Social media can be a powerful tool, but it isn’t for everyone. There are a couple of things to consider when thinking about engaging with social media.
Firstly, answer the following:
- Do I have the resources to dedicate to this? (Time, energy, money)
- Is it worth investing resources into social media? (Opportunity cost)
- What budget can I set on this and do I need to set on this to make it worthwhile?
- What networks are my ideal customers on?
Small businesses may lack dedicated resources to fully implement social media. To simplify your thinking, you can approach social media in one of two ways:
- Use it as a “landing page”
- Invest time, money, and energy into it
Social Media as a Landing Page
For many businesses, including my own, I recommend thinking of social media as a landing page.
What I mean is that you want to have a page on a major network like Facebook or LinkedIn, but that doesn’t mean you need to invest heavily into marketing on these channels.
Instead, you optimize the profiles so anyone visiting understands the benefits you can offer and are then linked to another source that they can continue researching on – likely your homepage or a specific landing page.
Meanwhile, to make it clear you are still active and in business, post a few times a week, just 3-4 times should be enough. The posts can be scheduled with a tool like Hootsuite and the content can be curated from other sources.
If you do this once a month, it will only take someone about two hours of their time to ensure that your Facebook page shows you are still an active company.
Investing in Social Media
For others, you may want to engage actively on social media. If that’s the case, just revisit my previous questions to plan it out. Where are your customers? What can you invest? What do you need to invest?
Remember, to build your reach you may have to invest in advertising. Facebook specifically almost mandates advertising for you to grow your reach.
But okay, that isn’t for everyone either. Maybe social media makes sense for you. The first decision to make, then, is what social network to join?
To start, you should be using analytics to track what you have set up now. If you’re already deep into a social media campaign over Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn, see what channel(s) leads to more conversions for you. Do people click over to your links on Facebook or LinkedIn more? Is there 20% of your social media efforts that leads to 80% of your results? That’s one way to focus.
Let’s also break each down by target, communication method, and business types. This should serve as a guide to select one of the best channels for your business.
Facebook: America’s Most Popular Social Network
Target: Nearly anyone. Facebook ads allow you to focus on highly specific niches. You just want to be sure your target market is on Facebook. These days, almost everyone from teens to grandma and grandpa are on Facebook. Instead, measure whether this is the network your target is most on, or one of the others we will mention in a moment.
Method: Be personal. Have a personality. Ask questions. This isn’t the place to push sales (don’t make offers more than once a week, by the way). This is about building a brand, reputation, and connection.
Business Type: B2C products and services.
Twitter: The Social Network for Breaking News and Pop Culture
Target: Younger crowd. Focused on men and women in their twenties. This is a hard-and-fast type of network with many short messages. Noise is high, but you can stick out.
Method: Remember, 140 characters is not a lot. Beyond that, you want to make it short enough that people can quote you and respond to you with your message. The best is to shoot for 70 character messages. Make them interesting and interactive and you have something going here.
Business Type: B2C products and services; B2B unless you are in a complex-sales situation.
LinkedIn: The Professionals Social Network
Target: Business professionals – simple as that. People are on LinkedIn to connect with peers, make deals, or find a job. Keep that in mind in your messages.
Method: Your messages should help them to connect with others and learn new skills. Beyond that, if you can become a connector that introduces people to each other, you’ll do even better.
Business Type: B2B!
Pinterest: A Visual Social Network and Community Base
Target: Middle-aged women, moms, and teen girls. 70% of users on Pinterest are women, which is great if that fits your target market.
Method: Pinterest is built on shareable images. Make sure all your pins and collections are vibrant. The images should jump out and grab attention. Mix in pictures relevant to your business and industry with pictures that hit common hobbies and interests of your target audience. It mixes things up and builds connections.
Business Type: B2C!
Again, this is a guide, not an absolute command. There are also plenty of other social networks out there to consider.
Always experiment to see what works best for you. New social networks aren’t out of the question either. If it fits your audience, the new, up-and-coming networks the mainstream doesn’t know about may be the best way for you to invest your time. It’s up to you to experiment and figure that out.
Digital Communities: Groups People Congregate in Online
You should always “go where your target customers are”. I’m sure you’re familiar with that concept.
The internet gives you infinite further possibility to directly engage your ideal customers where they hang out online. Social media, message boards, niche forums, self-hosted platforms… The opportunities are endless.
The important thing is to schedule some time to focus these efforts to find where your target audience is and what to communicate to them.
When you do find them, avoid coming off as “sales-y” and pushing your offerings on them. Remember the three E’s you use in content marketing. Just share information and answer questions. Be helpful. This is a great way to use content marketing to communicate your authority and ability without being sales-y.
You can still post your content that is hosted on your website, but use a question that everyone wants answered (and that you content answers) in the headline, share it, and be available in the conversation around it.
Look to the Right Places Online to Find Your Customers
Always begin your social media strategy plan with considering where your customers already are. It makes sense to place your efforts (and funding) where your market congregates online now. Otherwise, trying to adjust consumer behavior is near impossible without massive budgets. Furthermore, you may have a smaller opportunity on less popular platforms.
- Facebook groups
- Message boards and forums
- Reddit pages
- LinkedIn Groups
- Major and Niche Blogs
Action Step: Identify Your Strategy, Target Your Channels
As mentioned early on, you need dedicated resources if you want to leverage social media for your business. For some smaller companies, this can be challenging. Your team is already exhausted through handling other intiatives, they lack the talent, and you lack the funding to outsource.
If that’s the case, then you will want to consider a bare-minimum strategy so that you are at least showing that your business is alive and well. This is where I referenced social serving like a landing page. It’s a place to provide the key information about your business and an occasional update.
If you have resources to invest in your social media, start to get to know your customers. Where do they go online? Where can you go to reach them? And importantly, where do you not need to be?
Understanding your customers is the base of all your successes.
This article is an adapted excerpt from “Getting Digital Marketing Right” (David J. Bradley, 2015).