If you own a small business, you can save money by transitioning more of your offline marketing efforts to an online presence. Starting a social media account is free, easy, and can help you effectively boost your company’s online presence. Learning how to market your business via social media can help you reach your current customers while also targeting potential future customers.
Setting Up Your Social Media Platform –
Identify your target audience. Generally speaking, your business has a split target audience: there are your business’s existing customers (your current assets), and your potential customers (your target customers). A successful social media marketing campaign should make current customers feel heard and appreciated while also reaching out to potential customers in a way that promotes your business.
Start by recognizing your current customer base. Are they generally older in age? Younger?
Think about what kinds of social media your existing customer base might be using. You can conduct an informal survey by asking customers while they make their usual purchases.
You’ll need to make some predictions about your potential customer base, but a little online research might help. Try looking at the social media platforms of your biggest competitors to see what demographics of their customers follow them online.
Sign up for your social media platform(s). Once you’ve identified your target audience, you’re ready to sign up for a social media account. Social media accounts are free and are generally easy to manage, but you’ll want to check each platform’s guidelines and user terms for business accounts – they may be different from those for personal accounts. Some of the most common social media platforms include:
Facebook – generally considered the most popular social media platform, and one of the ones most likely to attract all demographics (including adults over 65). Best if you’re trying to reach a broader audience across multiple demographics.
Twitter – another popular social media platform, but predominantly popular with millennials and other younger generations. Though not as broad in its reach, Twitter does foster niche communities online, which could end up helping your business.
Google+ – because it is linked with Google, it’s considered the best social media platform for increasing your business’s search engine optimization (SEO) results. More people using Google to search for businesses will find your listing if you have a Google+ account, especially if you’re a local business trying to reach local customers.
Instagram – this image-based social media platform is very popular among adolescents and adults under the age of 35. It can be a great way to share images of your product, your business, or the visible results of your work.
Tumblr – though initially confusing for many users, Tumblr is an active and engaged way to reach potential customers between the ages of 13 and 25. Many Tumblr users are college educated and tend to be enthusiastically loyal to this social media platform.
LinkedIn – often considered most effective for career networking, LinkedIn also lets you use its publishing platform to reach a wider audience. It can be very effective for reaching educated, wealthy customers, as well as for generating leads between businesses.
Pinterest – this visually-themed platform works best if you have relevant images to share. It can be highly effective at targeting a female audience between 30 and 50 years old, especially those in a higher income bracket.
Yelp – this website allows customers to post photographs, rank your business, and leave reviews based on their service and experience. It’s also a great way to advertise, as many people searching for a particular business (say, a local bakery) will turn to Yelp for listings, hours of operation, and customer reviews.
Consider using a social media manager. Many people think a social media manager requires the hiring of additional staff to manage online accounts. However, you can manage your online presence without having to hire any additional employees, and still maintain control of your business’s online presence. Online social media managers are generally free and can help you improve your business’s social media presence while also tracking your online outreach.
Online social media managers like HootSuite and Ping.fm let you manage all of your social media accounts across all platforms on a single website.
You’ll be able to schedule posts/messages, review how successful your posts are at reaching your audience, and view any and all online mentions of your business by social media users.
These online social media managers are free, but there are also have paid subscription managers.
A paid service like SproutSocial will let you create contacts from your social media followers to track how successful you are at engaging them. You can also view and track how many customers use check-in apps like FourSquare at your business.
Reaching Your Customers –
Let people know you’re on social media. You might gain some traction with people searching blindly for your social media page, but the best way to promote your online presence is by letting people know about it. Tell your customers that you’re now online, or consider putting a little sign up next to your cash register or in your window. You can also provide the username/handle for your social media accounts on your business cards.
Let customers know that you are increasing your online presence.
Make sure you follow or send friend requests to your regular, loyal customers.
Find friends/followers online. Once you’ve established an online account, you’ll need to attract followers/friends who will view your posts. Start with current customers, and work towards reaching an increasingly broad audience of potential future customers.
Try to reach out to current customers first. You want them to know that their loyalty is appreciated.
You should also reach out to your local distributors, including any businesses that sell/promote your goods. For example, if you’re a bakery and you sell baked goods wholesale to a coffee shop, network with that coffee shop online and tap into their audience.
You can expand your audience online by searching for keywords and trending terms, then liking/sharing those posts or following the local people or businesses who posted them.
Start posting on social media. Your posts on social media should be more than just a self promotion. You can post information about your business, relevant information about the industry you work in, and share (or post your own) photographs of customers frequenting and enjoying your business.
Post photographs to showcase your product. If your business involves a service instead of a product, take pictures of your employees working, or of satisfied customers showing off the work that was done.
You can offer some type of occasional deals that only your followers will know about, or hold a weekly or monthly raffle where users have to share a post or photograph to be entered to win.
Include special offers of the day in your posts, and keep customers updated on your business. If you’re running a bakery, for example, use social media to advertise the specials of the day, what types of baked goods you’re offering that day, and how long you’ll be open.
Keep your target audience in mind. If your customers tend to be retired, they may not know what hashtags are or what internet slang/abbreviations mean.
Remember that your social media platform is a representation of your business. You can have fun, but keep your posts professional, and never post anything inflammatory about politics, religion, or your personal beliefs.
Making Social Media Work For Your Business –
Listen to your customers. One of the best ways to foster a network of customer support online is by listening to what your customers say. Read the feedback that your customers give you and take it to heart, as this may mean the difference between a returning customer and a former customer who will tell friends/family not to support you.
Respond positively to all feedback, even negative comments. Reply gracefully to bad reviews by saying something like, “We’re very sorry you had a negative experience. Please consider trying us again, and if you mention this post I will personally ensure that you have a better experience with us.”
Thank customers for their reviews and input. If multiple customers are saying the same things, you’ll need to consider implementing those changes (if possible and feasible).
Make sure you like and/or comment on any customer posts to your social media page. You can also search for people who “checked in” at your business, and like/favorite any photographs or updates they shared about your business.
Specialize your social media presence. As much as you may want to appeal to every single person who views your social media page, that may simply not be possible. If that is the case, you may need to decide whether to keep a generalized social media presence, or one that specifically appeals to your target audience.
Don’t willfully alienate anyone, whether they’re a customer or not. However, you do need to recognize that not every single person in your town will find your business appealing.
Remember that if you run a specialized business (say, a vegan bakery), you may simply be unable to tap into some potential customers (like those who do not like vegan food).
If you tend to have a niche audience, you can share posts that will appeal to them. In the previous example, you might share posts about the benefits and the personal appeal of living a vegan lifestyle.
Be consistent with your web presence. You may be hoping that a social media presence will instantly boost your business overnight – and that does occasionally happen. However, it’s generally the exception to the rule, and you’ll need to be patient and consistent with your online presence.
Recognize that building an online presence (and an online following) takes time. How long it takes will vary, depending on your customers, your target audience, and how much time/effort you spend online.
Be consistent. Try to post updates every day, and take some time each day to like, respond to, or share customer posts.
Be patient. Having an online presence won’t hurt your business, and it will only help you, but you’ll only get out of it what you put into it.
Use search engine optimization (SEO) methods. Search engine optimization, or SEO, involves altering your website and social media platform in order to better promote your business. When you use SEO, your business’s website and social media pages will show up higher in the search results when a customer uses Google (or any other search engine) to search for relevant terms.
Start by identifying key words/terms that a customer might search for. You can use plural words, but try to avoid too much repetition (the fewer the keywords you use, the better, so keep it under 1,000 characters).
Include any common misspellings of your business’s name in your keywords so that someone looking for you will still be able to find you easily.
Create meta tags on every single page of your website that incorporate those keywords. You’ll need to know how to use HTML code to do this, so learn how to code or find someone who knows how to help you.
Audit your SEO effectiveness on a regular basis. You can use auditing tools, like DeepCrawl or Search Console, to assess how effective your SEO efforts have been at reaching customers.