How small businesses should use social media marketing in 2019
Growing a small business is challenging, with different tools and strategies needed to engage your customer base and expand your reach.
May 20 · 7 min read
Growing a small business is challenging, with different tools and strategies needed to engage your customer base and expand your reach. Along with your products, services, and employees, how you leverage technology has a huge effect on your success. As a small business owner, social media marketing is one of the most powerful ways you can use technology to your advantage. With access to the leading tools and expert advice, you can reach out, engage, and create valuable relationships with your target audience. From organic word-of-mouth campaigns to strategic partnerships and local advertising, marketing has always been crucial for small businesses. The current social media landscape provides more opportunities than ever before, with affordable and creative ways to help business owners reach new and exciting markets.
Everything starts with a plan
Like everything in life, social media marketing benefits from a thoughtful plan. Hunting for likes and followers is not enough by itself. You need a robust strategy based on specific goals. For example, while some people are happy to attract more subscribers to their weekly newsletter, others may be looking for referrals, leads, or sales. If you don’t know what you’re looking for, you have no idea how to define your success let alone reach your goals.
Take a long hard look at your business, research your competition, and create a marketing plan based on your unique qualities. Setting specific goals and objectives for your social media campaign is a necessary first step. A well-organized plan always has distinct phases, with different ways to measure success at each stage of the process.
For example, you may want to attract more followers during the early part of a campaign, followed by new subscriptions, increased sales, and long-term brand recognition. Along with setting goals, you should conduct an audit of your existing social media, create a social media calendar, and carry out a detailed competitive analysis to find out just where you stand.
Choosing the right platform
While social media is ubiquitous, individual platforms are extremely varied and constantly evolving. Before starting a social campaign, find out where your audience spends their time. Making assumptions can waste time and money, with research needed to define and track down your target market.
Compile data on your existing customers, make informed predictions about potential customers, and get involved with social media analytics. There are many options available during this stage, including analytics software, customer surveys, and tools like Facebook Lookalike Audiences, which algorithmically generates new members based on existing customers.
Once you know who you’re looking for, decide how wide to cast your net. While focusing on a single platform allows you to refine your marketing, you may not want to put all of your eggs into one basket. Most small businesses benefit from investing in multiple platforms while focusing on the one or two where their audience spends most of their time.
The social media landscape continues to evolve, but a few well-known platforms have risen to the top and don’t look like they’re going away any time soon. Facebook is still the biggest name in social media. Twitter and Instagram make up the top three platforms in terms of reach, while Pinterest and Snapchat aren’t far behind.
Engage people and build relationships
It’s important to know where your audience hangs out, but it’s not everything. Before you can market what you offer, you need to understand what your audience wants. This is where social media excels! Businesses are able to engage in a conversation with their customers instead of lecturing to them. Social is all about building a relationship with your audience, refining your message, and listening to feedback. Customers can engage with your marketing efforts in a way that’s similar to a two-way conversation.
Having grown up with interactive social media, millennials can be jaded and unresponsive when it comes to traditional advertising and marketing campaigns. The broadcast model doesn’t work as well as it once did, with an oversaturated media landscape leaving people cold and detached. Social media marketing is an obvious solution, especially if you make an effort to build relationships that sustain and evolve over time. Whether you’re building a personal network on LinkedIn or talking to customers on Facebook, dedicating time each day to relationships is a savvy business move.
Facebook Groups can be a great way to build community and establish brand loyalty, as can Instagram Pods and other social tools that allow you to create enduring conversations around your own content. While it’s always good to maintain a personal touch, a lot of this work can be automated or managed more effectively using dedicated social media management software. There are several free services available, including Hootsuite, TweetDeck, Buffer, and Zoho Social.
Create valuable content
Fantastic content is the backbone of every successful marketing campaign. Whether it’s an eye-catching viral video, a thought-provoking article, or a picture that needs to be shared, content has and always will be king when it comes to expanding your reach and cementing your vision. Simply informing people of a sale or using marketing as a way to inspire confidence no longer cuts it. Now you need to create something of real value. Whether you’re leading with words or images, it’s important to create quality content rather than over saturate your feed with quantity alone.
Compelling visuals are always a great way to attract attention, with real-world purchasing decisions often driven by social images. Instagram, Pinterest and Snapchat are the leading visual platforms, although Twitter and Facebook content can also be highly visual. The traditional “pitch and sell” technique doesn’t work in the social media world, with people wanting to engage with words and images that inspire them. When you provide something of real value to your customers, they’re much more likely to listen to you, trust you, and choose your products or services over others.
Listen to your customers and get feedback
It goes beyond creating valuable content. You also need a way to monitor and respond to all of the conversations happening around your campaign. Whether it’s the comments section of a Facebook post, YouTube comments, or third-party tags by one of your customers, responding in real time will keep you relevant. Listening to your audience is the best way to obtain valuable feedback about your campaign so that you can tweak it and make improvements in the future. Creating exceptional content and listening carefully to how it’s received is the best way to refine your marketing techniques and improve your results.
Being aware of the conversations happening around your brand has a number of benefits, not just helping you to avoid PR disasters but also helping you to gauge consumer sentiment, adjust your strategy in real time, and identify key influences and critics while a campaign is unfolding. It only takes a few bad reviews to create real problems, with social media allowing you to interact with your customers and fix issues before they get out of hand. More than anything else, social media marketing is a form of feedback between your business and its customer base.
Benefit from social analytics and reporting
What was your most popular Facebook post last week? Does your Twitter or Instagram content lead to better conversions? What time of day leads to more community engagement? Along with the art of listening, it’s equally important to master the science of analytics because numbers don’t lie. Social media analytics measure performance according to a range of criteria, which makes it easier for you to compare your campaigns across platforms, profiles, locations, and timelines.
There are lots of helpful analytics resources out there, including Brandwatch, Hootsuite, Sprout Social, and Iconosquare. Along with these specialized social media tools, you can also use Google Analytics to help track and analyze your campaigns. Regardless of which tools you use, having access to accurate figures is indispensable for any small business. Unlike traditional marketing or advertising, social media marketing allows you to analyze the success of your efforts in real time and refine your techniques accordingly.
Long-term success in business demands flexibility and the ability to adapt as the landscape changes around you. While marketing has always been an important part of running a business, its integration with technology provides a number of new challenges and benefits. Social media marketing is a great opportunity for small businesses to listen to customers, track performance, and refine strategies to ensure longevity. Whether you want to build a strong reputation, attract fresh customers, or ignite new sales, social media marketing allows you to leverage information and build community in order to achieve success.