Getting started on social media can seem like a difficult task for small businesses. But the truth is that you don’t need to get a million followers or have a big brand campaign to make effective use of these platforms – which is a very low and attractive cost.
Since social networks came into our lives, the way we relate to them has been changing.
Today they are more than just a social platform, they are a very important and essential channel of communication with our audience, where you can interact with your followers, know what they want and what they demand in order to satisfy your potential customers.
Social media is the best way to connect with fans and potential customers. If you don’t have a digital presence on major channels, you may be missing out on an audience that is already ready and wanting to connect with your brand, that’s why social media for small businesses is so important.
Practical social media strategies for small businesses need not be scary or expensive. With a few simple tips, companies of all sizes can reach their audiences, build their reputation and, of course, increase their sales.
But, to use social media effectively, increase your sales and get more customers, companies must understand that social media marketing requires patience, perseverance, and goes beyond creating a profile and being managed by your nephew or a friend who is studying at the university.
Why am I telling you this? Because social networks can be your great ally or a great detractor if they are not used correctly.
Each social media strategy is different according to the type of company and business, and also the size of it. Working with our personal brand is not the same as working with an SME or a multinational.
Although there are things that are common to all, in this post I am going to focus on implementing a Social Media strategy in the case of small businesses.
Social networks are a key pillar for SMEs and small brands. But the advantages they offer can turn into disadvantages if a strategic social plan is not worked
What is a social media strategy for?
Having a clear and well-defined social media strategy is key in several aspects, which I will list:
- To have visibility.
- To have a faithful follower community around your company or brand and interact with it.
- To get Leads faithful users to the brand.
- To have credibility and be leaders in your market.
- To position yourself as a benchmark or expert in your niche
Where to start with social media strategy?
The first thing would be to create profiles on social networks. It is not necessary to be in all of them, but you must know where your audience is, and, for this, you must make an analysis of the different social networks that exist, according to the type of business or company you have, and where your target audience is.
You must correctly structure the description of your company and services, optimizing your profile appropriately so that they will find you in the search engines of the social networks themselves.
It is also important to have a good profile and cover photograph.
Step by step social media plan for small businesses
To make it easier, we’ve separated our plan into small steps so you can start implementing it today in your company. Come on:
1. Start with a plan
Every good business strategy starts with a plan. Social media for small businesses is no different; Since they are easy to use platforms and you can start free with organic posts, you may be tempted to get your hands dirty and start posting.
But without a plan, you can not know what you’re trying to achieve with your posts on social networks and has no way to measure when you get there. Taking the time to create a social media plan early on will ensure that all your efforts will support your specific goals.
To follow your social media plan, you will need:
- Create goals and objectives on social networks: create specific, measurable, realistic, relevant, and time-bound goals. Base your goals on metrics that will have a real impact on your business, such as acquiring new customers or increasing your conversion rate – not data like likes or comments.
- Research the competition: what are your competitors doing on your social media channels? Even if the idea is not to copy them, learning from others can be great for shortening the learning curve. Competitive analysis and looking at strategies can give you a lot of insight into what works and what doesn’t for businesses like yours.
- Do an audit of social networks: if you are already using social networks, this is the time to take a step back and evaluate what you have done so far. As part of its audit, also search for fake accounts that may be stealing your attention. A good tip may be to use a social media audit template to guide you through the process.
- Find inspirations: you have a look at what your competitors are doing online. But what about other businesses? Seek inspiration for the success of small businesses in all areas. And where can you find success stories? Go to the social media business area and you will find successful cases. It’s also a good idea to ask followers what they would like to see more of – and then give them exactly what they asked for.
- Create a social networking calendar: A social media calendar will help you post the right content on the right social network at the right time. Your calendar should include a plan for a mix of content. Try to start with the 80-20 rule: use 80% of your content to inform, educate, or entertain your audience and 20% to promote your brand or sell your products.
2. Decide which platforms to use
Don’t just assume where your audience spends their time online. Your instinct would probably say not to invest in Facebook and focus on Instagram or Snapchat if you’re looking to speak to young audiences, but the data shows that 82% of millennials still use Facebook.
Demographic data can help you decide; keep in mind that you can use different social networks to reach different audiences – or to reach certain goals for your business.
And remember, demographics are just an overview – and, of course, they don’t just apply to social media for small businesses. It is important to understand how to reach your specific audience. To do this, it is necessary to ensure that you…
3.Know your audience
Using social media for small businesses allows you to select your audience in detail – but first, you need to understand who your audience is. By compiling data from your current customers and then further analyzing your social media analytics, you can develop a solid picture of who is buying from you and who is interacting online. And then you can revisit your social media plan to include ways to reach people like these.
An example: the American brand Jimmy Beans Wool clearly understands that its market is for people who like crochet items in North America. But when the company started, they had limited access to this huge group of people. They had a list of subscribers to the newsletter, but it was not large enough to sustain and grow the company.
We realized, then, that using social media marketing, small businesses have the potential to grow as a multi-million dollar company.
A unique benefit of social media for small businesses, compared to other channels, is that they allow you to speak directly to your customers and followers. You can build relationships over time, instead of asking to buy your product right away. That is one of the reasons why 93% of people who follow small and medium-sized companies on Twitter plan to buy from these companies that follow, according to a report from the platform itself.
When people interact with your organic content or your ads you can then respond, helping to build a relationship of trust already in the early stages of a rewarding relationship between brand and consumers. Facebook groups are another great way to build a community, establish relationships, and increase brand loyalty.
Using social channels, you can also develop connections and relationships with other entrepreneurs and influencers in your niche. Do you think your business is too small to work with influencers? Consider micro-influencers (influencers starting at 10,000 followers): they can be incredibly effective in establishing brand confidence and they are generally affordable for small businesses.
5.Expand your audience
Once you’ve mastered your original niche, you can use social tools to reach new audiences.
For example, the nutritional supplement brand GoSupps started as a small business in the United Arab Emirates. Its initial audience was composed primarily of bodybuilders. To grow the company, GoSupps needed to expand its audience to a more general sports and fitness audience.
Using Facebook’s target audience options, the company was able to reach new potential customers who were interested in health and fitness. The campaign resulted in a 4x greater return than invested, and the brand increased its number of fans on the platform to more than 97 million. As much as the company still has a strong focus on its original audience (bodybuilders), it also posts content with broader appeals.
6. Share eye-catching visuals whenever possible
People expect social media posts to have visual components. According to a Twitter survey, people are three times more likely to interact with tweets that have visual elements such as videos, images, infographics, or GIFs.
Images on social networks lead to actions in the real world, too. Half of millennials plan or visit restaurants based on images or videos shared on social media.
Instagram, Pinterest, and Snapchat are the most visual social networks. If your visual content is not cool, no one will scroll to read what you have to say.
Some products are more visually appealing than others. But even if you’re not selling products that look great in any photo, it’s important to use your imagination so that your posts will engage. For the service area, in particular, it can be a challenge. But all kinds of services can tell stories through photos and videos. Perhaps you can show your company’s culture within your work environment, employees’ daily lives, or use images to give tips in your area of expertise, for example.
Another good option in terms of images when we talk about social networks for small businesses is the use of image banks. There is a vast amount of free, high-quality photos that you can use in your posts without the need for attribution to the author. Some free stock images you can use:
When choosing bank images, always check the license of the photo in question. Some websites provide a free images by the citation of the source. Using images protected by copywriting without paying or not crediting the author when asked can cause legal problems – and we strongly advise you not to do so.
By the way, if you’re looking for GIFs, a good place to look is on Giphy.
7.Focus on quality, not quantity
The sheer number of social media marketing options for small businesses can seem complicated, but you don’t have to adhere to all of them. It is much more important to create quality content on some of the main channels where you can really connect with your target audience than to have a presence on all social networks.
Above all, make sure that your social posts offer value. If all you do is sell and sell, there is little motivation for people to follow you. Remember that social marketing is about building relationships. Be human. Be honest. Provide great content.
This is important and you cannot pretend. According to a survey, 86% of consumers say that authenticity influences the brands they like and support.
You can’t do everything – and there’s no reason to try. Connect with your audience in places where they’re already spending their time online. Focus on using one or two social channels very well, at least to start. Once you have mastered them, you can build on what you’ve learned and expand your efforts.
8. Use the right tools
The secret to the effective use of social media is to take advantage of tools that automate or simplify much of the work. There are many tools to help increase your productivity, so you can make the most of social media marketing for your small business without having a large social media team.
- Engagement management: Social media are not a broadcast system – they are engagement platforms with your customers and fans. Some tools can help centralize all mentions and messages directed to your company in a single panel, so you can respond without having to sign in and all your social media accounts. Two of the most used platforms for this are Hootsuite and Social Report.
- Analytics: Of course, each social media platform has its own analytics. But having all the information in one place can help you get a wider view of its results. You can use tools like Brandwatch for that.
- Images: if the design is not your strong point, a good idea is to take a look at simple and effective tools that can give that strength when we are talking about art direction. Try using VSCO, Piktochart, or Canva.
- Content curation: it can be a great difficulty for a small business to create new content to share every day. Content curation (the art of sharing posts by other authors – with due credit, of course) can be a great solution and a way to generate value for your followers and keep them engaged.
9.Monitor and answer all
We have already talked about the importance of responding to people who post comments or questions on their social networks. But there is more about engagement than just answer when asked something.
You need to be aware of all the conversations going on about your business in other virtual locations besides your own Instagram fan page or comment box – and respond when appropriate. This is called social listening.
10.Schedule your content to have time to engage
We already talked about creating a social content calendar at the beginning of this post. After creating the calendar, you can create your social posts in advance and use the scheduling tools to automatically post them at the right time.
This allows you to dedicate a block of time a day or a week to creating your social content, rather than making it an activity that takes you away from other tasks throughout the day.
11.Analyze the social activity of your competitors
Before starting to plan your own strategy, take some time to observe the one carried out by your main competitors: what social networks they are on, what content they publish, how often and at what times. The goal is not to copy or steal ideas. The goal is to analyze which tags and content work best on your competitors’ profiles (and in what context) to get leads and tailor it to our own plan.
In addition to serving as a source of inspiration, analyzing your competition will provide you with an overview of your sector, will help you find opportunities and market gaps, will allow you to identify the strengths and weaknesses of your strategy and that of your competitors, and it will help you to have a global image of what are the expectations of users in your market.
Work a presence map on social networks of your main competitors and collect the evolution of followers, engagement, the type of content they publish, and the frequency of publication on each social network
Although you can find all the necessary data by reviewing each competitor’s social profile, there are tools specifically designed to help you streamline the analysis process. For example:
- Sprout Social
- Fanpage Karma.
- Twitter Counter.
- OctoSuite (for Facebook)
12.Set your most important metrics.
This point is very important: your social media marketing strategy should always be based on data, which means focusing on relevant metrics, not just vanity metrics (followers and “likes”).
Measurement should help us to know how we are doing it, and how we evolve to achieve the stated objectives. Some of the metrics or KPIs that we must analyze are:
- Reach: number of unique users viewing a post. The constant changes that occur in organic algorithms (say those made by Facebook a year ago and that have affected what is displayed on the wall; or those recently made on Instagram) have made tracking the scope more important than never.
- Traffic directed to the web or e-commerce
- Clicks on content, company name, or logo. Link clicks are critical to understanding what makes you curious or motivates you to shop, as well as how users navigate through the marketing funnel.
- Commitment or Engagement: The total number of social interactions divided by the scope of the post
- Hashtag performance: Which hashtag created the most participation and which ones are most associated with your brand
- Attribution of micro and macro conversions.
- Feeling: A measure of how users react to content, branding, or hashtag. Evaluate what kind of feeling people associate with the hashtags you used per campaign.
13.Develop your content strategy
The social media marketing strategy should obviously focus on content. Furthermore, the Content Marketing and Social Media strategy must be consistently aligned. And at this point is where the Buyer Persona will be most useful to us. The better we know and understand our target audience, the better we can plan what content to generate and where to spread it to reach them and provide them with value on an ongoing basis.
The objectives you seek to achieve with your Social Media strategy and your brand identity will also be factors that guide what content (type and format) to generate. We can work on four main strategies: relational, brand, hiring, and service. I recommend using a content map to help you draw its execution.
14.Track and refine your performance
When implementing your social media strategy, it’s important to keep track of what works and what doesn’t work so that you can adjust your efforts and improve your results. All of the analytics tools mentioned above provide an excellent picture of your social efforts and can help you track the metrics that matter most to your strategy.
15.Evaluate what works, what doesn’t work and how you can improve
As we know, what is not measured cannot be valued and cannot be improved. You determined your goals and assigned the appropriate KPIs to them. Now is the time for you to create an effective scorecard that collects indicators, their performance, and their evolution to adjust the strategy accordingly.
Now that we have seen how to prepare a strategic social media plan, remember, in summary, the six most common mistakes you should avoid so that your SME does not fail on social networks :
- Not knowing your audience
- Not strategically plan what content to generate
- Play the same content from one network to another without taking into account its peculiarities.
- Offer only commercial and brand information
- Do not encourage dialogue and conversation
- Delete negative messages
There are many reasons why social media isn’t at the top of the priority list in the small business marketing mix. That does not mean that it cannot be effective.
There’s also no reason for it to be the biggest investment you make.
Smart strategies that are designed to stay on track and take proper advantage of social media through:
- Use content that you already have.
- Adequate measurement of performance.
- Having a system that is less likely to break down are important aspects of harnessing the power of social to help your business grow.
Now you know, if you want to take advantage of the advantages offered by social networks, plan your presence.
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