Once upon a time, there was a world where social media was new and unknown. Business owners dismissed it as a silly and passing trend for "youngsters" that had nothing to do with them. They were sure it was just another mindless way for the younger generation to pass the time and would quickly be forgotten, with the example of MySpace at the top of their minds.
If this story sounds familiar to you, it's because you probably lived through it. Fast forward a decade or so, and despite the cynics, social media has not only proved its staying power but has thrived. Now, most business owners have come to understand the critical role social media plays in their success, although they may not be fully aware of all the benefits. Everyone from small mom and pop shops to established franchises seem to have gotten in the game. They've learned that social media is not only here to stay with its 2 billion and growing users, but is something that can actually make or break their business prospects.
Today, the most popular social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter have become giants in the marketing industry, not only giving businesses huge amounts of data about their customers, but also opening up direct and mostly free channels for customer communication.
As someone who has worked with a multitude of businesses across the country on their quest to find online marketing success, I've seen firsthand the growth of social media and how it has become a mandatory part of small business operations.
If all of this social media stuff makes you feel overwhelmed and unsure how to jump on the boat to better your business, I'm here to tell you to stop stressing and look no further. Up your social media game by simply downloading this handy chart we created to keep our clients on track and following these four easy tips:
1. Focus Your Efforts
I can't count the number of times my clients have asked, “How can we do it all? Posting on all of those social media sites takes too long!” My answer is always a simple one: You can’t. There is no way you can be everything to everybody. Instead, you make the most out of your time and focus your efforts.
Let's start with the numbers. As I mentioned above, over 2 billion users are on social networks, comprising 78% of online adults. It's a pretty safe assumption that your customers are part of that number. So which social networks are they on? According to a survey of small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs), 44% believe that Facebook is driving customers in their decision-making process. To break it down even further, 79% of online adults use Facebook, 32% use Instagram, 31% use Pinterest, 29% use Linkedin, and 24% use Twitter.
Meanwhile, in another survey, only 34% of SMBs feel they see a real return on investment. What does this all mean? I think it's obvious to say that yes, you need to go social, but it's also imperative to be smart about it and focus your efforts on the particular networks that cater most to your specific customers.
2. Define Your Target Market
To figure out which social media network is right for you, you'll need to channel your target customer. Are your typical customers men or women? A certain age, income, or location? These demographics are important and will give you the direction you need to create engaging social media content on the right platform. Since you probably don't have a professionally developed marketing strategy with personas defined for your target consumers, all it takes is a little research on your customers to come up with this information.
3. Choose Your Target Networks
From there, it's simple to choose which sites will work best for potential and existing customers by understanding what networks your target demographic uses. According to the previously mentioned PEW research, Facebook holds the lion's share of customers. Of all U.S. adults, 68% are on Facebook. Of all internet users, 83% of females are on Facebook, and 75% of males use the site. Additionally, 84% are between the ages of 30-49 and 84% make under 30K per year. The demographic skews differently for networks like Twitter and LinkedIn where 30% of Twitter users make over 75K per year and 45% of LinkedIn users also are in the over 75K category. Use this data and your own research to choose which sites work best for reaching your desired demographic.
4. Use Social Media Advertising
Another way to maximize the power of social media is to use its advertising firepower. With Facebook Advertising, ads are seamlessly interjected into the news feed, and the results are powerful. People are 51% more likely to make a purchase after "liking" a brand on Facebook, and since more than 700 million people visit FB on mobile every day, businesses can connect with their customers anywhere. Another benefit of Facebook advertising is the cost of ads, which are much less expensive than traditional ads.
Facebook ads also give you the ability to target customers based on their photos, interests, check-ins, education level, relationship status, and more. Businesses can use this to their advantage to reach a highly targeted demographic. Ads can also be as broad or narrow as you want. For example, you can target an entire state or limit your reach to within 5 miles of a physical location. The great news is that the possibilities are endless and can be tailored to fit your business and its exact needs.
I recommend that you peruse the platform and browse all of the targeting options. Facebook is constantly updating the options that are available.
As you can see, social media holds unlimited benefits that can be used to help your business grow. By jumping in and using these tips to learn about your customers and engage with them, I bet you'll start seeing success immediately.
Do you have a success story from implementing any of these tips? If so, feel free to comment below!
Will Scott is CEO of Search Influence, a national online marketing firm focused on small and medium-sized businesses, and white label online marketing products for publishers and media partners who serve them. Search Influence is the largest online marketing company on the Gulf Coast and New Orleans’ only Inc. 500 honoree in 2011.