March 1, 2016

Navigating Social Media

Lee Steely

Every business needs a social media strategy. We’ve noticed a lot of small businesses who haven’t yet tackled social media seem to lean one of two ways: either they feel social media is too frivolous to waste valuable time and resources on, or the prospect of involvement in a 24/7 platform seems too intimidating, like a second business to run. These are valid concerns—it’s important to decide upfront on what your time commitment will be—but there’s a baby in that bathwater we need to save. 

Why You Need a Social Media Presence

Having a business profile on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn is no longer just a recommended extra—it’s quickly become as essential to marketing as having a Google Business listing and website for online search. As online mobile traffic begins to surpass desktop use, more and more users are searching for businesses in-app on social media. If your business doesn’t have a profile, you’re losing that potential customer reach. 

Having a presence on a social media network also means you get to see what people are saying about you. Customers are increasingly comfortable sharing their experiences with companies through social media, and if they can’t tag your profile, you’ll never be able to engage with their comments, positive or negative—and you won’t benefit from the added boost in page traffic that could result from a positive update or tweet.

Start Small

While having a full-time social media manager is great, you can and should start small if you feel you don’t have the resources to devote to heavy engagement on social media. A simple profile on each of the major social media networks with your basic information and imagery consistent with your branding (a logo as profile pic is standard) is all you need to start. We recommend logging in to check messages and mentions at least once a day, but if that’s still too much to regularly handle, just make sure your profile page prominently displays the best way to contact, whether it’s a phone number, email address, or through your website. Similarly, consider encouraging customer engagement by including your social media profile information on your physical branded materials, and place links on your website to passively gain followers and encourage users to share your content. 

If you stop here, only occasionally updating your profiles and engaging with followers, you’ll still be able to make a good impression with social media users who may be looking for you. If you’re able to put in a little more effort, all the better.  

Engage Strategically

There’s always more you could be doing with social media, but unless you have unlimited resources for experimentation, work smart. Consider the target audience for your niche: what type of social media are they most likely to use? If you can only engage with only one or two platforms in-depth, focus on the ones where you’re most likely to find your preferred audience. B2C businesses do very well reaching potential customers through Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, for example, whereas B2B businesses will have more luck with Twitter and LinkedIn. Find your small business competitors on social media and take note of where they’re getting the most engagement. 

Another way to make sure you get noticed in the sea of noise is to target local users and communities. Follow other local businesses and associations, and get creative. Search Twitter for posts in your area and engage in discussion where appropriate—keep it positive, and ideally at least tangential to your area of expertise. You don’t always have to be in advertising mode: studies show that users respond best to brands that provide useful content and moments of delight. 

Follow Your Followers

Once you have your basic profiles up and running, simply paying attention to how followers are using and engaging with your page can help you hone your strategy. A one-size-fits-all social media strategy is not as effective as knowing your target audience and social media niche, so you don’t have to stress about matching the big brands click for click and ad for ad. See how your basic social media presence evolves on its own, so that you can develop a custom strategy that will work for your business’s size and needs. Even small steps will have big impact.