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A Small Business Guide to Social Media Marketing

For small businesses with limited resources, social media can be the marketer’s best friend. It provides a way to target customers without having to invest large amounts of time or capital.


The potential for financial return and increasing your customer base is virtually limitless with social media. However, if handled wrong, it can have negative and potentially irreparable consequences.


Without social media, your brand may become noncompetitive and have a hard time inspiring loyalty. Having a social media site up and running is only the first step, however. It’s not a campaign you can set up and forget. Social media marketing requires constant monitoring and engagement.


Companies that don’t have a strategy for social media find themselves wading through feeds, posting without consideration, wasting time, and making mistakes. Before launching a social media strategy, you have to evaluate the basics.


Foundational considerations


To begin with, every firm that looks into using social media should have a strong website and blog. Blogs are the foundation for sharing information on social media; they provide readers with authoritative, meaningful content. Your company’s blog posts will become the reference points for many social media updates.


To use social media effectively, your company must develop a strategic plan, determine which platforms to use, and select strategies for success. The following is an overview of how to develop a successful social media strategy for your small business.


Social media plan


Your plan should incorporate social media goals, audience, and brand messaging.


Goals. Social media can increase site traffic, conversions, and brand awareness naturally, so it should be part of every company’s online marketing strategy. Building brand equity and engaging with your consumer base are also measurable goals that can contribute to your ROI metrics.


Audience. To determine your target audience, you’ll have to identify its problems and pain points … and, in turn, how your company will attempt to solve them. By using a language style that speaks to your audience and entering the online communities it frequents, you’ll have a greater chance of making a meaningful connection.


Brand messaging. Creativity factors into brand messaging in social media. The audience should readily grasp your brand’s core identity without it having to read like boilerplate. Using multimedia is a great way to project your brand message in a memorable way. Someone who scans a social media platform will more easily remember infographics, videos, and images.


Choose your platforms


Any software platform a business adopts will need to be routinely updated and monitored. A stagnant social media site can be deadly.


A lack of updates creates a window for unanswered questions and lost opportunities for conversion. Commitment to the appropriate platforms will increase the chances your social media strategy will succeed.


Twitter. The short messaging forum connects people with interests, updates, and quips from people they wish they knew. Your firm can use Twitter to convey time-sensitive information about deals and news updates. You can also find ways to connect with your audience on a human interest level.


California-based company Park View Legal tweets about topics related to improving credit scores. For instance, the company tweeted, “Did you know there are a lot of similarities between having a great credit score and being an NBA champion?”


The tweet offered a link to a “US News” article that included helpful and entertaining information for Park View Legal’s target audience. When you use Twitter, remember to include hashtags and images to promote ideas.


FacebookFacebook has 1.35 billion active monthly users. If you want to reach a community network, Facebook is ideal. Family and friends connect with, like, and share content they know about and love. Check-ins promote business locations.


Images and other multimedia should also be shown on your Facebook page to increase traffic. Facebook even offers a guide to help businesses create a successful page on its platform. Remember to remove URLs when you add a post on Facebook. The site automatically includes a thumbnail and link, which make the URL in the text portion redundant.


LinkedIn. LinkedIn is known as the professional’s social media site. Small businesses may not benefit as much from using this site, but professional services companies use it for networking. If your business uses LinkedIn to share information, remember to tag connections so you’ll ensure relevant information is sent to the right individuals.


Other platformsGoogle+, Pinterest, YouTube, Tumblr, and other social media sites can be useful, depending on your field. It’s important to remember that if you use one of these sites, you must maintain and monitor it regularly.


YouTube is a great way to post video content that can be shared across other social network sites, and has the potential to go viral, leading to overnight campaign success. Pinterest photos should always include descriptions and prices, if applicable. Images need to be visually appealing and enticing to gain a following on Pinterest.


Strategies for success


Once your plan is in place and the platforms your business wants to target are chosen, use these tips to maximize the potential of your strategy.


Incentivize. Sharing deals, discounts, and promotions on social media will draw in readers. Even if they don’t take advantage of an incentive this time, they will be more likely to watch for one in the future.


Share! Not only does sharing others’ work improve your visibility; it increases the likelihood that your content will be shared. Once quality information begins to circulate on social media sites, it gains traction. As a result, the viewership multiplies.


Focus on qualityFocus on the content your company is distributing by listening to (that is, monitoring) what’s of most interest to users online. Having a smaller number of readers who are regular followers of your content is more effective than amassing many more one-time connections.


Use feedback. Users that provide feedback on your site will give your company the opportunity to change opinions or evaluate whether changes need to be made. Embrace negative feedback. It can be an extremely valuable tool for building a successful business.


Track and measure success. Use Google Analytics and other tools to help you determine quantitative ROI from your social media efforts and adjust accordingly.


Social media marketing is no longer an option for small businesses. To increase brand equity factors like market share, profit margins, and reputation, a social media strategy has become a necessity.