You boot up your laptop or phone and open your web browser of choice – where is the first place you go? If you’re like many of us, you hit a social media site. Some of us are so entrenched that we check social sites right when we wake up (guilty). So it follows that social media is a powerful way for small businesses to connect with target audiences, build relationships, and show how their product/service fits into the lives of potential customers.
But because so many companies have gotten into the social game, you might not even know where to begin (or how to stand out). We have some advice for getting started and creating a standout social media marketing strategy for your small business.
Choose the right channels and make them your focus
Trying to be on every platform under the sun is just not realistic for most small businesses. Social media channels take time to manage, so don’t stretch yourself too thin from the get-go. Pick two channels and make those your main focus.
How do you determine which channels? This is where an audience profile comes in handy. Who are your current customers? How old are they? What gender? What are their interests? If they’re older, Facebook would be a good place to focus. If they’re a younger and more visual crowd, Instagram is your best bet. You can use a mixture of a few channels and tailor your content accordingly.
Determine your key message
Defining the message at the core of your social content goes a long way to making said content more effective. You’re using social media to tell a story – have you ever read a story that goes off on a million unrelated tangents before finally getting to the end? That’s what it’s like to read social content from a brand that doesn’t know what it’s trying to say. Every post doesn’t need to explicitly state your message, but by knowing what you want to communicate overall with your social presence, you can outline topics to cover that fall within your message. These topics help you make sure your content is 1) varied but on-message and 2) covering important points that tie to your marketing goals. If you run a software startup, for example, your topics could include product news/how-to’s, customer success stories, industry news, blog promotion, and general PR.
Invest in good writing and design
The success of your social media efforts is greatly improved by investing in high-quality writing and visuals. Your business is competing for attention in an increasingly crowded digital landscape, and if anything about your content is sub-par, it’ll be that much harder to get people to take notice.
Let’s be real – creating compelling, effective content is not something everyone can do. It’s actually pretty hard stuff and involves a mixture of creativity and analytical thinking. That’s why so many businesses produce boring or just plain bad content. Investing in your content is crucial to both help drive people back to your website and give people a reason to follow your brand’s social pages.
Use it for customer service
Social media isn’t just a place we go to be entertained or learn something new – we also take to social to ask brands questions and report issues. Customers expect a response quickly (within 4 hours) but brands take an average of 10 hours to respond on social. Speed and helpfulness are key factors in a social customer service approach, and it pays off – customers will spend up to 40% more with companies that engage with them via social.
Responding to customer issues not only helps create a positive relationship between current customers and your brand, it also helps encourage prospective customers to shop with you, too. Customers who have positive interactions with a brand on social and three times more likely to recommend that brand to others. And potential customers are paying attention to if/how you respond to complaints online – 88% are less likely to shop with a brand that doesn’t answer social complaints.
Quality, not quantity
One of the barriers that business’ face in the social space today is just how much content already exists in the world (and much of it not good). Many companies pump out content at lightning speed in an attempt to reach prospective customers online but don’t stop to think about the intent behind each piece. What do you want your audience to take away or do after interacting with what you’ve made? If you don’t know, your audience definitely won’t. Defining the intent behind what you’re doing is the key to creating content that is both engaging and ties to business goals.
Even if you know exactly what you want the end user to do once they see your Facebook post, it won’t do you any good if the things you’re making are boring. Would YOU actually want to read what you wrote or watch what you recorded? If your content doesn’t provide something valuable to your audience, whether it teaches them new information or entertains them, then don’t publish it! Go back and revise until you’ve got something you would read or watch.
Have a distribution strategy
You’ve posted to your brand’s Facebook page and you’re good to go, right? Not so fast. The social space has seen an overall shift away from wide organic reach, meaning that without proper promotion, a tiny fraction of your fan base will actually see what you post. Nowadays, it’s a pay-to-play environment if you want to reach more people and break through the content clutter. Promoting select posts within each network is key. Experiment with targeting options to get your content in front of the most relevant audience. Also, consider partnering with other outlets to create content. This could be anyone from another blogger or small business in your industry to a bigger publication. You’ll benefit from an increased built-in audience, plus your partner’s own promotion.
Social media is always changing, and the tactics that worked yesterday might not work a year from now. The biggest piece of advice for any business looking to improve their social strategy is to stay flexible. Explore new tools and formats, see what resonates with customers, and adjust accordingly.