If you're on a limited budget, social media can be your most effective way of promoting your business. Don't be fooled though; just because it's cost-effective doesn't mean it requires little effort. You can't expect to put anything on social media and see it go viral. Instead, you need to put time into your channels to get the most out of them.
For small business (who often don't have a dedicated social media person), it can be hard to juggle social media with your other tasks. You may also be unfamiliar with social media - even if you have your own personal accounts, it's very different to running accounts to your business.
With this in mind, here's seven tips that should help you establish a good social media presence and use your accounts well.
1. Social media is a two-way street
This is a pitfall both small and large businesses fall into. When you use social media, you shouldn’t simply put out messages and leave it at that; you need to listen to what your audience are telling you. Sadly, it won’t always be nice. If someone has a valid complaint, take it on board as feedback and understand how you can improve your customer experience.
Similarly, your audience may have questions they need answering. There’s many reasons they’ll choose social media over phone or email – for instance, it may be easier to share photos or videos relating to the enquiry, or it may be in relation to a post they’ve seen on your channels. Make sure you answer these, otherwise your audience will feel disillusioned. If you answer quickly with a good amount of information, they’ll (likely) be happy.
Don’t forget to celebrate your followers too! If you get a nice bit of feedback or a lovely photo, share it with your audience. Not only does customer feedback resonate with your audience, that customer will feel valued. Depending on your line of work, you may even wish to highlight their own achievements, such as someone who’s won an award.
2. Focus on making one or two platforms great
It makes sense to market your business in as many places as possible, right? While that may seem logical, the downside is that you’re spreading yourself thin. The same applies with social media. You may want to create accounts for your business on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and TikTok, but can you effectively and consistently run them all? If you create five social media channels but you’re only able to update two, people who look at the other three channels may think your business is dormant.
Start off with one or two social media channels and spend some time developing them. Get to grips with your writing and visual style, what kind of content you want to share, and what your audience wants to see. You should work on these channels to a point where they’re maintaining their success before adding another platform. You’ll also need to consider your workload – if you’re a business with only a few members of staff, are they able to look after loads of social media channels if they have more immediate tasks to do?
3. Make the most of your local network
For a lot of small businesses, there’s a good chance your biggest audience will be in the local area. If that’s the case, why not connect with other businesses or key influencers? Make sure you follow and regularly engage with your local network on social media; not only is it good to support other businesses, but you’ll create a community of people who’ll support you in return.
You could go one step further and make a list of key people within your local network. This can best be done on Twitter using its Lists feature. That way, you can see what they’re tweeting out and engage where necessary. You could also search for local accounts who promote commerce, small businesses, town/city life, etc. These accounts are usually happy to promote things you’re doing, such as events you’re hosting.
You shouldn’t limit yourself to local businesses, though. Follow social media accounts that are relevant to what you do – for example, a bakery may want to follow influential bakers across the world for inspiration. The more people you follow, the more followers you’ll get in return.
4. Schedule regular content
You won’t always be able to update social media, especially if you’re doing a bunch of other tasks at the same time. Instead of rushing to keep your channels up to date, take a little time out of your day to plan out your content. Write what you want to put out, get any photos/videos/links to go with it, and schedule it to go out at a certain time and date. By spreading out your content, you can target your audience at different times and days of the week, instead of all at once (which would likely attract a smaller range of people).
This doesn’t mean you need to schedule everything. There’s loads of benefits to posting immediately – your content can be more in-the-moment, for one. Channels like Instagram Stories and Snapchat rely on authentic and spontaneous content, so a mix of immediate and scheduled content is your best bet.
5. Showcase your personality
Social media should be a little fun. This is a concept some people fail to understand, and as a result they make their content too formal and rigid. The key is to show your human side, but not try too hard to be “cool”. A lot of your audience (especially younger people) can tell when a business is being inauthentic on social media.
If you want your business to stand out, don’t be afraid to share light-hearted content. Show what your staff are up to, present your products/services in a fun way, or join in with the latest social media trends. This makes your business seem more approachable; for a lot of small businesses, that’s how you stand out over large-scale corporations.
Try thinking outside the box when you create content, and it’ll be easier to show who you are. This could be hosting online competitions, doing live videos (such as unboxing a product) or doing a poll to get your audience involved. Not everything needs to be a straightforward “here is our product” post.
A word of warning: you can be yourself, but you still need to stay professional. Make sure there’s a split between your business’ account and your personal accounts.
6. Advertise your accounts
Having social media accounts will not mean much if nobody is following them. As well as posting regularly, you need to advertise your online presence constantly. Make sure links are available on your website. Include social media links in the signature of your emails. Mention the accounts on flyers, banners, etc. Tell friends and customers about them.
Sometimes, simply saying “we’re on social media” isn’t effective. You need to give people a reason to follow you. What do they get from your account? Is it good customer service, or a first look at great deals, or a behind-the-scenes peek at how your company operates? Never assume your customers will follow you simply because you have an online presence, especially if they’re not regularly users of your service or product.
Once your business grows and your online following increases, you’ll find that more people actively seek out your accounts, and that’s fantastic! However, you should never stop promoting your social media presence.
7. Phone photography is valid
Gone are the days of grainy photos taken on a flip phone – modern phones are perfectly capable of taking great snaps. While professionally taken photos are still an outstanding addition to any website or social media account, phones are more accessible to the average person. There still needs to be a level of skill from the photographer, but that’s largely down to practice.
One of the benefits of phone photography is how quickly a photo can be shared. Take the snap, use an editing tool such as Snapseed to make it look nice, then upload straight to your social media platform of choice. You don’t need to upload the photos to a PC, and you can do it wherever and whenever you want.
Here’s a few tips for making your photos great. First, keep a steady hand when taking a photo. Some people will take the photo and then immediately move the phone away – this causes the photo to be blurred. If needs be, prop the phone up on a table or use a built-in timer function. Second, take multiple photos. That way, you’ve got a range of options and you’re more likely to get something usable. Third, explore the features your phone’s camera has. Many have a pro mode with more customisation options, or a panorama mode for capturing more of the surrounding area. These can effectively be used to take your photography to the next level.