Most major brands have a strategy to reach and engage their customers—often on lots of platforms, including magazines and billboards, social media and TV, and even right into your own inbox with a customized offer and content. All that takes time, talent and money to make it happen, but small businesses can watch what big companies do and adapt tactics for their own resources.
There are several elements that make a good branding campaign stand out, and the best ones are authentic and focused. “Do they actually deliver the unique service, proposition, or whatever they say they’re going to?” asks Los Angeles-based digital strategist Siobhan O’Neill.
“To figure out the marketing campaign that fits for you, look back at your mission statement and core values,” says Jonathan Jacobs, director of digital strategy for Digital Natives Group marketing agency. “Why did you choose to do what you do? Why is your company a unique fit in this market?”
How small businesses can adapt
First, assess your goals and focus your content to make it count. “When was the last time you saw Coca-Cola or Delta tweet a cat meme? It’s not about low-hanging fruits, but about content that’s part of your brand story,” Jacobs says. “What can you offer unique views on? What story are you best equipped to tell? Don’t tweet about the Oscars just because they’re on or because you want to show your sense of humor, but do it when there’s a chance to educate about your brand’s persona, without pushing the sale.”
Know your customer even better than they know themselves, and then target them where they hang out on social media.
If you’re feeling pressure to engage on Snapchat, but you’re in the luxury goods business and your customer is 50+, that might not be the best avenue for you, O’Neill says.“If it’s about awareness and aspiration, maybe, but if your KPI is click-through to the website to purchase, then maybe Snapchat is not the right way to go about it. Maybe a Carousel on Facebook—one of their paid ad solutions—is the right thing for you.”
Jacobs says to figure out what story you can authentically tell, and find the channel where you can best tell that story. “You have limited time for social, and only one chance to make a first impression. … Tailor your message for the audience and the platform.”
Use available tools
O’Neill says there are plenty of social media messages that can be handled in-house, such as introducing new team members, collecting customer testimonials, and reaching out to new and prospective customers. But, she says, “Know when you’re in over your head and hire a pro for things like video editing or longer-form articles. There are lots of great freelancers that can work within a budget. Just make sure you ask for work samples first.”
O’Neill and Jacobs recommend the following tools to help small businesses:
- Canva to create graphic design elements
- Fiverr to hire freelance creatives such as designers or web developers
- Hubspot for customer relationship management
- TinyLetter, MailChimp, or Constant Contact for newsletters
- Hootsuite or MeetEdgar for social media planning
- BuzzSumo for analytics on SEO efforts and your (and your competitors’) campaigns
- Iconosquare for metrics about your Instagram account
“At the end of the day, a social channel is fickle, and the value of a follower or fan changes based on how a platform lets you reach them,” Jacobs says. “Think of visitors to your website and subscribers to your email list as the most valuable members of your social audience. They’re with you for the long haul, and you own their viewership, not another network.”