Social Media for Business Guide

Almost everything you need to know about using social media for your business.* 

*You’re on your own for making sure you go viral in the right way.

 

Social media for business checklist:

  1. Analyse your audience and choose the most effective social media platforms.
  2.  Develop high quality, shareable content – especially user-generated content (UGC).
  3.  Schedule a continuous stream of high-quality content to develop an ongoing dialogue with your audience.
  4.  Engage and interact with your audience, paying special attention to concerns or complaints.
  5.  Make it simple and convenient to subscribe.

In this guide, you will learn:

social media customers

Your customers use social media not only to share pictures with their friends, but more than ever, to keep up with the latest news and events. This includes science and politics, of course, but also the newest updates, events, and announcements from their favorite brands and companies. That's right: your customers want to hear from you on social media.

Social media is the new town square, the new gathering place and water cooler where people meet to share their passions, ideas, interests, and – importantly – their opinions on everything from popular culture to their favorite businesses.

If you aren't optimising and maximising your social media presence and operations, you may be missing out on many powerful opportunities to increase your market share, build brand loyalty, and dramatically improve your company's reputation among consumers.

Let's take a look at what a small business should be doing to get the most out of social media.  Here are a few tips for everything from building your online reputation, to connecting with your customers on the biggest social channels.
 
Just keep in mind that there are a host of strategies that can be employed when it comes to how to use social media to promote your online business. So it is up to you to test various tactics, analyse their results, and determine which routes are the best ones for your particular brand.

How to Choose the Right Social Media Platforms for Your Business

Not all social media platforms are created equal. While they all have their upsides and drawbacks, it is especially important to consider the following things in order to choose the right social media platform for your business.

  • First, segment your audience. Before you can engage your customers, you need to know who they are. Demographic and professional information about your target consumers, like age, location, job title, and company size, is invaluable to effectively deploying your social media marketing and customer service activities. If you are having difficulty with this step, consider investing in a market intelligence database subscription.
  • Different social media platforms attract different audiences. Choose the right one(s) for your niche. Certain platforms, like LinkedIn, have their intended functionality baked directly into them. It tends to attract older users and users in more managerial, directorial, and C-level professional positions than Facebook or Twitter. Instagram, meanwhile, tends to skew younger, while Twitter users are more likely to have higher educations. Select the platform where your message will be best received and have the broadest reach.
  • Then, develop the right content for that specific platform. Videos, for example, are more effective on Facebook and Twitter, which have autoplay functionality and therefore don't require users to click “play” for your message to reach them. Twitter also has a polling functionality, allowing for quick-hit surveys and similar content. For advertisements, be sure to read the Terms of Service for that platform, as they each have strict rules. Ads on Facebook, for example, cannot have more than 90 characters of text if they are uploaded as images or they will be removed.

With a solid market research strategy in place, you can begin testing varied platforms and content to see which posts resonate with your followers. 

social media

Take Advantage of Stories on Snapchat, Instagram, and Facebook

Stories, which are short videos that are only available for 24 hours after they are posted, are now available on Instagram and Facebook, so you can create these fun videos even if you do not yet have a presence on Snapchat.
 
In addition to posting stories on Instagram, you can make them even more interactive by adding mentions and links within them. In this way, when someone views your story, they can access more information through the “See More” tab, or they can click on someone’s username to access their profile immediately, rather than having to click out and search for it on their own.
 
As an example, if you are an e-commerce shop and you want to promote a specific product, you can share a story about it and include a link to your website in the ‘See More” tab. When a viewer clicks on the link, they will be taken to the appropriate page where they can learn more about the item and purchase it, or at least view similar products and discover more about your brand.

pinterest

Showcase Your Products on Pinterest

If you have an e-commerce business, you can also show off your inventory on Pinterest through the site’s Showcase feature. You can display several products that you want to promote at the top of your account’s homepage in order to grab users’ attention. You can create a rotating gallery to set various products into different categories. Users can then click through to access specific pins, as well as related pins.
 
While you are using Pinterest to promote your business on social media, also consider using buyable pins. These will link back to your online storefront, and they can be posted in addition to pins that link back to other pages on your website, such as your blog.

youtube

Harness the Power of Video on YouTube

How-to moments are becoming increasingly powerful in social media. In addition to producing high quality written content, you can also use high quality video content to be useful and delightful to your customers.   Many brands use YouTube to deliver valuable advice and information about your offerings.
 
Longer-form videos can be posted to YouTube and Facebook, so you can really dive into what your brand is all about. Help your customers understand what makes your products and services stand out from the competition.

Here are a few tips to keep in mind to make your videos the best they can be:

  • While a smartphone might be all that you need to post a quick live stream video to Facebook or a story on Snapchat, when it comes to developing content for YouTube or for advertising purposes, quality counts.  Consider working with a professional production crew. They can help you develop engaging storylines and record them with the right equipment. Then you can share your professional-grade videos to your social network and impress your viewers.
  • When it comes to promotional videos for social media, keep the content relatively short, less than three minutes in length, so that you won’t lose viewers’ attention. Also, post video content consistently, using the same SEO and hashtag strategies that you would use for written content, so that it can go far and wide.  
  • Of course, on top of posting original content to your YouTube channel, you can also use this platform to purchase ads that will play before or during other popular videos. Use these ads to encourage viewers to click through and learn more about what you have to offer. 

How to Develop Content for Social Media

speak to customers

Speak to Your Customers in Their Own Language

Yes, this obviously means that your post should be in Spanish if your market is Spain, but it means much, much more. Your product or service solves a specific need in someone's life, doesn't it? It makes someone's life that much easier, that much better, that much happier. That should be your message on social media. This is not the business section of the newspaper; this is social media, and it is highly personal. Speak about people, not about yourself.

user content

Create and Curate User-Generated Content (UGC)

User-generated content is the most valuable weapon in your social media arsenal. User-generated content is anything that was created by your customers, not your marketing department. That can include video testimonials, customer stories, fan photos, and even reviews. According to the Edelman Trust Barometer Global Report, 78% of consumers say they trust information provided by “friends and family,” and 63% trust “a regular person like myself.” Further, 75% say conversations with their peers affect their buying habits.1 The upshot of this is that the currency traded on social media is trust; trust is what you are trafficking in. Leveraging user-generated content tells your customers, “Don't take our word for it. Don't trust us, trust your friends and family and people just like you.”

social media content

Then, Repurpose and Repackage Your Best Content

Derivative content is especially effective on social media. One piece of content can often be cleverly reworked and re-imagined to prolong its useful life and save you money on content development. An eBook, for example, can and should be broken down so that each individual chapter is shared as a standalone blog post. Compelling infographics can and should be whittled down to their best diagrams or statistics and reproduced as easily shareable images.

How to Create a Content Strategy for Social Media

The democratising power of the internet has completely changed the buyer's journey. By the time the average customer reaches out to a sales department, they have already conducted significant individual research on both social media and the broader internet and are 70% of the way through their journey.2

That's why it’s so important that you continuously produce high-quality content, so that you stay at the top of your buyer's mind, you become familiar to your buyer, and you say the right things at every moment in that journey.
  • Develop a long-term content strategy. Whether long-term means one fiscal quarter or one whole year, you should map out your content plan of attack long before you press “post” on that first piece.
  • Create tailored content for each step of the buyer's journey. To massively boost the effectiveness of your content, it should speak to a specific moment in the buyer's journey. Identifying where in the journey your buyers are is made easier with the analytics tools available on social media, which allow you to see metrics like previously clicked links and searches. The content that resonates with your buyer at the discovery moment – when they first hear about you – should be broader and more company culture-based. When your buyer is doing his or her due diligence and is comparison shopping, informative nuts-and-bolts infographics can help guide them to the finish line. Your content should gently walk the buyer from the starting line to the finish, and should be ongoing and continuous.
  • Then, test what works and what doesn't. Most social media platforms now come with powerful analytics tools for free. Using these is critical to continually improving and optimising your social media content, and allows you to save time, budget, and resources on content that isn't working. Remember: keep what works, ditch what doesn't. 
paid advertising

Evergreen Content Versus Paid Advertising

To really be noticed on social media, your online business should focus on creating high quality organic content, in addition to the paid advertising options available on sites like Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram, as a few examples.
 
While sponsored posts can certainly be a part of your social media marketing plan, stellar content can propel your company forward especially if you invest in evergreen content that will continue to speak to your target audience. Including hashtags in that content will help expose your brand to an even wider audience over time as well. That is why experts like Gary Vaynerchuk (an entrepreneur who’s been dubbed a “a social media marketing guru” by Inc.com) recommend investing in your long-term content strategy.
 
According to Vaynerchuk, businesses should dedicate enough time to writing intelligent, engaging, and useful content for their target audience, and they should generate plenty of it. Also, in the end, you should be spending more money on hiring the experts necessary to create this high quality content, and less money should be spent on social media advertising. The right combination of content and advertising could help expose you to a larger audience of consumers who will be interested in learning more about what you have to offer.
 
This strategy works because many consumers today use a simple internet search to find out about new businesses, or they learn about brands on social media. So if you aren’t focusing enough of your resources on developing content that stands out on social media, you won’t be able to take advantage of this organic reach that allows you to make a great first impression.

social media calendar

How Often Should Your Business Post to Social Media?

Once you have a trove of engaging content to share, the next step involves creating a posting schedule and sticking to it. If you are not sure about how often you should be posting in the first place, below is a rough guide that you can tweak according to where your audience is largely found and how often you interact with them.

Facebook: 2 times per day
 
Twitter: 5 times per day
 
Instagram: 3 times per day
 
Pinterest: 1 or 2 times per day
 
Snapchat: 1 time per day
 
YouTube: 1 time per week
 
Make the most of your time on all of the major social networks by posting with consistency and always giving your audience something to look forward to.  

Here are a few other tips that you can follow as you create your posting schedule:

  • Produce evergreen content that will never become dated. This content can be available for use at all times, and it is the type of content that you can even reuse throughout the year because it will always be relevant and useful to your audience.
  • Follow fun themes, like Motivation Monday or Throwback Thursday, as a couple of examples. These can guide your posting decisions, as well as persuade your audience to check in to see what you’re posting on certain days of the week.
  • 80% of your postings should be useful to your audience, rather than focused on discussing your products and services. The remaining 20% can be promotional in nature.
  • Share high quality content from reputable sources, as this can ease the burden of having to create every posting yourself.

Set your schedule so that your posts will coincide with, and support, everything from special events and promotions, to marketing campaigns and contests that your company is running at the time.
Whether you post an animated gif, a video, a series of beautiful photographs, an infographic, or a colorful animation, doing so could dramatically increase the odds that your post will be seen by more people, particularly when compared to a plain text post.

How to Use Special Offers on Social Media

Another way to make the most of your social media presence is by encouraging people to subscribe to your email list or follow your company online. Providing an incentive for subscribing to your list, however, is the key.
  • Customers enjoy trying out new products for free before they commit to making a purchase. Therefore, you can use your social media accounts to provide special freebies and other incentives to subscribers who have shown interest in using your products.
  • Sharing special offers that are only available to your followers and subscribers will help grow your audience, and you can also encourage them to talk about your products to spread the word even further.
  • Consider posting free introductory offers, discounts, coupon codes, and giveaways exclusively for your subscribers and followers. Make your accounts a fun place for your audience to be, as well as a place where they can access deals that they can’t find elsewhere.

Ultimately, having the right social media marketing strategy will help you expand your company, whether you do business locally, around the country, or internationally. To learn more about how to manage and promote a global business, in particular, check out our Guide to Doing Business Overseas.

How to Engage with Your Audience on Social Media

Whether you post a simple question, set up a poll, or run a contest, making your audience feel appreciated and important by asking for their input will pay big dividends. Social media gives you an invaluable direct connection to your customers. It serves as both a massive focus group, as well as an important customer service platform. 
  • Respond to as many comments as possible. Customers want to know that there is an ecosystem surrounding the products and services they buy. By frequently engaging with customers on social media, you assure them that, yes, someone is out there, someone is listening, and someone can help them.
  • Don't be afraid to be cheeky. We know: there are trolls out there. But by cheerfully and helpfully replying to nasty folks, your brand can build a reputation as an unflappable source of knowledge and expertise, while looking hip in the process.
  • Listen to feedback. People will tell you if your content isn't resonating, believe us. Similarly, they will gladly rave about the pieces they love. Take them at their word, and use this valuable opportunity to multivariate test your content and fine-tune your messaging.
  • Pay special attention to questions or complaints. Social media is genuinely valuable as a type of customer service surrogate or triage. Customers who contact you there will expect the same level of customer service as they would from your official help line, because in 2017, social media is your official help line. Be prompt, thorough, and courteous in resolving any customer issues on social media.

How to Make it Convenient to Subscribe on Social Media

Followers, fans, or “friends”: whatever you call them, it is important to make subscribing to your social media feeds simple and convenient for customers. Here's how to do so, while also maximising the effectiveness of all your platforms.

Social media is a powerful platform for businesses of all sizes, especially small ones. Social media allows you to connect with, market to, hear from your customers where they are most comfortable, on the platforms that they use most.

By effectively leveraging the power of social media, every business can and should be able to harness its reach and enjoy massively increased success. So get sharing! 

Sources:

  1. https://www.slideshare.net/EdelmanInsights/2016-edelman-trust-barometer-global-results
  2. http://www.pardot.com/buyer-journey/
  3. https://www.inc.com/linkedin/gary-vaynerchuk/2017-key-small-business-social-media-marketing-gary-vaynerchuk.html  
  4. https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/287160
  5. http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/4-ways-to-promote-products-on-social-media/
  6. https://www.inc.com/magazine/20110201/the-way-i-work-gary-vaynerchuk.html
  7. https://blogs.constantcontact.com/social-media-posting-schedule/

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