We’ve worked with a lot of small business owners over the years, and we’ve found that they tend to fall into two camps: those who love social media and can’t imagine running their businesses without it, and those who just aren’t interested. Whether you love it or hate it, social media can definitely be a powerful force for your business, as long as you know how to use it right.
Here are our top Do’s and Don’ts for using social media for small business:
Build a reputation
Social media is one of the cheapest and easiest ways to inform people about your business and brand without even having to mention anything related to sales. People will learn about your business based on how you present it on your social media profiles, the types of things you share, and who you interact with online, so take advantage of this opportunity to build a reputation for yourself.
Think about it as being at a trade show or a networking event. You show up to these events to present yourself and your business a certain way so that customers can be attracted to you and know what to expect when working with you. It’s the exact same thing online, except in this case you can reach a much bigger audience, and you don’t have to actually go anywhere.
Play your strengths
It might be tempting to think that because you’re a small business, you can’t compete with bigger businesses in the social media space, but this just isn’t true. In fact, smaller businesses have a lot of advantages that bigger businesses don’t when it comes to social media, especially flexibility. The conversation moves fast in social media circles, and not having to run everything you post through a marketing agency or legal department means that you can respond faster and more personally than bigger businesses, which plays really well in this space.
Remember, regardless of advertising and changing trends, social media is, at its core, personal. People like to be able to talk to real people in real businesses quickly, so if you can respond to them and give them the chance to actually have a dialogue with your business, you’ll have done a lot for brand recognition, not to mention leading them along the know, like, trust, buy journey. As long as you keep things consistent and on-brand, you can make a big impact with relatively little effort.
We know, we know, you can’t go online these days without someone shouting at you about content marketing. And while some of the hype is over the top, really good content can be an excellent medium for marketing. The key is to make sure that you’re consistently providing your target market with content they’ll find useful, enjoy, or ideally both. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel — as long as you’ve got some blog content coming out fairly regularly, posting that can already go a long way towards educating people about your business and getting them excited about your brand.
We deliberately left paid advertisements to the end, because you can do so much on social media without really spending anything. If you do have the budget though (and it really doesn’t have to be a large one), you can social media advertising can be extremely effective.
It’s much cheaper than traditional advertising, you can target your customers with incredibly specific demographic markers and preferences, and you can know that your ads are ending up in spaces that people actually pay attention to. After all, with everyone staring at their phones nowadays, who’s even looking at billboards or flyers? And remember, you don’t have to only stick to strictly sales-based advertisements. You can promote products, events, your business in general, opt-ins for your email list, or even your content.
This is one of the most common mistakes small businesses make in social media. It’s so important to remember that social media is all about having a conversation with your customers and potential customers, not just advertising — and that if you do only use it to advertise, people are going to tune you out really quickly.
Again, pretty common, and very destructive. So many businesses see their social media platforms as simply being channels to advertise from, when they can be a great way to provide customer service and learn about your target market in general. So if people are talking about your business, make sure you reply. If they’re talking directly to you or your business — whether by posting on your wall, Tweeting at you, or in some other way — then reply ASAP. It might seem like a little thing, but it can make a huge difference.
This includes both being inconsistent in your social media usage and having inconsistencies between your branding and your social media. Although social media is spontaneous, it still needs to be in line with the general tenets of your business. Otherwise, you’ll be sending conflicting messaging to your target market, which will dilute your branding and make attracting the right customers that much harder.
Ignore the culture of the channels.
Finally, make sure that you’re not just posting the same thing across every single one of your social media platforms. It will be very obvious to the people who are seeing your posts, and it will look like you’re just phoning it in. Each social media platform has a different feel to it, so make sure that you get a sense of how people post on that platform and the general tone of the conversation before you start posting.