In the U.S. alone, 81% of the population has a profile on at least one social media network.1 According to HubSpot, 71% of shoppers are more likely to make a purchase based on social media references.2 With audiences not only on social media, but using it to do research about their purchases, businesses need to meet them where they are. However, planning the approach can be difficult: how much is too much? What exactly should you be sharing?
Whether you're a social media whiz or just getting started, these 10 tips will help you tie social media into your brand marketing strategy.
1. Make a Robust Profile
The first step to using social media at a small business is to make sure each of your social platforms has a fully completed profile. “In social media, timing is everything,” says Fisher Investments social media expert Enrique Carbajal. “You want to be available to your visitors at the moment that they’re looking for information. Having diverse, frequently-updated, and relevant content lets you cast a wider net and increases the chance your audience will find you.”
When using social media as a small business, it’s important to keep in mind that these sites serve primarily as places for people to connect and converse.
When setting up your profile or business page, take the time to add all pertinent information, including address, contact info, website links, product descriptions, and anything else that’s relevant. Once you’ve done so, take the next step and front-load your new pages with several posts. Facebook, for example, lets you back-date posts so you can debut a page and give customers plenty of content to keep them engaged even as you first get started.
“As a general rule for small consumer-based businesses, posting at least once a day is a good approach, twice a day whenever there’s a story to tell,” says Carbajal.
2. Find Your Niche Audience
With so many people on social networks, it can sometimes feel like you’re shouting into a crowded room and hoping someone notices. One way to cut through the noise is to focus in on those users who are most likely to be your best customers, and focusing your social media branding efforts on speaking to them from day one. LinkedIn is the best platform for B2B businesses, since it’s already a given that people are using that channel for business purposes, not casual chat. LinkedIn users are most interested in business insights (60%) and company news (53%).3 More casual platforms like Facebook are an opportunity to catch the attention of your customer when they’re looking for your goods or services. As people like and follow your page, you’ll have a bigger audience of potential clients that have opted in to see your content on their news feed or stream.
3. Start Small, Scale Up
If you aren’t currently using social media for your business, it’s okay to start slow. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram are all unique social platforms that offer their own strengths and weaknesses. Start with one platform you know well or are comfortable investing in, and take the time to plan your approach deliberately.
According to Carbajal, the question of which channel to use to develop your brand depends on what the message is, and when you want the audience to act on it. “If you’re sharing something on Twitter, it’s because you want people to know right away,” he says. “On a channel like Instagram, you’re looking to connect to people in your geographic area, but not necessarily immediately. And if you’re posting on Facebook, it’s to allow potential customers to find you when they know they need you and are already looking.”
4. Entertain and Promote
As a general rule for small consumer-based businesses, posting at least once a day is a good approach, twice a day whenever there’s a story to tell.
Just as you wouldn’t walk into a networking event and immediately focus on closing a sale, you should view social media as an opportunity to express your company’s brand in literal terms. Like engaging conversation works to capture peoples’ attention when you meet them in person, entertaining content is far more likely to catch the eye of social users than hard sells. Depending on your product, it might make sense to try posting paid ads to Facebook that highlight deals or special pricing on your products, but a majority of the content posted to your profile should be there to inform and to entertain.
“Anything you do on social media that is non-paid in nature is not meant to be used as a conversion or revenue-generating tactic,” says Carbajal. “Really, those opportunities to post or share updates for free allow you to connect with your potential customers and let them get to know you the way they want to.”
5. Images are Everything
Since 2013, Facebook has heavily favored posts and ads that contain images in its algorithms; today, including an image can affect up to 90% of an ad’s performance on the platform.4 LinkedIn made changes to their feed in early 2017 that make images essential to content shared there as well, simply because a minimal amount of content is pulled through to share, meaning if there’s no image, your post will not look appealing.5 When posting content or starting new ad campaigns, make sure you’ve put as much thought into your image choices as the words you share. Bear in mind that Facebook will prohibit images that are more that 20% text, even if it’s just one word.6 Also, make sure any and all images you choose are either your property or licensed through the creative commons.
6. Automate, Automate, Automate
Among those brands that are very successful with their social media effort, 63% make extensive use of marketing automation software.7 Tools like Hootsuite can make it easier to manage multiple social accounts and syndicate content across platforms. Spokal is a low-cost application that ties together your blog, social media accounts, and email marketing software to give you one editorial calendar filled with your own content, plus syndicated articles, driven by an algorithm that understands when your social followers are active. At a higher price point, HubSpot can bolster social media activity with powerful digital marketing tools to convert followers to customers. Evaluate your budget for social media, as well as your desired marketing impact, and choose a tool that will help you get more out of every minute and dollar you have to spend.
7. Walk the Two-Way Street
While automation can help with the task of getting all of your content out there, nothing can replace the personal touch of someone actively engaging with your customers. Make sure to set all of your social profiles up with notifications so you can respond to questions, comments, and concerns as soon as they’re raised online. This can be huge for brand perception: Of those people who have asked questions on social media and gotten a response from a brand, more than half develop a more favorable view of that brand.8
8. Know your Metrics
One of the reasons small businesses love marketing and advertising through social media is measurability. Every post you submit, every ad dollar you spend, every click you get back to your main website is trackable, which means you can get a very clear sense of each campaign’s ROI if you pay attention. Be sure to make time to regularly review activity on your social pages, to track the success of your ad campaigns, and to look at your website’s analytics using a tool like Google Analytics to see how much traffic you’re driving and what content does best.
9. A/B Testing
Speaking of reviewing content, it’s a good idea to sometimes test your assumptions about what your audience really wants out of your content. By conducting regular A/B testing, you can test anything from the titles on your ads, the images you use in content, the hashtags you include, and even the way you write your posts. There are lots of helpful articles about how you can use Facebook advertising to A/B test, and refine ads that truly drive engagement.
10. Don't Get Personal
Keep in mind that when people chose to follow your brand, they were interested in receiving content from that brand, not from you personally. Try to remove yourself from the content you share online, focusing instead on messaging that is in line with your brand’s offering and its role in your customers’ lives.
“Engage with others if they want to engage with you, but be cautious with what you say, as you can be held liable for promises,” Carbajal advises. “When communicating with individuals, be as personable as is business appropriate. Now, you may want to be approachable too. Today, most businesses want to be more than just a brand—they want to be known as people behind the brand.” Carbajal also pointed out that this kind of customer engagement on social media can improve customer service and even possibly lead to cost savings, if call centers or other more traditional forms of customer service become less priority as a result of the social media account.
When using social media as a small business, it’s important to keep in mind that these sites serve primarily as places for people to connect and converse. Treat your brand’s social media interactions the same way you’d treat a room full of people at a networking event, or a customer who walks into your store. Keeping the human element alive and in your strategy and content is the start to resonating with and attracting customers online.