A Beginner’s Guide to Social Media for Small Businesses

Guest post by Nick Rojas

Social media is a powerful tool, especially for small- to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) that need to build awareness and target niche audiences. But starting out can be the hardest part. Here are six ways to get started on social media and grow your social presence.

1. Know your audience

Before you start creating content, know who your buyer is and what makes them tick. Start by researching and building buyer personas. These buyer personas are valuable for other aspects of your content marketing, but they’ll help you better understand the kind of language to use on social media, what content to post and who to target.

Personas will also inform you of what social media channels to use. Content Marketing Institute explains that your brand should only post to social media channels where your ideal buyers are. That way, you’ll have time to focus on the channels that matter most to your business and not waste time trying to figure out the nuances of every single one.

Check out your competitors’ social media platforms, too. You’ll get a better sense of what channels to use and what type of content resonates with customers similar to yours. It’ll also give you a chance to brainstorm content ideas that your competitors haven’t done yet. Maybe they don’t post many visual elements or don’t post original content. Look for opportunities for your brand to stand out.

2. Get the word out

Make it easy for people to find and follow you on social media. Add your social media handles and their icons to all of your marketing collateral, from sell sheets and your business cards to your email signature and webpages.

Create buzz around your social media channels by conducting a promotional campaign to let all of your business partners, current customers, friends, family and other fans know that you’re on social media. Send them an email that includes a suggested post they can publish to encourage their audiences to follow your brand, and offer an incentive to drive more followers. For example, the 500th follower may win a gift card or a free service/product from your company. Or offer to donate $1 per new follower to your company’s favorite charity.

If you have the resources available, utilize the social platform’s paid advertising opportunities to sponsor your posts, helping you boost awareness and gain new followers. This is helpful if you only want to target very specific audiences. Facebook, especially, has very detailed targeting capabilities to help you reach your ideal audience.

Just be sure you’re ready to start posting relevant content once you have all of these new followers. An editorial calendar will help.

3. Create an editorial calendar

According to Curata, 69 percent of marketers use an editorial calendar to keep their content on a regular schedule. It’ll help your team stay on track with due dates to make sure you’re delivering a stream of content for your social media audience. You want to consistently create and publish content so you can be a reliable and trustworthy source of information for your audience.

Depending on the frequency of your publishing schedule, you may break it down into weeks or days, and add to-do tasks for each week to keep you on schedule. Often, the workflow involves proposing keywords, brainstorming a topic, creating content, approving content and scheduling publication. A documented social media strategy is a good place to capture all of this information and acts as a road map for your team.

[RELATED: Here are some tips and tricks to getting the most out of your editorial calendar.]

4. Interact often

According to a study by the Edelman Group, 87 percent of people want more meaningful relationships with brands, but only 17 percent think brands properly deliver.

This is your opportunity to use social media as a way to directly communicate and form connections with your audience. Initiate a response strategy to ensure that someone on your team is monitoring comments, likes, shares and other engagement. Creating a “cheat sheet” of responses to scenarios and specific complaints will help you stay consistent, but avoid sounding too robotic. Your followers want to talk to people, not a PR script.

On social networks such as Facebook, every user’s entire newsfeed sees when they interact with a public page, whether it’s a like, a comment or a share. That means that for every interaction, you’re exponentially increasing your page’s exposure. By responding to comments, you’ll encourage others to engage as well. It’ll make your audience feel heard and they’ll have a more favorable view of your brand.

5. Add tags and keywords

Make it easy for your target audience to find you by implementing relevant hashtags into your social profiles and posts. Social media users search hashtags to find content they’re interested in. That means you can treat social media like a search engine to increase your chances of being found.

Using keywords in your social media profiles and posts will also help elevate your rank in organic search results. Use an SEO tool such as Moz or Google Analytics to identify the right keywords for your audience, and incorporate them naturally into your social media posts. Or browse the Trending Topics on Twitter to find popular conversations that your brand can participate in. You can search Trending Topics by region, too, so you can reach a more targeted audience.

6. Use the right tools

Having the right tools at your disposal can make a huge difference when it comes to perfecting your social media strategy. A social media scheduling tool like Hootsuite or BrandpointHUB allows you to schedule content ahead of time. Your Facebook posts might get the best response on Thursdays around 1 p.m., but you could easily be in a meeting and unable to hop online.

A scheduling tool also helps you better prepare for upcoming holidays or events when the timing of posts is crucial. You’ll be able to work ahead and know that you’ll have timely content that will publish when your audience is looking for it.

The right tools can also help make up for a lack of resources. Don’t have a professional graphic designer on staff? Use Canva or Visme to easily create graphics that will make your social posts stand out. Visual content gets shared more than 40 times as often as textual or video content, so graphics should be included in your social media calendar.

[RELATED: Pro marketers share the one tool they can’t live without]

Make it work for you

Once you’ve worked through all of these steps, the work doesn’t end! You’ll find that some posts perform better than others. Keep track of this performance in a social media report to help you analyze what content works and what doesn’t.

As a small business, it’s easy to get discouraged because it takes time to grow your social following, but don’t stop posting! Continue to offer interesting, useful content for both potential and current customers. And use the tools at your disposal to make sure you’re sharing things your audience actually wants to read.


Nick Rojas combines 10 years of experience working with and consulting for SMBs and a passion for journalism to help readers grow. He writes about technology, marketing and social media for the aspiring entrepreneur. Find Nick on Twitter @NickARojas.

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