Most of us use social media extensively in our personal lives. But making it work effectively for small business marketing can be tricky. We need to approach social media differently when we apply it to our businesses. And it must be part of an overall marketing strategy to produce the results we want to achieve.
It’s not about you
Personal social media is all about you. Most of us post almost exclusively about ourselves and the things which are relevant to us in the world. But business social media strategies need to start with your customers and their view of the world. Before you post anything about your business, ask yourself why your customers and potential customers would care about what you’re saying. If you can’t answer the question quickly and easily, you probably shouldn’t post it.
It doesn’t matter how you want to go market
It only matters how your customers want to be marketed to. What’s inside their heads? What are their needs? What social media platforms do they engage on? What can you say that will be helpful to them? What do their customers think is important?
In order to answer these questions correctly, you need to have a clear picture of who your target customers really are. As much as you might want to, you can’t sell to everyone. Narrow your focus until you can describe all of your potential customers with less than 6 characteristics or traits. That’s who you want to target.
It’s all about engagement
Once you know your audience and you’ve determined how they want to be marketed to, you must engage them with content that is relevant, interesting, and compelling. At least 80% of the content should be educational and engaging. Less than 20% of it should be about you or your business. Be helpful. Be responsive. Be succinct. Be authentic.
Tell a story
Everyone loves a good story. Most good stories follow a simple formula: they feature a hero who has a goal. The hero encounters an obstacle. Someone (it could be you or your business!) helps them remove or get around that obstacle. The hero achieves her goal. The story ends with a moral or lesson which might relate to your business, service, or product. Be subtle.
You need a good web site
Everything you do online should link back to your web site. Think of it as the hub, with the other digital channels as the spokes. A good website has 3 main characteristics:
Succinct, specific calls to action. Don’t just throw a bunch of information onto your site and hope some of it sticks. You’ll lose people in the first 2 to 3 seconds.
Intuitive Navigation. Follow contemporary templates and standards for your page designs. Don’t make people scroll down.
More about them than you. Use interesting photos of people and places which look like your customers and where they live. Do not put a long list of your products or services on your web site! Every page should look meaningful to your customers. Entertain and inform them.
Keep your content fresh
Every small business owner is short on time and money. How do you constantly find and post fresh content without it turning into your full time job or hiring someone to do it for you? Start by scheduling time on your calendar, perhaps 1 hour per day, 4 days per week. Look at what your competitors, customers, and industry leaders are posting. Share things you like from other industries your audience may not be viewing. Curate content from others, perhaps adding your own summary of key points to the beginning of an article. Just be sure not to plagiarize copyrighted material. Give credit where credit is due.
Build your following
Likes and Shares often don’t directly get you business, but they do drive awareness of your company, products, and services. The best way to get Likes and Share is to give Likes and Shares – pay it forward. If you can help drive sales for others, they will reciprocate. Develop a mutually beneficial partnership with non-competitors who seem to share your philosophy, culture, or style. Help them help you.
Use the appropriate platforms
Not sure which social media channels to focus on? There are many to choose from, and you don’t want to dilute your focus too much. In general, if you’re selling to consumers, Facebook should be a key platform. (Just be sure to set up a Business Page – don’t try to use your personal profile.) If your customers are other businesses, make LinkedIn a key part of your strategy. After that, look at what your customers use. You may hate Twitter, but if that’s where your customers live, you’re going to have to use it. Track the general effectiveness of each platform by using a different call to action on each one. You’ll soon figure out what’s working.
What about a blog?
Building a following for your own blog is a great way to keep people engaged with you and your business. But not everyone is a good blogger. And the average length of an effective blog in 2016 was 2,000 to 2,500 words. If you can’t commit to generating that length of fresh content at least once per week, it’s probably best not to tackle that right now. As you build your business, you may find you have enough discretionary funds to pay a professional.
Now, get started
Choose a platform. Use their tutorial and instructional videos to learn how to build an effective profile. Post at least 3 times per week. Be patient. After 30 to 60 days, take everything you’ve learned and build the next platform. Repeat and enjoy the results.
Get free help for your business social media strategy
Visit www.score.org to connect with a local certified SCORE mentor.
Ed Weiser is an experienced mentor with SCORE Central Oregon. His other volunteer passions include Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office Search And Rescue, Discover Your Forest interpretive programs, and Bucket List facilitation. Ed can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org