The social media craze has proven to be much more lasting and influential than many assumed the trend would be when Facebook and Twitter initially hit the Web. Now, not only are social channels among the most frequently and widely used platforms on the Internet and mobile devices, they're also essential components of many businesses' marketing campaigns. With so many people scouring these sites not only for diversion and entertainment but also for useful information, having a social strategy is a low-cost, highly effective way for companies to maximize exposure and create engagement.
As such, the most successful marketing strategies for small business today incorporate social media in ways that makes sense for the brand and can capture the attention of the company's target audience. However, it's crucial not to assume that the relatively casual tone of most social channels makes marketing on these platforms easy. Developing a successful social marketing strategy requires just as much careful thought and attention as any email or ad campaign. Here are four ways you can keep your SMB's social media efforts on-message and in line with your company's goals.
1. Engage with your audience
Although the specific way you approach social media marketing will reflect your SMB's specific branding parameters, most companies share a common goal: They want to use these channels to create direct, dynamic engagement with their audience. One of the key things to look for is whether your posts are generating comments, likes, shares, retweets, etc. If your social media content is going viral, you can feel confident that customers and prospects are engaged with your brand.
But these interactions must go both ways. If you don't respond to your audience's content - whether it was posted independently or in response to your brand's own materials - engagement may peter out. Thank your customers for their retweets and likes, and return the favor when a company you do business with posts interesting material on social media.
2. Get hashtag-savvy
The hashtag is one of the defining characteristics of social media. Originally a phenomenon specific to Twitter, these searchable words and phrases soon spread to other channels such as Instagram and Facebook. Because posts containing certain hashtags become easily visible, they can be a powerful component of online marketing for small businesses. Consider creating your own, unique hashtags: Something as simple as #YourBusinessName could be highly effective. Alternatively, you can contribute to trending hashtags that relate to your industry or are popular with your target audience.
3. Find the right channels
It's key to remember that there are more channels out there than just Facebook and Twitter. BusinessNewsDaily recently spoke with Bigcommerce co-founder and CEO Mitchell Harper, who suggested that businesses sometimes fail to give Instagram the attention it deserves.
"Many companies don't take full advantage of this unique social media platform," Harper told the news source. "[You can] use your Instagram profile, hashtags and strategy to increase traffic to your e-commerce site and sell your products."
There are also lesser known channels such as Biznik, a business-focused platform that can help B2B marketers generate interest surrounding their brands.
4. Tailor your content
Once you've found the specific set of social media platforms that works best for your business, it would be a mistake to simply post the same material to all channels. Find the right types of content that resonate most effectively on each channel and create the most engagement. The short-form nature of tweets, for example, makes Twitter a great platform for posting links to your marketing materials - blog posts, infographics, white papers, etc. - while Instagram is ideal for posting photos of your team's travels and whereabouts that show how active your company is in its industry.