With 94 percent of small businesses using social media for marketing purposes, it’s likely that you’ve already begun to utilize some form of social media. But are you making the most of the platforms you’re using? Because it’s so easy to dive into social media, many entrepreneurs skip past the strategizing that’s necessary to fully experience the benefits of platforms like Facebook and Twitter.
From managing the company Facebook page to fielding customer questions on Twitter, most small businesses are already utilizing some form of social media to generate awareness for their products, services or brand online. But is social media actually helping you reach your goals? Become a social media power user — publish content that better supports marketing goals and drives engagement — by following established best practices and optimization techniques.
Top social media myths
With a solid understanding of what social media can and cannot do, you will be able to create attainable goals and use your accounts wisely. Before addressing social strategy, it’s important to first clear up the misconceptions that often discourage small businesses from integrating social media into their larger marketing plan and misrepresent the channel’s benefits.
Myth No. 1: It’s free
While it may not cost anything to set up accounts or post on most platforms, to say that social media is free is misleading. To get the best results, you have to create content, refine your approach, post consistently and regularly respond to users that reach out to you. All of this work takes time, and your time is valuable.
What’s more, as you work to grow your presence and audience, you will likely find it necessary to begin investing in paid content. Social media is most effective when you use a mix of organic (unpaid) content with paid targeting.
Myth No. 2: There is a magic formula
How often, when and what to post about are not uniform across all brands and industries. Finding the right frequency and messaging mix for your goals takes trial and error.
Myth No. 3: It’s only for young audiences
Social media is for everyone. Recent research has shown that as of 2017, 81 percent of Americans had a social media profile, and the fastest growing audience of users are 50 years old and up. Your audience is using social media, and if you want your marketing messages to reach them, you should be using it too.
Choosing the best social channels for your business
Where are your customers?
Usage may span demographics but there are platforms that are more popular with specific audiences. While Facebook has close to 2 billion active users, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat each have engaged communities that may be particularly receptive to messages about your products or services. When investing in social media, you should consider your target customer, and then find out which platforms they are using.
What makes sense in your industry?
Some platforms are better suited for certain industries than they are for others. For instance, LinkedIn may be more appropriate for B2B audiences or service-based businesses, while visual platforms such as Instagram and Pinterest are great for retail. If you aren’t sure which platform will work best, research your competitors, and see where they’re posting.
What can you reasonably keep up with?
You don’t have to have a presence on every platform. Narrow your focus and only invest time into networks that work best for you. Remember, it’s better to regularly post quality content on two platforms than it is to post half-baked content on every major platform.
Strong social content not only has the power to boost your online reputation, but it also enables you to build relationships with customers. When you begin creating your posts, you need to strike a balance between these three content types to engage your audience:
These are posts your brand will share with your audience to inform, engage or raise brand awareness that are not supported by any paid advertising spend. While ideally all of your content should be high-quality and compelling, it is particularly important that organic posts be attention-grabbing because they don’t have any paid amplification behind them.
With so many companies using social media, it’s becoming more and more difficult to make sure that your messages reach a wide audience. Paid posts leverage targeting and audience information to help ensure that your posts are reaching customers and leads.
This is content that you encourage your customers to create and share on their networks that incorporates your brand. UGC may be anything from photos or videos of customers using or wearing products to product testimonials.
A closer look at paid social content
Paid social advertisements expand the reach of your messages by putting your content in front of people who may not follow your brand but who — as determined through targeting tools — may be interested in what you’re offering. When you decide to launch a paid campaign, you should keep these four things in mind:
What do you hope to accomplish with your ad? Before you invest money into promoting a post, you should have a clear objective, so you can measure the success of the ad. Common objectives include brand awareness, event registration, video views or website visits.
Call to action
What would you like your audience to do when they see your post? What action are you encouraging them to take? Whatever you decide, it should be specific and measurable, and should mirror your objective.
Your paid posts will be seen by a wider audience, so you want to make sure that you put your best foot forward. Images and copy must be impactful.
To learn which kind of content is the most effective, you will need to test what targeting and messages work best for your audience.
Create engaging content
The best social content will resonate with your audience and encourage them to actively engage with your brand — whether that is as a brand advocate or as a repeat customer. Follow three tips to create posts that connect with readers:
Make it visual
Posts with photos or graphics perform 45 percent better than text alone. And with so many great photo editing applications available, it’s easy to create a striking image.
Create themes for your content types to help with planning and generating ideas. Examples that you might want to try include offers, product updates, behind the business, employee profiles, industry trends or holiday messages.
Mix it up
Does your audience respond to timely, emotional messages or do they prefer straightforward product offers? You’ll find out what has the biggest impact by experimenting and measuring results.
Developing a social presence is a time-intensive effort. But by putting some thought into creating a strong strategy, small businesses can use social media to maximize their brand exposure.