11 social media tips that all small businesses need to know


Tue Nov 14 2017

It might feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day to run your business, let alone get stuck into social media’s endless opportunities. But smart planning can reap sweet rewards and the right channels can be a gold mine of business opportunity. The first decision?

To build your brand on social media alone - like Joe Wicks  (did you know, he tweeted 20,000 times before he made a penny ?1), or have it as part of the marketing mix. The best way to use social media for small business is not a one-size-fits-all, but there are some good places to start regardless of your approach.

Here's a little SME social starter pack to help you get into the social media mindset, get started and be more productive. It assumes you can dedicate 15 minutes a day to ‘being social’…

1. Be selective, perfect your art, then expand

With so many social channels to pick from, knowing where to start can be the hardest challenge. So the first tip is to pick one channel – see point 2 for how - and one channel only. Once you’ve got to grips with how it works, how much resource (time, money etc – see points 3 & 6) it takes to be worthwhile and the response you’re getting, then perfect your art.

This could take 12 months – don’t rush it. Once you feel comfortable and you’re getting some good results, only then think about branching out to other social channels.

And when you do branch out, one size really doesn’t fit all. You won’t get the results you’re looking for by posting identical assets across different channels. Every channel has a unique purpose   and people are on different channels for different reasons. See point 2 for what those reasons are…

2. Be where your customers are

Lauren Davey, Head of Digital Content Distribution at Barclaycard Business, says: “Don't just go on Pinterest because you like using Pinterest in a personal capacity. Find out where your ideal customer hangs out online and focus on that platform. It might seem obvious, but the temptation is always to go with what you like and know.”

Lauren’s social media tips for small business?

  • Focus on the right platform by checking your customers are there, being sure to measure your engagement and conversion rates.
  • Don’t be afraid to personally engage. When my friend got married, her photographer sent her messages of encouragement on Twitter and shared photos of her big day.  Not only did this provide the photographer with loads of content to share with her followers, but my friend has since recommended that photographer to several brides-to-be. Oh the power of social media marketing done well.

3. Commit enough time to it and realise success won't come overnight

If you don't feel like you have time to dedicate to setting up and managing social accounts, consider using a scheduling tool like Buffer  (see point 5). It doesn’t have to cost cash you might not have and what you spend in money, you’ll likely get back in time saved.

If you feel overwhelmed by the mere thought of social media, consider outsourcing it completely. Sites like Fiverr   so called because the starting price of many of their services is just $5 have a wealth of expert freelancers available and it doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg.

And use time between meetings or while the kettle’s boiling to carry out simple community management tasks like retweeting, sending thanks to people who have engaged positively with you, and responding to queries.

4. Visual content is king

Did you know that, according to a recent Cisco whitepaper  , 82% of all global consumer internet will come from video by 2021? That’s massive. And here are some other big video stats to cut out and keep:

  • Adding a video to marketing emails can boost click-through rates by 200-300%.
  • Embedding videos in landing pages can increase conversion rates by 80%.
  • 90% of customers report that product videos help them make purchasing decisions.
  • According to YouTube, mobile video consumption grows by 100% every year.
  • 64% of customers are more likely to buy a product online after watching a video about it.2

Our top tips include:

  • Upload them natively in the platform, i.e. don’t post a YouTube video to Twitter or Facebook, upload it to Twitter or Facebook directly.  This is because the platforms understandably prioritise native video.
  • Keep it short and sweet. People are time-poor these days and very rarely watch to the end of the video.  Make your videos maximum 45 seconds long and make sure you get your key message and call to action within the first 3-10 seconds.
  • Prepare for sound off and delight with sound on. Did you know that 85% of Facebook videos are now watched with sound off3 ? Clever use of subtitles and captions can capture that on-the-go commuter audience who don’t want the whole train carriage to hear what they’re watching.
  •  

5. Use all the amazing free tools available

Because visual content is king (scroll up if you skipped point 4), get to grips with free tools that turn even the least creative people into eye-candy-creating geniuses.

Try out things like Canva   for creating simple graphics, resizing images when image editing software is too hard/expensive, and generally bringing stats, info and words to life. Buffer   and Hootsuite   let you manage your channels in one place, with scheduling, analysis and tutorials functions galore, all niftily brought together in easy-to-view dashboards.

6. Make peace with the fact that reach is no longer free

Gone are the days of reaching your whole audience organically  . And while this might have taken a bit of getting used to, in some ways it makes the task of achieving social media success a little bit clearer. That’s because you can now more easily split your objectives between paid and organic. Have a little look at this:

Post organically for… 

Put money behind your posts for…

Brand values and validation – In other words, build a reputable, attractive, trustworthy version of your business on social channels. It gives perspective customers a place to check you out as part of their purchasing decision.

Brand building – get your values and visual identity built up on your social accounts organically, but then put money behind your posts once you’re ready to extend brand reach beyond your friends, family and colleagues. Paid campaigns should be carefully planned in terms of audience targeting, maximum budgets and objectives. 

Recruitment – Just as consumers like to check out brands before they buy from them, so do potential employees and investors. Make sure what they find on your channels is a true and strong representation of your brand and values.

Awareness, consideration and conversion – If you have specific objectives, such as drive 10 leads from social media per month, use paid campaigns to achieve them, working out the maximum cost per lead for it to be worth your while.

Community management – Happy or sad, people engaging with you on social media about specific things, expect to get a reply. It’s important you have enough time and resource to give it to them.

Testing purposes – Paid campaigns can be a great way to see what images, videos, copy and calls to action resonate best with your audience. Split testing between two posts can be easily managed using the many free tools available (see point 5).

In a recent interview 4 , Sam Hurley  recommended you spend 80% on distribution, 20% on creation, because , “your content won’t magically get seen by thousands if you don’t bother promoting it, no matter how great it is”.

7. Live it up

Video is awesome when it comes to engaging audiences in social feeds. But because it’s controllable – i.e. you make a video, edit it to fit the story you want to tell etc. – it can sometimes be more of a challenge to build true connections with customers.

Live streaming on the other hand, offers unedited, raw insight into your brand. Plus some platforms actually prioritise it in their algorithm, so it’s more likely to get seen. From behind the scenes footage of event planning, to an event itself, to a moment in the life of someone inspirational, the loyalty-building possibilities are endless.

Just make sure to promote your live stream beforehand, so your audience knows it’s happening.

8. Post. Test. Repeat.

Because paid social media is now most definitely a ‘thing’, don’t forget that just because you’re paying for something, doesn’t mean it will necessarily work. With so many variables to test, from audience to message to location to creative asset to time of day, you need to regularly review what’s performing best. Using in-platform analytics, you can optimise the good ones, pause the bad ones and set up completely new ones if you get some crystal clear learnings early enough in the campaign timeline.

9. Give it to them wherever they want it

Basically, if a customer finds your product or brand somewhere online, they need to be able to engage right there and then, without switching channels. So if you’re live streaming a fashion show, make sure your followers can buy the products they see, in channel, in just a couple of steps. This potentially powerful model is often called ‘See Now, Buy Now’.

10. Know your story so you can tell it clearly

Building a brand on social media is, as you might have gathered, an art that needs perfecting. So it’s really important to start off on the right foot, and that means fully understanding what your business story is – the ‘why’ of your business, not the ‘what’. Social Chain CEO, Steven Bartlett, 24, describes the three ‘Cs’ in a recent blog post   – Clear, Consistent, Compelling – as the three things to keep in mind when building a brand on a social channel. He’s 24 and the CEO of a very successful business, so he knows what he’s on about!

11. Jump on that hashtag

Ok, so this is something everyone’s been doing since the hashtag was born ( 10 years ago, by the way  ), but riding on the success of a hashtag could still work for niche niches. Check out #cupforben   as a small campaign that skyrocketed and gave one business the chance to give back in a truly heart-warming way. And it still works for some events, like Social Media Week  , which had great engagement because the crowd was, of course, nuts for social.

This is part of our Mindset & Planning series – content dedicated to practical advice for SMEs when it comes to getting in the right mindset for business growth. Other articles in this series include:

7 reasons why cash flow is more important than profit 
11 great podcasts on productivity 
SMEs: Here’s how to create more time (and how to use it) 

1   https://www.newbusiness.co.uk/articles/features/joe-wicks-social-entrepreneur  (Dec 2016)
2  https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesagencycouncil/2017/02/03/video-marketing-the-future-of-content-marketing/#1101edae6b53   (Feb 2017)
3  https://blog.hootsuite.com/silent-video/   (May 2017)
4  https://prowly.com/magazine/2017/02/16/content-marketing-sins/   (Feb 2017)

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