Weaving your way through the mass of social media packages available can be daunting for a small business. There is lots to consider, so let us help you get started.
Such is the bombardment of information we all receive, many businesses feel they must be on every social media platform at once. It's hard to get rid of that anxious feeling that comes when everyone tells you how some other company is successfully using Facebook to to this, or so and so created a wonderful Instagram campaign that resulted in record sales. Without endless resources, however, this is simply not possible for the average business. You don't have the time or money to replicate what the big companies are doing.
But, since a lot of reported success is over-hyped and reported anyway, this is all the more reason for you to take a cool look at what you want to do and where you are going to put in your effort. But, if you can afford an expensive celebrity endorsement, then don't let us stop you. For the rest of us, it is back to the ordinary website on the street.
There are a many things to get right before you even look at what the social media platforms have to offer:
- Who is your target market
- Who is likely to buy or purchase your product or service (in market-speak, this is given the rather ugly title of the "persona")
- What age and gender are you approaching
- Is your approach local or are you looking wider afield
- Which social media platform is your potential customer likely to use
- Is your business typically Business to Business (BtoB), or do you sell directly to individuals
Now if you think this is beginning to look like a marketing questionnaire, in a way, it is. But rather than go through every question, as we would if we were talking to you directly about your business, weare suggesting you focus on your marketplace rather than the social media vehicle itself. Only once you have defined your perfect customer, can you begin to compare the profiles of the social media platforms with what you find.
Different Social Media Platforms have different things to offer
You can split the platforms into two or three main group:
- The visually based ones - YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat
- The Business ones - LinkedIn
- The full of everything ones - Facebook, Twitter, Google+
You can also divide them by age. For example, Facebook has a declining popularity among 18-24 year-olds, but is very popular with an older audience, so, if you are looking for a younger audience, you will be better off reaching out via Instagram and Snapchat.
Beware the bubble
It's equally important to remember the objectives of the social media platforms themselves. They are not on the web for their own entertainment, they are there to make money. Sure, they attract huge audiences - Facebook's global reach is 1.34 billion people, but they are also manipulative in the way they will use you. They are designed to be addictive as this keeps the whirl of activity turning around. The likes and hearts and visual hints aim to trap you and to give you pleasurable feedback that can be a diversion.
You need to be aware of the situation where you are so concentrated on saying something, or just saying anything, that you stop being objective about whether social media is actually bringing you success. So often, being liked (or the equivalent) becomes the objective rather than a mechanism for driving traffic to wherever you want it to be. Equally, conversations move on very fast. You need to remember that the conversations, you are part of, start and finish, that people online are easily diverted into something else and that they move on to other topics. This is what the social media platforms thrive on, whereas you want to be addressing your message consistently and accurately. Your message would have to have to be amazing to be in the public eye all the time. The answer to this is to measure and keep measuring. Even though you now have several thousand followers, are they buying anything from you?
Beware the loss of control
Social media platforms love uniformity. The fact that Facebook is so familiar and we know exactly where we will find things makes it very attractive to the user. But, it is their design, their look, their brand that is being presented. It is difficult for you to be a stand out brand without something else you can refer to. We recently went through an exercise with a sports team, many of whom said that their Facebook profile was enough to ensure they succeeded. When it was pointed out that exactly the opposite was happening - their website looked tired, their posts were personal instead of building the brand and that they would vanish as an organisation inside two years if they did not attract new members, you can see the trap they were building for themselves. Facebook was indeed a great place for them to be, but the actual profile of their supporters was younger than Facebook's typical user and anyone coming to their website to learn about the sport, the club and how to take part would soon be put off by out of date information and move on to other clubs in the area.
The point here is that each social media platform restricts the format in which you can portray yourself. It shoehorns you into its idea of a good profile. There are going to be many occasions when this is simply not appropriate. Then you need to reach for the alternatives.
How much time do you have
All the guides tell you to post frequently if you want to build up your audience. They are right. But over-commitment is the most common problem we come across. We often hear the words "We started posting to Twitter/Facebook several times a day, but we soon ran out of things to say..." You can be ambitious beyond your resources if you don't plan carefully.
- Twitter - 3 x per day, at least
- Facebook - 2 x per day maximum
- Linked In - 1 x per day maximum
- Google+ - 3 x per day maximum
- Pinterest - 5 x per day
- Instagram - 1.5 x per day minimum
What the article points out is that audience involvement and recognition starts to decrease if we post too often. What we would add to this is to ask if you really have the time to meet these numbers day in and day out. Time to pause and think if your business has enough original content, or you are interesting enough to sustain a campaign for any length of time.
- Don't stop using social media
- Consider your social media outlets carefully depending on your audience, the type of communication you have to make and the amount of time you have to support it
- Remember that your brand is what is important to you, not the success of the social media platform. Don't forget to tend to the other parts of your marketing and never use social media in isolation
- Measure, measure, measure and don't be led astray by "likes". Be ruthless in deciding whether something works for you or not.