Top 10 Tips for a Small Business starting out with Social Media
As a small business, time & resources are always limited and prioritising them is key to running the business efficiently. These days Social Media has become an integral part of every business and it can be an awesome resource for a small business or start-up. However before diving in, there are some aspects of Social Media you should consider carefully. Below is a list of things that are key to Social Media success for a small business.
There are local businesses that thrive perfectly well on just word-of-mouth. Consider carefully the notion that you are not just using Social Media because everyone else is. This will align closely to your target audience. Social Media is more important when the target audience is young, when the geographic targets are medium to large and when the products are not commonly known. (E.g. a local butcher targeting 50+ residents on their street is unlikely to get a lot out of having an Instagram page.)
If you are targeting young people and trying to expand your geographic reach, Social Media channels can be awesome tools, assuming you have resources to devote to it.
Start out with following your competition, either in secret or in full view. It doesn’t really matter but it is a great source for working out what to do AND what not to do. Spying on your competition is a great way of gaining insight into the world of Social Media.
Carefully assess how much time you have to devote to Social Media and how this should impact your strategy. This in turn can be used to assess things like:
- How many platforms can you realistically manage and which platforms are key to your audience?
- Do you/anyone in your business have time available for this or should you consider hiring a proffessional? (This does not have to be a full time person, it could be a part-time role or a freelancer.)
- Do you have time to source content and photos?
Unfortunately, in Social Media, sometimes a half-hearted effort is the same as no effort at all. The audience & engaging with them is reliant on consistency and quality and a Twitter account that posts once a month is unlikely to have any positive impact. In short, this should be an assessment of how dedicated you are to succeeding on Social Media.
This is important in order to define your efforts and overall strategy. It is also key to defining your short and medium term goals.
For example, is the goal to increase brand recognition or product recognition? Is it ultimately to display client growth or maybe ASV growth? Working out what your ultimate goal is will allow you to set appropriate goals for your social media so that you can measure your progress.
For product and brand recognition for example, follower growth can be important. This statistic is one that many businesses worry unduly about, and similarly many SM strategists will tell you not to worry about # of followers. But if you are ultimately looking to get your product recognised by as many people as possible,you need followers. Having said that, if all of your followers are super engaged and sharing all your content, your reach could still be good, even with a smaller number of them.
For Client Growth and ASV growth, engagement is definitely more important than number of followers. But also other stats like website click-throughs or email sign-ups can be key to this type of goal. It will depend on the style of business as well. Walk-in businesses rely more on an engaged & growing audience, whereas an internet business is likely to care a lot more about website click-throughs.
Let’s face it, without a plan we often fail. So planning your Social Media strategy from the off is key to making it actually happen. Social Media is a really easy one to put on the backburner when every other part of the business is busy. But with consistency being one of the keys to success, putting a plan together and sticking with it will be critical. Consider these questions when you plan:
- How often will you post?
- Which platforms should you use?
- What language style or tone of voice will you use?
- How do you want your brand to be portrayed? What is the key message?
- If you are doing visuals — how will you get hold of pictures to use?
- Who are your potential influencers? Who can help you find channels and grow your audience?
The target audience is key to setting a social media strategy. Think about the key characteristics and consider questions like:
- What age are they?
- Where are they geographically?
- Are they female, male or both? Families or individuals?
- What income brackets are they in?
- Are there any ethnic/religious/cultural/nationality aspects?
This is important in order to decide what platforms to use, what style of language to use and when to post.
There are many surveys out there, showing clearly that humans react more to visuals. As such, if you have time, you should try to use pictures as much as possible. This could be pictures you source from the internet or pictures from the business, either professional ones or ad-hoc ones. Finding visuals can be time consuming and should be considered as part of how much time you have set aside and how relevant it is to your business. Articles often come with their own pictures, so if this is likely to be a chunk of your content, you don’t need to worry so much. Also, pending your style of business, pictures can often be re-used to high effect.
The most effective visual and THE Social Media trend of the moment, is video. If you have the time & the inclination, you should definitely try video as it is so popular and often prioritised in the platform algorithms as to what gets seen first. However, if you are a newbie on Social Media with limited time, this may not be the best use of your resources on Day 1.
Social Media is about displaying your business online but the audience is much more likely to engage if they have a sense of personality when engaging with your brand. For this reason, it is important to be genuine and real. This personality can come in many different guises; It could be wit & humour in responses, it could be pictures of people that work there, it could be more personally charged posts in between business posts. Consider what is appropriate and what feels right. Keep in mind that you need to stay true to the business ethos.
The ‘front’ of Social Media platforms can sometimes make you feel as if you are a step further away from your client (hence all the “trolls”). As such, it can be easier to share opinions or comments that you would not share face to face as part of daily business. However, if anything, it can have even bigger impact on your business if you step out of line. The ease of which customers can share content online means it is critical to be cautious with debates/comments/ reviews/replies relating to your business. It also means that engaging with people online is as important as face to face. If people leave a comment, make sure you reply and, if necessary, take the conversation off-line.
There are many tools and apps out there that can help you to make the Social Media entry much easier. However, it can also be quite time-consuming to test them out and learn how to use them, so don’t dive in too deep from the off. Some great things to check out first would be scheduling apps like Buffer or Hootsuite. These allow you to schedule posts for a week or month ahead and can save you a lot of time.
Also, if you are using pictures, try out a picture editor or maybe one of the apps that allows you to add Text over a picture to create funky slogans and quote visuals. I love PicsArt for my photo editing as it is quick and easy. I also recently discovered Typorama which is an app that easily lets you add funky fonts. Both of these are free apps you can test.
Not an app, but definitely a key tool you should learn about, is #tags and how to use them on different platforms. The #tag is useful to allow new followers to find you as it allows them to search on key phrases and words. Spend a little time on working out which #tags might be relevant to your business and play around with them as well. It’s not good to get totally stuck with a set of #tags as it can limit who will find you, so don’t be afraid of changing them around, but do keep them relevant to your post.
Not every post will be popular. Not every joke will be laughed at. Don’t let this discourage you. There are Twitter accounts with 100,000+ folllowers who gets 1 like on occasional posts. Over time, it will still pay off if you stick with it. Change the visual, change the time of posting, change the audience by tagging people in, or change the tone of voice. There are so many nuances to this and you will need to work out what works for you as you go along. Don’t expect immediate results, like any networking, Social Media relationships also takes time to build up and nourish.
In short, Social Media can be a great tool for a small business, but there are many things to consider. Be aware of what you want to get out of it and make sure you stick with the plan to get results. It will take time and there will be a cost attached for putting resources towards it. But if you stick with the plan and remain consistent, the results can be amazing.