Why Social Media is Important for Small Businesses
Social media represents — above all things — an opportunity. It’s a way to quickly and clearly communicate news about your business. Social media marketing is pretty much free (or cheaper than other methods of marketing). You can showcase new promotions and deals, changes in your business hours, your business’ community outreach efforts, and more. If you think your customers will find something useful or entertaining, post about it somewhere online so they can stay in the loop.
In today’s digital age, many people will check out a business’ social media presence before giving that business another thought. As such, you should view social media as a tool that can help you with four things:
- Marketing and Brand Awareness: People want to not only understand your business’ values, but also who you are as a business owner. With social media, you can tell the world exactly why people should want to be a part of your business.
- Research: Analyzing your existing customer base can help you better understand your target audience and how to appeal to them. By conducting some analysis on your social media followers, you can determine what’s working for your marketing goals and what’s not. By using these insights, you can adjust or reinvent your marketing campaign to better appeal to your target audience. You also can use social media platforms to research your competition.
- Connection: People want to feel a genuine connection to the businesses they choose to participate in and support. You can form and nurture these connections by engaging with your target audience on social media as you respond to messages, create polls, or hold a friendly competition. You can find many ways to captivate your audience’s attention.
- Credibility: In this digital age, people like to check out businesses online to help them decide to whom they’ll give their money. Leveraging social media in a responsible and entertaining way will send your clientele a signal that says, “This business is legitimate.”
Choosing Your Platform
The social media platform(s) you decide to use for your business should depend on the type of business you run as well as your target audience(s). The most popular platforms for businesses are Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Here’s a brief overview of each:
- Facebook serves as a useful place to make announcements about business hours, holidays, events, and pricing. Some businesses even invite customers to leave reviews on this platform. Mostly, Facebook provides a good way to bring a community together by posting photos and using its comment section to drive engagement. When a business publishes a post on Facebook, it usually has the option of sharing that post on its other social media accounts. If you post a photo on Facebook, for example, you also can push it to your business’ Instagram account at the same time. Suddenly, you have a new, exciting post on two social media platforms.
- Instagram caters to people who value visual content. This platform even provides photo-editing tools to help you make your images really pop. Behind-the-scenes material is popular here because people want an inside look at the businesses they support. If you decide to host an employee appreciation brunch, for example, take some photos so you can show the world your employees’ smiling faces. This will help your target audience connect with your business on a deeper level.
- Given its character limit for individual tweets, Twitter works best for giving your audience quick updates about your business. It also provides a good tool for directly interacting with your audience and soliciting feedback.
- LinkedIn provides a platform specifically designed to help individuals can expand their professional network. People and businesses connect with other professionals and post about information, knowledge, and job availability.
Other social media platforms businesses may want to consider using include Yelp, YouTube, Reddit, Snapchat, and Pinterest. Here’s a quick look at each:
- Yelp can prove helpful if you want honest feedback from customers who have used your business’ products or services. You can post pictures, interact with people, and buy targeted ads to help with marketing.
- YouTube can easily communicate your business’ personality by hosting your audiovisual content. Connecting with existing and potential customers this way might feel more personal if you film yourself — the business owner — discussing your products or services. Using multiple formats to convey information also can help you connect with a larger audience because some people might prefer watching videos vs. reading articles or posts.
- Reddit hosts thousands of active groups who use the site to share information and conduct conversations. However, because this is one of the most community-based social media platforms, you can’t treat it the same way you would Facebook or Instagram when it comes to marketing. “Redditors” don’t take kindly to companies that only use the site to market their business. Instead, they want to see business representatives actively contribute to the group in a valuable way. This is important because Redditors prioritize the quality of their little corner of the internet. In other words, they don’t want to be overrun by people who only want to sell things. The good news is you can potentially gain loyal customers if you use Reddit in a respectful way.
- Snapchat’s mobile-only platform appeals to a younger audience (those under 34 years old). Its story feature is very popular among businesses because it allows them to post as many “snaps” as they want and then see how many people watched them. This provides a great opportunity to show people your business’ daily operations. The platform also offers some unique ways to advertise your business, such as snap ads, sponsored geofilters, and sponsored lenses.
- While Pinterest is a platform on which hobbyists look for new ideas, about 84 percent of its weekly users also turn to it to help them make purchasing decisions. In addition, people visit Pinterest to find inspiration and plan special events. It’s one thing to be a business selling a product; on Pinterest, you also can be a source of inspiration.
Depending on your involvement with your social media campaigns, you may wish to choose a platform based on the number of posts you should do a day. Platforms like Facebook allow for big once a day posts that can allow you to free up your day for other things. While Twitter may be better if you are a business that thrives on customer interaction. Whatever the case explore our handy infographic to help you figure out which platform is best for your business.
Connecting With Your Audience
Quickly responding to comments, mentions, and messages on social media will show your target audience you’re committed to your business and — most importantly — their input. Another way to stay active is to ask your audience questions about their experiences with your business. Starting a conversation like this will drive more engagement. Your clientele will view you as a responsible business owner interested in learning how to enhance and grow their business.
When you publish posts on social media platforms as a business owner, remember to always use a respectful and professional tone. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t incorporate your personal voice, however. Sharing your own voice can actually help people relate to you more.
In situations when you must deal with negativity on your accounts, you should be firm. You don’t want inappropriate, aggressive, or negative comments about other users on your social media accounts. As the administrator of those accounts, you can easily remove this content from your page.
You also should address negative comments about your products or services quickly and professionally. Ask for a further explanation or how you could better serve that customer. Consider also giving them a phone number so you can discuss the issue one-on-one.
Another key consideration for connecting with your audience involves how often you post promotional content. It really should be a small percentage of your total posts. Yes, people want to know about the hottest new deals your company has to offer. But, they also want to see your employees and learn about how you run your business. They want beautiful photos and useful information. Mostly, people want to see what your business contributes to their community.
Maximizing Your Effectiveness
If you want results from your social media accounts, you need to be consistent. That means making a commitment to how often you publish posts as well as the tone of those posts. Research into how often businesses should publish posts on social media platforms found that the optimal frequency varies by platform. In general, businesses should limit themselves to one daily post on both Facebook and LinkedIn, two daily posts on Instagram, and no more than 15 tweets on Twitter each day. Use these guidelines to create a schedule for your business’ social media posts.
Remember to also include your logo on any image you create for social media platforms. If people share or repost your image, it might lose contact with its original source (your business). When you include your logo on your images, there’s no chance that can happen. In addition, try to engage people on multiple social media platforms and with different formats (e.g., audio, video, and print) so your business can reach a larger audience.
When your business’ social media accounts take off, you might need to delegate their maintenance to one person at your company. This way, you can ensure your accounts remain consistently active so they continue to benefit your business.
Social media platforms also provide an excellent opportunity for networking. Reach out to other companies or influencers on social media. Start by following accounts relevant to your business. You never know what kind of relationship might develop.
Connecting with your target audience is essential to your business’ success. Thankfully, it’s easy to form and nurture these connections using social media. With so many different platforms from which to choose, you can readily make connections with the people you want to become part of your business.
If you don’t currently have any social media accounts for your business, don’t overwhelm yourself by creating accounts on every platform all at once. Instead, start with the one platform you think really fits your business and the audience you want to reach. After you develop a strong account and decent number of followers, then you can consider branching out to another platform.
Focus on what you want your brand to be and make it happen.