Small business owners ask us every day: Should my business be on social media? Our answer: Absolutely. But we understand that the process of creating social media accounts with a good ROI can be daunting, so we’ve put together this social media guide for small businesses.
Who? Every Business
If your business is not online, you practically don’t exist, and customers expect to be able to follow you wherever they are, whether it’s Facebook or LinkedIn or Instagram. One of the biggest misconceptions about social media marketing is that you can just hand off control of the accounts to any youngster who has a Facebook account. Would you trust a kid to drive your business? Social media should be an essential part of your marketing strategy, and the person who holds those keys should be someone who thoroughly understands the business.
What? On-Brand, Shareable Content
You certainly will want to share news about your business’s upcoming events, sales, promotions or contests. But you should also let your company have personality. Social media is a two-way conversation: If you only use it as a way to blast marketing messages, people will stop listening. Take the time to understand how people use the social network and what they want to hear from you. With social media, the visuals are just as important as the message, if not even more important. The greatest thing about social media is how passionate followers can amplify your message. If your business posts something worth sharing, it can go viral and reach audiences organically. Studies have shown that the most shared posts right now on Facebook are images, and Instagram is all about images too. (If you want to get scientific about your images, check out this post from Curalate.)
Why? To Reach Your Audience Organically
Social networking is not just for megabrands: Local and small businesses are seeing the benefits of social media marketing. Because social networks rank high in search results, having strong social media presences will help bolster your company’s reputation. And don’t forget that social media is a great way to interact with your customers — and potential customers. Customers expect to be able to reach you through Facebook or Twitter if they have an issue or question. When customers are coming to you, they expect and need prompt responses.
When? Every Day
When is the best time to post on social media? It depends on the network and on your audience. Occasionally studies pop up claiming that a very specific hour and day is definitively the best time for companies to post on Facebook or Twitter. But if every business followed that advice, users would soon realize that their feeds are flooded with marketing messages every Tuesday at 3 p.m. and audiences would tune it out. Plus, the social media landscape changes so fast that “the best” time one month could be totally terrible the next month. Even if you don’t post every day, you should at least check in on your accounts daily to monitor activity and respond to comments. Inactive accounts, at best, make it seem like your company isn’t very busy or doesn’t care about its audience. At worst, inactive accounts can be overrun with spam comments and complaints, drowning out your message. Also, don’t limit your activity to business hours. Many businesses only put up posts from 9 to 5, which is a mistake. If you schedule posts for the weekends and the evenings, you will have fewer other messages to compete with.
Where? Wherever Your Audience Is
We know there are a lot of social networks to consider. Here’s a cheat sheet for you to see the basics of each major network:
- Facebook: This social media giant has more than 1.2 billion users worldwide. People are encouraged to sign up with their real names and can connect with friends and “like” the Pages of businesses, celebrities and organizations. Users can share text, photos, links and videos with the world or with just select friends.
- Twitter: More than 200 million users have Twitter accounts, which allows them to share messages of less than 140 characters, including images, links and videos, and follow friends, celebrities and other personalities. Unlike Facebook, there’s no requirement for users to register with their own names. There’s no distinction between individuals and organizations, and accounts can be private or public.
- Instagram: This photo-sharing social network is available for iOS and Android phones and has more than 150 million users. Users take pictures, modified with filters and basic photo editing options, and post them with short descriptions and hashtags. Businesses can create user accounts.
- YouTube: You know this site is all about sharing videos. Google has owned YouTube since 2006, so Google accounts are necessary, but anyone can watch public videos without registering. The site has 800 million unique users per month and businesses can create user accounts.
- Google+: Google’s social network has about 300 million users monthly and works similarly to Facebook, but also allows users to have live videochat and Hangouts, which can be broadcast publicly. Users can create Pages for businesses, just like Facebook.
- Pinterest: This site works as a virtual pinboard for users to collect and share images that inspire them, with links back to the original sources. Most of the 70 million users are adult women. Businesses can also create user accounts.
- LinkedIn: Think of this like a Facebook for professionals, a social network based on users’ resumes. LinkedIn has about 260 million registered users, largely people with at least a college education, who can connect with coworkers and friends. Registered LinkedIn users can create a company page for a business.
Bonus Question: What the Heck is a Hashtag?
It’s essentially a keyword used to describe the content of a post. Most social networks will let people search by a hashtag to see what people are saying about a specific topic, such as #newyears or #scandal. People also use hashtags to make jokes. #theyreallydo. Note: Hashtags cannot contain punctuation aside from the initial pound sign.
Jump in and get started! If you feel overwhelmed, look to social media tools such as Hootsuite and Buffer to schedule posts and help you stay organized. Remember that keeping your branding consistent across all platforms is essential. If you need help, our experts can get you going with social media strategies that have real ROI. Contact St. Gregory Group here.