The biggest failures small businesses encounter in social media come from not knowing who their customers are, who they’re competing against, which channels to target, and how to engage their audience. Most are unaware of native analytics available in all major social networks and don’t know how to integrate their online and offline marketing activities or how to automate their social scheduling.
In this blog, I will show you seven important social media marketing tips that every small business should know before embarking on its social media journey.
Tip #1: Know Your Competition
Remember that having competitors who target the same people is great because you can always check what worked for them and what didn’t, and use this knowledge to adjust your own strategy.
My advice is to start with the big fish. These guys are doing something right to get the kind of follower count and engagement they have, so why not learn from them? There are a few ways of doing this.
Use Facebook’s Pages to identify your best-performing competitors and compare their activity, engagement, and audience growth to your own. You can see exactly what content they’re posting, how often, and at what time of day they’re posting. Remember to not only look at follower count but total engagement: it will tell you how their followers are interacting with the content. Brands with high engagement rates are typically the ones to watch.
Not entirely sure who your competitors are? That’s ok. There are tools out there that can help you find the competitors you might not have been aware of. For example, with SEMrush’s Competitive Positioning Map all you need to do is to enter your URL, and the tool will automatically compile data showing you your top competitors, how much traffic they’re getting and the keywords they’re ranking for:
Pay special attention to the bubbles located above you and to your right. They represent the competitors whose total traffic exceeds yours and who are ranking for more keywords than you are.
This report will give you a good idea of who has a strong online presence, and who is investing heavily in marketing. Brands investing in marketing and getting plenty of traffic typically have strong social presences, so they’ll be good ones to check out.
If you need more advanced social media competitive analytics, tools like Rival IQ, SproutSocial, Klear, or SEMrush can provide them. They will help you track your competitors’ social pages to see how their posts perform, how much engagement they receive, which hashtags they use, and what special offers and competitions they’re running on social.
Note: Never skip the competitive analysis part if you’re just starting out. Your competition has tried-and-tested recipes of what works and what doesn’t. Use them to your advantage.
Tip #2: Pick the Right Channel to Target
There are a lot of social media channels out there, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to be on all of them.
If you are starting your social media journey from scratch, it’s advisable that you pull together a survey and ask your customers which social media channels they prefer or use the most.
If you’re already active on social media channels, check their efficiency. Compare the size of your audience across different channels, your engagement, and engagement rate metrics. For example, the overview report in Social Media Tracker shown below will give you an idea of which channels are worth putting effort into:
Another way to pick the right target channel is to analyze your competitors’ activity. Check which channels they put their energies into, and start targeting them too: your chances of getting noticed by the relevant audience will double.
Bonus Tip: Be ruthless in getting rid of some of your accounts and prioritize your social media marketing capabilities. Not ready to make videos? Skip YouTube. Don’t have time for blog writing? Leave it for now and concentrate on one or two channels.
Tip #3: Simplify Content Creation
Creating social media content does take time, but not as much when you have the right tools at hand.
For example, Inoreader will help you find relevant content and keep up with your favorite information sources. The tool allows you to save web pages for viewing later, and subscribe to social feeds (even with the free version you can subscribe to as many sources as you like).
Photos and videos you take on your phone can be easily processed with tools like Canvas and VSCO right from your mobile device. Tools like Buffer, Sprout Social, or SEMrush Poster will help you with scheduling and posting your content across different social networks.
Social media managers are always at risk of making small errors, and social media can be merciless if you make a mistake. Use tools like Grammarly to keep your brand’s reputation intact.
To find hashtags, use RiteTag—it is an absolute must-have for any social media manager. The tool gives you tag suggestions for images or text on any site or social network. All it takes is a right click on the image or text.
Key Takeaway: have you ever heard about the 80/20 rule or Pareto principle? Apply this rule to the time you invest in social media. Plan 80% of content in advance, and spend the other 20% on live conversations with an audience.
Tip #4: Automate Your Posting
If you don’t make an effort to automate your posting routine, you will never have the time to focus on the essential things that can truly help your business.
If you manage several social networks at once, consider tools like Hootsuite and Social Media Poster. Instead of switching between multiple tabs to post your content in each individual network, you will be able to schedule content for all your social profiles from one tab and create a personalized posting schedule. You’ll have multiple scheduling options as well, whether you want your post to go live immediately, schedule it for later or create a draft and revisit it later:
Tip #5: Interact with Your Audience on Social
There are two sides to this.
The first one is about monitoring your online mentions across the web and responding to them. The other is about not forgetting to respond to your followers’ messages on social. Both are crucial if you want your business to succeed. So how do you manage both?
People will talk about your brand across the web. And they will either be happy with your brand and want to say thank you, or they’ll be disappointed. You have to respond to both types of mentions, be it a positive review or a total diss.
Social media monitoring tools such as Mention.com, SEMrush Brand Monitoring, or Brand24.com allow you to track and categorize your online mentions, find influencers, and identify new promotional opportunities.
If you have more than one social account, I’d definitely recommend trying Buffer Reply. It helps you keep all your social conversations in one team inbox and respond to them right from the tool’s interface. Another great thing about Buffer Reply is that it provides you with sufficient data about the person you’re talking to, allowing you and your team to create personalized responses.
Keep in Mind: Your customers may contact you directly, or they may leave a review online. Either way, they want and need to be heard. Make communication with your audience, whether online or offline, your key priority.
Tip #6: Engage your Audience Constantly
Test different content formats. Try videos, live streaming, and quizzes. Take pictures of your product, customers with your product, competitors with your product, and cats with your product. Try jokes, memes, and funny statements—experiment with the potential of humor. Don’t forget to set an engagement metric for all the content you post. Otherwise, how will you know what works and what doesn’t?
You can easily entertain your audience with thematic and occasion-based campaigns. These could be campaigns built around holidays and events such as an upcoming game release or a TV series premiere. They usually require minimum investment and effort on your part. Because the interest in the event is already there, all you need to do is use it to attract people’s attention to your product.
Remember: Test, experiment with, and measure different types of content. See how your audience reacts and then test it all over again. Social media marketing is all about experimenting and innovating.
Tip #7: Integrate the Online and the Offline
Surely you must have thought about running special offers and competitions for your customers! Make an effort to promote your special offers and sales through social media channels. All it takes to integrate online and offline marketing is the right hashtag. Tools like Hashtagify and Ritetag will not only help you brainstorm new hashtags to use but also show you the popularity and potential reach and impact of specific terms and phrases:
Remember to create a branded hashtag for your product and an additional hashtag for your marketing activities.
The same goes for offline events. Organizing a charity ball or an email marketing panel? Be sure to create a location hashtag to help you connect with local audiences. Examples: #wintergardenfarmersmarket, #dallasfood, #phillysports. Keep in mind that hashtags are everchanging.
Remember: Promoting offline events online is an essential step to a successful marketing strategy. Integrate your online and offline marketing with the right hashtags.
Do you have more tips for small businesses wishing to improve their presence and reputation on social media channels? Let me know in the comments below!