A social media starter kit for small businesses

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Get your audience engaged

For a small business owner, social media is an opportunity to connect with your customers and grow your venture. It can be a cost-effective way to generate leads  and drive traffic to your website. Plus, you can use social media to showcase your expertise and build your brand.

Ultimately, these activities — connections, brand building, driving traffic, establishing expertise — all lead to the same place: sales. Strategic use of social media has the potential to affect your bottom line, and without a huge outlay of money. Not sure how to accomplish this? Our guide will get you started.

Beginner’s guide to social media for small business

We’ll be covering the following topics in this guide:

How to get started with social media for small business

  1. Do your homework
  • Start by listening
  1. Define your strategy
  • Establish your goals
  • Define your target market
  • Identify network-specific content
  • Gauge your commitment level
  • Consider how to add value

 

  1. Create shareable content
  • How to pick the right kind of content
  • Basic content formats
  • Social media campaigns
  • 5 types of content

 

  1. Engage with your fans
  • 5 ways to engage with followers
  • Best practices
  • Social tools
  1. Measure success
  2. Conclusion and next steps

How to get started with social media for small business

Let’s dive into the steps.

1. Do your homework

Start with some research. Which social networks does your target audience use? Where are your competitors? What does each network offer you?

Start by listening

One of the best applications for social media isn’t the sharing/talking/broadcasting part — it’s listening. You’ll find that many smart companies do a great deal of customer service — and image repair — via social media. You can learn a lot about what’s being said about your company and industry when you simply listen.

Moreover, you can gain a sense of what your target audience is talking about and interested in. See what kinds of accounts are popular in your industry. Who’s being followed? What content is resonating? What topics are popular?

Find the right network

You only have so much time and money to devote to social media and it might not make sense for you to be on every social network.

Here are a few questions to ask yourself as you consider which social networks are right for your business:

  • Am I marketing to other businesses or to consumers?
  • Who is my target customer, and what are the key demographics of each network?
  • Will I routinely share pictures? What about videos?
  • Do I want to advertise or pay for “sponsored” content?
  • How much time (or money) do I have available for creating and posting content?

Once you’ve done your homework, it’s time to make some decisions.

2. Define your strategy

You run a business, so you know the importance of strategy. You don’t just jump into manufacturing and marketing a new product without having a strategy in place. Likewise, it’s important to be deliberate in your social media marketing and develop a social media strategy that’s a subset of your overall marketing goals.

Establish your goals

What do you want to accomplish with social media? Facebook shares and likes and retweets on Twitter are not the end-all-be-all. Rather think in terms of business goals. Maybe you want to generate a certain number of leads, inbound calls, or website views or to grow awareness of your brand.

Define your target market

Before you can create content that speaks to your audience, you must know who your audience is.

So, define it:

  • The tone of your language and images might differ based on your audience’s gender. If you’re speaking to a mixed audience, you’ll want to remember to speak to shared experiences and avoid examples that are clearly gender-specific.
  • Consider the age of your audience when you’re selecting pop culture references, visual images and so forth.
  • Education level. Will your audience understand your content? Be sure you use language that is appropriate to your audience’s education level.
  • If you sell artisanal cheeses, you might consider the possible wider interests of your audience, such as fine wines. This gives you a broader range of material to pull from when you craft your content.

In other words, targeting the right users with the right content is key to seeing an increase in sales.

Identify network-specific content 

Are you a company that can offer a lot of visual content? Photographs, for example, are vital for Instagram and are great for Facebook and Pinterest as well. Infographics are also ideal for these platforms.

If you shoot a lot of videos, you can take advantage of Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.

If you blog frequently or post a lot of white papers or reports, you might link to them from Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn. Do you have tips that are easily shareable in a tweet?

Gauge your commitment level 

Consider what kind of commitment you really want to make to social media. How much are you willing to spend? Once you have a budget established, you can figure out what you realistically can expect in terms of a social media editorial calendar. You can always start small and take on more once you see the gains.

Consider how to add value 

As you brainstorm your social media content, ask yourself:

  • What does my company do or make that no one else does?
  • What knowledge or expertise do I have that few others do?
  • What can I offer to my followers that will educate, entertain or inspire them?

If you haven’t nailed down your business’s unique selling proposition, now’s a good time to do it.

3. Create shareable content

When you’ve defined your goals and understand your audience, you can reach them with content that engages them.

How to pick the right kind of content

Ask yourself these questions to determine the best kind of content for your social media channels.

Will my content add value for my audience?

Whether it’s entertaining, inspiring or educational, good content adds value. It makes a person’s job or life easier. It helps them accomplish something. It makes them smile. And all that value inspires them to share your content with their own networks.

Does this piece of content encourage conversation?

We know that social media is about engagement and conversation. So, ask questions and don’t shy away from thought-provoking content.

Basic content formats

Content comes in a few basic formats:

  • Simple blog posts or text-only posts.
  • A picture says a million words on social media.
  • Long-form video works on YouTube. Meanwhile, short videos are great for Facebook and Instagram, Twitter (15 seconds) or Vine (6 seconds).
  • Combination content. You can also combine text and images. For example, you might layer a quote on top of a photograph.

Social media campaigns

Just like any marketing or advertising campaign, a social media campaign requires strategic thinking around the following:

  • Your goal. Make sure you establish a goal and related metrics upfront. What is your call-to-action — that is, what do you want your followers to do as a result of this campaign?
  • Type of content. Depending on your goal, you might rely only on images, for example. To make it easy to track, assign a unique hashtag and use it with all content related to this campaign.
  • Are you creating (and paying writers or editors or designers or video production consultants) specialised content?
  • Establish start and stop dates for your campaign. Look at your social media calendar and make sure your campaign gets adequate play on your various platforms.

5 types of content

Trying to come up with social media content? Don’t forget these five types.

  • How-to. Whether it’s a video demo, a series of photos or simple text, how-to content is incredibly valuable to users. A company that sells blenders might offer content on how to make your own baby food. A cleaning products company could create loads of content on how to get certain stains out of your clothes.
  • Make someone’s day (and motivate them to action) with inspirational content. A personal trainer might post a picture of someone lifting weights with the caption: No one ever got fit by doing nothing.
  • Tug at the heartstrings with emotional content. A greeting card company, for instance, could show a child opening a birthday card from his grandparents.
  • A testimonial or review from a customer is powerful content. Even though it’s about you, it’s not from you. It can be done as text or video — or a quote layered on a photo of the customer.
  • Don’t miss an opportunity to share insights, and don’t be afraid to make it a little personal. For example, the owner of a restaurant might share an insight on the way mealtimes change when people put away their mobile phones.

 4. Engage with your fans

It’s not enough for people to simply see your social media content ­— you want them to listen to and engage with it. So, it helps to ensure it’s not all about you.

No one follows you to hear you talk about yourself. They follow you because you’re sharing interesting information and you’re creating opportunities to engage and relate.

5 ways to engage with followers

  • Promote your content. If you’ve written an engaging blog post or produced an interesting report or white paper, you can promote this content on your social channels.
  • Share others’ content. That’s right. It doesn’t have to be all your own original content that you share. Now you might not want to share your competitor’s content, but national associations, trade groups and the like often produce great content.
  • Dole out mentions. If you’re sharing someone else’s content or perhaps you’ve just met with them, you can engage through a mention (on Twitter) or tag (on Facebook and Instagram).
  • Offer replies and favourites. When an individual or organisation mentions you on a social media channel, you can keep the conversation going with a reply. You might also simply “favourite” a tweet.
  • Leverage private messaging. Just because you’re on social media doesn’t mean everything has to be public. You can take advantage of the private messaging features within the platforms to engage 1:1.

Best practices

How often do you really need to post? You’ll probably need to experiment a little bit to find the sweet spot. You want to get seen. But you don’t want to be annoying.

Here’s a good place to start:

  • Facebook: Once or twice a day
  • LinkedIn: Once a day (in the morning; never on weekends)
  • Twitter: Three or more times a day

Is it OK to ignore someone on social media?

If it’s a troll spamming you, ignore (and report) them. Otherwise, ignoring someone puts you at risk of alienating a potential customer. And if they’re pinging you on social media, they might not hesitate to broadcast their irritation with you to their networks.

Should I pay someone to do my social media?

You can hire an expert who understands the platforms so you can focus on your business. But you must be willing to relinquish a little control, and you need to make sure your social media consultant is well-versed in your business, brand and voice.

Do I still need a website if I have a Facebook page?

Yes! No social media account can replace your website, which is your digital home. Social media is a tool for engagement — and a way to drive traffic to your website.

Editor’s note: If you still need a website, try out GoDaddy Websites + Marketing  . You can create a beautiful site in under an hour and automatically create a matching Facebook business page to keep your brand consistent.

Social tools

To help you manage and schedule your posts, you might want to investigate starting out with these social media tools:

  • Hootsuite.Hootsuite lets you listen in on a wide variety of social tools, schedule posts and measure your return on investment. And with the ability to have up to 100 social profiles on the Pro version and unlimited accounts on the Enterprise version, it’s great for agencies, too.
  • Buffer. Queue up posts for LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and more. And for businesses, Buffer offers scalability — from a five-user, 25-profile small business option to one with 25 users and 150 connected accounts.
  • SocialOomph.If you’re starting with just Twitter, you can try the free account option. (Layering on Facebook, LinkedIn and some other cool features requires upgrading to the Professional version.) Schedule posts, track clicks and more.
  • TweetDeck. For Twitter only, this tool helps with real-time tracking, organisation and engagement.

5. Measure success

So, how do you know if your work has paid off? What does success look like? Are you getting a return on your investment?

Consider these key metrics.

  • Followers, fans and views. On their own, these numbers don’t mean much. But they certainly give you a sense of your reach.
  • Are people responding to and commenting on your content?
  • What content is motivating your followers to share it?
  • How many people are following the links in your posts and ending up on your website?
  • And once they’re there, are they signing up for a newsletter, submitting a contact form or buying anything?

Now that you’ve decided what you want to measure, how do you accomplish that feat? Here are a few tools that can help:

  • Platform analytics. As an account administrator, you have access to tons of data from within Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest.
  • Google Analytics. Get a handle on where people go once they land on your site and how much time they spend there.
  • Applications like Hootsuite and Buffer not only schedule your posts but track key data as well.

Conclusion

Remember: Not every channel works for every business. So, give yourself permission to experiment. Test your content. Try different platforms. Play with the timing of your posts. Start small and build on what you learn. And most important: Have fun and enjoy the ride!

Image by: Background photo created by natanaelginting - www.freepik.com

Stephanie Conner is an award-winning writer and editor who helps organizations create content that gets read. She has taught writing at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University, her alma mater. When she’s not chasing after or wiping food off of her soon-to-be-toddling son, she enjoys yoga, cooking and wine (not necessarily in that order). Find her on Twitter or LinkedIn.