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Social media marketing for small business

By Absar Kazmi

Social media affects most people every day. It has revolutionized communication, and it has opened up a new platform for businesses to communicate with their customers and partners. It’s much more than a buzzword. For business, especially small business, it’s a major marketing opportunity.

With a concrete business plan and some investment of time, social media offers a way to propel business growth. The following are just a few of the benefits of social media for small businesses:

  • One-to-one communication channel with customers.
  • Honest and clear feedback about your current portfolio and new products.
  • Extending the voice of your brand by producing and distributing exclusive content, which can be shared further creating greater brand exposure.

In short, social media offers a huge platform for word-of-mouth marketing about your brand and products.

Contrary to what many people suggest, marketing a business on social media is not easy, fast or free. It’s challenging for many small and medium sized businesses to use social media to engage their audience and promote themselves. Savvy businesses realize early on that it is all about engaging your audiences with the right content – and promotions.

Although all social media platforms (Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram etc.) are free, the notion that it will not cost you money to promote yourself is naive. Like any marketing, social media marketing requires investment of time (mostly) and money (some).

How can a small business manage social media campaigns to get the best response within their means? The following tips will definitely help:

Know Your Audience and Where It Is

Each social media platform has a different type of demographic. You need to identify which platform has your target audience. This requires a careful study of each platform, followed by a targeted approach.

Below is a list of the top 10 social media sites in order of number of monthly visitors:

Site

Estimated Unique Monthly Visitors

Facebook

1,100,000,000

YouTube

1,000,000,000

Twitter

310,000,000

LinkedIn

255,000,000

Pinterest

250,000,000

Google Plus+

120,000,000

Tumblr

110,000,000

Instagram

100,000,000

Reddit

85,000,000

VK

80,000,000

Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are the platforms with the largest number of users, but if your audience is on Tumblr, you need to focus on Tumblr. It takes time and effort to build a noticeable presence on any social media platform, so be patient. Certain tools such as Followerwonk and Spiderqube can help.

Also, remember that quality always beats quantity. Having 2,000 followers that read, share and talk about your content is much better than 20,000 followers that are dormant, or vanish after connecting with you.

Participate in the conversation rather than just selling.

First, listen to the conversation about your industry. Get to understand customer issues. Then, join the conversation. Be a part of the community before you yell “buy my product!” Just jumping into a conversation and saying “buy my product” will annoy your audience; instead be a part of the discussion and offer solutions to customer concerns.  Then, when the time is right, you can jump up and say “Here I am. Why don’t you consider my product?” Remember, on social media you have to strike a balance between listening, educating and promoting.

A rule of thumb is that your content should be a maximum of 20% promotional material. If you talk about yourself all the time, chances are that no one will see what you have to say. So it is better to spark a conversation that adds value than just saying “Buy from us!”

An Online Fashion Example

Uniqlo, a Japanese casual wear designer, wanted to get the word out about its new “dry mesh t-shirts.” It had to try something different to rise above the noise of other online fashion campaigns on social media.

Uniqlo chose Pinterest as its primary social media platform and – using a novel strategy – got 100 users to simultaneously re-pin its post. This effectively hijacked the feeds of other pinners logged in at the time, and all these users saw were Uniqlo’s t-shirts turning, flipping and changing colors as they scrolled. This gained Uniqlo around 55 million impressions without using paid media and more than 6,000 mentions on Twitter.

Influencers are a potent driving force.

Seek people or entities that influence your market and narrow them down to the ones that are interested in your product, service or brand. These are the people you need to connect with. Local businesses need local influencers. Get into their good graces by proving yourself to be an authoritative and interesting source of information.

If they trust you and like your content, they will share it with their followers and put you in the spotlight. Developing a relationship with influencers might not get you results quickly but it will definitely pay off in the long run.

Start your campaign early.

You don’t need to wait until you launch your business to build and run a social media campaign. On the contrary, sign up with your social media accounts and make your presence felt by creating and/or sharing industry information. Work towards becoming a resource of information, connect with others in your industry and begin talking. When you finally launch, you will already have a following.

Content, content, content!

Words cannot explain how important content is to a social media campaign. Original, engaging, informative, relevant, specific – your content has to be all this and more for people to share it. If your content is not discussion worthy, chances are your online business won’t be either.

There is so much content on social media today that it’s easy for overwhelmed users to become disinterested. If you publish amazing content, your followers will share it across all platforms. This will attract more followers, and your audience can increase manifold.

Also remember that you can’t just publish content and sit back and relax. You need to engage your audience talking about your content and continue generating new quality content. Online fans are fickle. If your engagement is lacking and if you disappear for even a small duration you will be forgotten.

Also, it is very important to develop content that benefits your audience. Tips, offers or best practices help.

Creating content is by no means easy and is a continuous job, so you need to plan ahead and make a content plan or calendar. A content calendar will detail what will be posted and when. It helps create campaigns for special events such as Mother’s Day or Valentines. A content plan helps you regularly churn out good content by helping you decide what to post.

Many small business owners often don’t have the writing, marketing, or technology skills to produce worthwhile and effective content. Hiring a freelance public relations or marketing specialist to develop the content and special online promotions can be the difference between success and failure in social media.

Acknowledgment and reciprocity

Be there for your audience. Good feedback is always welcome, but you have to do the same with negative feedback. Acknowledge every person who reaches out to you, be it positive or negative. Everyone needs to know that you are present and active.

Data and analytics.

There are some helpful analytics tools that provide insight into your social media performance. These insights include data about your followers, your channel and what other social media users that are saying about you. Below are some excellent free and paid tools you can use:

Free

Description

Paid

Description

Buffer

Gives you all major engagement statistics from Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn

Keyhole

Keyhole is excellent at hashtag campaign tracking. It provides a whole array of statistics to assess the popularity of a branded hashtag

Followerwonk

Provides a detailed breakdown of followers and activity

AgoraPulse

Is amazing at Identifying your greatest fans and followers

ViralWoot

This tool for Pinterest provides analytics and also lets you schedule pins, promote pins, and gain new followers

Brandwatch

Accommodates huge amounts of data and supports unlimited users.

Iconosquare

A comprehensive Instagram management tool

CyberAlert

Excellent tool for monitoring what people are saying about your business on social media. Includes analytics too.

Google Analytics

Google analytics is primarily used for analyzing website traffic

CrowdBooster

A tool for Twitter and Facebook; it compiles stats into a customizable dashboard. Includes insights on followers, ideal time to post, stats and mentions that warrant more attention

 

Although the overall objective is similar, choose the one you like best, use these tools, study the data, make sense of the analytics and steer your social media campaign based on the results.

Visual Treat

There is no denying it! Images get more engagement on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Pinterest, Snapchat and Instagram are all about images and nothing else. Thus, visuals are a must for social media campaigns.

One size does not fit all.

A general trend on social media is to make one post and post it to all platforms. This is never as effective as customizing your message for each platform.

Each platform has its own unique offering and features, which is why the audience of each varies in behavior. That’s why it’s imperative for posts to be optimized for a specific platform.

A Charity Example

Sevenly, a California-based charity, uses social media to raise awareness for nonprofits and its brand.

Everyone wants to help a good cause, but sometimes people are unable to donate. Therefore, instead of asking people to donate, Sevenly asked them to like and share its cause on social media. This not only boosted their brand image, but also raised awareness for the cause!

Communities.

There are thousands of interest-based communities on social media channels. Become a member of a community relevant to your business. Relevant communities let you present your message to a targeted audience which can be in the hundreds of thousands. Leveraging communities can get your message across far and wide. Engage the community and provide useful, insightful and pertinent information/content and you will see wonders happening.

Bottom Line: Social media is a uniquely placed marketing vehicle that can immensely benefit any business, big or small. However, as we all know, there is no such thing as a free lunch and social media is no an exception to this rule. Reaping the benefits of the personal reach of social media requires careful planning, meticulous execution and – of course – time and money.