For many small business owners, social media marketing is at the bottom of their priority list. With so many other to-dos and concerns - hiring the right staff, meeting customer satisfaction - it may seem as though social media marketing will just have to wait.
The truth is that you should get started on your social media marketing the minute you open your business doors. So many great opportunities await your business in the social media community, and if you can tap into that community, you may see a distinct increase in the public's awareness of your business. You will also have the opportunity to encourage customer brand loyalty and generate a substantial amount of leads.
Best of all, social media accounts are free, and you will only pay if you decide to use the marketing tools certain social media platforms provide. Because small businesses are usually strapped for cash, this can be a great, free alternative marketing plan to get you started.
These benefits might sound too good to be true, but if your business is active on social media, you too can reap the benefits. Need some help getting started? Here is the essential beginner's guide to social media for small businesses.
Research your audience
Before you begin creating accounts with different platforms, you first need to do some research. All platforms attract certain audiences, and you will be wasting your time if you use a social media platform that your audience does not frequent.
It is important to know that social media is all about creating authentic connections and conversations with consumers. You are not talking at them, as you would in a television commercial; you are talking with them. Therefore, you need to know who your audience is so you know how to talk with them.
Create a sketch of your average customer and define their demographics - age, gender, location, interests, average income - to help you see your customer in a new light. Write down all the details you can and look for images online that represent your average consumer or audience member. This will help you stay focused and targeted as you get going. If your business serves multiple audiences in different ways, create sketches of each audience type.
Now go back through each audience and craft your message from your business to them. What problems will your business help them solve or what need does your business fulfill? Once you have a clear message, think about marketing messages that you might use to make your point clearer or entice your audience to learn more about you.
Choose a platform
Now that you know who your audience is, what they need from you and the messages you plan to send to them, it is time to start thinking about which social media platforms you want to conquer.
Here is a breakdown of some of the most popular social media sites and which demographics frequent them. Remember, you do not have to have accounts on all of the following platforms. If you have little time for marketing, choose two to focus on. If your business is a little more established, you may consider more.
Perhaps the most well known and popular site, Facebook is often considered the founding father of social media. The site has over 728 million users every day and 874 mobile users, so you can bet that your followers will be involved.
Facebook users create profiles and then post status updates or messages to their followers, along with videos, photos and articles from around the web. They can also upload their own content if they wish. Businesses can also create profiles, attract fans and post marketing messages or deals and related content.
Facebook tends to attract nearly every demographic, which is especially great if you want to attract older, less tech-savvy consumers. For most businesses, having a Facebook account is a must.
When it comes to quick communication, Twitter is king. The bird-like social media platform boasts 140 million users and, according to the most recent numbers, releases about 340 million tweets per day. Using Twitter is simple. Create a 140-character message, attach a photo if necessary and send it out.
Twitter is great for communicating short messages quickly to followers, and the site tends to attract a 50-and-under crowd. If you run specials or want to offer discounts to followers, Twitter is a great way to do so.
Built for modern professionals, LinkedIn is like an online CV. Users create profiles that specifically showcase their work history, any professional accomplishments, their education and any volunteer work. They can then connect with co-workers, bosses, other employers and businesses and professionals around the world.
LinkedIn is best for white collar companies, such as law firms, property developers and financial firms. While other businesses can use LinkedIn, they benefit from something a little more fun and loose. LinkedIn is not really the best place to be posting cat videos, and your followers will expect you to be more professional.
For the visual social media consumer, Instagram is the best place for artistic photos and photos of food. Rather than posting status updates, users can post photo updates to share with their followers.
This social media platform is great for businesses selling a product because it gives them a chance to show off their products. Restaurants especially love Instagram because they can show off their tasty dishes. Recent statistics show that more women than men use Instagram, and users tend to be younger than 30.
Do you remember having a cork or bulletin board in your bedroom as a kid? Pinterest is an online bulletin board that lets users create multiple boards to fit their tastes and interests. One user might have a food board, fashion board or even a wedding board if the big day is coming up. With each board, the user might post different photos and articles that go with the board's theme.
Another visual platform, Pinterest is great for businesses that sell products or promote a certain type of culture. A yoga studio, for example, might post photos of different poses as well as healthy smoothie recipes and advice for meditating. Women are more frequently on the site then men, and younger users also tend to gravitate towards Pinterest.
Coordinate and start small
Once you have your accounts created and your profiles filled out and optimised (do not forget this set), it is time to coordinate your posts and start interacting with customers.
Here are a few tips to keep in mind when creating posting original and featured content:
The 80/20 rule: Eighty percent of your posts on social media should be articles, recipes, blogs, videos, photos and other content that you did not create. The other 20 percent can be self-promotional posts.
Post, but do not over post: No one wants to hear from you every hour of every day, so try not to be obnoxious. However, you should be posting at least every other day. As your business grows, you might post more frequently.
Share information: In every industry, there is always something new and exciting going on. Share relevant news articles with your followers and keep them informed. They will come to see you as an industry expert.
To make your life a little easier, you can also use marketing automation software to post automatically for you. Simply connect your social media accounts to your automation software, create your content, schedule it and let it go. For small business owners with very little time, this software can make social marketing much easier.
Do not, however, rely solely on marketing automation. Remember, social media marketing is about authenticity, and social media platforms tell followers if the post came from an automation tool. Mix automated messages with real-time messages to keep the conversation going.
No matter how small your business is or how busy you are, you always have time for social media marketing. Start by defining your audience and determining which social media site they are likely to be active on. Then create your own accounts and start interacting with your followers. Who knows? You could be the next internet sensation.