Social media for business: Your questions answered
Everyone's happy to tell you that you should be using social media for your business, but not everyone has told you why or how to do it.
That’s why we’ve taken the time to answer some of the most frequently asked questions small business owners have when it comes to using social media.
What is social media?
It’s easy to define social media because so many people are already familiar with it.
Put simply, it’s any website or application that enables users to create and share content, or to participate in what’s known as social networking.
With 4.62 billion people using social media, over half the world is on some kind of social network. So you can imagine how important it is for your business to be there too.
Why do businesses use social media?
Increase brand awareness
Reach their audience and generate leads
Monitoring the competition
There are many ways social media use can benefit your business; using social media for marketing is just one of them. Social media lets you:
Find customers and inform them about your company
Convince customers that you have a product or service that they need
Complete sales and offer support, as well as tell customers about any new products or services that they might be interested in.
Greggs used humour to promote their vegan sausage rolls, parodying Apple by calling themselves "the next generation of sausage roll technology". This proved an effective way to engage customers on social media, which led to many talking about the product and trying it out for themselves.
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What is social media marketing?
Social media marketing, also commonly known as social media advertising, uses social media as a tool for conversation and reach.
Companies and brands produce content on the same platforms that people are using, in the hope that customers will engage or share their content – increasing the likelihood that someone will 'convert' by making a purchase.
This kind of digital marketing gives brands another chance to show who they are, and why people should buy their products. Aldi even turned a lawsuit against their Cuthbert the Caterpillar cake into a rousing success, by showing self-awareness and covering the trial with good humour, turning it into an entertaining spectacle by creating the hashtag #freecuthbert.
Aldi and Greggs are just a couple examples of using social media to stand out from the crowd. Every business can find a way that’s authentic to their brand.
What are the most popular social media platforms?
The most popular social media site in the world is Facebook, with almost 2.38 billion monthly users. The next most popular is YouTube with 2 billion monthly users, followed by the 1.6 billion people using WhatsApp every month.
Facebook Messenger, WeChat and Instagram complete the top 6 most popular social media platforms – each with over 1 billion users a month.
However, from a brand perspective, it doesn’t always make sense to go straight for the most popular platform. For many small businesses, having an account on TripAdvisor, Yelp or other similar review sites can be the difference between gaining new clients or not–so spread your online presence across multiple channels.
Let's break down some of the most important platforms for any business to understand.
Despite new and trending platforms coming one after the other, Facebook is still the most widely used social media platform. Just its size alone – average users spend at least an hour per day on the site – makes it worth exploring, but there's also a lot you can do with it.
As a first step, you'll need to create a Facebook page where you can collect all the information about your business and allow people to follow you. You can either choose to classify yourself as a business/brand or a community organisation.
You can add all your information to this page, including images of your business and a description of it. If you have multiple employees, you can create page roles for each, and you can further organise your page by adding tabs to the different sections and a CTA, so people can easily be redirected to your website.
Once your page is set up, it's time to reach out to your audience. You do this most commonly by posting content. What kinds of content? Well, there are regular posts and ads.
Ads help your page get discovered by people with similar interests that aren't aware of you yet. You can create:
Image ads, which consist of a JPG or PNG file paired with a short caption
Video ads, which you can use to showcase products or spread customer testimonials
Carousel ads, which allow people to scroll through a series of images and see the same product from multiple angles
Collection ads, which are similar to carousel ads, except the multiple images are different products
You can schedule your ads to be posted at a certain time automatically in Facebook Ads Manager. Ads Manager also lets you create campaigns according to your business goals.
When it comes to creating content, you want to keep a few things in mind. Your content should:
Be regular. You should post consistently in order to hold your audience's attention.
Be informative. You should post content that helps your viewers and gives them information, rather than material that simply pushes your products.
Be relevant. Even if it's not about your business, your content should reflect what your audience wants to see. For example, if you sell pet care products, you could create content about how to properly clean animal fur or what food to feed your pets.
Be interactive. You always want to promote interaction with and between your audience. That means you should respond to comments and comment on people's posts as well as posting yourself.
Try to vary your content by including videos and images. You can also take advantage of Facebook Stories to provide live updates and behind-the-scenes content to help customers connect with your business.
Instagram is a very visual platform. Marketing via Instagram is about grabbing people's attention with vibrant photos and telling stories through these images and videos.
To start with, make an Instagram Business account. Business Accounts let you do more than regular accounts do, such as create ads and promote posts. Also, being a verified business helps customers trust you.
Instagram stories, Reels, Shopping, and hashtags are features of the platform that can help you a lot in your marketing. The ads on offer are similar to Facebook ads, and hashtags are keywords audiences search for or follow which increase the visibility of your posts.
Instagram stories are like Facebook stories, but Reels are a bit different. A Reel is essentially an extension of a story, meaning it's a short video you can use to showcase products or tell a bit of a narrative. They're a bit longer than stories, so it's a good way to expand on content.
Finally, Instagram Shopping is a way for you to sell directly from Instagram. It's a whole separate tab that viewers can use to discover new products. You can sell your own products there as well, or you can add tags to existing posts so that people can click on those to shop.
Instagram content needs to be engaging and relevant the same way other content does. You can improve your use of the platform by:
Sharing clients' posts directly to your story. Sharing posts to your story helps you connect more directly with followers, and show that you appreciate customers.
Use polls and other interactive features in stories. Anything you can do to jumpstart customer interactions helps.
Partner with an influencer. If you can manage it, Instagram influencers are great partners because they already have a wide follower base. They can help you grow and define your brand.
Maybe the clearest new trend in social media, TikTok was only launched in 2016, but already has 1 billion users around the world, with 689 million consistently active. And it’s not just a Gen Z trend either – TikTok’s user base spans multiple demographics.
TikTok is free and available to download on any mobile device, and you can make an account in seconds, complete with a short bio introducing customers to your business. You have so many ways to enhance and edit your videos – from stickers and GIFs to emojis, filters, and augmented reality – that make it easy for you to put your personality on display.
Because of this range of options, figuring out what kinds of content you want to create can be tricky. There are lots of great ways to engage with your audience, including:
Product demonstrations: Watching a product demonstration gets people to picture themselves using the product, and customers who can imagine themselves using a product are more likely to buy it.
Tutorial videos: show your customers how to use something, but teach them a specific thing. For example, if you sell food, you might teach a recipe that uses your product.
Song parodies: this is pretty unique to TikTok and it’s how the app first rose to fame. Change song lyrics so you’re singing about your products. Combining humour and top-40 earworms is the perfect way to keep your brand at the top of peoples’ minds.
Hashtag challenges: this is a great way for your business to be seen by people already following hashtags relevant to your product. You can even start your own challenge as a way to engage more users.
If there’s one thing connecting all these ideas, it’s personalisation. The intimacy and personal connection TikTok offers is why so many people love it.
Snapchat is sometimes dismissed as a potential marketing tool, because of the split-second, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it format of the app. It doesn’t seem to lend itself well to advertising if the ads are gone as soon as you stop looking at them.
But businesses, especially retail ones, do have success on Snapchat, promoting new products and posting entertaining content, including polls and behind-the-scenes footage. Since Snapchat posts and stories disappear soon after being viewed, word of mouth is essential when using it to grow your business.
Snapchat also recently introduced Snapchat Ads. A Snapchat Ad is a 10-second full-screen video that shows up in between friends’ stories, that users can swipe up on to interact with. You can set the swipe to bring users to a website, a longer video, an article, or an app download page.
There are a few different types of ads available to you depending on what fits your product best. You can choose to create:
Single image or video ads: simply add an attachment to the image or video so users can swipe up on it. The best length for videos is a few seconds long.
Collection ads: with these, you can include 4 entries that users can tap on to get more information. It’s an easy way to let customers browse your products without leaving Snapchat.
Story ads: these appear in the Discover feed and let you add 3-20 snaps. That way you can show off new offers, seasonal deals, discounts, or a product line.
Lenses: Snapchat lets you choose from hundreds of 3D images, effects, and animations to build customised AR ads that users can play around with and share with their friends.
Commercials: these are ads that can’t be skipped for 6 seconds, and they can be up to 3 minutes long. If you need to get a longer message to your audience, this is the way to do it.
Snapchat ads are quick to create, versatile, and depending on the type of ad, interactive. And because of the targeting options available, it’s easy to reach your target audience.
Pinterest users browse, save and get inspired by content relating to various hobbies, whether it be gardening, home decor, fashion, cooking, or anything else. Users already have the option to buy things they see straight from the site, and many do just that – Pinterest is filled with more people who intend to purchase things than any other social media platform.
Pinterest also offers free business accounts. With a business account, you can access Pinterest Analytics, better search tools, and the option to upload video Pins, which customers are about 50% more likely to click on. You also have the option to pay to run Pinterest Ads.
There are a few different types of Pinterest Ads, which customers can click to be taken to your website or checkout page. Each type is useful, but some make more sense depending on what you’re selling. Your options for Pinterest Ads are:
Standard Pins: one image or video. Users can see that these are promoted ads.
Carousel Ads: multiple images or videos users can swipe through. And each of these are individually linkable, so you could direct customers to multiple pages from just one post.
Shopping Pins: targeted directly toward users deciding what to buy, these Pins are ideal for promoting your latest (or most popular) products. You can add dots to your pinned image highlighting the products available for sale, and make those dots link to your product webpage.
App Install Pins: where other Pins are designed to get customers buying from you or at least visiting your website, these are designed to get customers to download your app. They have an install button built right into them, and there’s space for you to list a few of your app’s most relevant features.
Pinterest is ideal for small business owners looking to connect with their niche because Pinterest communities form around common interests. Not to mention that anyone on Pinterest already has shopping on their mind.
Until recently, Reddit wasn’t as broadly popular as it is now, but today it's better understood just how many people use it. The site’s slogan is “the front page of the internet”, and with billions of visits per month, it’s easy to see why. Reddit content that finds its way onto other social media sites also tends to be some of the most popular content on those sites.
But Reddit doesn’t work like most other social media platforms. Users are completely anonymous, for one thing, and the only thing that’s similar to other social media is the ability to upvote or downvote (Reddit’s terms for liking or disliking) posts.
Reddit is separated into specific communities called subreddits – sometimes almost impossibly specific, like the subreddit for cat paws, and it's incredibly community-oriented. Subreddits often explicitly prohibit advertising.
At the same time, users love discussing the pros and cons of products they either have or are thinking of buying, precisely because of the unfiltered exchanges that the site makes possible.
So what do you do with this information? There are still ways to interact with potential customers on Reddit. If you want to take advantage of everything the platform offers, you can:
Search for customer feedback: because customers love discussing products on Reddit, it’s a great place to hear what people are saying about you without having to ask.
Give support and recommendations: instead of always trying to sell something, focus on offering support and troubleshooting. Using Reddit as an extension of customer service has worked well for many brands and helps prove that they care about their customers.
Do an AMA (ask me anything): AMA events are a mainstay of Reddit and crop up all the time. They’re a great way for you to engage directly with customers and make sure others see your brand. And a robust back-and-forth with a customer adds a personal touch to your business.
Though one of the toughest social media platforms to advertise with, Reddit can also be one of the most rewarding. The passion and dedication of its users will give you the data you’re looking for very quickly if you let it happen organically.
Twitter may not be a new social media platform, but Twitter Spaces is a relatively new feature. Available to anyone with more than 600 followers, Twitter Spaces lets you create and host audio conversations with up to 10 other speakers (but unlimited participants). It’s a bit like an interactive podcast. All Twitter Spaces are public, meaning anyone can join and exit one at any time.
Twitter also saves the data from the Space after it has ended, which includes recordings and transcriptions, so hosts can have a record of the Space and speakers can access records of everything they said.
So why is Twitter Spaces relevant to small businesses? Well, it gives you all sorts of valuable information and lets you do a few cool things. With it, you can:
Easily gather audience feedback: because of the format of a Twitter Space, this can be as formal or informal as you want it to be, which means you’re free to have real conversations with your audience. Also, gathering participants and data is easy, since Twitter’s user base is huge and the transcripts of what was said are recorded.
Announce new products/features: you can use your Twitter Space to reach your followers and tell them about a new offer or product. Then you can also answer any questions they might have about it and learn what they would want to see in the future.
Host discussions related to your field: not all your activity has to be about promoting your own business. By having discussions about the industry at large, you position yourself at the forefront of your field. This also makes networking easier, since it opens the door for anyone in your field to participate.
Twitter Spaces is exciting because it adds another dimension to one of the biggest social media platforms out there. It also makes interacting with your audience possible on a much larger scale, since you won't have to wait for replies to your post or responses to your survey. Then, once you download the transcript, you'll have a gold mine of actionable data to use.
Social media marketing for small businesses
Managing social media for a product or brand should be a full-time job, which isn't good news for many small business owners who are already balancing multiple roles.
However, there are a few steps that you can take that will begin to work, without taking up all of your time.
Find relevant social media channels (where your target market are), and start to build a profile there.
Post relevant content on those channels that will actually help people. Social media manager Matt Boucher shared some helpful advice with us.
"Start with asking yourself the question, 'what would I want to see as a customer?'"
Find a way to get your customers to generate content for you. Businesses who are selling a lifestyle or visual product can rely purely on user-generated content to fill their social media feed – as shown by the publication The Everygirl.
These are some simple steps that you can take as a small business to start building an online presence.
Hiring a social media manager could be an option for when you don't have the budget to work with an agency, but don't have the time to work on it yourself. A good social media manager will not only help build your social media presence, but also monitor it and analyse the results of any social media campaign.
Whether taking on social media yourself or working with a social media manager, one of the first steps to take will be defining your strategy.
How to create a social media strategy
Your social media strategy outlines what you want to do, and what goals you hope to achieve through using social media. You can refer to it to make sure that you're on the right track, or to see if you need to readjust.
Step 1: Research and planning
The first step in building your strategy is to start with some market research and competitor analysis. Reflecting on his own experience, Matt shared the following pointers:
“Different channels work better for different businesses. Instagram is great for inspiration and very visual – which may be better suited for artists and fashion brands. Facebook is very functional and offers many useful features, and gives you the option to book appointments through Messenger – perfect for hairdressers and beauticians.”
It’s a good idea to analyse your previous social media content and presence at this stage, to take forward any learnings you may already have.
Step 2: Goals
Many companies use social media to boost sales and find more customers. These types of goals can be reflected throughout the company, not just for social media.
Step 3: Plan your content
Once you’ve done your research and set your goals, it’s time to plan the content that will help you achieve them. Recording all the content that you aim to create is the start of a great social media calendar, and will help you stay organised and identify any gaps that you might have.
Step 4: Create, evaluate, repeat
All that's left is to actually produce the content that you've planned. Try to stick to your schedule, but make sure to evaluate it from time to time so that you can identify what works well for your audience, and what doesn’t. Keeping track of your performance is a key factor to help you optimise your content, so that you'll benefit more from every post you make. Measuring the performance of your content might include looking at your click-through rate, seeing how posts affect the number of sales or visitors in your store, and looking at the engagement of your content – which could be measured through comments, likes, or the amount of time that people spend on your page.
How much does it cost to advertise on social media?
The amount you spend on social media advertising can vary dramatically, depending on the platforms you use, as well as factors like time of year, time of day, your audience, and the industry that you're in.
The social media platforms that allow advertising on their sites often use a pay-per-click model. This means that your cost changes based on the number of people who click on one of your ads. Essentially, you only pay for running an ad when people click on it.
As well as paying per click, there is also what’s known as “cost-per-mile”. This model is based on the overall number of people who see your ad. In this case, you pay per every 1,000 people who see your ad.
Different companies have different cost-per-click and cost-per-mile figures. One of the most important figures to look at when it comes to social media is your ROI, also known as return on investment. This shows you how much you get for what you spend – and is a great indicator when deciding if a campaign was successful or not.
Starting to use social media for business can be daunting, but it does get easier as you go – especially when you start to see the positive impact it can have on your business.
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