Want to make a success of using social media for your small business? Read on for our top tips.
An estimated 4.62 billion people, 58% of the world’s population, use social media channels like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and TikTok. In 2021 alone, global users grew by more than 10%, with 424 million new people signing up.
With figures like that, social media is hard to avoid for small businesses, and for many entrepreneurs, the channels are essential daily tools.
Using social media, you can market to the exact people you want to buy your products or services. You can also use it to build your brand, grow your reputation and connect with investors and other influencers.
There is hardly any business that can’t benefit from social media in some way, but you need to be strategic.
This guide explains how to get it right when it comes to social media for small business.
Choose the Right Channels
When setting up a small business, it’s tempting to register your brand on every social media channel you can find in the hope of reaching as many potential customers as possible. However, most founders will soon find out this isn’t the right approach. You’ll likely get very limited engagement through some channels or you won’t have enough time to regularly post.
To decide which social media channels are most appropriate for your business, you need to think about your target audience. Find out which platforms they use and where they spend most of their time. You might be tempted to focus on the channel you’re most familiar with in your personal life, but if a different channel is where most of your target audience hangs out, that’s where you need to be.
Thinking about the type of business you are and the channel that reflects it the best is important too. For example, Instagram is strong for businesses with a very visual product, Twitter is good for short and snappy conversations, LinkedIn is useful for business-to-business brands and YouTube is beneficial if you have video content. Newer channels, such as TikTok, are becoming increasingly popular, particularly for businesses trying to reach young people.
Being clear about what you want to do on social media is important. If you are going to use it for customer service, Twitter might be the best channel due to its conversational nature. If it’s all about showcasing great images and videos of your products, Instagram or TikTok might be better.
Competitor analysis can also help you make a decision. Research which social media channels they are using and how engaged their audience is.
Finally, think about your time and resources. There are tools you can use to schedule posts (see examples below) but making a success of social media takes time. If you’re on your own or with a very small team you may not have the resources to manage multiple accounts so it might be best to focus on one or two.
Another option is to outsource your social media activity to an external expert. This can be very beneficial but make sure you work with them closely to ensure they are posting content that reflects your brand.
Decide What Content to Post
When thinking about what to post on social media, a very popular way to do it is by following the ‘80/20’ rule. This means that 80% of your content is useful to your audience in that it educates, entertains or provides a solution to a problem, while the remaining 20% are posts that directly promote your products or services.
Useful or entertaining content could be how to guides, inspirational images, funny videos, or topical news stories.
Promotional content includes special offers, product links, customer testimonials, and media coverage you’ve received.
Planning the content you’re going to post is recommended so spend some time working that out. Hootsuite has a great free content calendar template.
User-generated content is a great way to engage your audience. Encourage your followers to post their own content that you can reshare. Asking interesting questions can help attract responses from followers and social media is also a brilliant place to capture customer testimonials.
Linking content to particular holidays or events can be useful. Twitter has a calendar here that highlights examples throughout the year, or you can get milestones emailed every week from Days of the Year.
There are various free or low-cost tools you can use for creating content. We’ve listed some examples below.
Each platform has recommended sizes for images and videos. These regularly change, so make sure to stay on top of these. Hubspot has a useful resource for this.
You don’t need to post everything in real time as there are many scheduling tools but you, or someone else in the business, should regularly check your accounts and reply, like, retweet etc. as appropriate.
If you are using social media as a direct customer service channel, you must be present and respond to queries so soon as possible. If you are only available at certain times for customer service make this clear in your profile information.
Understand the Power of Hashtags
Hashtags, such as #LoveBrighton and #SmallBusiness, allow you to reach groups of people interested in particular topics.
You might be tempted to post content using a very popular hashtag but if you are competing with millions of posts, it will be hard to stand out. It’s better to focus on hashtags that are less popular but are very relevant and increase your chances of being found.
If you are focusing on something particularly local or niche, you might find that hashtags with only a few hundred results will be beneficial because they are being used by a very focused group.
Creating your own brand hashtag can be a nice way to begin building a community around your business.
Most platforms show trending topics which often include hashtags. Just posting something using a trending hashtag doesn’t mean it will benefit your business, but if it’s relevant to your company it could be useful.
Useful Social Media Tools to Utilise
There are many free or low cost tools you can use to create content, schedule posts and measure engagement on social media. Here’s a selection:
Most social media schedulers provide some analytics but more advanced tools include:
How to Grow Your Small Business Social Media Audience
The key to growing your social media audience is being relevant. If your accounts reflect something your audience is interested in they will want to follow you.
You also need to be engaged. While scheduling tools are useful, you also need to show up and get involved. Small business owners have a big advantage over bigger brands in that you are the business and many people are interested in that. Use social media to tell your startup story and build a strong community around your brand.
Promote your social media accounts wherever you can. Put buttons on your website, at the end of blog posts, and in your emails.
Having an opinion on topical subjects can grow your followers. If lots of people are talking about something on social media, you may decide to join in. This can also be useful for connecting with journalists and getting media coverage for your business. Remember though that if it’s a controversial subject, you may not want your brand associated with it.
Monitor what your competitors are doing. Don’t directly copy them but see if you can spot useful tactics they are adopting to grow their followers.
Use social media measurement tools to track which of your posts do well and when. Repeat what works and stop doing what isn’t.
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