Small Business Social Media – Best Practices and Quick Tips

As a small business owner or manager, you may wonder, is it really necessary to have a presence on social media? In this hyper-connected world that we live in, it is hard to say no to being at the very least on one social media channel, if not multiple. Studies have shown that using social media to market your business can increase its visibility and exposure, help engage your current and future customers, and give you credibility as a thought leader ­– or at least as someone who has a good idea of what they’re talking about. As a bonus, according to this year’s Social Media Marketing Industry Report, it takes as little as 6 hours per week working on social media to see increased exposure for your business.

The myriad of social media channels available have so much to offer to every business, large or small. The key is to know where to start, or – if you’ve already started – how to run your social media strategy more efficiently. Whether you are the designated Social Media Guru for your organization, are running your company’s social media on top of your other responsibilities, or are a one-man-band entrepreneur-ing it up, here are a few best practices and quick tips you can use to help you manage social media for a small business.

Not Every Channel Will Work for Your Business

A huge rookie mistake that many small businesses make when getting started on a social media strategy is thinking that they need to be involved on every single channel out there. If your business has enough and the right content (and time) to tweet, snap, post, and pin all day long, then by all means, go for it. But to start, choose one to three channels that make the most sense for your business to use.

How can you tell which channels are right for you? To start with, search for thought leaders and key influencers in your industry or niche and see which channels (a) on which they are most active, and (b) on which they have the most active and engaged followers.

Still stuck? Think about what messages you want to send, what things are most important for you to share, and what your target audience looks like. If your business is centered around beautiful products and that luxury feeling, consider focusing on Facebook, Instagram, or even Pinterest, all of which are very photo-friendly. If your brand focuses on educating others and joining conversations about trending topics, focus your time on Twitter and implement hashtags to emphasize what you’re all about. If you are a B2B organization, LinkedIn could be the place for you to thrive. This article from Buffer, a social media management platform, serves as a great guide to choosing the social media channels that fit your business goals.

Plan Ahead

Planning your social posting ahead is a time-saving game-changer. A content calendar is a quick and simple way to plan out posts for each channel as far in advance as makes sense for you. If you’re just getting into using the calendar, keeping a full month ahead of you is a great starting point, with a goal of getting a whole quarter ahead, when possible.

What program should you use to plan your content? There are a myriad of options that are incredibly user-friendly and cost-effective, such as using an online social media management platform like Hootsuite or Buffer to help schedule posting. Another simple (and free!) option is to simply use a spreadsheet software like Microsoft Excel. You can have each social media channel you use listed as column headers and dates for posting listed as row headers; their intersection is where you describe what will be posted for each channel.

Whatever program you use, be sure to remain consistent. Planning ahead allows you to spend your day-to-day time doing other tasks, creating original content, and even participating in social listening.

Be Responsive

If you’ve ever contacted a company and then waited days for a response, you already know why this is an important best practice. You wouldn’t want to be kept waiting or never have your concerns answered, and neither do your followers. Keep in mind that your followers are either existing customers or potential future customers, but even more importantly, remember that they are actual people, just like you. Respond to their concerns in a personable and timely manner, and you will earn a win for your company.

According to a study by Lithium Technologies, 53% of customers who ask a brand a question on Twitter expect a response within an hour, regardless of time of day, and 74% of customers believe that their complaints and criticisms of a brand on social media will lead to better customer service. Brandwatch suggests that if you can’t make a detailed response to a comment or post within an hour, a best practice is to acknowledge the commenter, let them know you are looking into their concern, and give them a timeframe for a full response.

The most important piece is to respond, period. Research suggests that if a customer receives great service via social media, they will spend 21% more with that company. In addition, 71% of consumers who’ve had a good social media service experience with a brand are likely to recommend it to others. That recommendation can be your golden ticket to more visibility and a greater customer base – especially as a small business. Take the time to engage your followers and build a solid group of loyal brand advocates.

Align Social Strategy with Business Goals & Objectives

A third best practice is to ensure that your social strategy is aligned with the long- and short-term goals and objectives of your organization. To learn some best practices for setting and achieving your goals and objectives, check out the article, “Engage Your Team by Sharing the Score,” by SGEi Founder & President, Shane Green. For the purposes of this article, let’s assume that you already have your goals and objectives solidly in place.

How can your social media activity impact and affect your goals or objectives? As we discussed above, engaging your followers on social media can contribute not only to your customer satisfaction, but also to your bottom line when it successfully fuels higher sales. There are metrics and analytics pages in place on your social media platforms, your website, and Google Analytics to help you determine what sort of engagement and interaction you are achieving. Be sure to partner with your team members to determine your conversion percentage or increases in sales you’re making with your social media posting, as well as many other KPIs in which your social media strategy might play a part.

If your numbers begin to slip, or you’re just not achieving the results that you are expecting, don’t fret. A good social media strategy requires diligence and thorough testing. If you try to change things up too quickly, there isn’t time for your current strategy to take hold and make its desired impact. These strategies can take a few weeks or even a month or more to build – so don’t lose hope. After you’ve given your strategy room to breathe, time to build, and multiple tests of its effectiveness and it is still not producing results, it may then be time to reassess and adjust, always aligning back to your company’s overall goals and objectives.

Assess All Content as a Reflection of Your Brand and Culture

Finally, be sure that every post or comment you post on behalf of your business is an accurate reflection of your unique brand and culture. “The Internet is forever” is a common saying that has incredible truth behind it. It is imperative that every single piece of content, in any medium, represents your business in a way you’d be proud to see on the front page of a newspaper (Or on your Facebook newsfeed, because who reads newspapers anymore?). When potential customers search for your company, they will happen upon your social media pages, and while that increased visibility is one of the benefits of social media, if what you post isn’t an accurate representation of all that your company is, people are bound to notice.

One great way to ensure that you are getting the right message across is to review your core values and brand promise before and after you write up your content. If any part of what you are saying goes against your values, or promotes something that is not congruent with your brand promise, don’t post it. This may be an arduous process, at first, but your brand’s voice will become second nature as you delve deeper into what your company is all about.

Social media can be a powerful tool in your digital marketing arsenal when used effectively. While there are general best practices that are proven, well-documented trial and error will help teach you what works best for your brand in the end. As a final point, don’t underestimate the power of social media and digital marketing on your employer brand as well as your external brand – social media can help you to attract top talent to your business, train them on the culture and values you hold dear, and constantly reinforce internally what your company is all about. To learn more about employer branding, social media intranets, and branded training content, read “How to Compete With the World’s Most Attractive Employers” and “7 Companies Utilizing Social Media to Improve Communication and Engagement,” by our VP of Brand Development Michael Erin Strong, and “Training That Resembles Your Brand,” by VP of Culture & Learning Thomas Martin.

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