real-time if your metrics tell you you’re not heading where you want to go.
Let’s look at Nana’s Recipe bakery. Suppose they want to write a blog post on cake frosting tips and share that on social media. Imagine they’ve come up with a couple of headlines and aren’t sure which one their customers would prefer. How can they test that?
If they have a large email marketing list they could do an A/B email test. In an A/B test, you compare two creative options to determine the one that performs best.
Nana’s Recipe would start by randomly selecting a few hundred people from their email list, dividing them into two groups and sending one group the first headline, and the second group the second headline, then they could examine which headline had the better open or click-through rate, and also if it performed the same or better than other initiatives. Analyzing the data will help them decide which headline worked best for their customers.
A simpler way of doing an A/B test for a headline is to try it out on Twitter. Tweet out each headline with a trackable link. You can get those links from a site like bitly.com that shortens links and tracks the engagement, then figure out which headline drove the most traffic to your site. Of course, this only works if you have an engaged following.
The point is, you want to pay attention to how your marketing is being received, and ask yourself the following questions. Are you getting the number of clicks, comments, and traffic that you expected? If not, do you know why? Are people reacting positively, negatively, or in a neutral manner to your content? How does this initiative compare to what you’ve done in the past?
Then, analyze the answers and determine whether or not you need to adapt. Be sure to limit the number of variables you test so you’ll have a better idea of what’s working. You might need to change the image or photo, maybe the headline isn’t catching people’s attention, or perhaps it’s a combination of the two. It’s tough to predict what will catch on.
Learn from past initiatives, stay open to making adjustments, and above all, test out various options before you go live, and be prepared to listen to what your customers are saying and turn on a dime.That way you’ll have a better chance at social media marketing success.
As a small business owner or manager, you know how important social media can be to connect with your customers, grow your company, and achieve your goals. And like everything, doing it well takes time.
In this guide, I’ve shared tips and ideas showing how to make social media marketing work for your small business needs.
Start by listening to what your customers are talking about and asking key strategic questions like, what social platforms are your customers on? When and where would they connect with you? What types of content can you produce better than anyone else? And How can you engage your team?
Then, establish your goals, develop a plan, and determine which metrics you’re going to use to measure success. Discover your staff’s hidden talents and get everyone involved, contributing ideas for your content.
Like your business, social media’s not a solo activity. A good resource is a book, Content Rules by Ann Handley and C.C. Chapman that offers a how-to in content creation. And if you have any questions about getting started in social media, feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn, linkedin.com/in/burtbaguma & Twitter, @burtsystems. Think of social media marketing as another touch point to engage your customers. Use it to help them and you can bet they’ll help you. And that’s the beginning of a beautiful relationship.