As social media continues to evolve rapidly and influence the way we communicate, small businesses simply have to get into the game or risk being left behind.
It’s hard to ignore the power of social media marketing when it’s done correctly. The sheer number of social media users is just the beginning; imagine the possibilities when you can reach all of those people and get your business in front of them. Just consider:
- Facebook has a billion people using it each and every month
- Around 5 million photos are added to and shared on Instagram every HOUR
- Half a million people use Twitter each month
- More than 3,000 hours’ worth of video are added to YouTube each hour
- The Plus One button for Google+ is clicked more than 2 billion times every day
Smart business owners are already taking advantage of this. Nearly 90% of the Fortune 500 companies are using social media. Don’t assume you have to be some enormous company to grow your business with an innovative social media strategy. It can be just as useful for the butcher around the corner as it is for a Fortune 500 company.
Social media isn’t a magic button you can push and instantly fill the seats in your restaurant or the shopping cart on your site. Many small business owners have dabbled with social media, only to decide it isn’t worth it or it doesn’t work. I’m sure there have been plenty of cases where it failed. All that means is that you have to be smart about it. You must take it as seriously as any other advertising or marketing plan.
Common reasons why social media marketing fails
- Not being active and interacting with users on the site (because social media is a two-way street)
- Not connecting with users on the right level or responding to their “what’s in it for me” stance
- Failing to understand that selling and pushing your products is NOT the same thing as interacting with and engaging your followers
If you haven’t made any of the above mistakes, but you still aren’t seeing positive results from social media, you could simply be using the wrong sites. Every social media platform is different. The demographics and mindset of their users are different. The way they work, what can be shared, and what is shared the most will be different from one site to another. Let’s look at what I mean.
Roundup of popular social sites to consider
Twitter is informal. Here, your messages are limited to 140 characters (though images and video have been making their way into the stream more recently). Users here are pretty comfortable. They don’t usually have a problem connecting with a wide variety of users — from individuals to brands and companies, even those they don’t know or use. Twitterers love to connect, follow, and retweet for contests, offers, and interesting content. The site is also commonly used for customer support. Here’s a great article from Glenn Gabe on his thoughts about Twitter.
While Facebook users also tend to be fairly informal, they’re more concerned about privacy and aren’t as willing to connect openly with folks are on Twitter. In order for your updates to be seen by FB users, they have to “Like” your page. Your updates can be much longer, but it’s wise to keep the promotions to a minimum. Users like to see personal interaction and engagement.
Google+ is much like Facebook. It has been known to attract more of a digital, tech-savvy crowd, and most of them are male. However, more women and people interested in a variety of things are moving in to Google+. To interact with people here, you need to be added to a user’s “circle.” Google+ is growing rapidly and will likely continue to do so.
LinkedIn caters to users who have more of a business mindset, which makes it a great place for B2B and folks who want to network and stay up to date in their industry. The attitude here is more formal than on Twitter or Facebook. It’s also more personal in the sense that users typically allow fewer connections than on other social sites.
Pinterest users are pretty laid back. Here, you’re dealing mostly with women. Users follow your boards, and your “pins” will show up on their home page for them to see. Photos are the backbone of Pinterest, so if your business sells anything that can be visually appealing, it could be a great source of targeted traffic to your site. Food, weddings, style, kids, animals, photography, and home décor are all big hits here.
Here’s a great article with input from some savvy social marketers that gives a bit more detail on the sites above.
Getting started the right way
As you can see, some businesses would be better off on certain platforms than on others. Before you do anything, you need to figure out exactly what you want to do with social media. What are your goals? You shouldn’t just sign up on every social site you can think of on a whim and expect great results. It takes planning, from the start.
- Do you want to offer customer support through social media?
- Do you want to offer services and products directly from the social site?
- Do you want drive traffic to a store?
- Do you want to direct traffic to a blog?
- Do you want to run contests and giveaways to expand your subscriber list?
You also need to look carefully at the sites you’re considering from an audience perspective.
- Do users on the site often interact with businesses and brands?
- What type of content is normally shared? Is it what you’ll be offering?
- How many people use the site?
Which social site should you start with?
Pick one or two sites that seem to be a good fit for your business. It’s better to build up a strong presence and following on just one social site than to jump from one to another in a superficial manner. If you just don’t know where to start, there are a couple of things you can do.
You can study your competitors who are active on social media. Which sites are they using? On which of those sites do they have more followers and interactions? More than likely, those would be the best sites for you to consider.
Second, go straight to the source. Poll or simply ask your customers which sites they use the most often and/or which ones they’d like to see you on, if you offer content and specials there. I’ve written an article titled “How to Determine Which Social media Network Fits Your Business” which covers this more in-depth.
Planning your campaigns
Create a schedule. If you aren’t going to be handling your social marketing personally, make sure you designate someone who fully understands their responsibilities. That includes knowing their posting schedule and any rules about what’s not allowed.
Make sure your social media rep understands the mentality of users on the site (formal? informal? chatty? professional?) and how to be personable but businesslike online. It’s important that the person knows how to handle any negative comments, reactions, or complaints from users, because those are all going to happen. Handled correctly, this can show your company cares and actually draw in more business.
You should know what’s going to be posted and when. Be aware of what kind of content or promotions you are going to run ahead of time. Monitor and tweak your social media strategy as needed, but don’t be afraid to jump ship if it’s clearly not working.
Change can be good
If you’re already knee-deep into social marketing and it’s just not working, it may be time to re-evaluate everything. Most of all, you need to assess whether you’re on the right site for your line of business.
Below are a few tools that can help you monitor your social media:
- Google Analytics to measure social media conversions
- Facebook’s Insight
- Refollow – the Twitter relationships gauge
- ViralHeat – to monitor specific actions or products/campaigns and determine what’s working
- MySEOTool – an all-in-one monitoring platform that includes integration with Google Analytics and social media channels.