Getting started with social media can be daunting for many businesses. You may not know where to start, which networks you should be using or how to get the most out of those networks.
Most businesses use social media because it is free (or low cost) with the added benefits of being able to personalise your message and content and monitor performance through analytics.
Importance of social media for businesses
Why is social media important for your business? Social media enables you to connect with current and potential customers online. You can use social networks like mini websites to display information such as products and services, contact info, and opening hours.
Social networks enable you to be social and build your online community to spread positive word of mouth about your business. You can join Groups on Facebook to chat with other business owners to swap ideas and make connections. If your business has a store or office, tell customers about your social networks, ask them to ‘Like’ or ‘Follow’ you and help spread the word.
Your social networks allow you to ‘listen’ to what your customers want, and what they are saying about your brand. Importantly, you can use social media to maintain online customer service. Are your customers or fans posting questions or comments to your networks? Respond! Always respond to customer questions in a timely and professional matter. If you are receiving negative feedback, respond calmly and ask how you can rectify the situation. Your social networks are for reputation management as much as they are for community building and driving sales. Remember, what is on the Internet is there forever, so be careful what you post.
Find out what your customer’s wants and needs are through keyword searches, monitoring groups and reading forums. Say you own a bakery and you have seen a post on a group for Mums asking for suggestions on the best place to buy a birthday cake. You can jump right in and tell that person (and the group) about your services.
If you have a website (which you should), social media will help improve your search engine rankings, making it easier for customers to find you when they Google you! Share content from your site on your social media networks and encourage your fans to share it too.
Which social networks should you be using and how can you use them?
Deciding which social networks to use depends on your business, your target market and what you want to achieve from using those networks. If you sell power tools, you may not have much success on Pinterest, but find Twitter more useful.
Make sure you cross-pollinate your social network posts. Link your accounts so your Facebook posts are sent to Twitter, and vice versa, your Instagram pictures show up on Facebook, etc. It’s all about building your network and being seen more easily.
Customise your social networks, upload a profile picture of yourself or your logo and post good quality pictures for cover photos, background photos etc. so fans know who you are. Make sure all your contact information, links to your website and other sites are included in all your profiles.
Give your fans an incentive and reward for ‘Liking’ or ‘Following’ you – run a competition or offer through social media, just make sure you adhere to the terms and conditions of the site you are using. Facebook has strict rules about running competitions and require the use of third party apps.
Facebook: the all rounder.
A great starting point is always going to be Facebook – it’s your one stop shop for uploading photos, videos, text posts, joining groups, providing business details and contact info, etc. Facebook is becoming less friendly to brands in terms of limiting the visibility of posts so you need to work hard to create and share quality content.
Make sure your Facebook page has a personal touch, add photos and videos of yourself, your staff, what you’re up to, events, and more. Ask questions; find out what your customers want. Encourage content sharing and recommendations to promote your business.
Twitter: listen and learn
Not everyone is a fan of Twitter, but it can be a fantastic tool for networking, and allows you to ‘listen’ to customers more easily than on Facebook.
The Twitter news feed is not organised like Facebook’s is, it’s a constant stream of tweets so there’s a few things you need to do to make the most out of it. You’ve got 140 characters to play with but the tweets that get the most interactions are between 70-100 characters. Keep it concise and write it like a newspaper headline – you want to get people’s attention!
Use hashtags to join in on conversations and allow your tweets to be found more easily. Like Facebook, you can use the search function to follow keywords and join conversations to network and tell people about your business.
Don’t forget to use pictures and video in tweets – people respond more strongly to visual content and are more likely to click on your tweet if it has something interesting to look at.
You Tube: show off and educate
As any marketer will tell you, visual content is king. You can take advantage of video hosting sites to create content which can be shared on other networks to show your personality, and tell customers who you are and what your are all about.
Use any variety of video hosting sites: YouTube, Vimeo, Tout, Vine, Live Stream, etc. to promote your products, instruct and educate customers, demonstrate your expertise, and more. No matter what your budget, you can make a video with your webcam or hire a professional, just get creative and don’t ignore the power of video.
Always include strong keywords in video titles and tags to make sure they can be found by people looking for what you have to offer.
Pinterest & Instagram: show and inspire
The rising stars of social media, Pinterest and Instagram, are excellent for putting a personal touch on your brand and really connecting with people on a personal level. Use these networks to give fans a behind-the-scenes look at your business, get creative and have fun with it.
Businesses with strong visual content should be using these sites – bold, bright pictures are perfect for inspiring your customers and keeping your brand top of mind. Let’s use the bakery example again: you can upload pictures of delicious treats and tell customers where they to buy them. Pinterest is especially useful in its ability to drive referral traffic back to your website.
Like with other networks – be social. Use hashtags, pin and repin, respond to comments, and reach out to others users to create a vibrant community.
The final word
Get started! If you haven’t started using any social media networks, do it now. Why miss out on an opportunity to grow your business and connect with customers?
Remember, building an online community takes time, but it is totally worth it. Give it a go and if you need help or have any questions, we’ll be happy to assist!