Whilst many large commercial organisations have invested big money in social media, there are still many more who haven’t invested heavily – with time or money.
Social media for business is still an emerging area, and if big business isn’t seeing the value in it, then it’s understandable that small businesses are finding it hard to justify using social media.
In my experience, the reason behind this is that not enough organisations are approaching social media strategically and are not putting in place measures to assess how their social media endeavours are performing. This is why there’s still some low trust in social media for small business. As a small business operator, I know that time and money can be tight, if you’re running a lean business, you only invest in those things you need.
How social media provides value to small businesses
One of the better, measurable ways to use social media to support your business is to use it for lead generation. Whether you’re looking to sell a product, build an email list, find new customers or clients or get more people using your service – social media can help generate leads if you focus on conversions.
Approach social media strategically
One of the biggest mistakes you can make in social media is to dive in and not have a real goal in mind. Whether you’re yet to venture into social media or you have an established footprint, you can and should create a social media strategy for yourself. Start by asking what your objective is, what do you want to achieve? Here, it’s lead generation. Then look at who your customers or audience members are, where they are most active online and what sort of things they’re interested in. Then devise a plan using that simple strategy as to how you’ll use social media and which platforms will work best for you. And stick with that plan, don’t deviate from it unless there is evidence it isn’t working and in that case, re-strategise and try again.
Now let’s take a look at the tactics you can use on each of the platforms and which might be best suited to your business.
Blogging can be time intensive, but if you work to a plan and maintain a consistent approach it is worthwhile. Blogging creates content for you to share on the social media site(s) you promote your business through. Blogging also helps to optimise your website for search and allows you to include calls to action to phone or email you or provide phone or email details.
There are two main options for Facebook lead generation. You can create interesting and engaging content and include a link to your website. Ensure the page you link to on your site has a clear call-to-action and reason for customers to get in touch with you. You can also create a special offer which people can only take up via social media, such as a discount, refer a friend, gift with purchase or similar.
The Facebook audience is mass market, so whoever your customers are, they’re bound to be on Facebook. The content that works best here is concise and easy to understand. To really get the most value out of either of these tactics, put some money behind a ‘boost’ post and make sure you use the targeting options to reach your intended audience.
You can use Twitter similarly to Facebook, however, the audience differs. Here you need clever, unique content to cut through a lot of clutter as the volume of content is much greater on Twitter. It’s important to use images or video and to research your hashtags, which help to reach your audience. Remember there are advertising options for small business on Twitter also.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking LinkedIn is for business-to-business only. If white-collar workers make up part of your audience, you’ll find them here. Create a company page and start sharing relevant content. Participate in groups to showcase your knowledge and expertise and add as many business contacts as you’re able to. One trick is to check who’s been viewing your profile and send them a message to ask if you can assist them. Again, LinkedIn has advertising products, and if you have the money to invest here it’s worthwhile as they have granular targeting options and you can measure the return on your investment.
You know your objective is generating leads, so how do you measure if your social media activity has been a success? You need to start by setting some targets for yourself and ensuring you measure them regularly, whether that be weekly, monthly or quarterly. Metrics you can easily access include:
- Look at the analytics provided by Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter and see how many clicks your content is generating.
- Use Google Analytics on your website to check which social media sites are referring traffic to your website and create goals to see which convert to sales, inquiries, event RSVPs or other actions you want people to take on your website.
- If you make a special offer via social media only, such as boosting a Facebook post, track how many offers were used in a specified time period and weigh up the spend along with potential return custom against the time and money invested in the social media activity.
- How many phone numbers or emails have you boosted your contacts list by using social media?
- If you have a contact form on your website or you speak to customers on the phone, ask where they heard about you. Track if it’s by word of mouth, social media, email or other means.
It’s important to approach all of your social media activity as strategically as you do running your business. It’s not for all businesses, but if you find a way to make it work for you and track and measure how your tactics are (or aren’t) working for you, you will create leads and generate conversions.
Julie Delaforce is the general manager of online community management business Quiip.