As a small business owner, you have so many things to manage, and social media may be the last item on your list. But when you consider that in 2021, nearly 3 billion people used Facebook and 1.3 billion people used Instagram, it’s hard to overlook. Embracing these platforms may be just what your business needs to connect with crucial new customers. Benefits Of Social Media For Business Why create content for social media? Reach New Customers A great post or engagement helps you reach new audiences. If I see a great local-business clothing sale or to-go food option on my Instagram, I usually DM the link to a couple of friends… who then might tell their friends… and on and on. You get the idea. And I’m not alone: according to Hootsuite, 27% of all internet users discover products and brands to purchase from social media advertising. Improve Brand Recognition There’s no doubt that social media helps boost a brand’s visibility to current and potential customers. A free platform, social media provides your business the opportunity to share its voice and connect with customers all over the world. These days, consumers expect businesses to be easily accessible to them. While this isn’t always possible, social media can make it easier. Enhance Customer Service Social media is no longer just a marketing tool. It’s now one of the first places consumers go to get in contact with a business. If your business has no social media presence, you’ll be turning off consumers who expect a certain customer experience and, ultimately, losing potential business. There are so many social channels now, so it understandably can become confusing trying to figure out which ones to focus on and how frequently you should post. Feeling overwhelmed? Start with the basics, pick the best platforms for your particular small business (more on that below!), and work your way up. Here are a few tips to move you in the right direction. Identify Your Goals Launching a social media campaign without establishing objectives is like setting out to sea in a boat without navigation tools or a destination. You’ll probably get somewhere, but there are no guarantees it’ll be a worthwhile journey. Possible goals include engaging more with your customers, collecting positive reviews, attracting more leads, building your brand’s reputation, or earning more conversions. These goals aren’t mutually exclusive, either. You might seek to get more conversions by engaging with your customers. Or you might feel that the best way to build your reputation is through positive reviews. Choose Your Channels Yes, there are dozens of social media channels: Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, Instagram, Snapchat, WhatsApp, TikTok, and beyond. With so many channels to choose from, how do you determine a mix that works for you? As a general rule of thumb, choose two to three of the ones that would fit your business best. As you create profiles for your customers, you’ll learn more about their social media habits. Perhaps you’ll discover that they’re Facebook fanatics—or maybe they’re more professional and prefer LinkedIn. The point is, you won’t know until you investigate. Industry type may also dictate your preferred social media platform. Some companies will benefit more from Instagram’s photo- and video-heavy content creation, whereas others will find Facebook’s text- and event-sharing focus to be more useful. Dive Deeper Facebook Marketing For Small Business Create an Instagram Marketing Strategy For Your Small Business How to Market Your Small Business on LinkedIn Complete Your Profile Information Nobody wants to follow an account that uses the default egg as its profile photo on Twitter or otherwise has an incomplete social media profile. Upload quality images, write engaging descriptions of what your business offers, and make sure your NAP (name, address, phone) information is accurate and consistent across your social media platforms and online directory websites such as Yelp and Citysearch. SEO experts believe that Google uses NAP information to assess the validity of businesses. If your NAP info is inconsistent or incorrect, you might rank lower in search results, or Google might display the wrong information about your business. Dive Deeper How To Create And Manage A Facebook Business Page How to Create a Business Instagram Account Use A Social Media Management Tool Even if you only have two social media channels at the center of your business’ social media strategy, having a tool to manage them in a single location can make your life much easier and save you vital time to manage other areas of your company. By using one of these tools, you can: Schedule posts days, weeks, or months in advance Track metrics such as likes, clicks, shares, follows, and more Create a customizable quick-view dashboard There are numerous platforms available to manage your social media channels, ranging from free to paid with many customizable options across the board. Some popular platforms include: Hootsuite - offers a range of features for scheduling and analyzing posts Buffer - focuses on simplicity and ease of use SocialPilot - offers automation and collaboration tools for teams A social media management tool’s customizable dashboard, in particular, helps not only with scheduling content on your chosen channels, but with “listening” to them as well. Using the dashboard will help you identify what posts are being liked or shared in an easy-to-read format. It also helps you keep track of who is trying to reach you or leaving a review about your business. Determine Post Frequency If you take a look at some companies' Twitter accounts, they post 10+ times a day. Others only post one or two times a day. What you need to do is determine how frequently you should post. Start by experimenting with times and frequency. One post a day or week can be a good starting point. No matter your frequency, consistency is king. If your posts are irregular and sporadic, it's hard for your social followers to depend on you. If they see that you haven't posted anything in a few months, they're not going to return regularly for updates or advice—and they may even assume that your business has closed. Good social media practices involve regular and consistent posting, so make sure you stick to that schedule once you’ve drafted it. Develop Your Content Strategy Once you've got a rough schedule figured out and your social media channels are up and running, the hard part begins: what should you post about? While there is a plethora of content formats you can use from videos to infographics to quizzes, the key to a solid content strategy is to start with your primary audience and message and go from there. Have a product that changes on a regular basis? Your primary message may be to update customers on the latest clothing line or cookie offering. Then, throw in some social media contests to expand your reach, along with some sales and promotions. Have expertise to share that your customers would be interested in? Provide a daily or weekly tip. Have a strong point of view? Use social media to create a human voice for that perspective. Once you've developed your primary strategy for your social channels, be sure to develop content in a way that works well for that channel. In general, all social media platforms prefer content that lives natively in the app, rather than a post that links somewhere else. So, instead of posting a link to a YouTube video on Facebook, upload the video directly to Facebook. Instead of posting a link to a blog post, repurpose the post into a carousel or Twitter thread. This will help boost the reach of your content, so when you do post a link, more followers will see it. Dive Deeper How to Post on Instagram: A Step-By-Step Guide How To Use Instagram Stories For Your Business How to Run an Instagram Giveaway For Your Business A Straightforward Guide To Facebook Advertising For Small Businesses Engage With Your Audience A surefire way to enhance your efforts? Build stronger connections with your customers. If they comment on a post, don’t let their participation go unnoticed. A simple “Thanks!” might be fine, but you should try to build on their original comment by asking a follow-up question. This is a great way to show that you value them, and it can lead to some interesting conversations. Maintain A Uniform Brand Voice Just as you do in all of your marketing communications, maintain consistency in how your brand presents itself on social media. Consider how you want people to perceive your company (e.g., laid-back, professional, trendy, humorous, avant-garde, or traditional) and strive to craft posts that are in sync with it. You can mix things up now and then, but being all over the place with your brand demeanor might confuse followers about what they can expect from you if they become your customers. Take Touchy Conversations Off The Grid How you handle negative feedback and comments on social media can mean the difference between appearing uncaring and defensive or responsible and helpful. When someone posts a critical remark or airs a complaint on social media, respond to the grievance and then take the conversation to either a private message, email, or phone call to resolve the situation. Never argue with a dissatisfied customer online; it will only fuel the flame of discontentment and create a social media cage match that will hurt your professional reputation. Use Hashtags To Boost Your Brand's Visibility Especially on Twitter and Instagram, hashtags can help you increase the amount of attention your social media content draws. Hashtags, when used appropriately, categorize content so that it’s easier to find online. Let's Get Started So many small businesses ignore their social media power and, therefore, miss the chance to build a community around their offerings. Social media can be a powerful business development tool—if you can figure out how it works for you. The details will be different for every company, but its broader importance is undeniable. Ultimately, when it comes to social media management, remember to start small—don’t bite off more than you can chew. Take baby steps toward creating a stellar social media presence for your business, and assess its success as you go. Learn from what works—and what doesn’t—and use that data to improve your efforts.