It’s difficult to imagine a world without social media. It’s become a major part of our daily lives and an absolutely vital tool for businesses of all sizes; there’s no getting away from it. Social media allows your business direct access to your customers. It can help to grow your brand, impact on how your customers feel about your business and can ultimately drive sales.
According to Ofcom figures “more than three quarters of internet users (77%) have a profile or account on a social media site” but why, in 2019, is social media important for local businesses and how can you make it work for you?
1. The importance of social media marketing for small businesses
You may not be out there talking about your business, but you can guarantee other people will be. From Facebook reviews to using Twitter as a customer service channel, it’s becoming more and more typical for customers to expect small and local businesses to have a social media presence. There is an active audience ready and waiting to hear about what your business has to offer and a social media presence could be the difference between you and your competitors. For us, it’s a no-brainer!
2. Setting social media goals
You’ve decided to use social media for your business but where do you start? We’d recommend that you begin by considering the question: “what do I want to achieve?” The answer will shape your social media strategy and allow you to evaluate your progress along the way. Here are a few examples:
- Gain a better understanding of my customers
- Raise awareness of my business, products and services
- Direct people to my website
- Drive product sales or footfall
It’s tempting to think in terms of community volume (the number of people who like and follow your brand on social media) but believe us, engagement is much more important. You may have 1,000 followers on Facebook but if only two people are interacting with you, your business is missing out.
3. Who is your audience?
Now you have your goals in place, you can start developing your plan of action. The next question you’ll need to address for your business is “who do I want to communicate with?”
Social media is a two-way channel; it’s all about conversation. With this in mind, consider who you want to talk to about your business and who you’d be interested in listening to. This will not only help you to choose the social media channels that are right for your audiences but it will also shape the messaging of your social media content.
4. Whats the best social channels for my business?
Next it’s time to decide on which channels to establish a presence. If you think you’re going to struggle for time, don’t use every platform going – be selective! If you want to communicate with consumers, discount LinkedIn, this is more suitable for business-to-business communication.
Facebook continues to be the most popular social platform in terms of active users but younger users are increasingly favouring platforms such as Instagram and Snapchat. Over the years, Facebook has developed a growing older audience, so if your customer-base is aged 40-plus, this may well be the social media platform for your business.
Here are some pros and cons to consider:
- Facebook has an accessible advertising platform; however its algorithm can limit the reach of your organic posts (the content you don’t invest in). The events feature on Facebook is used widely and video content performs very well on this channel.
- Instagram is great if your small business has visual content to share and its active user numbers are growing constantly. Pinterest is also a good choice for sharing inspiration and visual content.
- Twitter has now expanded the number of characters you can share per tweet (280 characters) and is a great platform for of-the-moment, topical content sharing.
- LinkedIn is a business-to-business channel and is good for sharing thought leadership and opinions. It’s also the go-to channel for recruitment.
Facebook and Instagram offer business page options, you’ll need to create this type of account if you want to use analytics and insights on these channels (more on this later).
5. Social Planning: Define your messages and shape your content
Now you know who you want to talk to about your business and which channels you’re going to use, you can start defining your messaging. What do you want to say about your business? Don’t just talk product! Your content should be engaging, relevant and high quality. Consider what your customers may find useful and shape content around these topics. For example, if you are a florist, you could share advice on selecting seasonal flowers or keeping your bouquets looking their best.
There are free design tools available to help you create artwork and images to share with your posts, for example Canva.com. Forward plan about 80 per cent of your content to help with your time management and put time aside each day to check your accounts and respond to your customers.
Make sure your photographs are all of a high standard. There is a lot of photography advice out there, so do a little desktop research (remember the rule of thirds!). Google offers a handy royalty free image search, just click on the advanced settings and choose the option “free to share commercially”, if you get stuck for content.
6. Managing Your Social Media
Once you’ve established social media channels for your business, it’s likely that customers will comment and use messaging functions to ask questions and communicate with your brand. Make sure you respond as quickly as possible and don’t shy away from public customer complaints. The key is to take customer service matters offline or into a private online space (direct message or email).
7. Don’t be afraid to interact
One of the ways you’ll grow your business’ social media presence is by engaging with the wider online community. Share the content of others and encourage others to share your content too. Comment on posts which you find interesting and do your best to invite interaction from your community. Ask questions and spark interesting conversation through your content.
Remember to use hashtags where appropriate as this will boost reach across all channels (yes, even Facebook). Users can now follow hashtags on Instagram so search for those which are relevant to your business and join the party!
8. Do I need to spend on my Social Media?
One thing is for certain, you will increase the impact of your social media activity with a little investment in social media advertising. You can boost content on your social feeds and putting as little as £5 behind a key post will help it to reach more people. You could also run some dedicated advertisements. We’d recommend starting small, learning from the results and taking it from there. Facebook offers a lot of advice in its help section to get you started.
9. Measure your success
Keep track of how your content is performing by checking engagement figures and seeing how far your posts are reaching. You can also measure community growth and access figures around the best days and times of the week to post and audience demographics in the insights and analytics sections of the platforms.
If you want an “at a glance” view of your performance, invest in tools such as Sprout Social or Hootsuite. There are also free versions of sites like these available to help you manage your content. Remember to feed what you learn from this evaluation back into your content planning.
10. Tracking Social Media Competitors
Make sure you’re aware of your competitors’ approaches to social media. This may provide a little inspiration but it will also give you an idea of how you’re performing. Look outside of the industry too. Follow some big brands and see what they’re doing online – we recommend Innocent and KLM as a starter for 10.
11. Have a physical presence
Remember to promote your business’ social media accounts through your other channels, and in-store if appropriate. Handles (your username) are now universally recognised so drop them on promotional materials and on your website.
So there you have it, our guide to social media for local businesses. We hope to see your updates appearing in our social feeds soon! Next take a look at our social media predictions for 2019. If you want to find out more about social media marketing, talk to Pedro on firstname.lastname@example.org.