Social media is a valuable tool for small businesses. It can be used to build your brand's reputation, create loyal customers and even increase sales.
"From self-promotion on their owned channels to working with influencers who will tout the benefits of each specific company, social media builds buzz and awareness around a specific brand, product or service and establishes an identity in the digital world," said Beca Alexander, founder of Socialyte.
Check out these five tips for making the most of your social media presence and using it to drive sales.
1. Know your audience and potential customers.
The first step to creating successful social media campaigns is understanding your target audience and meeting them where they live.
"Social media done well starts with knowing your audience and which platforms they are using," said Jennifer Burns, senior community manager at Ignite Social Media. "Reach them with your brand message on the platforms that they are already on."
It's important to know what platforms your audience is using and focus on those channels. Instead of using your resources and time building multiple accounts, focus on just a couple of platforms.
"Go where your audience is and what makes sense for your brand," said Chelsea McDonald, senior social media strategist at DEG Digital. "If your customers are over 35 and you don't have a lot of visual assets, Instagram and Snapchat aren't going to be your best friends."
Alexander agrees. "In terms of the best social media platform a small business should use, it really depends on the brand and target customer demographics as each platform differs," she said. [Read related article: Social Media for Business: A Marketer's Guide]
"However, Instagram is generally best," Alexander added. "Facebook and/or Pinterest are great for driving customer purchase intent clicks (and thereby sales) and Twitter is mostly used for creating buzz."
2. Use paid ads.
It's no longer enough just to post regularly to social media and reply to comments. The best way to use your social media accounts is through paid ads.
"Leverage paid media to reach your audience," said Burns. "Organic reach continues to drop on social. To increase eyes on your content, and ultimately sales, you'll likely need to pay to get in front of them."
While all social media platforms have advertising capabilities, Facebook has extensive targeting tools that make it easy to create successful campaigns.
"Facebook amplification allows business users to amplify posts to one of four objectives: reach, engagement, impressions and click-throughs," Alexander said. "You can customize your results based on your goals, and thereby drive sales based on your specific sales pipeline plan."
3. Learn from past campaigns.
Like almost everything in business, it's important to take inventory of past mistakes and make small changes to make your campaigns more successful. Look at social media analytics and insights to determine what's working and what isn't.
"Learn from your past performance to inform future campaigns, objectives, targeting and to measure your success in the performance of your current ads," McDonald said. "Was the click-through rate much lower than your past campaign? Pause it and try something different."
"Past social media campaigns can offer insights as to which platform, audiences, messaging and ad units are the most cost-effective at bringing in sales," Burns said. "Building upcoming campaigns around what's worked in the past can help you generate the most sales possible."
Along with learning from past posts, small business owners shouldn't be afraid to try new things and potentially fail.
"Don't be afraid to 'fail' a few times before you figure out what works for you and your business," McDonald added. "This includes budgets, objectives, creatives and more."
4. Use social influencers.
It's important to build your social media following and accounts, but businesses can also use social media influencers to increase sales. Social media influencers are people with a large and engaging following.
"Since over 70 percent of consumers trust social influencers, brands must use these platforms and the talent that create content in order to increase visibility, which, in turn, drives sales," said Alexander.
Find influencers in your niche and industry and ask them to write and post about your products or brand in exchange for money or samples. [Read related article: Learn to Spot Fake Social Media Influencers]
5. Don't focus on making sales.
It may seem counterproductive to focus on anything besides sales, but that's not the point of social media. People are using social media to be social and connect with friends, family and their favorite brands. Even your most loyal customers aren't going to want to follow your business if you're only selling on social media.
"I also encourage my clients not to focus so directly on sales when it comes to social, unless you're driving an ad campaign with revenue-driven objectives," McDonald said. "That's not the point of social media, although it does happen often because of the role social plays in the consideration process."