Have you been been avoiding social media marketing? As a small business, you may be thinking you have enough challenges to deal with in managing your money and time, not to mention fatigue and the stress of hiring and retaining the right people. So being active in social media marketing may be the last thing on your mind. If your business is in a non-technical field, you might also be thinking that involvement in social media marketing requires a steep learning curve. If this describes you, think again.
A recent Pew survey shows that 81 percent of American adults are online. More than 50 percent use multiple social networking sites, such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram and Twitter. This is where many of your clients and prospects are likely hanging out. As Dee Anna McPherson, vice president of marketing at Hootsuite, puts it, “Social media is the new golf course—it’s where the buyers are; it’s where your customers are. That's where you need to go to build a relationships."
In our increasingly interconnected world, this trend means you can no longer afford to ignore social media. A survey in the UK reveals that nearly 80 percent of consumers said they would be more inclined to buy more often from a company that has a presence on social media.
This guide will give you some pointers to get started on social media marketing for your business without wasting too much time or breaking the bank, and reveal the relatively easy way to help get social media exposure for your company for free.
Know the Demographics
Knowing where your target audience hangs out can help you decide which social media channels are more likely to pay dividends for your efforts. There's a wealth of regularly updated research to show a busy small-business owner the audience make-up of the various social media sites. Two sources are Pew Research Internet Project and Business Intelligence.
Here's the latest we know about the demographics for the most popular social media sites:
Facebook: Facebook continues to get the giant share of users, with 71 percent of Internet users now using the site. Fully 70 percent visit the site daily, and almost 50 percent engage with the site more than once a day. Thirty-one percent of all seniors aged 65 and over are also spending time here.
Pinterest: Females dominate Pinterest. Forty-two percent of online women use the site, compared to just 13 percent of online men.
LinkedIn: This platform attracts 28 percent of all Internet users. A larger proportion of those enrolled in it have a college education.
Instagram: More than 50 percent of all online young adults, aged 18-29, use Instagram.
Twitter: Twenty-three percent of online adults use Twitter, and the largest demographic here is those aged 18 to 29. Currently, more men than women are Twitter users.
Google+: A survey conducted by Forrester shows that approximately 22 percent of the U.S. adult online population visit Google+ each month.
Know Which Social Media Channel to Use
With such an array of choices, selecting the right social media channel for your business is an important decision. To avoid false starts and a waste of time and money, be clear about the biggest group you want to target. Is your product and service geared toward senior citizens? Are you primarily selling to women? Is your target market Millennials? Are you trying to get the attention of professionals and corporate entities? Do you want to attract families?
Next, check out the online presence of your competitors. Which social media sites are they on? The answer to all these questions will help you narrow down your initial efforts in the brave new world of social media. Don't spread yourself thin by jumping into every social media platform.
Here are some pointers to guide you in your choice:
Instagram now has 300 million users. Many of the world's biggest brands are active on Instagram and have garnered millions of followers. As a small business, you, too, can benefit from having a presence on Instagram. Small businesses using Instagram to showcase their product or service include Nine Zero One, a hair salon; Dogswag, a dog walker; Chris Rushing, a designer and illustrator; and Temper, a pastry shop.
Instagram is free, quick and easy to use. Download the app and you're ready to take a picture or video of your product or service and post it on Instagram. Use hashtags so you show up in searches, increasing the likelihood of potential customers connecting with you. If you're not up to speed with hashtags, watch the video tutorial from TagItBest on how to easily generate hashtags for Instagram.
Pinterest is another social media tool that can drive visitors to your website and increase your visibility as people re-pin your posts. Even if your business isn't as visually engaging as a retail store or a florist, for example, you can still use Pinterest to drive traffic to your site. This list will show you the varied small businesses that use Pinterest.
You can join Pinterest as a business. If you happen to already have a personal account on Pinterest, you can convert it to a business account in minutes.
LinkedIn has the world's largest professional network, with more than 332 million members. If you're targeting professionals in all areas, this is the place to be. You probably already have a personal LinkedIn profile, but you should also consider setting up a company page on LinkedIn.
Here's a video tutorial on how to set up a LinkedIn company page. LinkedIn also regularly provides free, pre-recorded webinars on how to build your company page for success. You can start by simply adding the basic information about your products and services, your hours of work and areas you serve so you have a presence right away. Later, you can periodically invest small chunks of time to refine your page. This is where you can tell your company story, add photos and share articles pertinent to your company and your industry—anything you feel can help your customers.
Using Twitter for business is one of the easiest ways to increase awareness of your business, attract and connect with customers and drive sales. Have a look at these great examples of success stories of small-business owners who did just that. Analyze their practices and see how you can put some of these tips to use. For example, to reach people interested in their product, such as coffee and food lovers, one of these companies checked out influential accounts in its niche. It then promoted its tweets to people similar to the followers of these accounts.
Twitter also builds follower loyalty. A recent survey reveals that 73 percent of respondents feel more positive about a small business after they follow that business and read its tweets. And 81 percent say they're more likely to take action on information about a small business that was shared via Twitter, beating out email and direct mail.
Twitter also gives you access to influencers in your niche, so you can easily follow them and interact with them. Some may follow you back, giving your brand more exposure. Influencers are much harder to find on Facebook, for example. Twitter makes it easier to locate these influencers, both individuals and companies, because the majority of Twitter bios are public. To search for influencers, you can use tools such as Follower Wonk: A Moz App. For example, if you're in wine sales and want to connect with influencers in the wine industry on Twitter, this is what you would see when you use Follower Wonk. Influencers are ranked by "social authority." Once you have the list, it's easy to start following them.
Another way you can use Twitter to help your business is to subscribe to a program such as Social Centiv, an easy-to-use tool for small businesses. It allows you to find consumers who are tweeting about their search for a specific product or service related to your business. You can then contact these consumers in real time with your offer.
If you don't have a website yet, Google+ can be a good substitute. You can use it as a no-cost home page, adding information about your business, posts, photos, videos and interactions with customers.
If your time permits, join a Google+ Community, such as Plus Your Business!, an informative and helpful community. But think twice about starting a community yourself, as this is a time-intensive activity.
Starting a Google+ business page requires a minimum of technical skills. Here's a video tutorial that will show how easy it is to set up and navigate your page so you can get started right away. Even if you've had a personal Google+ page for a while, consider adding a business page. Find out why here.
Yelp isn't just for restaurants and shopping. It's a place where potential customers go to find all kinds of businesses, from financial and professional services to pet handlers and automotive repair shops. Whatever your small business is, you can benefit from having a presence on Yelp.
Yelp for Business Owners gives you a series of tools to establish your presence here. You can upload photos and business information, link to your website and connect with customers by responding to reviews (by private message or public comment), all for free.
Facebook has the lion's share of users and is a good place to reach a wide range of audiences, including families. But Facebook announced that as of January, it will siphon out unpaid marketing status updates, making it less likely for people to see your unpaid pitches. Now to reach customers on Facebook, you'll need to buy an ad to promote your post.
Nonetheless, it doesn't hurt to have a Facebook page for your business. Here's a video tutorial on how to set up your page. But if you don't have the budget right now to boost your social media presence with advertising, Facebook might not be the first place you want to put your efforts in social media for your business—even if the site has the largest number of users.
No matter what platform you use, don't neglect to add a tagline to your profile. As Guy Kawasaki and Peg Fitzpatrick recommend in The Art of Social Media: Power Tips for Power Users, make your tagline a mantra: "... two to four words that explain why your organization exists." Kawasaki provides three theoretical mantra examples: "Canva: democratizing design," "Google: democratizing information," or "FedEx: peace of mind."
What's your mantra? What makes you stand out above the din of the crowd? Use that to drive everything you do on social media.
Bruna Martinuzzi is the founder of Clarion Enterprises Ltd. and the author of two books: Presenting With Credibility: Practical Tools and Techniques for Effective Presentations and The Leader as a Mensch: Become the Kind of Person Others Want to Follow.
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