Social media can be tough to wrap your head around sometimes. The jargon, the technology and the ever-increasing number of platforms are almost impossible to keep up with. And for an SME trying to build an online tribe, it's hard to know where to begin.
But you better begin somewhere...
Social media is here to stay and it's only getting bigger. Your customers are using Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and the like. If your business isn't online getting likes, shares and retweets, it won't be long before your competitors are.
For the uninitiated, social media can seem like a nice, fluffy way to waste a lot of time. A luxury you can't afford. You're busy running a business, you haven't got time to spend posting pictures and tweeting links. You've got to keep the tills ringing or the order book full. We get it.
But social media for SMEs isn't just about 'building your brand', you can make it a valuable sales channel too.
With that in mind, we've put together this list of five sure-fire ways that you can make social an important part of your marketing arsenal.
Create Killer Content
A wise man once said that 'content is king'. That was way back in 1996 but the statement is more relevant now than ever before.
Your posts, tweets, photos and offers all need to resonate with your target audience. That doesn't mean that you need to spend all day bashing out long blog posts or snapping pictures of your lunch. But you should take time to find or develop quality content that your customer and contacts will want to receive and share.
Photos and videos should always be the highest possible quality. Even basic phones have the decent cameras these days and there are a multitude of free apps you can use to edit your snaps and really make your pictures pop. With a steady hand and some natural light, anyone can produce quality, expensive-looking photographs. Check out our guide...
Above all, don't bombard your audience with offers or sales promotions. They'll switch off quick. Get the mix right. Most of the time you should be providing content that is useful, interesting and in some way related to your area of expertise. Then when the time is right, slide in with a regular deal or promo that will really boost your bottom line.
Pick Your Platforms
There's a plethora of social networks available in 2018, but which are best for business? We all know Myspace won't do any good these days, but what will? Reddit, Pinterest, Snapchat, Twitch, Periscope, Vimeo - the list is endless and which sites might work for you depends on your business and where your customers are.
Whatever your business, chances are you'll find some of your target audience on the larger, well-established networks. So start by taking a look at these:
Even in 2018, it’s still remarkably common for businesses (large or small) to NOT have a public Facebook page. Using Facebook Blueprint (Facebook's free online training programs) you can learn everything about using a Public Facebook page.
Instagram's image-focused platform is still a highly overlooked platform for engagement and brand awareness. Nowadays, most businesses lend themselves to photography. You don’t have to be a wedding dress maker to take stunning photographs for Instagram. If done correctly, anyone can make their company popular on Instagram. As we mentioned before, even Smartphone photos can look a million dollars if taken properly.
Twitter is useful for quick updates and news flashes about your company. Short, snappy, eye-catching content is what will help you win engagement and followers on this platform. While they have upped the allowed word-count, it’s still worth keeping your posts as short as possible.
All businesses should have at least some presence on LinkedIn. It acts as a professional online profile for your employees and your company. It has been growing rapidly in popularity in recent years. Initially started as a sort of online CV, it has boomed to be an all-encompassing platform. You can share posts and content, follow large corporations and influential people, and recruit new talent. If you are a Sales-based company, LinkedIn is the first Social Media site you should take advantage of. The Sales Navigator tool allows you to search the professional profiles of everyone registered on the platform, helping to identify new prospective leads.
Aim for Engagement
Even if you're starting small, don't stress the numbers. Too many businesses focus on growing their follower count. It's about quality not quantity. Anyone can go and buy 1,000 fake likes from Asia but very few of those bots will buy from your local business.
Instead, aim to attract the right followers and get them to engage. Ask questions, encourage input, share surveys, run quizzes, offer spot prizes, get your audience to interact and create a dialogue. Provide them with content that they can share with other like-minded contacts. A small audience that is engaged and enthusiastic is better than a big group that ignores your posts.
Test & Time Activity
Once your up and running, analyse and evaluate your activity. Learn which type of posts work best. Look at how and when you communicate. Identify the days or times when your audience are likely to engage.
There are statistical studies carried out regularly which will show times of the day/week with highest social engagement, which platforms are most common, and which medium is most used.
Ultimately though, it will be different for every business. If you find that your highest engagement time is at 12pm on a Wednesday and your lowest is Sunday at 7pm...you should always be posting your most in-depth content on Wednesdays.
Social sites use algorithms to determine what content is shown to a user on their feed and when.
If your social followers are relevant, your organic posts will more often get preference to be shown on your fans’ news feeds...if you time it properly.
Set Targets & Measure Results
Ultimately, all those lovely posts and engagement statistics won't be worth much to you if your can't measure the impact they are having on your bottom line.
There's no point investing time and energy in social media activity if you can't demonstrate a real return. So find ways to measure this impact.
A simple 'How did you here about us?' drop down menu on your main site might help. Or you can run customer surveys or ask at point of sale to find out if Facebook or Twitter or driving more business.
Once you've got a bullet-proof way to measure performance, set targets and analyse results on an ongoing basis. Invest more time in what works best and ditch what doesn't work at all.
So there you have it. There are no more excuses. Compile some content. Pick your platform and create a page. Invite friends, family and existing customers to connect. Find your voice and start sharing your story. Once your up and running, you can start building an enthusiastic audience and take it from there.
OK maybe not easy but certainly doable. And hey, even if you decide to leave it to the professionals and hire in some outside help to manage your social presence, Linked Finance can provide business loans to cover just such an investment.