Running a small business isn’t easy. It’s a labor of love. It’s a thankless job. Your work is never done, and there’s just enough time for you to eat, sleep then get up the next day to do it all over again. With so many balls in the air, some might debate, for a small business to invest in a social media strategy might be the best use of their already limited time. However this is only a question because very few entrepreneurs have been able to effectively leverage the medium to convert leads into customers.
When you consider that the average person currently is on pace to spend 5 years, 4 months on social media during their lifetime (almost twice as long as they'll spend eating and drinking) it’s impossible to discredit as way to earn new customers. But how? With such slim margins of error for small businesses, having a solid plan is essential. Here are 6 best practices for social media marketing your small business:
1. Be A Thought Leader, Not A Spammer
Step one in becoming an effective social media business marketer is understanding how to, and more importantly, how not to use the platform. The most common mistake we see small businesses make is SPAMMING. People don't log onto Twitter to see your commercials. They are there to be entertained, informed and/or pass the time. Help them do that!
The easiest way to be heard is by listening, and only speaking when you have something important to say. Social media critics often argue that the medium is a digital version of speaking to yourself and hoping someone hears you. We don't talk ourselves into a conversation, instead we listen for cues that inform us, then add on to the conversation where we can add value.
Let's not forget social media used to be called social networking. People will only hear you if you're part of an existing conversation. By providing introspective and engaging content that makes people think or feel, they'll follow you and next time anticipate that what you have to say will evoke that same response.
By providing introspective and entertaining content that makes people think or feel, they'll follow you and next time anticipate that what you have to say will again evoke that same response.
Helpful Hack: Use the 10-4-1 Social Media Posting Rule. This golden rule of social allows you to maintain balance across your networks. For every 15 posts scheduled to be written and posted to your social networks, 10 of them should be curated sources like other blogs, 4 should be your own original content and then, and only then, should you feel free to post a Call-To-Action. This can direct them to a landing page on your site where they can fill out a form to download an offer like an e-book, whitepaper, case study or webinar registration.
2. Target Better
Spend some time doing some research on your current customer. Consider surveying customers you've developed good rapport with, asking them questions about:
- where they work
- where they shop
- what a typical day looks like
- what are their challenges/ what keeps them up at night
- how they define success
- how they communicate
- how often the travel and where
By asking these questions you'll discover some common threads among your best customers. These traits or attributes speak to why they're attracted to your product or service. For more on how to use these characteristics check out my blog on buyer personas.
Helpful Hacks: Try to find others on social media who display similar characteristics as they'll likely be good leads for your business. Facebook does a great job of listing those attributes right in user profiles. You can tailor your search for individuals with that fit your specific criteria.
If you're targeting B2B (Business-to-Business), take a look at LinkedIn's profile fields. Those who share the same job title as your best customers are likely to be great leads for your business. Not sure what they are? Ask your customers to share their resumes with you. Go through and highlight the common words you see. These are a great starting point for searching for leads.
Do you prefer pictures? Browse the Pinterest boards of your customers. (Remember 81% of Pinterest users are female. If you're targeting women and don't have an account on Pinterest, create one before reading further.) If you notice they ‘pin’ similar content, this can help cue you into what resonates with that audience. Use that as a baseline not only when creating content but to consider when branding. Everything from colors to imagery should be reflective of what inspires your best customer to be...your best customer.
3. Provide Value
To me, this is the true golden rule of social media. Before you hit submit, ask yourself a 2 simple questions:
1. Will this add value? Everything you post should be enriching the lives of your followers. It may sound grandiose but it's true. The internet has become a receptacle for mindless chatter, fake news and sub-par content. In order for you to break through the noise in this boneyard of data, your content must leave the reader enlightened, if not entertained.
2. If so, to whom? It's impossible to be important to everyone. This is why targeting is so important. When drafting a post for social media, think about who you're attempting to impact. Will they care? If not, then consider structuring the post so they do or scrap it all together. Don't waste your time being the hero to the wrong audience. If you're not impacting your best customer, don't bother.
4. Grow an Organic Following
Have you ever looked at an Instagram page and see just 8 posts, all from this past month, with 15,000 followers and get steaming mad? Stop! It's not real! It’s a social media ponzi scheme. They've used a series of bots, tools and techniques to fabricate a network. In the age of catfish and Russian election bots, it’s easy to create dummy profiles to boost numbers, break hearts and influence elections. This is why followers is not true measure of influence, nor is your ratio of followers to following. Don't get sucked into that trap.
Instead, focus on growing an organic following. Invest in engaging real people with great content. The more you give, the more you get. This means follow back. Social media can't be a one way street. You gain much more by following a user, especially if they're a target buyer, than you do by them following you. Social celebrities have created a false sense of stature by showcasing huge followings while following as few individuals as possible. However if you're a small business, your objectives are different. You're seeking to convert new buyers. If you post frequently and consistently and add value to your follower's lives, you'll experience slow but steady growth that will serve you well in the long run.
Helpful Hack: Invest in social listening technology. Tool like SproutSocial, Hootsuite and Hubspot monitor digital conversations to understand what users are saying about your brand online. In addition to what your customers are saying, you can find out what others are saying about your competition and the industry at large. By gaining insight and understanding about what they like and want, you can join the conversation and stand in the gap.
5. Understand Hashtags and Use Them Effectively
Hashtags are simply words or phrases preceded by the pound sign to group conversations together and identify messaging on a specific topic. Think of them like keywords. In certain platforms like twitter and Instagram you can click on them and find all the similar posts that used the same hashtag recently or those that gained the most traffic. Instagram now even lets you follow hashtags in your feed exposing you to everyone (with a public profile) who's included them in a post in real time. These little boogers are great if you understand how your customers are using them.
Hashtags are great for branding as well. For instance, we use #TeamGrassroots. It's our rallying cry and personifies who we are. We tag every social media post with it, so anyone looking for our content or that of our fans or followers can simply click or search the hashtag for relevant content. It's important however, to keep it unique to your business. If we used #marketing for instance, we would get lost in the clutter with all the millions of others using the hashtag.
Helpful Hack: Again, spend time paying attention to the social feeds of your best customers. Make note of the hashtags that appear frequently and be sure to tag your posts with them. This will make other like-minded individuals easily find you. Don't worry, it might not exactly match the content, you're essentially sending out a Bat Signal to all those who might use that hashtag frequently letting them know that this content is for you.
6. Use Calls To Action
You might be saying to yourself, I do all that already! Well, this is perhaps the single most missed opportunity on social media. You must call your user to act! Platforms like Facebook and now Instagram have included common CTAs as options in your profile. Don't assume the user will know what they should do next. Do you want them to call? Fill out a form? Download an offer? Be explicit! You could be creating all this great content on social but if you're not converting it, which we find is more likely the case than not, you're wasting your time. Having a very engaged following is only helpful if they're converting into leads for your business.
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