Small business social media tips from an expert
Social media is everywhere – we all use it, probably every day. But posting selfies on Instagram and lip sync videos on TikTok is different from using social media as a marketing tool for your business. Here’s what you need to know.
Know your audience
You probably already have a good idea who your target customer is, and that information is a great start when you’re thinking about your social media strategy. But you also need to know where they are on social. Not all platforms are one-size-fits-all. If yours is a bookkeeping firm, for example, your best bet might be LinkedIn. If you’re a hair stylist, you may be better off on Instagram or TikTok.
Take a look at your competitors, too. See which platforms they are most active on, and follow them so you can see what they’re up to.
Reach is important. Identify your audience in the broadest possible terms, and then narrow it down. Are you selling to other businesses (B2B)? Or to consumers (B2C)? Do you want to target people at specific organizations or in specific industries? If you’re a PR consultant to technology firms, for example, you want to target small tech firms that may not have their own PR department. If you’re not reaching those accounts, all the social content in the world isn’t going to help your business.
There’s a lot of research out there on who uses which platforms. Pew Research does an annual study that breaks down the demographics of each platform.
Understand your objectives
Once you understand who your audience is and where they are on social, think about what you want your social media to do for you. Different kinds of businesses will have different objectives. For example, a consultant might post thought leadership articles on LinkedIn to demonstrate their expertise and to connect with potential clients. A bakery might use Instagram to communicate their daily specials or the let customers know when they’ve run out of a popular product for the day.
A business might use different platforms for different objectives. The bakery that posts their specials on Instagram might use TikTok for a behind-the-scenes look at how they make their most popular product.
Just do it
While it’s important to understand which platforms are best for your business, don’t let that psych you out. Just jump in and get started. As long as you go in with a little bit of knowledge and you have your bearings, you can always fix things and tweak things, and grow from there.
A lot of social media is experimental – you have to see what works for your business. So put yourself out there, grow your following and grow your content. There’s no need to spend a year planning to launch your Instagram account.
If you start today, within six months you could have a loyal following based on some strong content.
Grow your following
Once you’ve identified your customers, the next step is to grow your following. You can take a two-pronged approach to this. First, follow your target customers. Then, interact with their content by liking and commenting on their posts. This is a good way to get them to notice you. Second, you can follow accounts that are similar to your business. Following accounts that are targeting the same kinds of customers you are – but not necessarily competitors – is a good way to see what your customers respond to.
You can also follow hashtags that relate to your business. For example, if you own a salon in Manhattan, you could follow #SalonNYC on Instagram. The same is true if you sell to salons. If you’re a management consultant and you’re trying to find new clients on LinkedIn, you could look for posts that include #managementconsulting. If yours is an insurance brokerage, you could search for #insurancebroker. Think about hashtags that are relevant to the product or service you offer, and also hashtags that your prospective customers might be interested in. Take a look at the number of hits each hashtag is getting, and expand your search if the number is low.
Keep business and personal accounts separate
It’s almost always a good idea to have business accounts for social media that are separate from your personal accounts. You want to establish a brand for your business, and a good way to do that is on social media. This is not to say that you can’t promote your business on your personal social media accounts – you should absolutely do that. But, depending on the type of business you have, your customers may not want to see your personal posts.
In fact, promoting your business on your personal channel is a great idea. When you’re a business owner, regardless of what your speciality is, you’re always also a marketing pro for your business. Whether you’re an architect, a yoga instructor, a portrait photographer, or a hair stylist, if it’s your business, you are always promoting and marketing your business.
The single best social channel
Business owners can quickly become overwhelmed, and some will want to start out slowly with social media. So a question that’s often asked is, “What’s the best social media channel for me to use?” The answer to that, like so many other business questions, is a resounding, “It depends.”
Social media is always evolving, so it’s important to stay on top of the trends. Businesses that used Instagram as their main platform even a year or two ago are now putting their money, time and effort into TikTok. They’re finding that‘s where their target audience spends a lot of time. But if you are, for example, an accountant or a business consultant, you may find more of your prospective customers on LinkedIn.
That said, the single best social platform for your business is also the one that you will use. If you determine that TikTok is where you want to focus, but you don’t know anything about TikTok and don’t have time to learn about it, pick something else. Maybe you’re more comfortable on Instagram. If so, that’s where you should be. The perfect platform isn’t going to help you if you don’t use it effectively.
Keeping up with the research around how often you should post on each platform can be a full-time job. Obviously, the more content you have, the better, but you also have other things to do. A good rule of thumb is to post three to five times per week. Twice a week is probably the bare minimum, since your audience won’t be as engaged if you post less frequently than that. The more you post, the more the algorithm rewards you, so your audience will see your content more.
You want to constantly be focused on increasing the number of followers you have, and you do that by building awareness. Post consistently, and vary the content. Post stories, informational posts, lifestyle posts. Post static posts and videos. Use those hashtags. And, most of all, engage with your audience. Don’t put up a post and then walk away from your phone. Make sure you look for comments and respond. Follow people back when they follow you. And search for and interact with the hashtags you use.
The elusive viral post
Everyone on social media dreams of hitting it big with a viral post. Unfortunately, there’s no science to it, but you can do a few things to increase your chances. First, look at the types of posts that are trending. On TikTok, for example, look for a sound or a dance that might be trending. If you jump on the bandwagon quickly, your post that uses the latest sound could capitalize on that trend. It’s helpful to be early in the game, which means you need to be on social media a lot so you can see what’s going on.
The planets really have to align for a post to go viral, but if you do have a post that gets more engagement than is typical for you, let that inform your future posts. If something’s getting a lot of traction, that’s your audience telling you what they want to see.
Once you’ve committed to a social media strategy, you may find out that it can be time-consuming. At that point, you may want to consider hiring a full-time social media manager, or using a consultant. Which one you choose will depend how much you want to do in social media, and on your budget. If you don’t need a full time person, or don’t have the budget for one, a consultant can be a good option. If you have the work and the budget, or if your product or service is very technical or specialized, it may make more sense to find someone with experience that you can hire.
Finally, be patient
Social media is a critical tool that can help you grow your business. But it’s a marathon, not a sprint. Some business start their accounts and expect to amass a huge following in the first few weeks, and go viral a few weeks after that. When it doesn’t happen, they get frustrated. A big aspect of it is being patient and just having fun with it. Your followers will be able to tell if you’re posting because you think you have to, or if you’re really putting out content you think is useful and fun.
You won’t become a social media expert overnight. But with a clear plan, consistent effort, some great content, and the right mindset, you may be able to increase your business and have some fun at the same time.
Hayley Susino is the US Communications Manager at Hiscox. Previously, she’s worked in marketing and strategic communications for global, national and regional organizations including Cushman & Wakefield, The Vatican, The Madison Square Garden Company, Teleflex and Rook Coffee. She holds a Master’s in Communication and a Bachelor’s in Economics and Communication from Villanova University