Thursday, 26 June 2014

Social media marketing for small businesses – a how to guide for beginners

10 steps for social media success

Social media marketing is a great tool for small businesses and one that you just cannot ignore. The number of people engaging in social media networks every single minute is so big and if your business is not participating in this mega digital party, you are missing out opportunities.

Obviously the next question is how can business owners take advantage of social media and whether it is something that can generate business results (i.e. more traffic, sales, leads, signups) or if it is just another myth?

#1 – Let’s get started

The first step is to actually move from theory to practice and get started with social media. This means 4 things:
  • To allocate some time on a daily basis to work on your social media presence
  • To choose which social media networks to use at the beginning since there are too many and it will be very difficult to do all at the same time.
  • To create your business pages on those networks
  • To SEO optimize your social media profiles for more exposure
Some things to consider:

Facebook – Everybody is on Facebook so you don’t actually have a choice here. Read this to get inspired: How to get your first 10,000 fans on Facebook. Note: Since that article was written, the page has now more than 45,000 fans.

Google+Google plus is for businesses and it’s also owned by Google so this is your second choice.

Pinterest – It’s growing rapidly and can send a lot of traffic to a website so this is your next choice provided that you have something visual related to your business that you can share on Pinterest.

Twitter – millions of users, easy to maintain and good way to engage with your customers. Together with the previous 3, this is your priority list.

LinkedIn – Mainly for business professionals, more difficult to use, advertising is expensive. You can create your presence on LinkedIn but if you are short of time, I suggest you start using LinkedIn for your personal profile and then when you grow your business profiles on the other networks, you can utilize LinkedIn for your business as well.

#2 – Start Small

When you are ready to get started do not rush into following hundreds of people, posting many times per day and checking your statistics every minute. Start small and have in mind that:
  • Social Networks do not like too much activity on newly created accounts (it’s not normal and kind of spammy)
  • All networks have a maximum number of actions (following and unfollowing) you can do per day so the best way is to stay below their radar.
  • At the beginning and when you don’t have a good number of followers, nobody will see your posts so don’t spend your time for no reason.

#3 – It’s a numbers game

While there are millions of people in social media channels, in order to start getting traffic, making sales or have any influence at all, you need to have a LOT of followers in your networks. And by a LOT, I mean a LOT and let me explain why.

When you publish a new post on your business page on Facebook that post will be seen by a small percentage of your followers (FB tells you how many people saw your posts so have a closer look to understand what I mean).

Let’s say that you have 400 fans on your page, when you post something only 30-40 people will see it and this is because FB does not show the posts to all your fans.

The other networks may show your posts to all your followers but if a person is following a lot of other people/pages, there are limited chances that they will see and interact with your posts.

So, the more followers you have, the greater are your chances of start getting anything out of social media. From my experience and without this being a definite guide, you need at least 10,000 on FB, 1000 on G+, 1000 on Twitter and 2000 on Pinterest before seeing any visitors to your website or shop. Of course as I said this is not a rule but an empirical figure.

#4 –Follow people that matter

Unless you are a known brand, in order to grow your followers you need to follow other people and some of them will follow you back. When choosing who to follow be selective by applying these simple techniques:
  • Follow people that have a relation with your business either geographically (i.e. they live in the same area) or by interest (they are interested directly or indirectly in the products or services you are selling).
  • Follow people who have an active profile; there is no reason to follow someone on twitter if they haven’t posted anything for two months.
  • Follow people that have a balance between the people they follow and people following them – you don’t want to follow people that will not follow you back and also you don’t want to follow accounts that only have following and no followers
  • Follow people that have something interesting to say – before following someone have a look at what they share and decide if this is something your customers would like to see in your profile.
  • Find and follow the influencers in your niche – every business area and niche has influencers and although they will not follow you back, it’s always a good practice to connect with them and follow what they have to say about the industry.

#5 – It’s time consuming – make sure you have the time

Social media marketing is relatively easy to do but it is a very time consuming task. Before starting make sure that you have the time to do this consistently and on a daily basis. I would say that a couple of hours per day is enough to get you started.

If this sounds a lot then you can either consider to outsource social media to professionals or start with fewer networks (for example Facebook only) and then when you find time jump in to the rest.

Have in mind though that if you don’t spend the necessary time working your business pages, you will be disappointed by the results and start believing that social media does not work for business (an assumption that is totally wrong).

#6 – Make your posts interesting

As I mentioned before, search engines and social media networks can only understand one thing, and this is content. This means that besides working on getting new followers, you also need content.

If you already have a content marketing strategy then your work on social media will be easier but if you don’t, then you need to come up with a plan along these lines:
  • Post about your products and services but don’t overdo it – Your business page is about your business but if you keep posting about how nice your products are, you will keep people away.
  • Instead you should make your posts interesting by providing tips, advice, offers and anything else that can make someone share or comment in your posts.
  • Don’t forget that in order to get any likes, +1s or comments you need to have a LOT of followers. Don’t expect this to happen in the first few months or when your numbers are still low.
Have a look at one of social media pages we manage for one of our clients. Look at the variety of postings, frequency, tone, format etc.

#7 – Timing does matter

The time and date you post something in social media matters a lot. As mentioned above, people have a lot of posts in their timelines and if they don’t see it ‘live’ then most probably they will never see it.

For example, if you post something on twitter and your followers are sleeping at that time, by the time they will wake up they will have hundreds of messages in their timeline and so there is no chance of seeing your post.

To solve this problem, you can use tools like bufferapp to schedule your postings so that you reach your target audience at a time where you have more followers online. There are also other tools and statistics about the best time to post on the different social networks but as a rule of thumb, post either in the morning (08:00 – 9:00) or afternoon (17:00 – 19:00). These are the times that work best for many niches.

#8 – Follow up comments and mentions about your business

Social media is about communication and this means that you need to monitor your social media pages for comments about your business and definitely respond to both good and bad comments. You need to show your audience that you are reading what they have to say and care about their opinion.

Besides monitoring your business pages, you should also monitor the mentions about your brand name in across all social networks and take action where appropriate. A nice tool to do that is mention (it’s not free).

#9 – Measure the results and ROI

If you don’t measure the effectiveness of social media then you won’t know if it worth’s your time or not. What to measure?
  • Number of visits from social media to your website
  • Number of conversions (sales, newsletter signups, etc)
  • Monthly increase of followers
  • Monthly increase of interactions
How to measure?

Using Google Analytics reports and statistics provided for business pages by the various social networks.

Note: If you still at the beginning then most probably those numbers will be low or close to zero but don’t get disappointed, once you grow your followers you will notice that these numbers will start to increase as well.

#10 – If everything fails, leave it to the pros

Social media works for businesses and this is a fact. It is also true that every problem has a solution so if you don’t have the time or knowledge to make social media work for your business then leave it to the pros; we have different social media packages for each budget and need and we guarantee minimum results.

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