While the importance of social media marketing has grown, it’s never been more essential to small businesses than now. While most of the population is trying to stay home, many small businesses have been completely altering how they communicate with and market to customers, as well as how they deliver their services and products.
In fact, The Hartford’s Small Business Owner Online Community confirmed that not only are many small business owners making operational changes that adopt new ways of serving customers, but they’re also using social media as the most efficient way to engage with their customers and inform them of any changes.
“I am trying to promote curbside pickup and deliveries on social media non-stop,” says one small business restaurateur. Another notes, “I plan to expand my company into more online and social media offerings.” Many told us that they’re using this opportunity to work on projects they formerly put off, including adding a social media marketing plan to their overall marketing strategy.
It is a good idea when you consider that 71% of people are more likely to buy from a business after a positive social media experience. Working to create and execute a social media marketing strategy for your own small business can go a long way toward helping it survive this current crisis.
What is Social Media Marketing?
Social media marketing involves using popular social media networks to meet your target customers where they are. It also helps to achieve various marketing goals, from encouraging your target audience to learn more about your brand and products, to seeking market feedback, to boosting online sales.
Some of the most popular social channels include Instagram, Youtube, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, LinkedIn and Pinterest. Savvy online marketers use these platforms to their advantage by determining which ones their ideal customers most often use, and how they use them. These insights help them foster stronger, more positive connections with their target audience via social media. In fact, 77% of Twitter users feel better about a brand that has replied to one of their tweets, and 83% of Pinterest users have bought something from a brand based on their Pinterest content.
A host of social media management tools have answered the call of helping small businesses get a handle on social media as a marketing channel. These tools cover everything, from scheduling social media posts, to analyzing the types of users who are engaging with your brand and the best days/times to post, to which types of content perform best. Some of the most popular social media management tools among small businesses include Hootsuite, Sprout Social, Buffer and Everypost.
Getting Started: How to Create a Social Media Marketing Strategy for Small Businesses
With a good social media marketing strategy, business owners can achieve a host of marketing-related goals. They can improve their customer service and get relevant feedback using social media listening and engagement. And, by sharing social media posts that include valuable content, or by using social media advertising to reach their target audience, businesses can build positive brand awareness and drive users to their website, helping boost their traffic and sales. Engaging with users on social media also helps them build and strengthen an online community.
When it comes to crafting a social media strategy, some business owners choose to work with a social media marketing consultant . These high-level experts understand how to best use various social media platforms and how to create social media marketing strategies tailored to small businesses. Whether you choose to enlist help or do it yourself, start crafting your social media marketing strategy by identifying your goals. To ensure that you’re steering toward strategic marketing goals, start with your overall business goals and go from there. If, for instance, your major business objective for the quarter is improving customer retention, then your social media goals could include understanding your customers’ sentiment (social listening) by actively requesting feedback, as well as improving customer service efforts via your social channels (social engagement).
After identifying your social media marketing goals and making a plan for how you’ll measure them, decide which social media platforms to focus on. Pay attention to your ideal customers. Research which social platforms they use most often and then consider which of those platforms best serves your marketing goals. Finally, brainstorm the types of content that you can share and promote to capture your target audience’s attention and encourage the types of behavior that will help you reach your goals.
What’s Next? Social Media Strategy Execution
With your strategy now in place, choose which social media tool you’ll use to organize and streamline your social media marketing efforts. Then, set up monthly analytics reports to capture goal-related data. These reports will help you determine what you’re doing well and where you can improve. As you test various tactics, you’ll continue to improve, so stay flexible when it comes to your strategy. In fact, it may be best not to commit to a long-term social media plan. Instead, lean toward a regular reporting frequency and pivot when needed. For this reason, many businesses choose to work from quarterly social media plans rather than annual ones.
After the effort of planning your social media marketing strategy and choosing social media tools, it’s now time to execute your plan. Some small business owners choose to tackle this themselves, but many find that it’s too overwhelming to handle on their own. So instead, they hire a social media marketing specialist to execute their social strategy. This person may not be the same consultant they hired to work on their strategy. In fact, depending on the complexity of the strategy, they may even assign social media tasks to an intern.
Whether you choose to hire a full-time social marketing specialist, a freelance social media marketer or an intern to run your social media accounts, it’s important they have clear guidance on the types of content you want shared. They also must know your brand’s approved language and “voice” as they write your posts. Make sure you’re listed as an account administrator on all social platforms so you can have access and oversee everything. This is a very important social media marketing best practice, helping to lower the risk of someone quitting and taking full access to your social media accounts with them.
The Impact of Social Media Strategy on Small Businesses
When asked to identify the business benefits of social media marketing, marketers identified increased exposure, higher website traffic, lead generation, improved sales, loyal fans and more. When it comes to the proven impact that social media marketing can have on small businesses’ success, the statistics speak for themselves:
- 92% of small businesses say that increased exposure is the main benefit of social media marketing, while 77% name increased website traffic as another top benefit.
- 54% of social media users say they use social media to research products, read reviews and look for recommendations.
- 71% of consumers say they’re likely to recommend a business to friends and family based on a positive social media experience with that company.
- 77% of Pinterest users have discovered brands or products on the platform, and 83% of regular Pinterest users have made a purchase based on brand content they saw on the platform.
- Out of LinkedIn’s 660 million registered users, 90 million are senior-level influencers and 63 million are decision-makers at their companies.
Expert Assistance: Social Media Marketing Services
Depending on their budget, some small business owners decide to go beyond working with a skilled consultant to develop and execute their social media marketing strategy. They turn to agencies that offer social media marketing services. Most digital marketing firms that offer social media services put a whole team of specialists behind your social media efforts, including those who specialize in creating captivating content, social media advertising and data analytics.
Hiring a digital marketing agency may be a good option for businesses that have already benefited from using social media, but want to further capitalize on that success. In these cases, business owners already understand the value that social media can bring and feel comfortable allocating the budget necessary to further amp up those efforts.
The Benefits of Social Media Marketing Services
Social media marketing services typically offer solutions that are tailored to individual businesses. The two major benefits of engaging with a firm that offers these services include the deep expertise of a larger team that lives and breathes social media marketing. They keep up with the latest trends and best practices, while also bringing an increased capacity and bandwidth.
Often, these agencies begin with a discovery phase. This helps them understand your goals and gives them the chance to identify the right target audiences for your business. In this way, they can create a custom strategy by narrowing down the right social media platforms for your unique business. Once they’ve developed an overall social media marketing plan, you can continue working with them for the execution of your strategy. Their social media marketing services likely include:
- Creating and scheduling social media posts
- Continuously monitoring social media accounts and engaging with users
- Building and managing your online community
- Researching current trending topics and making related updates
- Offering regular reports related to your strategic goals
Start Your Social Media Marketing Plan
Before you dive into creating a business account for every social media platform out there, slow down enough to develop a strategic social media marketing plan. Either alone or with the help of experts, consider the user demographics, user behavior and user expectations for each social media channel. Then choose which platforms make the most sense for your business based on the ones your ideal customers most commonly use, making sure that your goals align with the ways your customers prefer to use them.
For instance, if you sell trendy clothing to young adults and want to boost sales, LinkedIn may not be the right match for you. Your ideal customers use LinkedIn for professional networking and career development, but they head to Instagram for inspiration, humor and shopping. So, in this case, Instagram better aligns with your goal to boost sales.
If you’re completely new to the world of social media marketing, we hope this beginner’s guide has put you in a better position to start with a strategic approach. If you have already been using social media for marketing, but have felt frustrated in your efforts, then you may consider enlisting the help of a social media marketing consultant or an agency that offers these services. Their guidance may be just the boost you need to upgrade your in-house small business marketing efforts from shots in the dark to fuel for revenue.
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