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Beginner’s Guide to Social Media for Small Business

Social media is the king of information transfer in today’s society.  It allows businesses to directly communicate with their consumers, and allows consumers to publicly voice feedback. Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn are particularly useful for businesses to build their brand, increase sales, establish their expertise, and boost their website traffic. Let’s take a look at what each of these platforms is commonly used for and what they can offer your business. 

Facebook

Facebook, the largest social media platform, is a place to share a variety of content ranging from videos and pictures to text only posts. This allows businesses to communicate over any creative medium in order to attract potential customers. If your target audience includes millennials and older, Facebook will likely be one of your primary social media platforms. The ability of Facebook users to reshare the content your business posts can be a great way to generate organic impressions, which are views of your posts that you don’t pay for people to see. Facebook also has paid advertisements built into its system, which boosts your business’ posts to a wider audience through paid advertisements. 

Instagram

If your audience and consumer base are primarily younger than 25 years old, chances are they are using Instagram as their primary social media platform. Instagram users can post content in a variety of formats – generally limited to pictures or videos with a text caption. This makes Instagram a great place to provide infographics or educational material to your consumers. Video content gets the highest amount of engagement (likes, comments, shares, and saves) so be sure to mix that in as possible. Adding closed captions to your video when appropriate can go a long way as well, as most users scroll through Instagram with their audio silenced. Organic reach is achieved on Instagram via the use of hashtags. (e.g. #smallbusiness) Pick a few relevant to you and add them below your caption to reach new people!

LinkedIn

LinkedIn is generally regarded as social media for professionals. It is a great platform for B2B marketing, sharing industry related content, advertising open positions in your business, and more. Even if your target audience does not use LinkedIn as their primary social media, maintaining an account can be very useful for professional networking on your company’s behalf. The inherent power of LinkedIn is the ability to create a large network of high value contacts easily. People digitally network with each other, follow interests, groups, and/or businesses. Your business can be linked to your account and your employees’ personal accounts, which makes it easier for talent to find your open job positions. If used correctly, LinkedIn can even help drive additional sales in the B2B space! 

You’ve created your social media accounts, what are the next steps? 

The place to start is research. Determine what platform your intended audience uses the most, and for what. This will help you determine the types of post material that will best resonate with your potential customers. For instance, if you own a local deli and have determined that your target audience primarily uses Facebook to get food recommendations, posting pictures of your cuts on Instagram will not be as effective in reaching your target audience as sharing them on Facebook.  

Once you’ve determined your target audience and their primary platform, the next step is creating relevant content to post on your social media. One of the most appealing aspects of social media is the ability to promote content to your consumer base at a low cost (sometimes as low as free!) Content creation can be challenging, but pays off if done properly. Social media platforms all share the goal of keeping users on their platform and users will not stay on their platform if they are consistently viewing poor content. Therefore, only the best content will be promoted to new users. Well thought out posts that users stop to engage with can quickly get swept up by this “engagement algorithm” resulting in thousands of free new followers and potentially new customers. Although this kind of organic growth is increasingly less common, there are some tried and true methods for promoting your business and gaining a following on social media. For some of these content ideas to get you started be sure to check out our article Five Social Media Post Ideas for Small Businesses.

How do you know if your social media is effective? 

There are a few ways to determine the success of your social media campaign. The most prevalent is engagements. Engagements are the likes, comments, saves, and shares/reposts of your content. The more engagement a post has, the better that post is performing.

The next most prevalent metric are followers. Followers are the people that have signed up to see your posts on their feed. These people will generally contribute to a majority of your engagements, and the more followers you have the more organic reach your company’s page has. Ghost followers, followers who are inactive or don’t interact with your page, may at first glance improve a company’s reputability, even if they aren’t actively engaging with your page. However, it might be a good idea to get rid of these “ghost followers” if you’re interested in reaching new followers.

A few other ways to gauge the success of your social media campaign is through clicks. A click is when someone clicks on a link and follows it to your website. The continuation of a click is an action (when someone buys something, signs up for an email list, etc.) 

What options are there for social media management? 

Now that you understand the basics of social media analytics, there are a few ways to further enhance your social media campaign.

One way is by hiring a company to handle your social media presence. They will generally create the content for you, post it, advertise it, and manage the analysis of your social media’s performance. Most likely, they will share feedback with you and tailor the campaign to be more effective. This can be successful, but costly depending on the company.

Another solution is to hire young people you know to manage your social media for you. This is a much cheaper option, but the design on the posts and overall quality of representation can be less than ideal.

The final solution is to do the social media campaign yourself. This is by far the cheapest option, but the major drawback is the amount of time you must spend doing it yourself.  

What about paid advertising? 

Paid advertising is a great way to boost the amount of people who see your content. Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn all offer advertising. The business pays and the platform will “boost” the number of views on the post. The amount of money spent directly relates to the number of views on the page. The largest misunderstanding about social media advertising is that people will interact with your post or page because you paid. The platform will force your post into a user’s feed, and the user can either engage with your post or ignore it. This means the content you are having advertised need to be engaging, thought provoking and relevant, otherwise it might not lead to engagements, clicks, or actions. 

Next steps?

The best strategy for a social media campaign is a comprehensive approach. When you only use one platform, you are limiting your total potential audience. Using multiple social media platforms allows for different types of content to be shared, which can have a lasting impression on a wider pool of people. While your specified target audience might be the biggest group of potential customers, you can still have other audiences you may not have considered that are interested in your good or service.

For instance, the deli owner who only posted on Instagram wasn’t reaching the majority of his base on Facebook, but that does not mean that he wasn’t reaching new potential consumers. By pairing his posts on Instagram with posts on Facebook, the deli owner could reach two completely different groups, and generate more sales than he originally intended. At the end of the day, social media for business is about creating lasting connections between your business and your consumer. When done properly, businesses commonly see an increase in the number of recurring sales, new sales, and brand awareness.

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