You’re busy running your small business and social media just hasn’t been high on your priority list. But you have this nagging feeling you’re missing out. Do you really need to worry about it?
“Yes, absolutely. In fact, it needs to quickly become a priority,” said Katie Gulas, Vice President and Social Media Channel Manager at BBVA Compass.
Why Small Businesses Need Social Media
“As a small business, your customers expect you to be present, even more so than with a large business,” Gulas said. “Small businesses have a more personal connection with their customers – your customers feel they know you. So you need to be where they are. You need to solidify that relationship by putting yourself where your customers are and staying in touch with them.”’
Another reason to get busy with your social media plans is that it’s not going away any time soon. “In fact,” said Gulas, “it’s going to be the digital medium all businesses use to connect with their customers going forward.”
Tap into the Power of Social Media Data
If that’s not enough to convince you, Gulas added that social media channels like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn provide businesses with marketing data and information they really cannot get anywhere else. “It helps businesses of all sizes make smart decisions about their marketing,” she points out.
Gulas explained that in the past, it was difficult for companies to get information about their customer base and measure response to their advertising efforts. But with social media, you get information every time someone likes you or retweets you. Having this data and using it properly vastly increases the chances your marketing efforts will succeed. “You get to see results immediately and learn from it,” Gulas said.
Choose One Social Media Channel
For companies just getting started, Gulas recommends choosing one social media channel and perfecting it. “Become an expert at it before you try your hand at the others. Choosing one and doing it well is better than repurposing content across three or four properties.” She added that when a business uses the same content everywhere, consumers often perceive it as disingenuous or lazy.
Which property you choose, she said, is primarily based on your business type and demographic. For example, an executive recruiter would probably choose the professional networking site LinkedIn as way to connect with talented businesspeople. A food truck, however, might opt for Instagram or Twitter, since the goal is not to sell a product online, but to keep your customers connected to your brand with regular updates.
Create a Social Media Strategy
Gulas highly recommended business owners have a plan before launching their social media efforts. “Never start without a plan,” she said, “but how much detail your plan contains can depend on your industry.”
A food truck can utilize just one social media structure by posting photos of food, diners, and letting customers know where the truck is, she said, and the rest can be spontaneously since their goal is to connect with users in real time.
But the recruiter, she said, “should have at least three months of content ideas ready to go before launching. Having updated content to offer followers is essential to keeping them interested.”
In addition to a content plan, Gulas said you also need a follower strategy: “Because the goal of your initial launch is to get followers, you need to have tactics for getting them.” One example of a strategy is what Gulas called a “personal connection strategy,” which is reaching out to everyone you know personally and asking them to follow you, and to reach out to everyone they know personally, and so on.
Take Advantage of Online Blogs and Resources
But how do you learn about various strategies and tricks? Gulas suggested spending some time on the blogs of the site you plan to use. “Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn all have official blogs filled with information designed to support and help you,” Gulas said, and “it’s good because it’s from the source. It’s in their best interest for you to succeed, so they give you the information you need to do that.”
She also recommended Hubspot for tools, research, blogs, case studies, and best practices. “Hubspot offers both paid and free services,” she said, “and is a great place to find valuable insight into what others in your industry are doing, and what’s working on the different sites.”
Content is the Key to Success
“Ultimately, the key is content,” Gulas said. “You must keep the content fresh and going, but not too much.” She added it’s critical to find the right balance between too much content and too little. “You also need to determine what content is most engaging.” She said in her experience, consumers do not engage with promotional content. “Consumers want information, not to be aggressively sold to. Content needs to be supportive, friendly, not always selling something.”
When asked whether small businesses can go it alone or should seek help with their social media endeavors, Gulas said, “if you have the budget, get some help.” She noted, however, that with many small businesses, time and money is limited. Her suggestion in these cases is to use interns. They are typically younger, understand social media, and can do much of the social media work with proper supervision.