According to We Are Social’s Digital in 2017: Global Overview report, a staggering 2.8 billion people now use social media – that’s 37% of the world’s population. It’s estimated that, globally, 34% of us use our mobile phones to access social media platforms, an impressive growth of 30% in just one year.
And yet, despite these stats and the vast potential audience, the Clutch Social Media for Small Business: 2017 Survey found that 24% of small businesses still have NO social media presence whatsoever. Others do have profiles on various social media platforms – 90% of small businesses that use social media have a Facebook page – but they aren’t using them to anywhere near their full potential.
If your business sits in one of these categories, it’s not too late to step up your social media marketing strategy.
Why social media marketing can help your business
These days, the foundations of a strong online presence include:
- Knowing who your target audience is
- A website written for your target audience and, preferably, a blog too
- An email marketing/management service
- Landing pages with opt-ins to your email list
- Profiles on top social networks
People tend to look at a business’s online presence before they reach out in person, and not being able to find a company online can set off alarm bells about how established or reputable it is. Having a Facebook page or Google My Business presence can be enough to reassure people that your business is genuine.
There are other reasons to use social media too.
By its very nature, social media is social – it’s about creating and maintaining relationships, sharing information, and finding like-minded people.
For businesses, building a lasting relationship with customers is everything. After all, it’s far easier to sell to existing customers and people who already have positive feelings about your business than to people with whom you have no connection.
In addition, the different social media networks give you the opportunity to strengthen your brand identity and to create a unique persona for your business. You can speak more informally and respond in real time to questions and comments. People enjoy that immediacy and the human connection with businesses that mirror their own values.
Choose the right social media platform(s)
Whether you’re just starting to create a social media presence or you want to build on what you’ve done so far, it’s a good idea to choose two or three networks as a starting point. If you try to maintain posts on every single platform that’s out there, the chances are that you’ll spread yourself or your team too thin and lose momentum.
I also recommend that you post unique content to each platform rather than duplicating your posts. People may be following you via several different networks and will quickly tire of seeing the same content everywhere. Social media users prefer content to be tailored to reflect the spirit of the platform – for example, short, quotable statements or questions on Twitter; videos on YouTube or aspirational pictures on Instagram. This is another reason to concentrate on a few social media channels so that you only need to create fresh content for a couple of different places.
If you decide to outsource your social media, you will need to think about the costs of targeting multiple platforms so limiting your focus will help to keep the costs within budget.
It’s usually far more effective to focus your energies on a couple of platforms initially. The key is to identify where your target audience spend their time online and create a presence there. If you’re not sure which platforms your customers prefer, ask them. You could keep a running tally on reception or email out a quick survey via a free service like SurveyMonkey.
Identify your audience and your assets
Before you begin posting on social media, you need to know who your audience are and what assets your business has that your audience will find valuable.
Social media marketing is all about offering value. People want to have a reason to follow your brand and, for most, the overriding question will be, “Why should I follow you?” or “What’s in it for me?”
Therefore, each post you create should be relevant to your target audience. If you run a family-focused dental practice, for example, many of your posts will be aimed at parents and include advice about children’s dental health.
If, on the other hand, you run an aesthetics business, you may want to post articles about protecting your skin from pollution, treating sun damage, skincare tips aimed at different age groups and so on.
The key is to post content that reflects the issues that bring your customers through the door.
Remember the one in seven rule
One of the biggest social media faux pas is for businesses to bombard their followers with non-stop sales messages. Hammer home your sales patter too often or too heavily and you’ll lose potential customers in droves.
Instead, try to remember the ‘one in seven rule’ – i.e. that your social media page should only feature one promotional post for every seven posts aimed at building engagement.
Of course, there are still subtle ways to promote your products and services on social media – you could link to a blog article on your website about the effects of pollution on your skin with a quick call to action about suitable treatments at the end, but the key is to offer value regardless of whether you make a sale or not.
Social media marketing is all about the long game. You may not see results overnight but, by focusing on engagement, you should begin to create a loyal following of repeat customers.
Instead of concentrating on promotion, my advice is to use social media to establish your credibility and reputation, and to provide value based on your customers’ interests and needs.
Enter into a conversation
You may be wondering what to post on social media to build engagement. One of the most effective approaches is to ask questions and start conversations, or to enter into the conversations that your followers start on your social media pages.
Social media offers huge potential insights into what your customers think and feel, what drives them, and what inspires them. But you can only tap into this information by entering into a dialogue. As in real life, it pays dividends to show that you’re interested in what people have to say and to share insights that might make a difference to them.
If you’re stuck for ideas for fresh content, you’ll love our article: 25 quick content ideas to grow your social media presence.
Trial and error
Growing your presence on social media is a mixture of trial and error and keeping an eye on the handy insights most platforms provide. If a particular topic gets people talking, make a note of it. The same goes for articles, pictures or tips that generate a larger-than-usual number of likes, comments and shares.
Above all, aim to be consistent – if you choose to use a social media platform, then commit to posting on it on a daily basis for the next three to six months and see how your following evolves. You can always switch to a new platform in the future.
If you concentrate on engagement and providing genuine value to your followers, and offer promotions that reflect their wants and needs, social media marketing could prove to be invaluable to growing your business.