Social Media for Small Business: A Guide

If you’re reading this, you already know the importance of the Internet for a business! More than ever, the Web, and social media in particular, is becoming the marketplace – so how can your small business make the most of social media? Let’s take some of the `mystery out of it with our guide to social media.

Social media has changed the way businesses work. Even we’re all over social media – like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

But with social media jargon such as likes, retweets and hashtags  – it can all get a little confusing, not to mention time-consuming if you’re the owner of a small business.

Social media doesn’t need to be confusing though. Asking a few basic questions can make a world of difference. 

Why use social media?

The biggest question you need to answer before even investing time and resources into using social media is why you should use it at all.

Fun facts about social media

A study by Social Media Examiner found that:

  • 33% of users prefer using social media to contract brands instead of the telephone.

  • 65% of senior executives reported that a brand’s reputation is tied to its online sociability

  • 92% of users have found that social media is important to their business. The same percentage found that social media has generated more exposure for their business.

It’s where your customers are.

Most of the people you’re trying to reach are on social media in some form.  According to a survey carried out by We Are Social, 59% of the UK population have active social media accounts in some form. That means potentially six out of every ten of your customers are on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or all three at once!

Of course, different demographics will give you different results - for a company selling mobility scooters and thus catering to an older audience, you may find a lower rate of engagement so that’s good to keep in mind when you’re thinking through how to use social media for your small business.

For more information on managing your online reputation as a business, check out our animated infographic and submit a question via Twitter to James Caan in our Twitter Q&A:

It’s a great way to hear what your customers want

Responding to the needs of your customers is critical for your business and social media is one of the best ways to find out what matters to them. Making better use of social media puts you right where the conversation is.

That’s not to say that the experience of hearing what your customers may always be a happy one. Part of listening into the conversation that is social media will involve hearing some harsh things at times but it’s a prime opportunity for you to find where the potential problems are and help solve them!

How should you use social media?

Once you’ve figured out why you should use social media for your new business, you need to think through how you’ll use social media.

What purpose?

Beyond the general answers of being where your customers are and hearing what matters to them, you need to have a clear idea of what you’re looking to do with social media:

Are you promoting a product or service?

This can be done through targeting advertising such as Facebook ads or promoted tweets, posting product information and showing case studies which show why customers should choose or remain with you.

Are you building community around a particular shared interest?

If you are catering to shared interests, social media can be a great way to build relationships. For instance, through Twitter lists, a jazz music enthusiast can develop a community for fellow fans, venues, magazines, etc.

Another way to foster community around a particular interest is through curating and sharing content relating to your product or service – for instance, a music magazine may want to share content relating to new releases, concert footages, etc.

Are you reaching out to others within your field?

One of the great things about social media is that it allows you to develop relationships with other offering a similar service or even in unrelated fields. An example of this happened in 2013 when a conversation erupted between several brands including Jaffa Cakes, Yorkshire Tea and T-Mobile over Twitter. Outreach generates conversation and conversation can drive people to your product/service.

What platform?

There are a glut of social networks and for the sake of your business, picking the right one is crucial for getting the best results.

Your small business may find that different social media will be suited to the aims and objectives of your business.

Network/platform Best for
Facebook Communicating with customers in a non-obtrusive way
Twitter Hearing the voice of customers in real-time
Instagram Visually showcasing products and services
LinkedIn Making connections with other professionals
Pinterest Helping customers discover new products/services

 

A fast food restaurant, for instance, may find that offering vouchers via Facebook and sharing pictures of their menu is an effective use of social media while a company offering financial services may find having a Twitter account for customers and a LinkedIn profile for corporate news works for them. 

It’s very much about finding the right balance for your company and what you are seeking to achieve.

There is no right or wrong way to make use of the social media space – it all boils down to knowing what platform to use, what you want to achieve and how you plan to achieve. Think of it like that and it doesn’t have to be a complete mystery.

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