Social Media Marketing for Small Business: a Starter Guide
This article discusses how social media marketing for business can replace many modes of paid advertising and media. The fact is, social media does the exact same thing as advertising but in many cases it is totally free.
The only cost is the time it takes to write and post and take the photos, tweets, and posts. These costs can range from next to nothing to a huge expense, depending on how you approach your content creation. Considering that anywhere you would advertise you’d need artwork or some form of promotional content, the cost to generate content on social media are table stakes.
The clear advantage social media offers over other forms of media is that it is a two-way communication platform. It’s the same as being on the phone with someone or corresponding by email. As a way to engage potential customers, social media can be a great way to go. Social media can also influence your Google and Bing search results so that your business is likely to rank higher when people search for your business or something related to your business.
Social vs. traditional advertising
The difference between social media and traditional advertising is that traditional advertising has a built-in audience. You pay a radio station to run ads because they have access to ten thousand people in the morning when those people are driving to work. With social media you can also pay for a built-in audience, but you also have the (important) option to grow your own audience.
When you grow your own audience, this is known as organic growth. It’s organic because you haven’t paid someone else to lend you the audience for a period of time. Organic media is the parent of something known as earned media. We recommend growing your audience organically and then filling in with paid support at key times if you need some extra oomph (you might want to try a paid campaign during the holidays or before a big wine festival, for example).
Step 1: Set up your profiles on all of the social channels
This is the boring part. Take a picture of yourself and a photo of your business. Start an account on Twitter and try to obtain your own name. Try to avoid anything that includes numbers or underscores.
For example, if you have a plumbing company try to use the plumbing company name only. Use @westhillplumbing, not @westhillplumb45. We set up all types of social media accounts for a very modest cost and handle all of the artwork and registration.
Pro Tip: Don’t have access to Photoshop?
Use Canva to create graphics for your social media accounts.
Register on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Google Plus, and even LinkedIn. Then apply to be verified on all of the platforms (LinkedIn eventually lets you replace your temporary username with one of your choosing). The people at Google are smart, so Google Plus allows you to verify from the get-go. They mail a PIN to the address you provide.
It takes a few weeks to be verified on Facebook but they are pretty cordial about the whole process. Twitter is straight up terrible. Don’t feel bad if Twitter does not verify you. They are weird.
Even if you don’t use all of the social channels it’s a good idea to register them to protect your name. It is very hard to get your name back if someone takes it.
Step 2: Grow your audience
Every small business is well advised to grow a local audience. What’s important to remember is that just because one person in your audience isn’t ideal, they may know someone who is. This is similar to the local newspaper that gets left behind at Starbucks and 20 different people read the same paper throughout the course of the day. Social media operates in the same way. If you can get people to share your content. And this is where things start to get interesting.
What’s the best way to grow your audience on social media? By following everyone who lives in your area. You can search a hashtag to find tweets from anyone who has tweeted about Seattle, for example. You can then follow these people. Iif you live in Seattle, search for #seattle. If you live in Timbuctu, search for #moosejaw.
When people first start on social media it is tempting to follow people in your same business (anyone who has the #plumbing hashtag, to use the above example), but this leads you to competition. Normal people (not competitors) need plumbing so it is good to follow people who are following local media outlets.
That is the best approach to building a quick local audience. There are no shortage of people following CBC Saskatoon or The Globe and Mail. Heck, follow everyone you can find if they live in an area where they could be customers.
Growing your audience will take time but it is well worth it because in the end you will have a virtual stadium full of people that you can message to.
With help growing your audience, please refer to this article.
Step 3: Start posting
This is when every small business wants to know: what do I possibly post each and every day multiple times a day? This is where small businesses really need help with social media.
I can’t speak on behalf of other social media agencies, but at ours we tackle the insatiable need of Twitter and Facebook and Instagram and Google Plus and LinkedIn by combining three types of content:
- Original content: These are articles, interviews, ads, images and links that you create. The more the better. We recommend that you write one very long article every month and take pictures for the article. Then you cut up the article into 4-6 pieces with different headlines and put each one on a different landing page.(For bonus points you can test the content and see what your audience responds to. to conduct such testing for free (known as A/B testing) simply register a gmail account and then sign up at analytics.google.com. Neat, right?)
- Automated, pre-programmed content: you can use DrumUp, Crate, and Feedly to find and schedule content. Feedly works with Buffer, a first-rate (and free) scheduling program. You can (and should) tweet while you sleep. You would be amazed at how many people are up at 1am spending time on Twitter and Facebook. And Instagram!
- Curated content: The third and most popular type of content is content that you share but which has been published first somewhere else. This can be remarkably effective and is one of the only ways you can keep a feed busy if you don’t have endlessly deep content or tons of adoring fans to submit their own content.The good news is that there is no shortage of content from which to choose, so curate wisely! It is best to avoid political debates and common PR traps such as those posed by celebrities in rehab.
Section 4: Measurement
In the beginning it will seem as if you are all alone in the world, posting messages that no one is listening to. Don’t fret. They will come.
Depending on how aggressively you pursue audience development, it may not be important to start measuring your progress until the third or fourth month. I will just warn you right now that regardless of how many Facebook friends you have, Facebook will not show your content unless you pay them.
This is why Twitter and the other platforms are a good alternative until such time that you get comfortable running ads and tweaking your creative for certain audiences.
Twitter has excellent built-in analytics but if you need a more comprehensive overview, Google Analytics is a powerful free option.
About the Author, Steve Yanor
Coming soon: Why is your PR firm doing your social media?