Social media marketing should be part of every small business’ online strategy. The networks allow you to discover ideal customers for your business. Social media gives you a two-way platform where you can connect with your customers, allowing you to engage with them and them to engage with you. When it comes to creating a social media strategy, there are lots of decisions you need to make. You need to know which social networks are best for your business, how to create a profile that attracts customers, what content to share, and how to grow your audience. This guide will help small business owners and marketers answer all of the above questions in order to implement a success social media marketing strategy.
What Social Media Sites Should You Use?
The first task when planning your social media strategy is choosing the right social media networks for your business. It can be overwhelming when you consider that there are hundreds of social media networks on the internet today. Successful social media strategies tend to focus on a few top social networks at a time. It's easy for any business to get distracted by the latest up and coming social network. With that in mind, here is a look at seven of the top social media networks used by marketers. 1
Facebook offers the most variety for businesses in terms of status update types (text, link, photo, and direct video upload), page additions in the form of apps, and the most detailed ad targeting options of any social network. Twitter offers the easiest to use platform for businesses. Individuals and businesses alike use the same profile format. Businesses can engage with almost everyone on Twitter, regardless of whether those users are following the business's account. Conversations (tweets) are easily searchable, and businesses can jump into any public conversation at any time by including other users' @username in a reply. Engagement is made short and sweet with a maximum of 140 characters allowed per tweet. While Twitter's ad targeting options are not as thorough as Facebook's, their advertising can help you reach your ideal customers. LinkedIn is the top social network devoted to business professionals. You can connect with others on LinkedIn using a personal profiles, groups, and pages. In addition to sharing status updates, LinkedIn also offers the ability to publish long form content (blog posts) using your personal profile. LinkedIn's advertising offers highly detailed professional targeting options for B2B businesses. YouTube is the largest video distribution network on the internet. Individuals and businesses can share video content by creating channels (profiles). They can also engage with one another on channel discussion tabs and within YouTube video comments. The primary purpose of the network has less to do with social interaction and more to do with sharing video content. YouTube also offers several advertising options through Google AdWords. Google+ is the smallest social media network in terms of active users, but essential for small business owners because of Google+ Local. For other businesses, Google's support of Google+ pages in search results makes it a worthwhile investment. Many times, when you search for a business, you will see information and the latest update from the business's Google+ page. Pinterest is a growing network designed to help users share visual content (images and video) through pinboards. The outward differences between personal accounts and business accounts are minimal, although Pinterest is starting to offer more options for businesses, including analytics and advertising. Instagram is one of the most active network based solely upon mobile visual content. Similarly to Pinterest, the outward differences between personal accounts and business accounts are minimal, although Instagram is starting to offer more options for businesses, including analytics and advertising.
Which social media sites do my competitors use?
If you see a lot of your competitors using a specific social network, they are likely getting a lot of results from that network. Note your competitor's results may not necessarily be leads or sales, but rather exposure and visibility building for their brand. When analyzing the social networks that your competitors use, you will need to look at their audience size, the content they post, and the engagement they receive from their audience. This analysis will allow you to determine whether there is enough of an audience to make it worthwhile for you to invest in the network and if your audience will respond to the content you post. Local businesses that can’t find competitors in their area may want analyze examples outside of their region. For example, a pest control service in a small town might not find another local pest control service using social media. They can expand their range of competitors to businesses in nearby large cities for further analysis. You can do this analysis manually and log your results in a spreadsheet. Alternatively, you can use the 14-day free trial of Rival IQ to compile your competitor's social media analytics in easy to read reports.10
Which social media sites do my customers use?
Some small businesses may find that their competitors are not taking full advantage of social media. This discovery does not mean that social media wouldn’t be valuable to your business. It might mean your competitors have not had the time or ability to invest in social media yet. If this is the case, you can use the following tactics to discover if your ideal customers are on a particular social network.
Social networks like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn have advertising platforms. You can create an account for free and set up a test ad. When you get to the targeting options for your ad, you can enter details about your ideal customer. You will get an approximate audience size based on the targeting options you have configured. For example, you can find out how many female CEOs in New York City are on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Social networks like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ have groups. You can search for groups that your ideal customer would join. For example, local businesses that cater to gardeners could see if there are local gardening groups. Social networks like Twitter allow you to search public posts. You can search for posts about topics that your ideal customer would discuss. You can also review studies of key social network demographics, like the one published by Pew Research Center. 11
Which social media sites can I easily create content for?
Content creation is a vital part of social media marketing. So if you’re not ready to create videos just yet, then you may not want to dive into YouTube. And if you’re not ready to start sharing images, then you may not want to create Pinterest or Instagram accounts. That leaves Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+, all of which are great networks to use when starting your social media strategy. While these networks allow you to share media content, you can start with basic text and work your way up.
What Should Your Social Media Profiles Include?
To create a social media presence that helps your customers find you, you will need the following elements.
A custom username: When you choose your username for your social profiles and pages, try to use a consistent name across all networks for branding purposes. Display your name consistently across all their social networks.
A profile photo: It is usually a square photo that represents you or your business. Ideally, you will want this photo to match across all networks so that if people are connected with you on one network, they can easily recognize you on another based on that image.
A cover photo: Social networks like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, and Google+ give you the option to add a large photo at the top of your profile or page to represent your business, products, or service. Here is how each social network refers to their cover photo and the dimensions for each.
A detailed bio: Each social network allows you to include a bio or description for your business. The shortest bio is the Twitter bio, which is up to 160 characters. Think of a great way to describe your business in up to 160 characters, and use that as your bio or description across all of your social media networks. For networks like Google+ and LinkedIn that allow for longer bios, you can use your 160 character bio as the opening and then write additional details.
Even if you choose to focus on one social network at a time, you may want to go ahead and create accounts for your business on the main platforms anyway. This allows you to reserve your name on each network so that when you are ready to use them, they will be ready to go.
What Should You Post?
If you were able to research your competitors on social media, you should have an idea of the types of posts you can share with your ideal customers on each network. If not, here are some examples of the types of posts you can share.
Be sure to vary the format of content you share - link to articles, videos, infographics, podcasts, presentations, and white papers. The variety will give all of your audience content in a form that they prefer to consume. Also note that on certain networks like Instagram and Pinterest, you can only share images and video. And on YouTube, you can only share videos. The golden ratio for social media content is 80/20. 80% of what you share should be interesting and valuable to your audience. 20% should be promotional items about your business. If you can stick with this balance, you should have an engaged social media following. The number of times you post per day depends on your industry and the social network. For example, you may find that your audience responds to ten posts on Twitter, three posts on Facebook, and one post on LinkedIn, Google+, Instagram, and Pinterest per day. You should also remember that social media is not a broadcast-only platform. Whenever you post something on each network, monitor and respond to any response you receive. The more discussion you generate, the more your audience will engage with your business.
How Can You Grow Your Audience?
The growth of your social media audience on each network will take time. Here are some tactics you can use to grow your social media audience. First, start by adding links to your social profiles everywhere: your website, your blog, your email signature, your email newsletter, and your profiles elsewhere on the web. Note that you should only promote social profiles that are active. Next, engage with as many people as possible on each network.
On Twitter, you can search for discussions by keyword and reply using your business profile.
On Facebook, you can use your page to comment on other posts by other Facebook pages in your industry (with exception to your competitors).
On Linkedin, you can use your professional profile to join and participate in groups within your industry.
On Google+, you can use your page to comment on posts on other Google+ pages and communities in your industry.
On Instagram and Pinterest, you can comment on other people's shares using your business account.
On YouTube, you can comment on other people's videos using your business channel.
The more you engage on each platform, the more exposure your business will get with your target audience. As you provide valuable content, your audience size will grow. Finally, you can use Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn advertising to grow your audience. Each have an option to promote your business profile or page to your ideal customer base in order to grow your following and fans.
What Tools Best Help Manage Social Media?
There are hundreds, if not thousands of social media tools you can use to manage your social media accounts. The following are three of the most popular tools used by social media marketers and experts. Buffer: Buffer allows you to post and schedule updates to your Facebook (profile or page), Twitter, Google+ (page only), LinkedIn (profile or page), and Pinterest accounts. Buffer offers a plan for $10 per month for up to twelve profiles and 200 posts.
HootSuite: HootSuite allows you to post and schedule updates to your Facebook (profile or page), Twitter, Google+ (page only), and LinkedIn (profile or page) accounts. You can also use HootSuite to monitor your news feed from the above networks and keyword searches on Twitter. HootSuite offers a free plan for up to three profiles and a paid plan at $9.99 per month for up to fifty profiles.
Sprout Social: Sprout Social allows you to post and schedule updates, review and respond to notifications, and run reports on audience growth and engagement. This tool works with your Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+ accounts. Plans start at $59 per month up to ten profiles.
You may want to start by just using each social network, and then as your needs grow, you can invest in the above-mentioned or other social media tools that are out there.
We hope you have enjoyed this guide to social media for small business! With millions of people using the internet daily, there are nearly unlimited opportunities to connect with customers via social media. Whether you want to build your brand, manage your digital reputation, expand your reach, or improve customer relationships, social media can be a valuable asset. While there is much more that can be learned, you're well on your way to choosing the right platforms for your business, setting your business accounts, knowing what to post, and knowing how to grow your audience. Solidify you social media strategy and watch your online footprint grow!
Graham has worked in content marketing and strategy for Fortune 500 companies and niche brands in the Energy and Software industries. He graduated from Carnegie Mellon University with a degree in Professional Writing.