For a small business, the importance of social media as an advertising tool cannot be understated: Facebook, Instagram and Twitter alone have over 250 million users combined in the U.S. These users are constantly scrolling through feeds, liking posts, commenting, sharing with friends and followers and creating posts themselves, so the potential to gain new customers or followers is always present.
The sheer number and variety of social media options can be overwhelming, however, and creating a strategy to powerfully use them them even more so. After all, a company doesn’t want to fatigue and annoy its followers by posting on every form of social media, but neither does it want to under-utilize the vast impact a single platform can have. What’s needed at this point is a social media strategy: what platforms a business should use and how to use them effectively. Finer points of this plan include figuring out what times to post, what kind of content to create, how to tag posts and if and when to use a platform’s advertising tools.
If you’re a small business, read below for five essential tips on how to create a strong and effective social media strategy, with examples culled from businesses both big and small.
1) Determine what kind of social media the brand needs
Just because it’s there doesn’t mean it needs to be used. Having a presence across all platforms can be advantageous but can also ad nauseum for your customer base, so decide on two or three at first and spread out from there if there’s potential. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are the Holy Trinity of social media marketing, but there’s also Tumblr, Pinterest, Vine, Snapchat and Google+, to name a few. These could be better choices too, depending on the market a company wants to reach. If you’re unsure of a particular platform, give it a test run and measure the responses over a month or two.
2) Give each social media platform a personality
Rather than posting the same content with the same tags across all chosen platforms, give each of the social media outlets a distinct personality and post accordingly. If your company has various products with strong followings, create multiple accounts for those products or brands within the company to hit those target audiences. For example, Nike has several accounts each with Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Youtube and Tumblr for its various brands: NikeWoman, Nike+ and NikeRunning, to name a few. If the company is a small retail shop located in one city, take the lead of Bergdorf Goodman (a retailer of luxury goods with a single store in New York City) and create a distinct persona for each platform. The retailer’s Facebook page covers all bases, posting about designers, sales, current trends, new products and events, while the Tumblr account is called “Bergdorf Goodman Swipe,” an artfully curated selection of images and quotes that inspires the company, with images from its catalog and contests and promotions carefully sprinkled throughout. It’s a strong balance of personable and professional that doesn’t overwhelm and is distinct from its presences on Facebook and Instagram.
3) Don’t let numbers hold court
Nike has 17.5 million followers on Instagram. Beer Advocate Magazine has 18,500. Both numbers are perfect because the companies still stay true to their respective brands. It’s unrealistic – and potentially destructive – for a small business to live simply by numbers, whether it’s follower count, likes, reblogs, retweets or any other quantifiable data. Keeping analytical track is useful, of course, to see how effective a particular strategy is but if the goal is to increase numbers (i.e., constantly gain followers and likes), a company is in danger of losing followers because the need for quantity becomes obvious and overrides the message. Instead, Mashable.com suggests focusing on staying on message and actively engaging with current followers to develop a more “devoted, enthusiastic community.”
4) Know your audience
There’s no denying the popularity of a network like Facebook’s or Instagram’s, but that doesn’t mean they’re the right choices for your target audience. If you’re a small company with a specific niche or a large underground following, be cognizant of how certain social media platforms will or will not work with your current audience and future followers. That’s not to say a platform should be dismissed outright for fear of losing customers; after all, if the goal is to increase sales or promote a message to a wider audience, social media is an excellent place to achieve this and the loss of followers could be small compared to the potential gain. Just choose the right social media platform, which you’ll be able to gauge with time, engagement and proper planning and use of content.
Running a small business on a daily basis is plenty of work for anyone and adding social media strategies to the mix can be daunting. Look into hiring a social media consultant or firm for help, but don’t relinquish full control to them either. As a business owner, the company’s reputation circles back to you and it’s important to keep an eye on what posts are going out and whether they’re on-message. And if you are social-media savvy but not a great photographer or videographer or need help writing artful or clever tweet, look into hiring freelancers. If you’re struggling for two hours to take a single great photograph, it’s well worth your time to hire a photographer who can snap a clean, streamlined pic or two in an hour, leaving you free to work on your business.
Social Media for Small Businesses: 6 Effective Strategies – Mashable.com
7 Vital Social Media Strategies for Small Businesses – Business 2 Community