Effective Marketing Strategies Include Social Media
My series on marketing strategies for small businesses would not be complete without mentioning one of the most popular option on the scene. Although a more recent development than email, social media is a remarkably widespread form of communication, not only for friends, family and peers, but for businesses as well. Millions of people use platforms such as Facebook and Twitter every day, and it’s increasingly common for users to interact with their favorite brands on those platforms. That’s why small businesses that aren’t on social media are missing out on a key driver of growth.
Katie Cerney, Director of Social Media Strategy, Deluxe Corp. is oneof SCORE’s content partner specialists. She wrote recently in one of Deluxe’s reports published with SCORE that “A business not on social media is missing out on an enormous marketing opportunity. Look up brands and companies you like — and even your competitors. It’s a safe bet they’re all connecting with customers on Facebook, Twitter and other social platforms.”
To win customers on social media, businesses must go beyond signing up for a Facebook profile and slapping their logo on it. They must consider which channels to use, the types of content to post and whether paid social advertising campaigns make sense.
When developing your social media strategy, the first thing to decide is which social channels to use. For most small businesses, the social media specialists that I talk to recommend that there are three musts: Facebook, Twitter and (in many but not all cases) LinkedIn.
You may have some familiarity with one or all of these platforms, but here is a quick overview of the strengths each can offer small businesses:
- Facebook: Facebook’s sheer size — the site claims more than 2 billion monthly active users worldwide — makes it a necessary social stop for any business. No doubt nearly everyone you know has a Facebook account. Because so many people use it, there is widespread familiarity and
comfort with it. Users are willing to interact with businesses they find on Facebook.
- Twitter: Twitter allows users to post short and quick content, limited to 280 characters. Users can also include links, photos or videos. The nature of Twitter allows your business to quickly and easily capitalize on trending topics.
- LinkedIn: As a social platform designed for professionals, LinkedIn is all about networking. Posting relevant content on the site can help generate sales leads, and it can also help your business find qualified candidates if you’re looking to hire. Also, since many businesses have a presence on LinkedIn, it gives you an opportunity to scout your competition and help differentiate your business. Because of its emphasis on professional networking, LinkedIn may not always be a natural fit for restaurants, retailers and some service businesses. That said, if your competitors are on LinkedIn, your business should be, too.
There are other social channels to consider, but depending on your business, they may or may not have the appropriate following for your type of business. These options may include: Pinterest, Instagram, YouTube and Snapchat.
Getting started on various social media platforms is relatively simple and takes little time. Each platform has a similar process for signing up. Here’s what you need:
- Email address: All social media platforms require a valid email address to get started, and in many cases that address will be used to log in.
- Username/handle: In addition to an email address, most social platforms ask you to create a username or handle, which will be used to identify your business. On Facebook, this may be as simple as typing in your business’s name. Handles can be tougher to come by on Twitter because duplicates aren’t allowed. For a business named Sally’s Cupcakes, an example would be @SallysCupcakes, but since that is a fairly common name, you may need to get creative when coming up with an alternative. Many businesses use the city they’re located in to differentiate themselves. For example, if Sally’s Cupcakes is in the Dallas/ Fort Worth area, one option might be @SallysCupcakesDFW. Try to keep your usernames and handles as simple as possible, while also making it clear who your business is.
- Profile icon/photo: In most cases your logo is a great option for your business profile image. Some platforms such as Facebook and Twitter also include a larger background image on profile pages, and here you might consider using a photo of your building, products or staff.
- Company information: Many services include an “About” section where you can write a short description of your business and what you offer. This can be a useful tool in building interest in your business for those who may not be familiar. It’s also important to add your physical location and contact information, so customers who find you first on social media can find you in real life, too.
- Website URL: Be sure to include your website address somewhere on your profile so visitors to your page can also visit your actual business website.
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