For the average small business, social media is something of an afterthought. Unfortunate, given the potential power, value and influence of a strong local social media presence.
Research suggests that around 80% of consumers in the UK and US are regular social media users. On a global basis, there will be more than 2.5 billion social media users by the end of this year. Impressive figures – especially when considering more than 90% of consumers base their purchases on reviews and general commentary.
In a nutshell therefore, the entire world is not only hooked on social media, but also hangs on its every word. As such, if you can make social media work for your small business, you’re pretty much golden.
Easier said than done? Perhaps, but it’s the kind of hard work that guarantees an attractive payoff.
So with this in mind, we thought we’d take the opportunity to address five of the most commonly asked questions regarding social media for smaller businesses. Each brought our way on a regular basis by proactive entrepreneurs, the following could help guide your own social strategy in a more profitable direction:
Are Constant Updates Important?
In a word, yes. One of the biggest mistakes made by most small business owners is failing to see social media as a constant. Social media is a living, breathing creature the likes of which is both active and evolving on a 24/7 basis. To succeed with social media, you can’t expect to simply set up your pages and leave them to their own devices. Without constant updates, your audience has no reason to give you its time and attention.
The best way to think of your social profiles is as something of a magazine or newspaper. Their content may be both relevant and engaging today, but what about tomorrow? If a web user has checked out your profile recently, what’s their motivation for coming back again in the near future? If the whole thing remains static, there’s no motivation at all.
Your social profiles need to be updated and enriched on an on-going and consistent basis. The best way to win social audiences over is to provide them with a constant stream of rich, relevant and unique content they cannot gain access to elsewhere.
Does Social Media Contribute to SEO?
Bring this question to the doors of Google and you can expect the vaguest of vague responses. In fact, Google has never stated in any way, shape or form that social media has any impact or influence on SEO. In reality however, evidence would seem to suggest this simply isn’t the case. The more time that passes, the more evidence accumulates to suggest that social media does indeed contribute to SEO…big time.
If nothing else, the SEO value of your social pages can influence their likelihood of appearing in the SERP rankings. Even if they don’t do anything specific for your primary website, it’s hardly rare for social pages and profiles to rank right up there at the top of page one. Quality social pages rank strongly, pulling web users to your social profiles and ultimately linking back to your website. As such, regardless of what Google has to say about the mater, social contributes to SEO in a big way.
Of course, the same rules apply when it comes to producing high-quality copy that’s also SEO-friendly. If you’re not in a position to fully optimise your social profiles for SEO, hiring help comes highly recommended.
Is Social Media a Good Tool for Generating Sales?
Yes…and a hugely powerful tool at that.
One of the most important concepts to grasp when it comes to social media is that your platforms should never be used for the direct hard-sell. Get too promotional with social media and it’s game over – nobody will pay you any attention at all. Instead, the key to success lies in mastering the art of ‘selling without selling’. You don’t have to push your audience into taking action – they’re encouraged to do it naturally.
Social media gives the modern business the opportunity to do so many things of limitless value. Rather than operating behind something of a barrier, you get to mingle directly with those with an interest in what you do. Social media gives you the opportunity to learn about your audience, by effectively becoming part of your audience. Questions, concerns and general queries can be addressed instantaneously, a strong rapport can be established and the image of your business boosted enormously. By ticking all such boxes, your target audience becomes compelled to do business with your brand, without there being any need for the hard-sell.
Of course, there’s also the extraordinary benefit of collecting and sharing feedback via social media. Even if the feedback you collect is negative, the fact that you demonstrate willingness to address it quickly and fairly is guaranteed to work in your favour. All of which contributes to successful and consistently strong sales.
Can Social Media Be Used to Build Business Partnerships?
What’s important to remember about social media is that it is open to and potentially beneficial for everyone. It isn’t simply a platform designed for prospecting new leads and selling whatever it is you sell. After all, it’s not as if you’re the only business in your niche looking to capitalise on the limitless power and potential of social media. Whichever your preferred networks, social media presents unique opportunities to identify potential partners and form strategic alliances for mutual benefit.
Actually making it happen can also be surprisingly simple. All you need to do is identify those of interest to you through targeted research, before reaching out to them with your proposal. It could be something as simple as sharing links to each other’s posts or pages, directly promoting their services on your own pages or generally collaborating in any way deemed appropriate. It’s not a case of giving your direct competitors a helping hand, but rather joining forces with those within your niche who aren’t immediate rivals.
If you sell kitchen appliances, why not team up with a business selling food items, spices, recipe books etc.? Get it right and you could both benefit enormously from a strategic partnership.
Can I Target Audiences More Specifically?
One of the best things about social media is the way in which it provides businesses with endless information about their prospects. Simply by monitoring the kind of content social audiences interact with, you can gain a deeper understanding of their interests and habits. As an example, a person following pages/profiles connected with meditation, yoga and nutrition is likely to be interested in fitness-focused pages and profiles.
This is something that can be tapped into with enormous effectiveness through paid social advertising. The areas platforms including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn give businesses of all sizes the opportunity to focus their efforts with pinpoint accuracy, in accordance with key demographics. From individual interests to age to gender to location and more, you can ensure that your messages appear only in front of those who are most likely to show interest.
You can also use paid ads to achieve very specific goals. While some businesses may be looking to increase engagement, others are out to attract more followers or make as many sales as possible. Once you figure out the primary goals of your campaign, your ads can be tailored accordingly. While traditional marketing makes few allowances for such specifics, social media is uniquely flexible and adaptable.
Making Social Media Work For You
Of course, acknowledging the potential of social media and actually putting it to work for your small business are two entirely different things. With the exception of paid ads, one of the biggest benefits of social media is its cost-effectiveness. It’s perfectly possible to build and optimise an outstanding social campaign, without having to spend a penny.
That said, what social media eliminates by way of expense, it demands in the form of time, effort and commitment. As covered right at the beginning, the only way to succeed with social media is to see it as the living, breathing and constant entity that it is. Going all-out with social media one day and ignoring it the next really isn’t the way to go. You will only ever get out what you are willing to put in.
This is precisely why the vast majority of successful businesses hire help. Bringing in third party service providers to assist with social media marketing can simplify and streamline the process. Not to mention, maximise your ROI. Particularly if you are less than extensively experienced in the more complex side of social media, professional support comes highly recommended.