The world of social media can seem full of possibilities to some and a dark vortex of terror to others. Regardless of your personal opinion on social media, it’s definitely an institution that’s here to stay and can benefit your small business if harnessed effectively.

First, here are some stats. According to Sensis, their 2017 social media report found:

  • 47% of small businesses in Australia are now on social media. (However, in the US this is closer to 94%)
  • 24% of Australians use social media to follow brands or businesses
  • 54% are keen on discounts and giveaways from brands and businesses they follow
  • 64% of people are more likely to trust a brand if they interact with consumers in a positive way on social media
  • Facebook is the most popular for business, followed by LinkedIn and then Instagram and Twitter

Clearly, social media has its place in small business advertising. However, deciding which forms of social media to utilise can be daunting. The key is not to invest in all at once, but choose the platform most likely to reach your target audience and commit to making that a success. Before getting started, asking yourself the following questions can be helpful:

  • ‘Who is my audience and what platforms do they use?’
  • ‘Are they likely to engage with my business online using these platforms?’
  • ‘Will this social media interaction entice them to visit my website or purchase my service offering?’

Although social media is essentially free, to have an impact you will need to invest time and effort into it. Don’t make the mistake of spreading yourself too thin across numerous channels.

One of the crucial distinctions in advertising on social media is that it gives you direct contact with your customers, allowing you to have one-on-one interaction and foster a positive relationship. However, this can also be a double-edged sword, as social media is often used as a medium for customers to air their complaints. This is why social media accounts should not be set up and then ignored, or only occasionally checked up on.

If you make the decision to use social media advertising for your business, then you need to commit to get the best results. A poorly managed social media account can cause more harm than good.

Set up your account to reflect your brand, using high-quality images and taking the time to fill out the ‘about us’ sections in a concise yet engaging manner. You also need to post quite frequently, both to maintain consumer engagement and let them know your business is still active and running smoothly. Setting up a social media editorial calendar can be very helpful to ensure you’ve planned in advance what content you’ll post and that it fulfils your aims – whether these be to engage with customers, get them to enter in a promotion or giveaway, click through to your website or simply achieve followers or imprints on your page.

If you find yourself strapped for ideas, then check out what your competitors are doing for inspiration. Also take note of what kind of posts on that platform you find yourself engaging with and think about using similar strategies for your own business.

It can be difficult to find the correct balance between posts for the sake of entertainment and those for promotional purposes, but a good general rule is to ask yourself if the content is consistent with the voice and values of your ‘brand’, your service offering, and something your consumers will find engaging or interesting. Content will vary across the different platforms, so be sure to take the time to get to know the social media you are using. For example, Instagram is all about excellent imagery and targeted hashtags, LinkedIn will require a more professional tone, while Facebook can support a variety of content such as text, photography and video.

It can be easy to become overwhelmed, so setting small goals regarding what you wish to achieve and then making monthly reviews with your team is a good strategy.

Most social media platforms also provide a form of analytics, which can be useful to measure what content is working for you and what areas to improve on. It is worth investing the time to understand these features to get the most out of your social media investment. Don’t forget to add social media icons and links to your website – if you’re making the effort then you want your consumers to know about it!

If you require help with analytics on which social media platforms your target market are interacting with or advice on putting together a social media editorial calendar, please contact Brand Plus, a service division of McKinley Plowman.