With so many platforms, types of media and styles of messaging, it can be difficult to know where to start with social media for business.
In this article, Method Marketing explores all the considerations you should make before getting started with social media for business.
First up, let’s take a look at what social media marketing is.
On the face of it, it’s simple: it’s marketing conducted on social media. So far so good.
But the tactics can vary widely.
You might post status updates, images or videos; you might ask questions, run polls or offer tips. You could use social media as a customer service channel or as a feed for your latest news.
However you decide to use it, remember that the word ‘social’ is key. At Method Marketing, we recommend incorporating real-time community outreach alongside company news and scheduled updates. While it’s good to share what you’re working on, you also need to add to the conversation.
In fact, we’d go so far as to state that joining conversations, forums and communities are the best ways to increase your visibility with your audience. Go to where your customers are and engage and add value.
We don’t want to state the obvious, but social media, in its various forms, has a huge number of users.
A business profile gives you the opportunity to reach those people in their news feeds, in real time.
But that’s not to say that you must maintain an active profile on every available platform; use the channels most appropriate to your audience.
Commercial interest in social media has increased rapidly over in recent years. Below you’ll find a Google Trends data, showing how searches for the term ‘social media marketing’ have increased worldwide over the past five years.
Potential audience size is one benefit that we’ve covered, but there are many others to consider.
Organic social media activity is free.
While you may need to pay someone to manage your social media activity, your profile is likely to be free.
That said, if you want to boost your visibility, you may need to engage in paid social media activity. Most channels prioritise personal engagements, rather than corporate updates, in news feeds. While they claim that this is to improve user experience, it also encourages businesses to pay for advertising to reach their audiences.
Paid social media activity can be cost-effective if your campaigns are set up correctly. Be sure to speak to a specialist if you’re unsure.
Social media is great if you want to build lasting relationships with your customers.
If they Like or Follow your business profile, your news, videos and updates might appear in their feeds (depending on the algorithm). They receive your news where they are.
You can also provide customer service support, while learning about the challenges they face.
Social media helps your business develop a personality away from other corporate channels.
While your tone shouldn’t vary wildly, you can be more relaxed on social media. After all, the aim is to be sociable, so you might adopt a conversational tone.
If you haven’t read it yet, take a look at What Is Tone Of Voice and Why Is It Important; it explains why you should have tone of voice guidelines for your business and how to start implementing them. A tone of voice document should be available to anyone creating social media content for your business.
Some brands start engaging with each other, as well as with customers.
American fast-food chain Wendy’s is renowned for this type of activity. The account often exchanges banter with other brands, resulting in hilarious dialogue and PR coverage (search ‘Wendy’s Twitter Chat with Moon Pie’).
A word of caution, though: Don’t take it too far. Some gentle humour can help to humanise your brand and make you seem more approachable, but take it too far and you could end up with a PR disaster on your hands (á la Virgin Trains).
Social media allows you to showcase your staff and their personalities. After all, these people will be engaging with your customers.
If they’re out at an event, or taking part in a fundraising activity, share updates. Again, it can make your brand seem more human and encourages personal relationships.
Quite honestly, there is no simple answer to this.
It depends on your objectives and your target audience.
If you trade B2B, LinkedIn is likely to be appropriate for your business. Its popularity as a social media platform is increasing, and since its acquisition by Microsoft, the user experience has started to improve too.
You might also opt to use Twitter for sharing short updates and news. It’s great for hosting Q&A sessions, or joining Twitter chats about specific subjects. Take a look at #NorfolkHour to see what we mean.
Facebook currently boasts the most users, followed by YouTube, so if you want to reach a large audience these might be your channels of choice.
Bear in mind that the average age of a Facebook user is increasing. 25-34-year-olds make up 29.7% of users, while 77% of Snapchat users are between 18 and 24. TikTok skews younger still, with a teenage, or younger, demographic.
If you’re looking to trade internationally, you may want to consider alternative platforms. If you want to reach audiences in China, for instance, consider setting up profiles on WeChat or Sina Weibo.
Not all platforms will be suitable for your business, but we recommend signing up to the major channels to prevent cybersquatting.
Simply fill out the basic information, including a link back to your own website, so that if someone stumbles across it, you can redirect them back to your site for more information.
In fact, social media can be better for small businesses. You’re able to be more agile than large businesses, while injecting more personality into your posts.
Without wanting to get too technical, most social media algorithms give increased visibility to pages that generate high-levels of engagement.
If your brand builds a loyal following that regularly engages with your content, social media algorithms are more likely to display your updates in feeds. It becomes a virtuous circle!
Now for the nitty-gritty.
Knowing how to use social media for business can be complex. We recommend answering these questions to get started.
Do you want to build brand awareness for your business? Or engagement? Do you want to inform or entertain?
How do you intend to use social media to achieve your objectives? By defining your strategy and your approach to social media, you can create a social media plan, with measurable goals.
Consider who you want to reach on social media. This may differ from the audience for website content, or be a segment of that audience.
Which channels are they using? This can help you to choose the right platforms. It can also help to define the content you create for social media. For instance, if your audience is mostly on YouTube, video is your medium of choice.
Read more: Video Marketing
If you’re a solopreneur, that’s probably a simple question to answer. However, if you have a team it might be more complicated. It’s important to ensure that at least one person has defined responsibilities for keeping channels up to date and engaging with your audience.
You should also consider the sign-off process. If a member of your team is creating posts, do you need to agree to their publication? And if you’re busy, how does that happen? You don’t want to become a bottleneck, especially if your team wants to engage on a trending topic or news story.
If you work in financial services or law, you might also need to take compliance sign off into consideration.
There are various options for this:
Header Photo by Matthew Henry