In this post, we’re going to skip straight past whether small companies actually need social media — we’re convinced that they do, and explained why a few weeks ago. Instead, we’re going to cut to the chase with what we think are five indispensable tips for making social media work well for a small business. Let’s get started.
1. Think about your goals
What do you want to get out of social media? Yes, we know that’s a basic question. But strangely, it’s one that a surprising number of small businesses haven’t considered. Although they accept that social media is important (and that they need to invest time in it), many business owners haven’t carefully thought what they want to achieve.
So our first tip is to take a step back and ask yourself, ‘What are the business goals of my social media activity?’
For example, your goals could be:
- providing customer service
- building brand loyalty
- gaining new business leads
- increasing brand awareness
- selling your product or service
Of course, it’s fine to have more than one goal. The key thing is to define and prioritise your goals, which will allow you to build and refine a proper strategy.
When setting goals, don’t forget that using concrete, measurable objectives will help you assess how well your social media strategy is working.
2. Develop a social media strategy
About 60% of UK businesses utilise social media. However, a much smaller percentage are following a firm social media strategy that’s designed to achieve their goals. This is especially true for small businesses — and yet it’s small businesses who really need a definite strategy. With far fewer resources and spare capacity than the big players, they need to focus their social media efforts.
Your strategy will follow naturally from your overall goals. It should address everything from how much time you’re willing to invest in social media to what platforms you’re going to use (see next section).
Formulating your goals and overall strategy can be among the hardest aspects for social media newbies and you might consider investing in outside expertise.
3. Think about your optimal social media platforms
One of the disadvantages of social media is that it can eat endless amounts of time. If you’re trying to keep up with multiple platforms, that can really add to the problem. For that reason, our third tip is to think carefully about which platforms will give you the most bang for your buck.
All of the social media platforms have their merits, but some may be better suited than others to your particular business. That’s a blog post in itself, but this infographic (courtesy of AIS Insurance) does a great job of summarising the main differences.
4. Use a social media management app
In general, social media is designed to have a short shelf-life. Your tweet or post appears in someone’s feed, but it’s soon displaced by those of others. Now, in one way, this is great, because it means you can communicate with an audience quickly and authentically. On the minus side, it means that your social media presence needs to be regularly ‘topped up’ — and that takes time and organisation.
Fortunately, automation can help. There are a number of great apps, such as Hootsuite, Sprout Social and Buffer that take the donkey work out of social media management. As a simple example, you can create ten tweets at a time, decide when you want each posted up, then leave the automatic scheduler to do the rest. Of course, the disadvantage is that the app can’t interact in a human, dynamic way when someone wants a response — that’s still going to be down to you (or a human social media manager).
5. Have a social media policy
Did we say social media had a short shelf life? Well, that’s true up until someone in your company makes a terrible blunder on social media. Then, as we’ve seen with various politicians and actors, social media shows that it can have a long memory. The wrong sort of comment on social media can be really damaging for your business, spreading much faster than all the positive feedback you’ve attracted.
How do you prevent this? One way is to put in place a social media policy for your company. We’re not talking about their private accounts (that’s a separate but important area), but rather any activity on company accounts. This could cover, for example:
- Confidentiality – what aspects of the company and staff you want to keep private
- Tone – the particular style of your posts need to reflect the nature of your business
- Engagement – how staff should respond to positive and negative comments about the company
- Topics – you might wish to restrict the areas of discussion that employees should share, like or comment upon.
Creating a policy — and sharing with staff — can save a whole lot of heartache down the road.
We hope that these five tips can set you off in the right direction with getting the most out of social media. But of course, this is only the start. To really make social media work for your small business, get in touch with our super-friendly team. We specialise in meeting the marketing needs of small and medium size companies, including social media strategy and management, event management, video production and photography.