How to Use Social Media for Small Business
1. Start with a plan
Social tools are easy to use and you can get started with organic posts for free. That might make it tempting to dive in and just start posting. But like every good business strategy, using social media for small business success needs to start with a good plan.
Without a plan, you have no clear goal for what you’re trying to achieve. That means there’s no way to measure your results. Take the time to create a social media plan right upfront. This ensures that all your social efforts support specific business goals.
Set social media goals and objectives. Create goals that follow the SMART framework. They should be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely. Base your goals on metrics that will have a real impact on your business. For example, aim to acquire customers or raise your conversion rate, rather than simply racking up likes.
Research the competition. How are your competitors using social media? While you don’t want to copy them, learning from what others have done is a great way to reduce your learning curve. A competitive analysis can help you learn what’s working and what’s not for other businesses like yours.
Conduct a social media audit. If you’re already using social media, now’s the time to take a step back and evaluate your existing efforts. As part of your audit, look for impostor accounts that may be stealing your online thunder. We’ve got a easy-to-use social media audit template to walk you through the process.
Find inspiration. You’ve looked at what your competitors are doing online, but what about other businesses? Take inspiration from the success of businesses in all industries. Where can you find these success stories? Head to the business section of most social networks and you’ll find useful case studies. It’s also a great idea to ask existing followers what they want to see more of, then give them exactly what they ask for.
Create a social media calendar. A social media calendar helps you post the right content to the right social channels at the right time. It should include a plan for your content mix. Try starting with the 80-20 rule. Use 80% of your content to inform, educate, or entertain your audience. Use the other 20% to promote your brand or sell your products.
Decide which platforms are right for you
Don’t make assumptions about where your audience spends their time online. Your instinct might tell you that if you’re targeting millennials, you should skip Facebook and focus on Instagram and Snapchat. But the data shows that 84% of millennials still use Facebook.
Know your audience
One reason using social media for business is so effective is that you can micro-target your audience. But first, you need to understand who your audience is.
Start by compiling data on your current customers. Then, dig deeper with social media analytics. You’ll start to develop a solid picture of who’s buying from and interacting with you online.
Imperfect Foods gained important audience insights with Pinterest’s interest targeting. The company sells produce boxes filled with “ugly” fruits and vegetables. This food is perfectly good for eating, but it doesn’t meet the visual standards required for sale in grocery stores. Without these produce boxes, the food would be wasted.
The unique benefit of social media marketing for small business is that it allows you to talk directly to customers and followers. You can build relationships over time, rather than asking for a sale upfront.
More than 40% of digital consumers use social networks to research new brands or products. Part of that discovery is getting to know who you are as a brand and what you stand for.
Share compelling visuals whenever you can
People have come to expect social posts to include a visual component.
The images shared on social drive real-world action. More than half of millenials and Gen Z internet users said their most recent fashion buys were based on images they saw on social media.
Use the right tools
The secret to using social media effectively is to take advantage of tools that automate or simplify much of the work. There are loads of tools to help boost your productivity. That means you can start using social media for business without having a full-scale social media team.
Here are some of our favorites:
Engagement management. Social media is not a broadcasting system—it’s a way to engage with customers and fans. Social media management tools like Hootsuite can help you centralize all mentions and messages directed at your company in one dashboard. Then you can respond and engage without having to log into each of your individual social media accounts.
Analytics. Getting all of that information in one place can help you get a better picture of your social efforts overall. Brandwatch allows you to create in-depth reports. Hootsuite Insights provides a great overview of how well you’re capturing the conversation in your space.
Graphics. If you’re having trouble creating eye-catching images for your posts, turn to tools that will help get the job done. VSCO, Piktochart, and Canva are some of our favorites. You can find more photo-editing tools in our post on how to edit Instagram photos.
Content curation. It can be a struggle to come up with new content to share every day. Content curation is the art of sharing quality posts from others (with credit, of course). It can be a great way to provide value for your followers and keep them engaged. Tools like BuzzSumo and Pocket can help you find and organize content to share. You can find more content curation tools in our beginner’s guide to content curation.