For small businesses, social media can be the key to finding new customers, engaging current clients and building brand loyalty. With all the potential benefits of social media, it makes sense for businesses to use social media profiles.
Unfortunately, it takes more effort than just creating a profile to build a loyal social media following. And when the field of potential services continues to expand, it can be overwhelming for a small business to know where to start.
When it comes to building a customer base on social media, your business needs to understand how the different social media profiles work. Running a Twitter account is different than managing an Instagram profile or creating content on YouTube. You need to understand your target market and choose social media channels accordingly to find success.
Pick the right channels
Not every social media channel makes sense for your business. Don't assume that just because Instagram has 1 billion monthly active users that you need to use it. What matters is where your target audience is, not the overall quantity of users.
"Quality over quantity is so true in social media," said Kristien Matelski, digital marketing specialist for Vizion Interactive. "Begin by figuring out which channels your consumers use. If they're a younger audience they may be all over Snapchat and Twitter, but if your audience is older, they could probably care less about Snapchat, but love Facebook and Pinterest. Know your audience and cater to them."
Selecting the best social media channels for your business is a crucial first step. If you're posting content on a platform your customers don't use, your time could be better spent elsewhere.
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It's important to not only pick the right channels, but to also stay within your abilities. If you've never used social media for your business before, it might be easiest to pick just one platform to start. This doesn't mean you won't ever expand into different channels, but it helps you stay focused on producing quality content and growing your brand on social at a reasonable rate.
"Instead of trying to be everywhere and spreading yourself too thin, you should aim to do really well on a few networks," said Amy Newton, senior social media manager at Ignite Visibility. "If you can post quality content consistently on two channels, for example, you can look at expanding from there."
Newton stressed the importance of getting comfortable using the channels. Once you feel confident using one platform and you've built a presence on that channel, consider expanding to another outlet. [Interested in social media management software? Check out our top picks.]
Align your strategies
Your key business strategies should align with your social media strategies. If your business prides itself on its professionalism and formality, you should bring that same voice to social media. Don't change who you are because you think it'll gain more traction on social media. Customers want authenticity.
It's easy to get caught up in the excitement of different social media channels and pull away from your brand identity. It's critical that you stay focused on your business's brand and don't stray from who you are just because you're running multiple social media accounts.
"Consider your brand's personality and use that to connect with your audience and craft human experiences," said Megan Lee, marketing associate at Getfused. "Think about how you talk to coworkers, to customers, to business partners … that tone informs the standard 'brand voice' you should use on social media, so that your brand is the same 'person' online as it is in-person."
Set and monitor goals
When using social media platforms, it's important to monitor analytics and set goals around those numbers. Create goals around your business strategy. Consider why you're using social media in the first place.
"If your goal is to increase brand awareness, it's important to track reach, impressions, likes or reactions, shares and comments," said Samantha Rupert, social media manager at Volusion. "However, if your goal with social is truly to make sales, it's important to get all the necessary tracking in place to be able to trace conversions back to your social media ads."
Most social media platforms include their own analytics tools, which can be easy utilized to monitor a handful of different metrics. Google Analytics is another helpful tool to monitor data, especially real-time data. By setting and monitoring goals, you get meaningful feedback on your social media performance. If you find that a social media profile isn't performing up to your expectations, you can adjust to make improvements or delete the profile altogether if you feel you're running too many social channels.
Develop an editorial calendar
Planning helps your social media performance. Whether it's taking the time to select the right social media channels or creating thoughtful goals for your social media performance, the businesses that think before they act tend to find more success on social media and are better able to manage multiple channels. This same principle applies to creating posts. Building an editorial calendar for each month outlines when you'll post content. This makes your social media posts more focused.
"When you have a good idea of what content you have readily available, and what you can continue to create, that's when you can start mapping it out in a calendar," Newton said. "Do you have topics you want to post about weekly [or] monthly? Add those in first and work around them. Recurring or theme-type posts are great because they give you something to start with and work around. It's like putting a puzzle together."
If you know you're going to have a sale on your products the week before Christmas, you can draft and schedule a post about the sale well in advance. Scheduling a Dec. 15 post on Dec. 1 ensures you'll have a post that day, and you won't have to take time on Dec. 15 to worry about posting. By scheduling certain posts ahead of time, you can save yourself time and stress down the road. Doing this also makes it significantly easier to manage multiple social media channels at once.
You'll lose interest and customer engagement if you don't consistently post on social media. Failing to devote proper resources to social media marketing or creating an excessive number of profiles on different platforms is a recipe for disaster.
"In terms of the number of channels you should be on – do not bite off more than you can chew," said Mark Nardone, executive vice president at PAN Communications. "Be present, active and engaging on your channels, and prioritize those where their target audiences spend the majority of their time."
Just because there are numerous social media channels available, doesn't mean you should use them all to market your business. Find the best channels for your business and plan out your actions to avoid getting swallowed up in a complicated sea of social media channels.