While social media presence can sometimes seem like a modern-day popularity contest, the truth of the matter is that followers are key to the success of a small business. According to American Express, “in November 2015, shoppers and businesses racked up an astounding 85 million social media engagements to spread the word about their favorite merchants,” and “there were more than 241,000 social media posts on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter using ‘Small Business Saturday’ and ‘Shop Small’ hashtags.”
Since most people are on at least one social network these days (and they love to share content), businesses should see platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram not only as marketing tools, but also as a way to recruit brand advocates. After all, positive word of mouth remains one of the best (and cheapest!) ways to generate new customers, more sales and positive relationships.
So what are you waiting for? Get online and begin building your army of ambassadors. Here are five tips to get you started.
Pick Your Platforms Wisely. When it comes to creating an active social media presence, it can seem overwhelming because of all of the different platforms out there. While it’s incredibly important to “live online,” you can’t be everything to everyone. So before diving in headfirst, do some research and pick your platforms wisely. While certain businesses may thrive on niche and lesser-known platforms, independent retailers (especially in the paint and decorating industry) will probably benefit most from popular platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and even YouTube.
Post The Right Content. One of the most important things to keep in mind every time you’re about to click ‘share’ on a social media post is that this is not the place for hard selling. While it’s perfectly fine to let your followers know about a fabulous new product or a special promotion, it’s important to maintain a casual tone and post the same conversational and relevant content that initially drove them to like or follow your page. It’s also important to keep in mind that more people will engage with a post when it elicits positive emotions; so while constant selling might seem like a smart way to use social media, keep it to a minimum.
Engage With Similar People. When you’re creating a social media following, it’s important to engage regularly with like-minded businesses and organizations so you can create a sense of community. Pay attention to blog posts and content within your industry (and your town or city), and use the opportunity to make comments, ask questions and generate conversation. In addition, you can also follow customers who are active on your page and create conversation with them, too!
Sweepstakes, Giveaways and Contests. Social media contests are one of the most successful ways to engage and grow your social following. Not only do they get people excited about your brand, but when one of the rules for entering is a follow, retweet, share or repost, you get more eyes on your business (which could lead to future sales). If you decide to try a contest or giveaway, choose a product or service that’s relevant to your target market and be sure to spread the word with a press release, e-blast and, of course, a well-written social media post!
Don’t Neglect Your Accounts. For better or worse, social media never sleeps. Your customers are checking their accounts long after you’ve left the office for the day (or the week), so it’s important to be consistent with your posting habits. While this may seem like a big job, social media management programs such as Hootsuite and TweetDeck let you schedule posts in advance. Also, if you have a hard time connecting with your audience or can’t fit it into your schedule, pass off the responsibility to one of your employees. But one thing you should never do is allow an account to grow stagnant; it’s always better to not use a platform at all than it is to use it improperly, inefficiently or inconsistently.