As a small business owner, you’re always on the lookout for low-cost, high reward activities to help grow fast. So when the conversation turns to outreach, the topic of social media is never far away.
We’ve all seen great social media marketing campaigns and heard of high-return success stories. But is social media marketing right for every business?
Speak to some marketers and they will insist that every business needs to be active on social media. But when resources and budgets are stretched, is social media always a priority? And can it have a negative effect on your business?
Here we look at the big considerations every start-up or small business owner needs to ask themselves before committing to a social media presence.
What will social media add to my business?
When business owners ask ‘Do I need social media?’, what they’re really asking is, ‘What will social media add to my business success?’
There are nearly 4.5 billion social media users worldwide. And you only have to go out into the street for a few minutes or take a short train journey to appreciate how much time people spend scrolling on smartphones. But to assume that social media is a must for all growing businesses would be a mistake.
How many of those 4.5 billion users are realistically potential customers?
Meeting your target audience on digital platforms is a good way of driving brand awareness and engaging with them with the aim of one day converting them into customers.
Strategic, targeted social media marketing can make your business appear to those most likely to become customers. But this is not as simple as you may think.
To target an unengaged audience and convince them to take notice, you have to offer them value.
This does not need to be financial value, like money off your product or services, but you need to clearly and quickly communicate how you can reward their attention.
If you share content of interest to your audience, such as a ‘how to’ guide that solves a common problem, you increase your value as a social channel and a brand as a whole. This will; make them more receptive to your product or services.
Along with offering value, your social media can reinforce your brand identity.
Modern consumers are increasingly influenced by a company’s characteristic and values, and how it resonates with their own personality and needs.
Reinforcing the right brand image can increase the conversion of engagement and enquiries to sales.
Always remember – be on-brand. Unless your brand is intrinsically linked to selling you as a personality, continually remind yourself that you and your business have distinct characteristics and values.
Do I have time for social media marketing?
Most major brands have a dedicated social media team or outsource to a specialist agency. Why? Because successful social media campaigns not only need expertise but budgeted hours weekly.
Established businesses all rely on a host of professionals to deliver social campaigns, which comes at a cost. But global giants have very different resources and objectives from small businesses and start-ups.
A well-crafted, effective social strategy needn’t command a large share of your budget, but it will need your team’s regular and continued attention and commitment.
If you’re thinking about creating or enhancing a social media presence for your business, you need to take into consideration its impact on your business as a whole. What tasks will be disadvantaged by time spent on your social media responsibilities?
Remember, people typically go on social media to socialise, be entertained or consume news or other content on a particular subject.
Exclusively posting direct salesy content is rarely a winning strategy on social media. Audiences don’t want to be ‘sold to’. The exception to this is special discounts that give the user a sense of exclusivity for engaging with your socials.
The point to take is that your social media strategy needs to be much more than just shouting “BUY THIS” to anymore who will listen.
Your strategy should include different types of posts – some to drive engagement, some to offer insight, some simply to build brand awareness, and some that offer your audience exclusive offers.
What’s more, you need to plan engaging with potential customers, partners and communities and think about how to expand your reach to new audiences. All of that takes time.
Remember, your social media posts needs to be high quality too. Chucking out anything just to have something out there may negatively affect your brand.
If your content looks low-quality, rushed or unprofessional, those characteristics can mercilessly be reflected on to the reputation of your business.
Another consideration is social media optimisation. Social media marketing relies on engagement for success. If users don’t engage, the platform’s algorithms may label your content as offering little value. This may result in your posts being shown to fewer users in future.
On average, only 10% of your followers will even see your post, if you don’t engage them, that figure may reduce.
Your strategy should follow a schedule, with a little room for live posting thrown in too.
The more quality content the better, but you really need to post at least 3 to four times a week minimum.
You’ll need to keep an eye on any breaking news too. So, you need to decide:
- Who will take responsibility for your social media platforms
- What your social media strategy looks like
- How you will track and measure success
- How much time you can dedicate to it
It’s not simply a case of asking, ‘Do I need social media for my business?’ It’s asking whether you have the resources to maintain a consistent social media presence which is on brand and serves your business as a whole.
What social media platforms are good for my business?
Few businesses will have a presence on all social media platforms. And the ones that do will tailor their content in relation to the platform’s limitations, strengths and audiences.
Start-ups and SMEs are unlikely to have the resources to see a worthwhile ROI across all these platforms. It is best to focus on the few that offer the most effective communication with and engagement from your target market.
For example, if your company is a b2b, you might look to have a strong presence on LinkedIn. Similarly, if you sell products aimed at teenagers, perhaps Instagram or TikTok will be better to focus on.
As a rule, images and videos gain the most traction on social media as they grab the attention of users as they scroll. This is especially true of video content.
As with all forms of marketing, it is to identify, understand and target priority audiences. This will dictate your choice of social channel.
You’ll also need to know when to post to give yourself the greatest visibility. And this changes from platform to platform.
There are peak periods, of course, but these are not always the best times to post. Others will be competing for your audience during these times too.
The best way to work out where and when to post is trial and error.
Your work on ‘personas’ will help guide you on which platforms to use, as well as what content to create and when to post.
It’s important here that you track and record the engagement of each post. This will help refine your strategy and help focus your resources effectively.
How does social media engagement alone benefit my business?
Turning your social platforms into a measurable sales channel carries an obvious benefit. And we’ve looked at how reinforcing your brand image has its benefits. But you may ask yourself, ‘how else can I measure success on socials? How can engagement benefit my growing business?’
Engagement can assist your business in several ways. Your followers all have a relationship with your business. This makes your social platforms a valuable market research tool.
Running polls or asking questions can help you understand so much about your market, your business and your products and services.
Your followers’ responses and actions give you insights into their views and behaviours. If the feedback inspires new offerings or changes to the way your business operates, it can help build a reputation as a customer-centric brand that listens.
If your content is ‘shareable’ your followers will promote your brand for you. Regular high-value content can evolve into a situation where followers are actively seeking your posts out.
You can also use the response section of each post to answer any questions or troubleshoot issues. This not only satisfies the individual who asked the question but also provides information for other users.
Once again, time is crucial here. 40% of users expect brands to respond within an hour of them posting on social media. Many brands achieve this through the use of chatbots. Others dedicate staff to monitoring and responding to social media enquiries.
You can benefit, too, from publishing your contact details on your profile. Social media marketing is all about increasing communication with a view to increasing leads. Phone calls are still the most popular communication channel. And they can be more effective at converting leads when the calls are answered by the right people.
It’s important to consider the task of quickly responding to your followers’ queries before committing to a social media presence. This can often be cheaply resolved, however, with a virtual receptionist or personal assistant.
Whether or not you need social media for your business is a decision only you can make. There is no doubt it provides a great opportunity to increase brand awareness, communicate with your target audience and pass them down the sales pipeline.
That said, social media will only be effective if it’s done right. That includes having a clear strategy of how to align your social media presence with the rest of your brand identity.
You’ll need to do your brand justice and make sure you have sufficient resources to carry out your social strategy effectively. This must include a commitment to respond to engaged users, track and record post effectiveness, and continually offer value.
It’s a good idea to run an internal skills audit to see what you and your team can take on. Talk to content creators and other professionals that manage their social platforms. Try and build a picture of what it will take to deliver your social media strategy.
If you do go ahead with building a social media presence, don’t get disheartened if all your hard work reaps little reward. Keep experimenting, find ways to work smarter not harder, and streamline your activities
If you choose that it’s too early to commit the necessary resources, make sure to revisit that decision regularly and look for ways that you can make it work. Because, when the time is right, social media can play a significant role in your business’ success.