The Right Way for Small Business to Use Social Media With Guest Ryan Heisler

Mike Kelly and Elizabeth Larkin

This week’s podcast is all about smart, budget-friendly ways that small businesses can use social media to their advantage. You can make a big impact with a small budget and a little elbow grease. You can also make mistakes. We talk to guest Ryan Heisler on what to do and what not to do on your social media channels.

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Do you have a question you’d like Elizabeth and Gene to answer? Submit your question to the Small Biz Ahead Podcast.


In This Episode We Answer:

  • How do you measure social media success?
  • How often should you post on social media?
  • How to deal with angry customers/reviews on social media?
  • How much of your marketing budget should you use on social media?

Elizabeth:  Welcome back to another episode of the Small Biz Ahead podcast. Gene, how are you doing?

Gene: I’m doing fine, how are you Elizabeth?

Elizabeth: I’m great and we’re so happy to have you back in Hartford today and it’s actually looking a little spring-like.

QUESTION #1: What Features Should I Use on My Facebook Page? 

Elizabeth: Okay, we’re back with our first question and it’s from Nick from Louisiana. Nick writes,

“I have a bike shop that I’ve been owner and operator of for 22 years, we’ve been on Facebook for the last 3. What are some of the best features small business owners can add to their Facebook pages? For example, I can’t stand checking out a local restaurant on Facebook and not being able to see their menu.” I totally agree with that, “Or not being able to see small businesses store hour, also agree. Can you give me some recommendations about what features I should add to my Facebook page?”

Gene: This is a bike shop.

Elizabeth: This is a bike shop, yes. So Ryan, who runs our social media here at The Hartford, we’ve asked him to join us, Ryan Heisler, social media manager. Ryan you’re going to take a stab at answering this question before we weigh in.

Ryan: Certainly.

Gene: Are you a motorcycle rider Ryan or a … ?

Ryan: I’m actually, this is my background industry, so I worked in the specialty running and triathlon industry-

Gene: Oh great, okay.

Ryan:Ran social media for stores similar to yours Nick. You’ve hit on a couple of really key features that you want to see on your Facebook page. Number one, you’ve got to have your store hours up there. You need to be able to showcase to your potential customers because they’re going to Facebook, they’re not necessarily going to Google to search for you. Include your location. Let’s cover a couple of key basics. You’re also going to want to define exactly what it is that you are. You have that option in Facebook’s page navigation menu. To be able to set what type of business you are and make it really clear.

That way if you have a couple of similarly named businesses in your area, that people can make sure that you are the right location. A couple of other things that you can do as a business, that you can’t do as in individual. You can set up what tabs are across your page, and so as an example, we include find an insurance agent on our Small Biz Ahead Facebook page. It really ties into who we are. You can set those and customize them so that way if you’re a restaurant and you have a menu, it’s very easily accessible. If you have services as a bike shop that you offer that nobody else in the area does, make it really clear.

Gene: If you’re running a bike shop, do you really need a Facebook page? What if you wanted to do it all on Yelp or [YP 00:04:19]? What does Facebook give you that a site like that would not give you?

Ryan: Facebook allows you to really control your messaging. It makes sure that your message is the thing that’s out in front of you. With Yelp, you’re really dependent on what other people are saying about you, versus being able to say something that you want to reach your customer or potential customer. On Facebook you can also aggregate reviews, you can include commentary from visitors who have liked your store, who don’t have a … Have said something negative about your store, but you have that ability to be open and transparent in terms of your dialogue and be able to respond in a positive manner.

Gene: How about selling from Facebook? Have you ever had any … In your prior life, did you guys ever sell anything using Facebook as a launching pad to do that?

Ryan: Facebook has this ability to capture offers and so if we were particularly slow, I was in Northern New England and so we had to run into snow storms so on occasion, one of the things that we would do is put out an offer for people who were … Happened to be traveling during the course of a snow storm. If someone came in via Cross Country Ski, they could claim the offer.

Gene: Sure.

Ryan: It doesn’t cost you anything to run an offer and it’s a really kind of unique way to make sure that whatever post you’re putting out there has some visibility behind it.

Gene: Let me ask you, sorry, this guy knows a lot about Facebook … If you’re running a bike shop or you’re a merchant or whatever, talk about some of the advice that you have. If I could ask you for maybe 2 things that you absolutely would not be doing on your Facebook page, what mistakes do you think people make when it comes to Facebook, that gets them into trouble or that they should probably try to avoid?

Ryan: Well the first one really comes down to you over-post to Facebook. That’s the number 1 thing that you can’t do as a business because-

Elizabeth: I think business owners will love to hear that because most of the people we hear from are saying, “I don’t know what to put on Facebook,” so it’s great to hear that you don’t have to post every day.

Ryan: Right. You want to get into a rhythm. The thing with Facebook is that it’s better not to do it then to only go half-way with it.

Gene: Right.

Ryan: Once you get into a posting rhythm, you have to keep it up and really what Facebook’s algorithm has done, which really decreases the reach for business is that when you put something out there, it needs to be meaningful and have an impact to your audience. For your organic posting, you’re really looking to put no more than something once per day and really you can go every other day. If you had some lighter content that you were putting up.

Gene: Sure, so posting too much is definitely something to be-

Ryan: It’ll hurt you every single time.

Gene: That’s great.

Ryan: You can analyze your post reach, it’s really easy to do. If you go to your page and you click on insights, you can find out how many people you’re reaching. Say you have 5000 Facebook followers, but you’re posting 4 times a day, each one of those might only be reaching 70 people out of your whole audience, which doesn’t do you any good. You’re shouting into the wind.

Gene: Right.

Ryan: Whereas, if you take and be a little bit more impactful with what you say, you’re going to see a larger percentage of your audience engage with your content.

Gene: That’s great.

Ryan: The other thing that I’ve seen happen, and it’s very tempting, is to get into a bit of an argument back and forth with a potential customer who has had-

Elizabeth: That’s so easy to do.

Gene: Great idea. Great idea.

Ryan: You have to resist that temptation. You need to always put your store forth in the most positive light. Apologize for a poor experience that somebody might have and make it clear what you’re going to do to try and rectify the situation. If they continue, just don’t keep engaging with you. If they get to a point where they’re completely just trolling your business, you can ban users from your Facebook page. Take that action very, very lightly because then you don’t know what they’re saying about their business as an individual.

Gene: Great, that’s great advice, thank you.

Elizabeth: I just have to chime in with a story about posting, getting into posting wars with your customers. There was in Hartford a small business, a small restaurant that opened up and they had a customer complaint. It wasn’t even on Facebook, the woman complained in the store and the owner went on Facebook to complain about the customer, like, “This happened in our store. This person complained.” I think they had served a pregnant woman a raw hamburger or something like that. It was something, “Oh okay, well we’ll just cook you up a new hamburger,” could have easily fixed that. I know it’s so tempting to go out there and just go on your Facebook page and go off, just don’t do it. Say, “Sorry you had a bad experience,” and move on,”This is what we can do to rectify it,” and just don’t get into it with people. Once that story got out there, that that restaurant owner had posted in public about this woman that wasn’t even on the Facebook page, the restaurant ended up closing 2 months later.

Ryan: I think that really ties into if … You have to treat your social media properties as if they’re within the 4 walls of your business. If you wouldn’t say it within your business, you cannot say it on social media.

Gene: Great advice.

Elizabeth: Good tip. All right, we’re going to hear from our sponsor again and we’ll be back with question 2 for Ryan.

QUESTION #2:  Should I Buy Social Media Followers? 

Elizabeth: We’re back with question number two, another question about social media for Ryan Heisler, our social media expert. This is from Dawn from South Carolina.

“What are some of the paid options a business owner should look into for social media? Do you recommend paying to get followers on Twitter, and should a business owner pay to promote posts or ads on Facebook?”

Elizabeth: This is a great question, and I think Ryan is going to say … I’m just going to guess what he’s going to say, that it really depends on what kind of business you’re running?

Ryan: It’s actually, it’s a little bit more universal than you might think. This is a really great question, because people are always asking, “Should I buy followers?” Really, at this point, the answer is no. That’s for multiple different reasons. Number one is because of the way that Facebook has really changed the game in terms of the way that you can distribute your content as a business. With your follower base, that’s really kind of your organic follower base. If you’re paying to expand that, you’re paying to expand an audience that Facebook is always trying to limit the amount of things that they’re going to wind up seeing.

What’s going to happen is, the things that you say are going to be the things that get you followers. It means you need to be timely and relevant with every piece of content that you put on every platform that you’re on. I wouldn’t buy Twitter followers. I would really focus instead on promoting key tweets with either offers or customer service examples that you have that set your business apart from your competitors.

Gene: I always thought that, first of all, sometimes … You look at every celebrity and politician, they have analysis that looks at their real versus their fake Twitter followers. They all have huge percentages of fake Twitter followers. I think that’s because they’re all just trying to keep up with each other. They don’t want to give a public perception of view that they’ve got less than their competitor. I think when you’re running a business, I don’t know if that really makes it … Even if you have 50 followers on Twitter or Facebook, okay, that’s your core community, as it is. They’re interested in what you have to say. I don’t think people are judging you whether you’ve got 50 or 5,000 followers, if you’re a manufacturer.

Ryan: Right. It kind of ties into, the people who choose to follow you, especially if you’re not paying to like or follow you, these are people who find what you’re having to say interesting.

Gene: Absolutely.

Ryan: They’re going to become your biggest champions out there, and it really turns social media back into a grass roots marketing campaign.

Gene: Yeah, which is what it was designed for at the beginning, wasn’t it? I think when Twitter first was designed, it was followed, like follow Elizabeth, because I’m interested in what you have to say. It’s not like you want to build up 10,000 fake followers. Who are you impressing?

Ryan: Exactly. It leads into the other half of this is what should I be paying to promote? The answer here is, it depends. I recommend going out there with a varied approach of promoting key posts that you’ve put out there that you really want to make sure you get the kind of visibility and response that you want out of it. Then I would look to schedule certain ads out. If you have an event, like say you’re the bike shop from the previous example, and you have one of your manufacturers coming for a demo day on Saturday, create the event in Facebook, and pay to promote that event, so that was you can get an idea on the number of people that might RSVP.

Gene: Yes.

Ryan: Get that out there in front of your core, key demographic, and make sure that they’re going to show up.

Gene: And you’re tracking metrics on that, right?

Ryan: Right.

Gene: You can actually track who’s clicking on that ad to sign up for an event.

Ryan: Exactly. A lot of times with traditional media opportunity, you’re really only getting an estimate of number of potential impressions that you can have. The number of potential eyeballs that might see something. Instead, with social media, you can truly see the number of unique impressions that you have. That’s the number of unique people that you actually got your ad out in front of. You can get the number of people who clicked on it, and you can get the number of people who responded to your event, or the number of people who clicked to your website, and be able to tie that back, so you can really manage that advertising spend smartly.

Gene: That’s great.

Elizabeth: Let’s talk about budget. If you’re- and I know this is definitely going to vary by industry- but let’s say you’re the bike shop, you’re a hair salon, you’re a small restaurant. What kind of budget should you be putting … If you’re not having events, then maybe you don’t need to promote anything, but let’s say you are having events, you have like Taco Tuesday at your restaurant. What’s a budget? What’s going to get you enough people in the door to make it worth potentially hiring a social media manager to handle this?

Ryan: You can run ads as cheaply as $8 dollars on Facebook. It really kind of ranges in terms of scale. The way that I would sort of approach it is what is your overall advertising budget, and I would carve out somewhere between 10 and 15% of it to dedicate to your social media.

Elizabeth: That’s great. I love having that real hard number there.

Ryan: Then based on that, you can figure out whether you’re going to spend that evenly, or you can concentrate that on key periods where you know that your business needs lift, or on the opposite side, maybe that you have these periods that you know are always popular, and you really just want to grow that particular side of your business.

Gene: Don’t you think as well that it’s like any form of advertising, it’s a gamble? You’re just taking a shot. You can devote a certain percentage of your advertising budget to something. It’s just you don’t know what the return is that you’re going to get on it. Don’t you guys here at… do you guys do promoted tweets?

Ryan: Yeah. We utilize Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn. Google Plus doesn’t have advertising. We’re on YouTube. We’re always exploring new and different options in terms of social, but we have key metrics that we’ve developed, and it you’re advertising, Facebook also gives you the opportunity to talk with their support service. You can get some baselines as to this is what other small business owners who are in a similar industry, this is baseline expected engagement rates.

Elizabeth: Oh, that’s great.

Ryan: You can find out, am I exceeding this target? Am I under-performing? If I’m under-performing, and it’s not delivering the results, let’s reevaluate how we’re going to be able to go about that.

Gene: That’s great. One thing that we did is, we do events, and then for my company we like to promote them online.

Elizabeth: You do CRM happy hours?

Gene: We do. Close to it. We do like a Serum Summit or we share the different Serum applications. We do training for some of the products that we do. Both online and live. We promote that on Twitter and Facebook. We don’t have a clue what’s going to work and what’s not going to work. The person I use for social media said to me that if you could get 15 … How much would you pay to get 15 people at this event? What is that worth to you? I had to think about that. I said, okay, I guess that’s worth it. If I get 15 people, I’d probably pay $1,000 bucks or $2,000 dollars, or whatever the number is. That’s how we figured out what our budget was going to be.

Elizabeth: That’s really smart.

Gene: Then what happened is, then it’s a gamble. Okay. I’d like to get those people in there. I pay the money, and then, oh, we only got ten people. Was it still worth it or not? Then how is that going to reflect my decision the next time.

Ryan: In my past working in retail, we would pay to promote a certain event. What is the acceptable point, and I know what my average cost per transaction is, I know what my average profit per transaction is, being able to tie that in and say, okay, I can take this percentage of that, and that’s acceptable because I’ll make that up.

Gene: You’ll make more money. Right. Sure.

Ryan: Overall. You have to be able to do that calculus and really be able to analyze whether social media is working for you.

Gene: Yeah. It’s great.

Elizabeth: If people are interested in learning more about social media, we have a ton of resources on Small Biz Ahead, and the Playbook. Even if you’ve never done it before, we have ways to help you get started, guides on for instance what the Facebook algorithm is. I always feel like everyone knows what that is, but some people might not. It’s not as scary as it sounds.

The other plug, just for using social media, is you can actually measure these things. You can see, okay, I spent this much money, and I got this many clicks. If you put an ad in the newspaper, you have no way of knowing.

Gene: It’s true.

Elizabeth: What the reach was, how many people actually engaged with that ad. If you’re interested in dipping your toe more into social media, we have a lot of resources for you, and we’re definitely going to have Ryan back again. Please send in your social media questions. You can tweet at us and actually Ryan will be the person seeing these tweets. What is our Twitter handle again? SBA?

Gene: It’s @smallbizahead.

Elizabeth: Or you can use the hashtag #sbapodcast, but definitely remember @smallbizahead on Twitter and send Ryan your questions, and we’ll be back answering more of them. We’re going to hear one more time from our sponsor, and then we’re going to get a word of brilliance from Gene.


Elizabeth: Okay, we’re back and it’s time for the word of brilliance from Gene.

Ryan: Elizabeth, I have a word right now. I’m going to explain this and we’ll see how well you know this word. It is, the word, are you ready? It is bot.

Elizabeth: What?

Gene: That is the word. B-O-T. Bot. Bot, or bots, have been in the news a lot of late. In fact, at a recent Microsoft developer conference, it was one of the main things that was talked about by Satya Nadella, the CEO of Microsoft, and just within a couple weeks after that, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook was talking a lot about bots and why they’re going to be so important. It is the next killer app, and it will affect small businesses all around the world. Not immediately, but let’s wait a little bit and watch what happens.

You might say, what are bots? Bots are applications that involve artificial intelligence. They are able to conduct conversations and do tasks, and have workflow basically, generated from them, just automatically. For example, somebody visits your Facebook page and has a question about a product. A bot itself can recognize certain key words in that question, and from there engage with that user, or-

Elizabeth: Oh, that’s going to be so annoying.

Gene: Send them information, or do other things, whatever, all automatically, because it’s using artificial intelligence technology to do that. Now, Microsoft just had a huge issue, this was like a few weeks ago. I don’t know if you saw this. I forget the name of the bot that they put up, a new Twitter account, and it got taken over by people on Twitter. They were doing all sorts of horrible things.

Elizabeth: Yes.

Gene: It was supposed to be a demonstration of how great bots can be, because it can be a completely automated Twitter account, and because people were putting in some pretty scary keywords, we won’t go into details on what those words were, it got completely out of control and they had to shut it down. Okay, it’s early days for this, but how does this affect you, the small business owner? What it’s going to do is this. Everybody complains so much that they don’t have time to deal with their website, that they don’t have time to deal with social media. That’s going to solve that problem, or go a long way towards solving that problem.

Elizabeth: That’s awesome.

Gene: You will download bots and based on the interaction engagement that you’re getting either on your website or on your social media accounts, things will automatically be happening, or you’ll be alerted that certain things will be happening as well, which will then hopefully free up your time, because you’re letting automation and artificial intelligence do the work for you.

Elizabeth: Cool.

Gene: Bots. Keep an eye out for it.

Elizabeth: Bots.

Gene: It will be the new buzz word heading into 2017 and 2018.

Elizabeth: Great. Again, if you have any questions about bots, you can tweet us @smallbizahead on Twitter and I’m sure Gene will have more info on bots.

Gene: I will, but for now, bots all for now.

Elizabeth: Cool. I actually have a word of brilliance this week. It’s a recommendation for an article that we just published on Small Biz Ahead. It’s called Seven Habits of Great Leaders. It was written by our podcast producer Mike Kelly, you hear him at the beginning and the end of the podcast. He has that really deep, wonderful voice, talking about how great The Hartford is, and how great Small Biz Ahead is.

Gene: Mike is the man.

Elizabeth: He wrote it with Misty Young. Gene, you know Misty Young.

Gene: Yeah, I sure do. The restaurant owner, right?

Elizabeth: The restaurant lady.

Gene: Sure.

Elizabeth: That’s actually her Twitter handle, is @restaurant_lady. She owns The Squeeze In, which is in Northern California. She’s now franchised it. She was on Throw-down with Bobby Flay. Mike and Misty wrote an article together, and it’s called The Seven Habits of Great Leaders. The reason I love this article is because most … You see these articles all the time, Gene, like on Ink and Business Insider and Forbes and everything.

Gene: Sure.

Elizabeth: It’s like, get up early, and have a daily routine. They talked about habits, and then they wrote it for people that don’t currently have these habits. They said, “If you want this habit, here are steps to actually make that happen.”

Gene: That’s cool. It’s a good idea.

Elizabeth: Instead of just saying, “You should be doing this.”

Gene: Yeah. You should be getting up early every morning. You’re like, “I don’t normally … I’m not a morning person.” I guess it’s like advice on, here’s what you want to try to do to try to get up earlier. It’s good.

Elizabeth: It’s all about managing your employees better, and specifically how to do that. Instead of just saying to someone, “You should communicate more effectively with your employees,” how? They actually go into those details. That’s at Small Biz Ahead. We will link that in the show notes. It’s a great article. Thank you Mike and Misty for writing that.

Gene: Awesome.

Elizabeth: We will be back next week with another episode of the Small Biz Ahead podcast. Thanks Gene.

Gene: Thank you Elizabeth. See you then.

The views and opinions expressed on this podcast are for information purposes only and solely those of the podcast’s participants, contributors and guests and do not constitute an endorsement by, or necessarily represent the views of The Hartford or its affiliates.

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