The Small Business Guide to Successful Social Media Marketing

Social media marketing

Social media marketing has become a necessity for small businesses.

You may already have a website and a local customer base, but social media helps to further boost brand awareness. In fact, 44% of local businesses rely on social media for brand awareness, while more than one in three internet users say they go to social media to find more information about a brand or product.

Many small business owners hesitate over social media because it’s one more thing to manage in their vast to-do list. However, investing some time and effort into social media can pay off, especially if it helps to draw more customers to your business.

The key is to do social media strategically. As a small business, you don’t have the resources of the big brands and their massive social media operations, but you can take a targeted approach to reach “your” people.

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How to choose the right social media platforms

Start by clearly defining your goals for social media, your target audience and identifying the best platforms to choose that will meet those criteria. You might choose to be on multiple platforms, but as a general rule, don’t bite off more than you can chew. If you find yourself trying to juggle too many social media channels, you can end up doing none of them effectively.

How do you choose the right social media platforms? There are two main factors we would take into account:

  1. Know the purpose of each social media platform
  2. Know which platforms your target audience is most likely to use.

You need to understand the underlying purpose of each social media platform to know how you could use it to meet your business goals. Just because a platform is popular, doesn’t mean it will be a good fit. The graphic below from CNBC gives a short and sweet summary of each platform (although it is a little dated – Google+ was recently taken down).

Social media marketing

You may already have an idea of the types of content you’d like to post to social media, so this can be a consideration for platform choice too. For example, if your content is big on visuals, you’ll want platforms that show visual content well. Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook are all channels where users look for hot visual content.

Another factor is the resources and skills that you have at your disposal. For example, if you aren’t great at video and don’t have the means to have quality videos made, then YouTube probably isn’t the best choice for you.

As far as knowing which platforms will be the best fit for your target audience, there is data widely available to show you who is using each platform. You may not be able to get an exact profile match, but you’ll be able to find key demographics.

For example, take a look at research into social media platform usage and demographics from Pew Research or Smart Insights. You will also find information on social media penetration across different countries and benchmarks for engagement.

Social media marketing

You can see that YouTube and Facebook are the most widely used online platforms among U.S. adults, but here is where it’s important to have your own audience defined. Among millenials and Gen Z, Snapchat and Instagram are more popular.

Know your target audience first, then choose your social media channel to fit Click To Tweet

What to post and when

A universal rule across social media platforms is that businesses shouldn’t be “salesy” all the time. In fact, some of the most effective content for driving business goals doesn’t appear to “sell” at all. For example, content that is designed to provide useful information or to be entertaining. The bottom line? Based on your target audience profile, post the things that are interesting and valuable to them, NOT posts that are primarily based on your business interests. (Although of course you should occasionally post about new products or sales you are having).

Getting to a more granular level, it’s about understanding what is most appropriate for the platform you are using. Facebook is multi-purpose in terms of types of content you can post. You might choose pictures, text-only, text and pictures or videos. The aim is to build up a fan base on your business page and get people liking, sharing and commenting.

Twitter is much more fast-paced with home feeds updating a constant flow of tweets. It’s about sharing quick pieces of information or imagery enticing enough for people to notice and click on in the moment. The audience tends to skew older than platforms like Snapchat.

Below, we’ve put together a table of suggested content types for different social media platforms, along with a recommendation for how often to post on each. This recommendation is taken from research published by CoSchedule, but as always, it’s important to test for your own business to figure out what suits your audience. Mix up your content and frequency until you have found your own rhythm.

Social Platform:Content Type/s:How Often to Post:
FacebookCurated content, videos, photosAt least once per day
TwitterNews, GIFs, snippets from and links to blog posts15 tweets per day
InstagramHigh-quality photos, quotes, stories1 – 2 posts per day
PinterestPhoto guides, infographics, “how to’s”11 pins per day
LinkedInProfessional content, blog posts, company news, jobs1 post per day
SnapchatEngaging stories (video or photo)At least daily (stories last for 24 hours)

There aren’t any hard and fast rules for social media, as long as you use the platform as it is intended. One tip if you’re stuck for ideas on content is to look around at what top business accounts on the platform in question are doing. There are always studies being done into which posts are the most effective that you can do a search for.

Alternatively, try setting up alerts for keywords or topics related to what you do. This will keep you abreast with what is being posted and you will be able to see which content gets good engagement.

How to get engagement on social media

The whole idea of social media is to be “social.” If you can get good engagement on your social media channels, it tends to beget further engagement. Good engagement means that your posts get shown more often to more people and you have the potential to reach new customers.

To begin with, you need to make sure you are delivering content that is worth following. The old post-for-posting’s-sake approach won’t do for the overall profile of your business. Make sure all posts are well-thought out and conducive with the messaging that you want to send as a brand – you’ll confuse people otherwise.

Think about the types of content that get people responding. A simple one is to ask a question. “What was your first car?” is a post that is much more likely to get a response for a car dealer than simply a picture of a car.

Another strategy is to tell interesting stories. Look at Humans of New York on Instagram as an example. They tell the stories of real people and the audience always responds. Why? Because we are wired to pay attention to stories. We’ve used storytelling for thousands of years to form connections with one another.

There’s an obvious strategy that many businesses often mess up – actually being social. This means starting conversations, joining in conversations and responding when people take the time to comment or send a message. If you don’t reply to questions on your posts, for example, people notice and soon lose interest. They figure that you’re not really active on the social media channel anyway.

Furthermore, there is data to show that social media has become a vital platform for customer service. 80% of customers engage via social media while 54% prefer social messaging channels for customer care. If you’re not responding quickly, it just may cost you the customer.

How to effectively use paid social media marketing

Most social media platforms now have their own paid marketing options. This means you can run advertisements that appear “native” to the channel, such as sponsored posts on Instagram.

Effective use of paid social media marketing means having a good understanding of the platform you are using first. You need to understand your audience and know the types of posts that they engage with. You need to have clear calls to action that help drive people toward the end-goal that you have.

Paid social media can have some great advantages over other types of paid advertising. It can be very cost-effective, particularly because the social platforms offer you ways to narrow down your target audience. This means that your ads only get shown to users who meet your criteria, rather than shown to just anyone.

Our best tips for getting the most of your paid social media are:

  1. Go in with a very clear audience definition
  2. Have well-defined goals for your advertising
  3. Take the time to craft engaging ad content
  4. Test, iterate and re-test.
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Final thoughts

Your small business needs a presence on social media if you want to boost awareness of your brand. Increasingly, consumers are turning to social media as they search for products and services, and they’ll often buy from businesses they trust from following on social media.

One of the major challenges for small business owners tends to be the time and resources to do social media well. We suggest that if you are limited on those things, you choose the one or two platforms that are most likely to put you in front of your target audience.

From there, it’s about learning the particulars of your chosen channel. Understand the intent and the desires of the audience using it. Post regularly and do what you can to encourage engagement. Supplement with paid social media campaigns.

It may seem like a lot of work, but social media has become essential for businesses. Don’t let yours be left behind!

Danny Peavey

Danny is the founder and CEO of One Week Website. He is also a certified StoryBrand Guide. When he's not talking about clear messaging or marketing, you can find him drinking amazing coffee, shooting hoops, and spending time with his family.
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