As a small business owner, you've probably figured out by now that having a social media presence is almost as important as having a website. Sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Pinterest are here to stay. But how you use social media to enhance your brand, attract a fan base, turn users into customers, and develop loyalty, well – that can seem like a bit of a science. There are plenty of good social media practices being discussed out there, but there's also a lot of poor advice circulating the web. We'll help you navigate which is which so that you can make the best choices for your business. Here are some common social media mistakes you might be making, and a few tips on what you should be doing instead.
Not Maximizing Your Presence
The thing with social media is you have to go big or go home. A business Facebook page that has a bare-bones profile and no status update since 2013 may as well not be there at all. Oftentimes, these neglected accounts exist because you were told your business had to be on Facebook, and Twitter, and Instagram, and Google+, and LinkedIn, and tumblr., and the list goes on and on. Yes, big corporations have a strong online presence across all of these platforms, but they also have a whole online marketing team at their disposal.
Most small businesses don't have this advantage. You're better off choosing just two or three social media sites and developing them to their full potential: create a profile that accurately captures your business, use photos and colors that adhere with your brand, and make multiple updates each day that reflect your company's tone. (If you're concerned about where you'll find the time to post throughout the day, we'll be discussing a few handy social media management tools later.)
As for which social media platforms to choose, one philosophy is to stick with what's most popular. Currently, that's Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Another philosophy is to go where your target market is. While Instagram is the 7th most popular social media site overall, it ranks #2 amongst teens. If you're the one running your company's social media, it may also be a good idea to go with platforms you like using best. You're more likely to keep with it if you enjoy doing it.
Too Much Self-Promotion
Nobody joins Twitter to learn about their local businesses. Facebook accounts aren't being created because of all the hot new deals. People join social media sites so that they can interact with others. The fact that your business is also on there just happens to be a convenient way for you to attract a few new customers, and a convenient place for your customers to learn more about you… and yes, maybe secure a few hot new deals. You've probably heard before that the best advertising is when people don't know it's advertising.
Therefore, your social media marketing will operate at its best when it's operating in the background. One way you can avoid spamming your friends and fans is by making sure that 75% of your posts are designed to assist, interest, or entertain your audience, while only 25% of your posts are focused on pushing a sale. Here are some examples of each. Posts That Serve Others (75%)
- Current industry news
- A photo from a company event
- Shout outs to customers
- Helpful tips
- Thought-providing questions (related to your industry)
- Clever quotes (also related to your industry)
- Another company's blog post
- A cartoon
Posts That Serve You (25%)
- Your blog post
- Your book
- Your contest
- Information about your sale
- An invitation to buy your product or service
Another strategy to make your social media presence seem less commercial is to downplay your sales efforts by disguising your advertisements through lenses like humor or art. Be your favorite TV commercial that you don't mind interrupting your show. Not sure what this looks like? Check out the Facebook pages of major businesses like Time, Starbucks, Domino's Pizza, and Staples. They're able to present their information, products, and services in a way that enhances, not interferes with, the social media environment.
A Fake Fan-Base
One of the quickest ways to damage your social media presence is by trying to buy loyalty. Think of it this way: You wouldn't pay random strangers to be your friends in real life, right? You probably wouldn't have much in common with them and they likely wouldn't care about you in any real, meaningful way. You may luck out and find someone you're genuinely compatible with, but ultimately these paid strangers aren't the type to come to your 30th birthday party or stick around on moving day. So if you wouldn't buy friends in real life, why would you buy fans on social media?
Sure, a few hundred Facebook likes on your business page or a thousand Twitter followers overnight may create the perception that your small business is pretty popular, but that's usually not enough to transform a user into a customer, and it can be lethal to your marketing strategy. Why? Because an audience that you've paid to be there isn't interested in the products and services you have to offer. They're not going to comment on your posts, read your blog articles, or click on your website to take advantage of your holiday sale. A lot of these followers may not even be real. You're basically talking to an empty room. Once your social media sites are packed with these false followers, it can be difficult to find who your real ones are.
Buying fans isn't the only way small business owners have tried to quickly and unfairly boost their popularity. Chronically following and unfollowing mass numbers of individuals on Twitter with the hopes that they follow you back can be just as detrimental to your marketing efforts and can lead to a suspended account. The best way you can boost your small business' popularity on social media is by attracting your likes, friends, and followers organically. You can do that by posting frequently, providing relevant content, engaging your community in conversations, holding giveaways, sharing others' posts, and promoting your social media pages on your website, at your location, or on your business cards.
Zero Conversation Skills
As we've mentioned before, social media sites are not where people go to learn new information. It's not where people go to shop. It's where people go to make connections, build relationships, have conversations, and express themselves. It's called "social" for a reason. A social media site that only pumps out content without also engaging with its users will not only be boring, it may leave some to wonder exactly who, if anyone, is on the other side. This can weaken your branding.
Once you can identify what kind of tone your company brand has, it's easy to give it an active voice on social media. Don't just share a blog article, news story, or pin – say something about it. Don't leave your customers' questions hanging – get in there with an answer. Give a shout out to your new Twitter followers. Thank your fans for praising your product in a Facebook post. As users recognize that there's a real-life personality behind your company logo, they'll be more inclined to interact with it.
No Social Media Campaign
Your morning latte shouldn't be when you begin brainstorming what to post on social media that day. Not when there is so much information and so many resources available to help you lead an awesome social media campaign. Scheduling tools like HootSuite, Buffer, SocialOomph, and SproutSocial allow you to plan out your posts on multiple social media platforms, in some cases months in advance, all from one convenient dashboard.
By creating a post and then entering the date, time, and on what platforms you'd like it released, you can free up some of your time each day while taking a more sophisticated approach to your social media marketing. With scheduling tools, you can plan for your social media updates to align with your blog posts, new product releases, speaking engagements, or current events. You can post the recommended number of times each day (Facebook – 2, Twitter – 10, LinkedIn – 1, Instagram - 1) hitting peak times during the day (1pm, 3pm, 5pm) without having it interrupt your busy schedule.
While these tools can make life easier, managing your company's social media is still a big investment and a long-term commitment. You want to make sure your time and money are worth it and that you're implementing the best strategies for your small business. That's why you'll be happy to know that many of these tools also include analytical features that can help you monitor keywords, conversations, user engagement, and return on media, all of which can help you better understand how to reach your target audience and turn those users into happy customers.