More than 70 percent of small businesses plan on using social media for marketing this year, according to data from Infusionsoft. But not all of those businesses have an actual strategy.
Posting content here and there isn’t going to be as effective as going in with a real plan. Every strategy will look a bit different, but there’s no shortage of options to choose from.
Social Media Marketing Strategies
Here are some expert-approved strategies to promote your small business on social media.
Start with One Platform and Build from There
When you’re just getting started building a social media presence, it can be tempting to go all in and attempt to reach people on every platform. But this is a recipe for overwhelm, argues Rachel Strella, founder and CEO of social media management firm Strella Social Media.
She explained in an email interview with Small Business Trends, “We strongly recommend a conservative approach to social media, especially when starting out. I have seen many dive into social media and then fail to maintain their presence simply because they were overzealous. I’m not implying you shouldn’t review what new sites and tools have to offer, but I recommend that you carefully assess their potential benefits for your business before throwing time and money at them.”
Create a Unified Presence
Whether you end up using one social platform or many, it’s important for people to be able to spot your brand anywhere online. It should look professional and consistent with your website and other marketing materials. So update your profile photos and/or header images to go with your branding. And Strella especially stressed the importance of having a professional headshot for LinkedIn, rather than going with the standard avatar.
Put Yourself in Your Audience’s Shoes
Building a content strategy looks a bit different for every business. You’ll never post exactly the same content or topics as anyone else. However, it is always important to post things that are going to be interesting or helpful specifically for your target customers, says Strella. So before posting new content, get in the mindset of your customer persona and ask what you’d want to see.
Use the RITE Formula
RITE is another formula that Strella uses to assess the viability of specific types of content. According to Strella, RITE = Relevant, Interesting, Timely and Entertaining. So essentially, consider every post with those characteristics in mind. Ideally, it will hit at least a few of those check boxes.
Aggregate Content from Your Audience
Sometimes the best way to get the attention of potential customers on social media is to re-post content from current customers. When you aggregate content about your business from other users, it serves as a kind of social proof. It shows people that others just like them use your product or service and love them, whether it’s an Instagram post of a customer wearing your handmade scarf or text from an online review.
Kristi Hines explains via Post Planner, “Anyone can write a few sentences, slap a fake name on it and add a stock photo of a smiling face to create fake testimonials. But utilizing compliments, reviews, and testimonials from social media has a different effect.”
Though social media posts are great, many people still trust official reviews more. Sites like Facebook offer a review function, so it’s a great place to promote positive reviews, which adds some social proof and also reminds other customers to share their thoughts.
Humanize Your Business with Behind the Scenes Media
Anyone can go to your website to learn the basics about your business. But people follow brands on social media to make deeper connections. That means you should show the person(s) behind your business in your post. Share a selfie or go live on Facebook to connect with people face-to-face. Share some video content from your office. Or even go live at a special event with your whole team.
Strella adds, “People form relationships – and relationships are built on trust. Humanizing a business, especially with photos and videos, have often exceeded reach more than any other organic tactic we’ve tried to implement.”
Host a Contest or Challenge
To really get people engaged with your brand, offer an incentive. Host a giveaway or raffle if people use your specified hashtag or post an image or video of your product. There are plenty of ways to personalize this experience to your particular brand and customers.
Monitor Conversations from Your Target Customers
Social media coach Janet Fouts believes that listening is just as important as posting on social media, if not more so. She writes, “On social media sites we can eavesdrop on the conversations and understand what the needs really are and the emotions behind them. Listening to a wide range of conversations on social media gives you a perception of what people really think, unfiltered and, generally, unguided. Be a fly on the wall without an agenda of changing the conversation.”
Another way to learn more about your customers is to simply ask what you want to know. Ask an open ended question to start conversations or host a poll on Twitter or Instagram to get some quantifiable data.
Stick to Your Own Voice
One of the keys to social media is consistency. Another is authenticity. People who follow you want to feel like they actually know you. So don’t constantly switch between posting techniques or tones or change up your content whenever there’s a fleeting trend. Instead, go for an authentic approach and actually post how you would when talking to a friend. If you have multiple people posting to your account, make sure they understand the voice you’re trying to convey or even have a similar style naturally.
Strella says, “Customers are media savvy and can see through a fake facade very quickly. Therefore, increasingly, people prefer to stick to brands that have a unique, individual voice, especially when it comes to the service industry where personal branding is everything. In a competitive marketplace, authenticity also stands out as one of the most appealing traits.”
Don’t ONLY Automate
Automating social media posts can save you a lot of time when it comes to things like promoting blog posts or aggregating content. But you shouldn’t rely on it solely. Set aside at least some time each day to check in on your network and look for opportunities to start conversations.
Strella adds, “The benefits of automation for marketing and time/costs savings is enormous. However, automation should not replace the human element when it comes to marketing on social media. Find ways to connect with your followers in a genuine, empathetic, human way, as often as you can. Building an authentic relationship with your audience goes a long way in ensuring that they will continue to enjoy your brand, recommend it to others, and stay loyal customers for a long time to come.”
Host Regular Live Sessions
There is one increasingly popular tactic that allows you to show off a behind the scenes view of your business while also increasing follower engagement in a really authentic way — live streaming. You can host live sessions on Facebook or Instagram at a set time each week or month so your audience knows when to tune in. Then you can also repurpose that content.
Digital media strategist Ileane Smith explains, “One of the biggest benefits of live streaming is the engagement and all of the feedback that you can get from your audience in real-time.There’s also the added benefit of the longevity of the replay and one of the things that you can do with every play is convert it into an episode for your podcast.”
Host a Flash Sale
If you want to increase sales quickly, you might host a flash sale that’s only available to people who follow you on social media. You can even unload surplus goods just by posting photos on Instagram or Facebook and having people bid in the comments.
Monitor Your Mentions and Respond
The thing that really sets social media apart from other communication methods is that it’s a two-way street. You don’t just broadcast messages to your audience — they use it to get in touch with you. So it’s super important that you monitor those messages regularly and respond.
Strella says, “This can result in hard feelings and missed opportunities. When people engage with you on social media, they expect a response promptly.”