It’s fully apparent to small businesses that social media is important—more than 70% now utilize it as a marketing channel. However, figuring out exactly what works on social isn’t as clear.
Which networks should you be using? Are both organic and paid tactics worth pursuing? How often should you be engaging? Which types of content should you be posting?
The social media experts at MDG Advertising went through a host of research to see what the latest data says and combined that with learnings from recent work for clients. What emerged are a few key approaches that can help firms engage efficiently and effectively.
Specifically, these ten best practices can help small businesses of all types succeed on social media:
1. Start with Facebook
Facebook has received some rough coverage from the media over the past couple of years. Nevertheless, it remains immensely popular: some 69% of US adults use the platform and 74% of this group visit at least once a day.
This huge, engaged audience, combined with rich data and powerful advertising tools, makes Facebook the essential network for small businesses. Simply put, there’s no better starting point for a successful strategy. That’s why nearly twice as many small businesses say they use Facebook compared with any other social platform.
2. But don’t ignore other networks
The fact that Facebook works well as a starting point for a social media strategy doesn’t mean that the rest of the social platforms should be ignored.
Why? Largely because other networks can help reach specific audiences. For example, Pinterest can be utilized to connect with women and LinkedIn to connect with professionals.
Perhaps most importantly, networks other than Facebook are often the best way to reach younger audiences. As Pew Research found, Snapchat, Instagram, and YouTube especially resonate with those age 24 and under.
3. Have both organic and paid strategies
Should you be developing an organic (unpaid) social media strategy or an advertising-based (paid) social strategy?
The answer is: you should be building out both.
Why? Because each has its place. Organic social tactics can help with things like establishing an online presence and engaging with existing customers, whereas paid social tactics can help with things like reaching new audiences and promoting products/services.
Those different strengths are why each is highly valued: small businesses rated organic social and paid social as the two most effective tactics for marketing to customers last year.
4. Respond quickly to your audiences
How important is it to engage consistently and speedily with audiences on social media?
Very, very, very important.
A survey of consumers found that being responsive is the top thing brands can do on social to prompt consumers to purchase—ahead of actions such as offering promotions, providing informational content, and being entertaining.
5. Engage people with visual content
Which types of content should you be posting to social media?
There’s no one right answer: the proper mix will depend on the audiences you’re targeting and the social networks you’re utilizing. Trying to market accounting services on LinkedIn will require a different approach from getting the word out on Instagram about baked goods.
That said, a broad theme does emerge from the research: people really, really like visual pieces. That’s why images/infographics have now become the top type of content posted by small businesses on social media.
6. Don’t bombard your followers
Once you’ve gotten the hang of social—built an audience, created a marketing engine, etc.—it can be tempting to bombard your followers with messaging.
The research says don’t do this.
A survey of consumers found that the number-one thing that prompts people to unfollow brands on social media is seeing too many promotional messages. This doesn’t mean that you should always hold back—sometimes your brand may have a lot to say. Just keep in mind that there’s a point where content, especially overtly promotional content, goes from being useful to annoying.
7. Diligently guard your reputation
Social media is now the first place that small businesses turn to in order to monitor their online reputations—ahead of such channels as search and review sites.
Why? Because a firm’s reputation is becoming synonymous with its reputation on social media.
Consumers increasingly turn to social first to learn about small businesses and to share both positive and negative experiences. Given that, it’s essential to guard your reputation across all platforms. Failing to be diligent about this can impact every aspect of your business.
8. Remember that social takes time
Ever feel like your social media efforts are taking up a whole lot of time?
You’re not alone.
More than half (52%) of small and medium-sized businesses say that organic social media is one of their greatest time sucks, and 13% say that paid social media is one of their biggest time sucks.
As social media becomes more complex, it’s unlikely that it will take up less of a small business’s time. However, it’s important to keep in mind that this effort isn’t being wasted—it’s a channel that’s increasingly central to people’s lives.
9. Utilize tools to improve your efforts
While it’s unlikely that small businesses will be able to devote less time to social media anytime soon, it’s possible to make the time spent on the channel more effective.
How? By utilizing technology.
Social media management is already the most-used marketing tool by small businesses. Still, just over half (51%) of firms aren’t relying on these platforms. As more businesses embrace these tools, social media marketing should become both more efficient and more measurable.
10. Continue to invest over time
Finally, a key secret to social media success isn’t a secret at all: investment.
Building successful organic and paid strategies requires consistent time and spend. Only through continual experimentation and optimization will your efforts grow more effective and sophisticated. The necessity to dive in deeper and deeper is why 63% of small businesses say that they will devote more budget to social media this year.
Ultimately, all of the elements outlined above work together. By beginning with Facebook and building with other networks, crafting both paid and organic strategies, responding quickly to audiences and being mindful of not bombarding them, remaining vigilant about reputation management, embracing new technologies, and being patient with time, as well as investment, small businesses can find sustained success on social media.
MDG Advertising, a full-service advertising agency with offices in Boca Raton and Brooklyn, NY, is one of Florida’s top branding firms. MDG’s capabilities include print advertising, direct mail marketing, branding, logo design, creative, media buying and planning, radio and TV advertising, outdoor, newspaper, digital marketing, website design and development, online video advertising, infographic development, email marketing, video marketing, mobile marketing, content marketing, social media marketing, paid search marketing, and SEO. To learn about the latest trends in advertising and branding, contact MDG Advertising today at 561-338-7797 or visit mdgadvertising.com.
Written by Michael Del Gigante