Most small business owners understand the importance of social media for brand building, reputation management, and driving web traffic. But which channels should you focus on? Where is your target audience? What types of content should you publish? What do you aim to achieve with social media? For those new to the world of social media marketing, it can be overwhelming.
The good news is that you’re not alone.
If you’re new to social media marketing, or even if you’re reworking an existing social media strategy, this guide will help you find the answers to these questions and formulate a social media strategy that supports and strengthens your small business for years to come.
1. Determine Your Small Business Social Media Goals
The first step is figuring out what you want to achieve. Ask yourself the following:
- Do you simply want more people to find out about your brand?
- Do you want to improve customer service?
- Do you want to increase sales?
- Do you want to build customer loyalty?
It’s important to address these questions directly, so you can determine the type of content you should be publishing, the tone you should use to address your audience, and the strategic direction you need to take. Without knowing these answers and setting appropriate goals, you won’t know how to measure your progress and the results of your social media efforts.
2. Understand Your Audience
Building a content strategy should be guided by the ideas, interests, desires, and expectations of your target audience. Anyone can create content, but making sure it resonates with those who consume it is another matter.
Social media marketing isn’t just about posting content that promotes your small business (although many companies still think it is). It’s about building a long-term relationship with your target audience by providing useful and engaging content that shows you understand who they are, what they like, and what they want. This makes it vital from the outset to find out where they spend their time online and what kinds of content they crave and enjoy. There are several ways to find this out:
- Look at your competitors’ social media channels. What kind of content are they posting? Who is engaging with their content?
- Find out the demographics of each social network; there are various online resources to gain insight
- Listen to online conversations that mention your business, products, and services
- Ask existing customers directly via your website or email
3. Build Your Resources
You may come up with the best social media strategy in the world, but what if you can’t afford to implement it, or you don’t have the time? Check what resources you have in place first, so you can develop a realistic plan that doesn’t negatively impact your daily business operations. Ask yourself the following:
- Do you have the time to create content yourself?
- Is there someone on your team that can create and post content?
- Who is going to manage your social media accounts?
- Who will respond to social media comments and questions?
If you don’t have the resources in place at the moment, consider limiting your social media activity to just one or two channels. Alternatively, if your budget allows, consider hiring a third-party agency or social media manager to manage your social media strategy.
4. Finding the Right Social Media Channels
Some small businesses have numerous social media accounts, but lack the time to give enough attention to any one of them. What does this look like to potential customers? If you can’t give one channel (and your potential audience) the attention it deserves, leave it alone. It’s far better to stick to one or two channels and put the time and effort into these to show your business in the best possible light. When you have enough time and money to commit, you can scale your efforts.
Which channels you focus on ties in with understanding your audience. When you know where your potential customers spend their time online, and what kinds of content they want to consume, you can focus on the social media networks that will give you a better return on your investment.
You also need to understand your objectives. If you want to provide longer-form content that helps you connect with other businesses, LinkedIn could be the best option. If you want to engage with customers in a more entertaining way, Facebook may be best. On the other hand, if you want to be able to handle customer queries more efficiently, Twitter may be the best platform for real-time engagement. Whichever you choose, you need to know your small business social media goals first.
5. Optimize for Search Engines
In order to generate more exposure for your social media presence, you need to make your social media pages more visible within search engines. This means ensuring your social profiles and content are optimized for search engines, particularly Google. It’s why search engine optimization (SEO) has become such a huge aspect of online marketing today.
To give yourself the best chance of being found via search engines, all your social media profiles must be completed fully. This means including all the relevant information about your company, products, and services in every social media account. It not only tells the search engines who you are, but also your social media audience.
Remember to include your current business address (if any), hours of operation, contact information, your unique value proposition, and more. Tell people all they need to know about what your small business does and how they can benefit from your products or services. Above all, be consistent across all your social media profiles. Any inconsistencies could result in Google downgrading your search engine rankings.
6. Develop a Content Strategy
By now you should know what kinds of content your audience is looking for, so it’s up to you (or your content creators) to get to work. During your content publishing journey, keep in mind the following:
- Try out different content formats. For example, how-to guides, photos, videos, infographics, newsworthy articles, and quotes are all good social media material. Remember that visual content is highly shareable
- Keep an eye on your competitors’ social media channels to see what they’re posting
- Encourage people to share your content, regularly ask for feedback, and create content that gets people talking
- It’s up to you to determine how frequently you post, but remember that the quality of your content reflects on your brand
- It’s easier to achieve your goals if you plan your content strategy in quarterly chunks. This way, you can test out different strategies and figure out what’s working without wasting time on a year-long campaign
7. Use an Editorial Calendar
Editorial calendars are a simple and cost-effective way to organize your content ideas and long-term social media strategy. Once you know your marketing goals, and which content formats and channels to focus on, a calendar will give you and your team a clear vision of your content schedule and ongoing progress. Your calendar should clearly show the following:
- Which pieces of content will appear on which channels
- Publication dates
- What time of day the content will be posted
- The specific audience you’re targeting
- The objective of each piece of content
8. Social Media Management Tools
Running a small business while managing social media accounts can be quite a challenge, so it makes sense to invest in one or two social media management tools. Most of the basic plans are free, so you don’t have anything to lose from trying them out. Here are some of the most highly rated tools in the marketing industry:
- Hootsuite – From scheduling posts and tracking brand mentions, to analytics tools and free app add-ons, Hootsuite has all you need to take your social media marketing to the next level
- Followerwonk – This is more focused on Twitter users, helping you track followers and find the right people to engage with
- Mention – A real-time social media monitoring tool, Mention scours the Internet and lets you know whenever someone mentions your brand, target keywords, or your competitors
- Buffer – A useful tool for managing multiple social media accounts at the same time, scheduling content, and analyzing the results of your efforts
9. Monitor and Adjust
Social media marketing requires constant attention. You need to respond to comments when necessary and fine-tune your content strategy to maximize results. This makes regular monitoring a crucial part of any social media strategy, in order to be responsive to your audience and deliver relevant content. Which topics are resonating best with your audience? Which social networks are sending more traffic to your website? How often should you post content to each channel? In order to answer these questions and more, you need to be looking at real data.
Most social media networks have basic analytics tools built into the platform. Apart from these, Google Analytics is a good place to start, and the social media management tools already mentioned will provide a variety of statistical data. Using these tools, you’ll find data that shows you how your content is really performing and you can then adapt your content strategies to improve your analytics stats.
Taking It Further
To be successful on social media, you need to keep up to date with the latest trends and best practices by constantly listening to the latest industry news and developments. To optimize your social media impact, you also need to listen to what your customers are saying about your small business and keep an eye on your competitors.
Getting started on social media can seem daunting at first, but if you follow these steps, you’ll have an easier ride on the road to success. When you eventually get it right, it’s one of the most cost-effective ways to send the right messages to your audience, drive more traffic to your website, generate quality leads, build your brand’s credibility, and increase your customer base.