How to use social media for small business
Creating a social media profile is one of the cheapest and most reliable ways for a small business to get in touch with customers and grow their customer base. It’s so popular that 87% of small businesses use social media marketing, and 92% think it’s important.
As you engage your customers on social media sites and they talk about your services or your company, their friends, family, and even strangers see the comments and conversation and make value judgments about your business. And that’s why you must be consistent, in both what you post and how you respond. It’s the best word-of-mouth advertising money can buy, and it’s largely free aside from time spent.
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Why do people follow brands?
A common thing people say is “But our business is so boring! Why would anyone want to follow us?” Any brand can be exciting if you remember one simple thing: It’s not about YOU. Social media marketing should focus on your customers. People follow brands because:
- You offer sales and promotions
- Your voice is funny or entertaining
- You post awesome stories
- Customer service help
- They are loyal to your brand
- You offered an incentive to follow
- To find out about your products or services
- Recommendation from a friend or family member (social proof)
Planning your social media strategy
It’s a good idea to plan out a social media strategy that’s informative and entertaining, and leave time for spontaneous conversations, replies to all comments, and sharing great content posted by your customers.
Your social media strategy should:
- Define what social media channels you will use – this should be determined by your customers. You need to be where they are.
- Establish benchmarks and goals – Common goals might include:
- Increase traffic to your website
- Make sales
- Generate more leads
- Engage and inform customers
- Increase brand awareness
- Build trust and authority
- Get online reviews
- Describe the kind of content to post – Content should be an interesting mix of industry news, tips and info related to your product, and spontaneous observations – with no more than 30% promotional advertising. Graphics, photos, and videos will help increase post engagement.
- Establish your brand voice (see below)
- Decide what to track and define how – Consider your goals and keep track of what’s important to you. How do your posts affect sales, website traffic, or lead generation?
How to build a social media presence
Here are 6 social media tips you can use to build your audience and make your content interesting, engaging, and ultimately shareable.
1. Build your social media audience
Getting started can be daunting for a small business owner. You may post things nobody reads for a while. Don’t give up! For every subject, an audience exists. You’ll get in touch with your people, and with any luck, they will be happy customers. Give your audience a boost with these tactics:
- Offer sales and promotions – Use your social media to post news about upcoming promotions, flash sales, and information about sale items.
- Incentivize follows – It’s not always advisable to offer prizes in exchange for likes, but some brands have grown their base by using a targeted signup bonus. Offer a prize that only potential customers would find valuable, then offer something extra for comments, likes, or referrals.
- Play games – Some brands post impromptu quizzes or games with prizes. Oreo is one of the most clever brands on Twitter, and once in a while, they run nutty games, asking followers to answer questions, tell stories, post photos, or, in this case, scan their cookies. Oreo’s tweets are entertaining and fun.
- Inspire brand evangelists – Brand evangelists are active users who love your brand. They go beyond your occasional customer and include repeat customers who talk about your brand without prompting. Loyal customers become influencers who help you build brand awareness.
- Use hashtags – Tap into industry buzz by using the same hashtags your customers use. If you’re a local business, look for related hashtags with a local audience. Instagram and Twitter are social media channels where hashtags are particularly effective.
- Join or create a group – Start a facebook group about life in your city, and post local news, comments, memes, and stories all locally centered. It’s a great way to get to know local social media users without overt social media marketing.
2. Develop your brand voice
Who are you as a brand? Are you upbeat and relentlessly positive? Snarky and clever? Controversial? Your style and voice should be authentic…but at the same time, interesting. Your social media marketing strategy should define the voice that represents your brand.
How do you know what voice to choose? Know your customers. Create a customer profile that represents your ideal customer, then find and observe that kind of customer in the wild. For example, let’s say you’re a hair salon and your biggest customer base is young married female professionals, age 25 – 45. What do they talk about? What are their concerns? What kind of content would be valuable to them?
Your voice might be fun and gossipy, professional and informative, or trendy and urban, depending on whether your salon is an elegant establishment where customers come for an updo before the ball or a fun salon where people drink wine while getting pink highlights. Post content that always reflects your style and voice.
Whatever style you choose: Don’t Be Boring.
3. Spice up your content
Social media content is not limited to posting clever quotes or sharing news stories. To get and keep attention, your content should be a multimedia extravaganza. A lot of it can be found online and shared, and you should also generate your own unique content.
- Tell great stories – We all have entertaining stories about things that happen on the job. If you don’t have any stories of your own, find interesting stories online and offer an opinion with a link to the original story.
- Take amazing photos – When you finish a beautiful kitchen remodel or clean a fantastic pool, take a photo and share it on social media (with owner permission, of course). Brand the photo with your logo in a corner.
- Create branded graphics and memes – There are several online generators to help you create free high-quality graphics in perfect formats for sharing. You can use them to make a website and blog graphics as well. Try Canva or Crello to add words, style, and your logo to graphics, and MemeBetter or ImgFlip to make quick memes using trendy images.
Graphic created with Crello.
- Make how-to videos – What related services can your customers do on their own? Share video tips related to your business. For a mechanic, this might include how to change oil, how to add antifreeze, or when and how to change the windshield wipers. For a hairdresser, how about demonstrating blowout or braiding techniques? Lawn service? How to make a professional edge or kill stubborn dollar weeds. Anything your customers might ask is a good subject. A few tips for generating unique new content:
- On Facebook and Twitter, the highest engaging videos are between 60-90 seconds. The second highest is between 30-60 seconds. Keep your video tips focused and short.
- The best length for Facebook Live videos is about 15 minutes.
- Post longer videos on YouTube
4. Deliver stellar customer service
Delivering great customer service means being accessible. You don’t have to be everywhere, but your customers expect to be able to reach you on their terms. Social media offers a great platform for fast answers. SMS is another avenue customers particularly like for its speed. If they can dash off a post of a text and get an answer in minutes, it’s a win.
The advantage of social media customer service is visibility. When you answer questions quickly and help customers in public, you build credibility and trust.
5. Spread product news and updates
Build excitement for a new product launch, a website redesign, new offices, or service upgrades with advance-news. The exciting news is a good time to ask people to sign up for your newsletter or for emailed special offers.
6. Collect your most important asset – Social proof
Social proof is essentially word-of-mouth advertising. The more positive reviews you can accumulate, the more trust you earn. Studies show just how positive reviews are. In fact, 84% of consumers trust online reviews, and 70% will leave a review if asked. Social media sites are the perfect vehicle to ask for customer reviews. As a bonus, reviews will help you raise your Google rating!
Be sure to respond to each review with a thank you, an answer, or an offer to make things right if the customer has something negative to say. Chances are, you will run into an occasional difficult customer. Be prepared to respond to negative reviews in a positive and professional manner.
Social media tips for local businesses
While spontaneous responses are great (and necessary), your overall strategy should include a plan to help you establish consistency and keep things interesting.
- When to post – Hootsuite research shows that generally speaking, the best times to post on social media are between 9 and 12 a.m. EST, on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. Sprout Social research bears this out. The best time to post overall is Wednesday between 11 AM and 1 PM.
- How often to post – One post a week certainly won’t do it! When it comes to social media, more is better. Schedule ten or fifteen minutes several times a day to make posts and set notifications so you’ll know when someone responds to a post or mentions your business.
- Tools to use – You may be busy on weekday mornings (who isn’t?). When you do have time, schedule posts for all your social media accounts using a social media service. Each one has unique features to help you make the most of your time, schedule regular posts, and monitor your social media accounts.
- Sprout Social
- Post Planner
- Monitor your reputation – Responding to comments and company or brand mentions is critical.
Establishing a social media presence is an effective way to meet your customers on their terms. Simply put, if they like you, they’ll buy from you. And as long as you go into social media marketing with a clear strategy, a defined voice and style, and an understanding of great content, your existing customers and potential new customers will respond.
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