Many marketers make the argument that social media can be used to market businesses in more ways than any other past marketing channel. Businesses of any size can use it to directly interact with their customers, generate brand awareness, generate leads, bolster their reputation (or cause it to crumble), and even uncover the purchasing habits and preferences of their audience.
Marketing has evolved well past the good ol’ days of print and television advertising like you might see in the hit television drama Mad Men. But with great power comes great responsibility, and many businesses flounder when they try to take advantage of social media advertising. There have been numerous horror stories regarding social media employees making personal tweets from their personal account by accident and abusing hashtags they obviously didn’t understand.
Clearly, social media isn’t as easy to use as most businesses seem to think. The Social Media Examiner published an eye opening report that made the following conclusions:
- as much as 90% of social media advertisers don’t understand the most effective ways to connect with their audiences
- 86% cannot accurately measure the ROI of their social media advertising or reach their target audience
There are several other statistics that essentially shed light on the fact many businesses don’t know what their doing. I don’t want to paint a gloomy picture, because the truth remains that social media is still an extremely powerful way to market your business.
And I think social media is especially important for small businesses, because they don’t have titanic marketing budgets to spend on traditional advertising mediums, like television ads. To help you move forward while avoiding the pitfalls, we’re going to take a closer look at the most important things to remember when advertising your small business via social media.
1. Develop a Strategy - Don't 'Wing It'
Before you even create a Facebook page for your business or post a single tweet, you need to create a plan. Winging it isn’t going to create effective results unless you are uncommonly lucky, in which case you should probably buy a lottery ticket. Start by defining exactly what it is you want to achieve, and how that will help your business grow. Just make sure the goals are achievable.
For example, you may want to target growth goals such as increasing Facebook followers by 7% each month, and increase your Twitter following by 10% a month. You’ll also want to create an outline for creating content that will provide value to your audience. After the first month, if you didn’t achieve your goal it’s time to course correct. Don’t try to set a goal of getting 100,000 followers in a month from one piece of viral content.
2. Select the Best Marketing Channels
There seems to be a million and one social media platforms these days. Though Facebook is the largest, there are others to consider such as Twitter, Google+, Tumblr, Pinterest, Instagram, and LinkedIn. While the options are plentiful, don’t get so bogged down by all the options that you fail to select the right ones for your business. Sometimes, too many choices is a bad thing.
But which one is the best? Well, that depends on your industry.
For instance, if you are in the Food & Beverage industry, you may want to focus on visual social media, such as posting pictures of your decadent food on Instagram and Pinterest, and then sharing that content through Facebook.
Conversely, if your business helps people clean up their resumes and CVs, you may make a greater impact focusing on building awareness through a B2B platform like LinkedIn.
Go where the fish are, not where you want them to be because you're familiar and comfortable with it.
3. Use Tools to Multiply Your Efforts
Human beings have been using tools since the dawn of time. And the good news is that there are some really useful social media tools that will help you keep up with your online posts without losing your sanity, so it's only fair that I mention some of the more popular tools.
First of, you may want to consider using Hootsuite, which helps you manage your presence across 35 different social networks. It also helps you track what users are saying about your business, and essentially gives you one central hub to manage all of your accounts. Then there’s Buffer which, when combined with Snip.ly, can be very powerful for automating and bringing people back to your site.
Speaking of Buffer & Snip.ly, download our free social media guide to get the exact steps to setting these up and using them effectively on your own website.
There's also, Sprout Social, which helps to aggregate social messages and reactions through a single-stream inbox. It’ll help schedule posts, publish content, and manage customer engagement.
And these are just a few useful tools – there are hundreds, if not thousands of them.
4. Don't Try to Please Everyone
Trying to please everyone will end up pleasing no one. When you’re on social media, you expose your business to the masses. Even if you have the best quality product or service within your industry, you’re still going to run into your fair share of whackos, trolls, and genuinely dissatisfied customers.
Also, consider that your target audience (and individual market segments) have special and unique needs, goals, desires, and perceptions of the world around them. Trying to please everyone will only ignore the unique needs of your audience, and thus fail to help them, provide value, and make an impact in their life. However, if you please your target audience above all others, you might even naturally recruit some product evangelists who will help spread the word about your business...for free
5. Don't Neglect Your Audience
With all the automatic social media tools, you might think you can just “set it an forget it” for months at a time. But failing to engage with your audience is a cardinal social media sin. You need to be constantly interacting with your audience to stimulate engagement. Otherwise, you’ll look like a pre-programmed robot. The sooner you can respond to your audience, the better.
It’s hard to discern the ins and outs of social media, especially if you’ve never marketed your small business online before. However, adhering to these best practices will put you ahead of other self starters. They say a smart person can learn from their own mistakes, but a wise person can learn from the mistakes of others. Remember to keep these tips in mind to avoid common small business social media pitfalls.