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The world of social media marketing moves at a hundred miles an hour. Developments take place almost every week, and keeping up with it all or drawing up a strategy on how to stay ahead is a lot of work. For small businesses, the rewards can be vast – social media offers an unparalleled opportunity to connect with potential customers, get your message out there and create a real buzz around products and services. And all without the vast overheads of a traditional above the line campaign. However, as everything moves so fast it can be extremely hard to make it work for you – the sheer volume of noise means it’s hard to stand out and get heard. To overcome this, you need a proper social media strategy tailored to the aims of your business.
The platform that social media can grant is immense, and we are all familiar with stories of niche brands that suddenly blew up thanks to the power of Instagram or Twitter. But that can be slightly misleading in that it may lead you to set goals which won’t be realistic or achievable. Figure out what good looks like for you on social media by analysing similar small business marketing and competitors and what their positioning and reach is. This should give you a clearer picture of what you hope to achieve and what is within the scope of possibility. Be clear on the aims you have and how you want your social channels to work towards those for you. It could be that you want to position your company as a thought leader within your industry. You may want to gain a larger share of voice. Or it may be an aim like using video to explain your product or introduce a service. You could want to use social listening to get feedback on something you do. There are all sorts of things you could use it for so keep your initial aims fairly focused – you can always build on it later. Realism is your friend here – instead of setting yourself up for failure by aiming to gain a million followers in a year, use your vision and values to devise goals that are in line with what you’re aiming to do in the world. Tackling more specific goals means that not only are you far more likely to succeed but it also means that you can focus your efforts and scale your budget accordingly.
Your whole marketing strategy needs to be driven by the needs and wants of your audience. And there’s no excuse for not knowing them inside out, with the wealth of demographic data now available at your fingertips. Having the right analytical tools takes the guesswork out of any of your marketing efforts, and allows you to become much more data driven in your approach. Social media is at the apex of this approach. Everything from the type of content you publish to the frequency that you post to the platforms that you use should be a decision driven by social data. Learnings from your demographic data will let you know things such as Facebook and YouTube being great places to advertising to high earners, or Instagram being the prime platform to reach under 30s with highly visual content. LinkedIn is definitely the place for very technical, industry-specific content and white papers while Pinterest is the platform to target a female user base with a high average order value.
Once you’ve done your research, you need to work out some metrics. These will let you know if you your activity is effective and what return you’re seeing on your marketing investment. A lot of small businesses make the mistake of becoming overly focused on likes and shares but these we more of a vanity metric than something really illuminating. You need to be measuring meaningful engagement and sales above all else. Having all the followers on your Twitter account is still not effective if you can’t monetize them and it isn’t translating into sales. Instead, refocus on engagement metrics like the reach of your posts and how far they spread. Hashtag performance is also a good one to measure and react to as that can be a good driver for positive conversations with potential customers.
With so much information available literally at our fingertips, customers tend to do a fair amount of research before deciding to make a purchase. Frequently, part of that involves asking the opinions of their online community, and that equals a lot of free and important information for you. The hardest part can actually be sifting out the bits which are actually important to you, and that you can act on. Customers place far more weight on the recommendations of others than they do costly advertising. Seeing this conversation gives you an instant insight and a testing ground for new ideas. You can also use it as a form of competitor analysis, monitoring what is being said about others in relation to your own brand and using those strengths as key points in your marketing strategy. Any keywords that are especially relevant for your industry are also useful for wider monitoring – they can help you to understand what industry trends are forming and put you ahead of the curve.
Another thing that the dominance of social media has produced is a move away from hard sales tactics. Things are much more about building relationships organically, earning word of mouth recommendations, and providing smart solutions that people want to share. Being on someone’s social feed is a little like being in their house – you have to play by their rules. Women tend to excel at this kind of approach, so use the chance to build rapport, which will also gain the trust of your customers and lead to far higher retention rates.
This brave new world is transparent, so instead of plotting out an expensive marketing strategy, here’s what to focus on instead. Firstly, make sure that your website is fully optimised, and that you provide a smooth, easy experience for your customers when they do land. Second, focus on creating shareable content to raise brand awareness rather than traditional marketing. The aim is to get people to share, so really think about where you can add value. It all depends on what you do – a fashion business could offer free styling advice or a virtual PA firm tips on time management. Use infographics, video content and handy tips shared on social media to encourage people to pass on to their friends. Unique content will drive more visitors to your website and if it’s well presented, convert them into customers.
One is the best ways to gain an in with your prospective customers is to partner up with an influencer who hold away over them. Influencers are individuals with a significant following on social media who have the power to affect what their fans buy and which brands they could connect with. The key to a great partnership with an influencer is to be authentic. You need to find the right person, who will really appreciate your brand’s mission and has the right interests. Then their audience, in turn, will be receptive to hearing about your business, and it won’t seem out of place. Practically speaking, you have several options. Either you can approach the influencer to create a post and social media about your company for placement on their own channels, you can interview them or get them to appear in the content you create for your own site, or you can invite them to ‘takeover’ your channels and make content for you. Every influencer works in different ways, so begin with an honest conversation about what could work for both of you. Consider the outcome you want your activity to achieve – starting with a clear goal in mind, whether it be sales, raising awareness or more hits on your website, will help you to select the right influencer match. There are many online tools to help you find the prominent individuals that can get you seen – Klout, BuzzSumo, LittleBird, and OutreachNinja will help you identify who is who. Don’t just concentrate on their number of followers, but take the time to narrow it down to influencers who have great engagement with their audiences and who will genuinely be a great fit for what you’re promoting. And set a decent budget. This may be more cost-effective than a billboard, but you shouldn’t expect it to come free. Some will have set rates and media pack, while other smaller influencers may do a review in exchange for a free sample or service. But never expect anyone to work for free. Use their expertise to help guide the content you create, and focus on slowly building a long term relationship rather than going in for the quick win.