Getting started with social media can feel overwhelming for small businesses. But you don’t need to rack up millions of followers or have a slick brand campaign to make effective use of these budget-friendly tools.
Social media is one of the best ways to connect with fans and potential customers. If you don’t have a presence on the main networks, you’re missing out on an audience that’s ready and willing to connect with your brand.
Using social media for small business doesn’t have to be scary or expensive. Using these 5 simple social media marketing tips, businesses of any size can reach new markets, build awareness, and drive sales.
1. Start with a plan
Every good business strategy starts with a good plan. Social media marketing for small business is no different. Since it’s so easy to use and you can get started with organic posts for free, it might be tempting to dive in and just start posting.
But without a plan, you have no way of knowing what you’re trying to achieve with your social media posts, and no way to measure whether you get there. Taking the time to create a social media plan right upfront will ensure that all your social efforts support specific business goals.
As we outline in our guide to creating a social media marketing plan, you need to:
- Set social media goals and objectives: Create goals that follow the SMART framework—they should be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely. Base your goals on metrics that will have a real impact on your business, like acquiring customers or raising your conversions rate, rather than simply racking up likes.
- Research the competition: What is your competition up to on social media? While you don’t want to copy them, learning from what others have done is a great way to reduce your learning curve. A competitive analysis and some social listening strategies can give you insight into what’s working and what’s not for other businesses like yours.
- Conduct a social media audit: If you’re already using social media, now’s the time to take a step back and evaluate what you’ve done so far. As part of your audit, you’ll also look for impostor accounts that may be stealing your online thunder. We’ve got a full social media audit template to walk you through the process.
- Find inspiration: You’ve had a look at what your competitors are doing online, but what about other businesses? Take inspiration from the success of small business in all industries. Where can you find these success stories? Head to the business section of most social networks and you’ll find useful case studies. It’s also a great idea to ask existing followers what they want to see more of, then give them exactly what they ask for.
- Create a social media calendar: A social media calendar helps you post the right content to the right social channels at the right time. It should include a plan for your content mix. Try starting with the 80-20 rule: Use 80 percent of your content to inform, educate, or entertain your audience and 20 percent to promote your brand or sell your products.
2. Decide which platforms are right for you
Don’t make assumptions about where your audience spends their time online. Your instinct might tell you that you should skip Facebook and focus on Instagram and Snapchat if you’re targeting millennials, but the data shows that 82 percent of millennials still use Facebook.
We’ve compiled demographics information for all of the major social networks that can help you gauge where your audience spends their time online.
Keep in mind that you can use different social channels to reach different audiences, or to meet different business goals.
And remember that these demographics are just an overview. It’s important to understand how to reach your specific audience. In order to figure that out, you’ll need to make sure that you really…
3. Know your audience
Using social media for small business let you micro-target your audience—but first you need to understand who your audience is. By compiling data on your current customers and then digging deeper with social media analytics, you can develop a solid picture of who’s buying from you and who’s already interacting with you online. Then you can revisit your social media plan to include ways to reach more people just like them.
For example, Jimmy Beans Wool clearly understood its core market was crafty knitters and crocheters across the United States and Canada. But when the company first started, it had limited access to this huge group. The company had an email subscription list of dedicated fans, but that was not a large enough audience to sustain and grow the company.
When Jimmy Beans launched a first-of-its-kind subscription service for yarn samples and supply kits, they used a Facebook lookalike audience to reach people who shared the same characteristics as their existing dedicated fans. The ads brought in 1,000 subscribers in 36 hours—such a massive response that Jimmy Beans had to pause the ad for a few days so they could catch up with the orders. That’s a sure sign that the company understood its audience well and created an offer that spoke directly to their wants and needs.
Using social media marketing, this small yarn shop has grown into a multi-million-dollar business.
4. Build relationships
The unique benefit of social media compared to other marketing channels is that it allows you to talk directly to customers and followers. You can build relationships over time, rather than asking for a sale right upfront. That’s one reason why 93 percent of people who follow small- and medium-sized business on Twitter plan to purchase from the SMBs they follow, according to a report from Twitter and Research Now.
When people engage with your organic content or ads, you can jump in and reply, helping to build trust and form the early stages of a rewarding customer relationship.
5. Expand your audience
Once you have dominated your original market niche, you can use social tools to reach out to new audiences.
For example, the nutritional supplements company GoSupps started as a small business in the United Arab Emirates. Its original audience was primarily made up of bodybuilders. In order to grow the business, GoSupps needed to expand its audience to a more general sports and fitness demographic.
Using Facebook targeting options, the company reached out to new potential customers who were interested in health and fitness. The campaign resulted in a four times return on ad spend, and GoSupps has grown its Facebook Page to nearly 97,000 fans.
While the company still has a strong focus on its original bodybuilder audience, it also posts social content that has broader appeal.