Getting started on social media can seem like a difficult task for small businesses.
But the truth is that you don’t need to get a million followers or have a big brand campaign to make effective use of these platforms – which is a very low and attractive cost.
Social media is the best way to connect with fans and potential customers. If you don’t have a digital presence on the main channels, you may be losing an audience, that is already ready and wanting to connect with your brand – that’s why social media for small businesses is so important.
Practical social media strategies for small businesses need not be scary or expensive.
With a few simple tips, companies of all sizes can reach their audiences, build their reputation and, of course, increase their sales.
Table of Contents
Step by Step Social Media for Small Businesses
To make it easier, we’ve separated our plan into small steps so you can start implementing it today in your company. Come on:
1. Start With a Plan
Every good business strategy starts with a plan. Social media for small businesses is no different;
Since these are easy-to-use platforms and you can start free with organic posts, you may be tempted to get your hands dirty and start posting.
However, without a plan, you have no way of knowing what you are trying to achieve with your social media posts, and you cannot measure when you get there.
Taking the time to create a social media plan early on will ensure that all your efforts will support your specific goals.
To follow your social media plan, you will need:
- Create goals and objectives on social networks: create specific, measurable, realistic, relevant, and time-bound goals. Base your goals on metrics that will have a real impact on your business, such as acquiring new customers or increasing your conversion rate – not data like likes or comments.
- Research the competition: what are your competitors doing on your social media channels? Even if the idea is not to copy them, learning from others can be great for shortening the learning curve. Competitive analysis and looking at strategies can give you a lot of insight into what works and what doesn’t for businesses like yours.
- Do an audit of social networks: if you are already using social networks, this is the time to take a step back and evaluate what you have done so far. As part of your audit, also search for fake accounts that may be stealing your prominence. A good tip may be to use a social media audit template to guide you through the process.
- Find inspirations: you have a look at what your competitors are doing online. But what about other businesses? Seek inspiration from the success of small businesses in all areas. And where can you find success stories? Go to the social media business area and you will find successful cases. It’s also a good idea to ask followers what they would like to see more of – and then give them exactly what they asked for.
- Create a social networking calendar: A social media calendar will help you post the right content on the right social network at the right time. Your calendar should include a plan for a mix of content. Try to start with the 80-20 rule: use 80% of your content to inform, educate, or entertain your audience and 20% to promote your brand or sell your products.
2. Decide Which Platforms to Use
Don’t just assume where your audience spends their time online. Your instinct would probably say not to invest in Facebook and focus on Instagram or Snapchat if you’re looking to speak to young audiences, but the data shows that 82% of millennials still use Facebook.
Demographic data can help you decide; keep in mind that you can use different social networks to reach different audiences – or to reach certain goals for your business.
And remember, demographics are just an overview – and, of course, they don’t just apply to social media for small businesses.
It is important to understand how to reach a specific audience. To do this, it is necessary to ensure that you…
3. Know Your Audience
Using social media for small businesses allows you to select your audience in detail – but first you need to understand who your audience is.
By compiling data from your current customers and then further analyzing your social media analytics, you can develop a solid picture of who is buying from you and who is interacting online.
And then you can revisit your social media plan to include ways to reach people like these.
An example: the American brand Jimmy Beans Wool clearly understands that its market is for people who like crochet items in North America.
But when the company started, they had limited access to this huge group of people.
They had a list of subscribers to the newsletter, but it was not large enough to sustain and grow the company.
When Jimmy Beans Wool launched their first subscription service for samples and kits, they used Facebook’s similar lookalike audience to reach people who had the same characteristics as their dedicated fans who subscribed to the newsletter.
The ads brought in more than 1,000 subscribers in less than two days – a result so great that the brand had to pause the ad for a few days to be able to dispatch orders.
This is a concrete sign that the company understands who its audience is, and thus created an offer that spoke directly to their wishes.
We realized, then, that using social media marketing, small businesses have the potential to grow as a multi-million dollar company.
4. Build Relationships
A unique benefit of social media for small businesses, compared to other channels, is that they allow you to speak directly to your customers and followers.
You can build relationships over time, instead of asking to buy your product right away.
That is one of the reasons why 93% of people who follow small and medium-sized companies on Twitter plan to buy from these companies that they follow, according to a report from the platform itself.
When people interact with your organic content or your ads you can then respond, helping to build a relationship of trust already in the early stages of a rewarding relationship between brand and consumers.
Facebook groups are another great way to build a community, establish relationships, and increase brand loyalty.
Using social channels, you can also develop connections and relationships with other entrepreneurs and influencers in your niche.
Do you think your business is too small to work with influencers? Consider micro-influencers (influencers starting at 10,000 followers):
They can be incredibly effective in establishing brand confidence and they are often affordable for small businesses.
5. Expand Your Audience
Once you’ve mastered your original niche, you can use social tools to reach new audiences.
For example, the nutritional supplement brand GoSupps started as a small business in the United Arab Emirates.
Its initial audience was composed primarily of bodybuilders. To grow the company, GoSupps needed to expand its audience to a more general sports and fitness audience.
Using Facebook’s target audience options, the company was able to reach new potential customers who were interested in health and fitness.
The campaign resulted in a 4x greater return than invested, and the brand increased its number of fans on the platform to more than 97 million.
As much as the company still has a strong focus on its original audience (bodybuilders), it also posts content with broader appeals.
6. Share Eye-catching Visuals Whenever Possible
People expect social media posts to have visual components. According to a Twitter survey.
People are three times more likely to interact with tweets that have visual elements such as videos, images, infographics, or GIFs.
Images on social networks lead to actions in the real world, too. Half of the millennials plan or visit restaurants based on images or videos shared on social networks.
Instagram, Pinterest and Snapchat are the most visual social networks. If your visual content is not cool, no one will scroll to read what you have to say.
Some products are more visually appealing than others. But even if you’re not selling products that look great in any photo.
It’s important to use your imagination so that your posts will engage. For the service area, in particular, it can be challenging.
But all kinds of services can tell stories through photos and videos. Perhaps you can show your company’s culture within your work environment, employees’ daily lives, or use images to give tips in your area of expertise, for example.
Another good option in terms of images when we talk about social networks for small businesses is the use of image banks.
There is a vast amount of free, high-quality photos that you can use in your posts without attribution to the author. Some free stock images you can use:
When choosing bank images, always check the license of the photo in question.
Some websites provide free images upon citation of the source. Using images protected by copywriting without paying or giving credit to the author when requested can cause legal problems – and we strongly advise you not to do so.
By the way, if you’re looking for GIFs, a good place to look is on Giphy .
7. Focus on Quality, Not Quantity
The sheer number of social media marketing options for small businesses can seem complicated, but you don’t have to adhere to all of them.
It is much more important to create quality content on some of the main channels where you can really connect with your target audience than to have a presence on all social networks.
Above all, make sure your social posts offer value. If all you do is sell and sell, there is little motivation for people to follow you.
Remember that social marketing is about building relationships. Be human. Be honest. Provide great content.
This is important and you cannot pretend. According to a survey, 86% of consumers say that authenticity influences the brands they like and support.
You can’t do everything – and there’s no reason to try. Connect with your audience in places where they’re already spending their time online.
Focus on using one or two social channels very well, at least to get started.
Once you have mastered them, you can build on what you’ve learned and expanded your efforts.
8. Use the Right Tools
The secret to the effective use of social media is to take advantage of tools that automate or simplify much of the work.
There are many tools to help increase your productivity, so you can make the most of social media marketing for your small business without having a large social media team.
- Engagement management: Social media are not a broadcast system – they are engagement platforms with your customers and fans. Some tools can help to centralize all mentions and messages directed to your company in a single panel, so you can respond without having to log in and all your social media accounts. Two of the most used platforms for this are Hootsuite and Social Report.
- Analytics: Of course, each social media platform has its own analytics. But having all the information in one place can help you have a broader view of your results. You can use tools like Brandwatch for that.
- Images: if the design is not your strong point, a good idea is to take a look at simple and effective tools that can give that strength when we are talking about art direction. Try using VSCO, Piktochart, or Canva.
- Content curation: it can be a great difficulty for a small business to create new content to share every day. Content curation (the art of sharing posts by other authors – with due credit, of course) can be a great solution and a way to generate value for your followers and keep them engaged.
9. Monitor and Respond to Everyone
We have already talked about the importance of responding to people who post comments or questions on their social networks.
But there is even more to engagement than just responding when asked.
You need to be aware of all the conversations that are happening about your business in other virtual locations besides your own Instagram fan page or comment box – and respond when appropriate. This is called social listening.
10. Schedule your Content to Have Time for Engagement
We already talked about creating a social content calendar at the beginning of this post.
After creating the calendar, you can create your social posts in advance and use the scheduling tools to automatically post them at the right time.
This allows you to dedicate a block of time a day or a week to creating your social content, instead of making it an activity that takes you away from other tasks throughout the day.
11. Track and Refine your Performance
When implementing your social media strategy, it’s important to keep track of what works and what doesn’t work so that you can adjust your efforts and improve your results.
All of the analytics tools mentioned above provide an excellent picture of your social efforts and can help you track the metrics that matter most to you.
When you have a basic picture of how your strategy is working, it’s time to start looking for ways to get even better results.
Using the A / B test, you can make small changes to your strategy that increase your success over time.
No matter how small your business is, social media can help you connect better with your target audience, reach new potential customers, and increase your brand awareness. If the possibilities seem overwhelming, start small.
Remember: you don’t have to do everything. Take a focused approach – start small with one or two major networks and develop your social media marketing efforts over time.
Managing social media strategies for small businesses doesn’t have to be a big deal.
However, you can outsource it to a digital marketing agency, which will do everything from planning to day-to-day engagement with your customers, leaving you free to focus on your business.