Think of your favorite small business. Maybe it’s a local boutique, an independent bookstore, or a family-owned pizza shop. How did you first find out about them? Chances are, if it’s a newer establishment, you learned about the business through word-of-mouth and then you did a little research on it through social media. These days, it’s not enough for a small business to merely have a website or expect that word-of-mouth alone will be enough to generate revenue. In order to attract customers and stay in business, small businesses must leverage social media.
As of 2017, 81 percent of the U.S. population is on social media. That figure is astounding considering that in 2008, only 24 percent of the population had at least one social media profile. Social media is just a hobby for some- a way to stay connected with friends and family, and engaged with the world around them- but for small businesses, social media is a matter of sink or swim. According to Forbes, “the different networks serve as avenues to interact with consumers on a personal level and can convert casual consumers into brand loyalists.”
If your small business is going to use social media to generate business (which is pretty much a given), then it pays to do it right. Here are some tips for small businesses to leverage social media as a tool for business growth.
Choose the right sites
Facebook is an important tool for small businesses of just about any kind because, in addition to being the most popular social media site in the world, it allows you to set up a business page in which you can make posts and interact with customers. You’ve probably been on a few of these pages. They’re a way for customers to stay informed of events and discounts, and small businesses to get the word out and provide customer support. The other big social media players have their merits too, of course. For instance, a creative business like a fashion designer or bakery may want to connect with consumers via Pinterest. Know the brand of each major social media site and how to use it accordingly: LinkedIn is a tool for developing professional connections, while Twitter is great for providing customers with a quick response.
Develop a strategy
Small businesses can’t just go into using social media blindly; they need to have a social media marketing plan. You should first establish your goals for using social media- what are trying to accomplish? Then, identify your target market and establish a timeline and budget.
Communicate with your customers
If your customers are taking the time to reach out to you via social media, then pay them the favor of listening to them, be it complaints or praises. Don’t forget the value of customer relationships for generating business. While social media can be a powerful advertising tool, it is also (and perhaps more importantly) a platform in which to engage with your customers and address their needs.
Automate the process
If your company can afford it, you should hire a social media manager to handle your accounts. Regardless, it is still important to devote a significant amount of time to your accounts and post regularly. Luckily, there are some tools available to help streamline the process. You can take a few hours at the beginning of the month to schedule posts throughout the entire month with social media managers like Hootsuite, Buffer, TweetDeck, or Sprout Social.