In this day and age, virtually everyone has at least one social media account, whether it be for personal use or is purely business related. From Facebook to Twitter, LinkedIn to Pinterest, Instagram to Google Plus-there are well over 20 different social media platforms out there, all offering different streams of social media marketing and different target audiences.
So significant is the social media marketing tool, that big companies have long since been turning their backs on traditional marketing methods, in favour of spending large chunks of the marketing budget on social media. They employ whole departments, whose sole job is simply to keep on top of social media.
It is an undoubtable fact that social media can be a very successful marketing tool for generating a lot of exposure for your business. Chances are that people looking to do business with you, will check out your social media presence as a point of reference, and to validate the services you are offering.
The question remains therefore how does a small business compete? Is it possible for a small business to reep the same benefits as the larger companies when they most likely do not have the same time or resources.
In our experience of working with small businesses, we find that most owners have likely dipped a toe in the water. So often we hear the story of how someone’s son’s cousin managed to set them up a facebook page, but they got no likes, and didn’t see the point. Either that or they don’t understand how it could benefit their business at all so just haven’t bothered.
Here is our guide to how a small business can make the most of Social Media:
1. Defining your Target Audience
The starting point of any marketing strategy is to define your target audience: Who is it you are trying to attract?
Write down, who your customers are (current and potential) include age, gender, location, interests, professions etc, until you have a profile of your target audience.
Now you need to make a list of the problems they may have and how your product or service is going to help resolve this for them. Think about the customers you already have, and what makes them keep coming back to you.
From this you can should try to identify at least 3 key marketing messages you wish to get across.
2. Narrow down the Social Network Channels you are going to use.
There are so many social network channels, that it is just not practical to try and target them all.
Instead remember that each one has a different primary audience, and each operates in differing ways.
Find out from your target audience which social media channel they prefer. Talk to your customers, and find out how they interact online.
Look at your competition – who are they targeting, which social networks do they use? Don’t be put off if your competitors are not using social networks – this can only be to your advantage in the long term as you have got there first.
At the same time, work out how you are going to present your marketing message to your customers.
Whether it be a blog, a podcast, or a series of videos – work out how you are going to get your message across in the best way, and how you are going to stand out from the crowd.
For example: If you are a computer repair shop – perhaps a series of short videos at how to check simple features on a computer may work. Couple this with Youtube and Facebook for sharing and concentrate on just these channels.
Aim to choose 1 or 2 social network channels that are going to best suit your marketing messages, and the customers you are trying to reach. See also our guide to the differences between the major 8 Social Networks.
3. Get Started
Once you have chosen the methods you are going to use, then get started. Get your profile page looking the best you can, and then get posting and sharing. Use our Social Media Cheat Sheet, for details of how to set up the perfect profile page.
On your website remember to display social icons prominently. Link these directly to your social media profiles.
Include Sharing Buttons at the end of posts, or products, and a Call to Action button. When people come across valuable content, they want to share it with their friends and followers. If you don’t have sharing buttons, your visitors will likely click away and you’ve lost that opportunity to reach a wider related audience.
The most important things to remember is that whatever you put out there, it has to be more than an advert - it needs to be interesting and it needs to engage with the customers you are trying to attract.
Some of the best examples that have ever been tweeted:
4. Get everyone involved
One of the best things about Social Media is that all employees in the company can be involved. The more sharing you can do, the wider the message will spread. They will have contacts that you would never be able to reach through traditional marketing methods, so utilise this.
If resources allow, to get off the ground, consider a small budget of paid promotions offered by the Social Media channels. Boosting a post, or get a sponsored link for a short time, will ensure that you are reaching a much wider cross section of users.
5. Get professional help
If it isn’t happening as you want it too, or you are struggling with the right content, then consider getting some professional help. We would recommend for the first six months, allowing a professional company to guide you through the social media process, show you the right content to put up, and how to get followers and likes.
6. Treat it with respect – Social Media is not an Add On.
Treat Social Media with the same respect you would a paid advert in the paper. It is not an addon – it is a replacement of traditional methods of advertising, but it can be much more powerful.
It is also not ‘free’. It does take time, but it is worth allocating whatever resources you have available.
Take it seriously and there will be great rewards.
7. Measure and Analyse Results
Get Google Analytics installed on your website so you can monitor and analyse the results.
You can see what is and what isn’t working. Who was engaged and what they looked at on your site.
With this knowledge you can improve your posts.
8. Expected Outcome
Social Media success does not happen over night. It is a long term investment. If you put in the time and effort then you are ensuring that your business is relevant in the current market.
It is likely that after 1 year you will have exposed your business to the right sort of customers and increased awareness. After 2 years you should start to see a massive boost in engagement levels, and by year 3 there should be financial benefits.
Social Media is not going away -so the more relevant you can be today, the more your business is going to be one step ahead tomorrow.