We’ve mentioned social media marketing strategies for small business several times through this series. We talked about how to connect with customers through social media, how announcing achievements on social media can fight self-doubt, how social media can be a cost-effective marketing strategy, and even how ignoring technology including social media can be a pitfall.

And, if you’re still not convinced, here are a few more facts:

Clearly, social media marketing for small business offers a ton of potential for connecting with your customers and clients!

But how do you tap into that potential? It’s not as easy as simply starting a Facebook page or Twitter feed (we wish!). Here’s a basic outline to get you started:

  1. What to Do
    1. Develop Goals First
    2. Align Your Social Media Marketing with Your Goals
    3. Choose the Right Social Media Platforms for Your Small Business
    4. Measure the Right Things
  2. How to Do It
    1. Engage Your Customers
    2. Social Media Giveaways
    3. Photo and Similar Contests
    4. Social Media Advertising
    5. Get Someone to Manage Your Social Media Marketing

One Caveat About Social Media Marketing for Small Business We’ll Tell You Now

We’ve mentioned this before: the “hard sell” is not a good strategy for social media marketing – and small businesses can be particularly susceptible to it! Social media is more like a cocktail conversation than a sales pitch.

So, instead of advertising your logo t-shirts in the traditional sense, show people doing fun things while wearing them. A picture of a guy “holding up” Big Ben while wearing your shirt with the caption, “Spotted in London, UK!” is more likely to attract eyeballs than a drab product shot with the caption, “Only $12.99!” Let the shirt speak for itself, and they’ll click on your link to find out how to get one.

What To Do Before You Launch Your Social Media Marketing Campaign

Develop Goals First

Choose your social media marketing goalsAs with any marketing plan, the first thing you need to do before you launch a social media marketing campaign is develop goals. What is it, exactly, that you want people to do? Are you looking to boost your lunch sales? Do you have a new product that you want to get the word out about? Is there a special event coming up? Are you looking to sign up more subscribers?

Whatever it is, jot down your goals. You may have more than one, and that’s okay too. But be as specific as possible. For example, “Boost sales” is not a specific enough goal. “Sell the remaining logo t-shirts” is a concrete goal to shoot for.

Align Your Social Media Marketing with Your Goals

Once you have your goals written down, choose social media marketing strategies that will directly help you reach your goals. For example:

  • Getting customers to show off your products – like those logo t-shirts from above – is a good way to spread the word (more about this in “Contests,” below)
  • Offering special deals and events will help you attract more subscribers
  • Starting a Lunch Club or routinely posting your lunch specials to social media will help you boost lunch sales

Social media marketing isn’t too different from traditional marketing. The same rules apply: engage, excite, and motivate your customers to buy your products and services. The only difference is the way you’re marketing.

We’ll get into some specific ideas of how to use social media in the “How to Use Social Media Marketing for Small Business” section below.

Choose the Right Social Media Channels for Your Small Business

Choose the right social media marketing platforms to reach your audience

There are several different social media channels or platforms where your customers live. So how do you know which ones are the right one for you? According to Quick Sprout, Facebook is the most popular for small business. But we would point out two things:

  1. It depends on what type of small business you run
  2. Things change

To elaborate on Point #2, the “rules” of social media in 2021 are not the rules of 2012, and likely won’t be the rules of 2022. But you can worry about that later. The main thing is to find your customers now, and then move with them in the future when/if you have to.

As for Point #1 – here are a few things to consider:

Facebook – Good for almost all small business. It allows you to set up a separate page for your business, share information (such as specials, events, etc.) directly with your customers, and chat informally.

Instagram – Much like Facebook, but tends to skew younger and is image-focused. That means you should spend more time finding the right photograph, graphic, or video to share. Action rules over static product shots. As mentioned above, your t-shirt on a shelf doesn’t look nearly as good as worn by someone on top of a mountain, at the ballgame, or in a national monument. Works best for B2C businesses aimed at primarily a younger crowd.

LinkedIn – Good for business, i.e. B2B or other business professionals. Mostly consists of blog posts/articles and sharing content from others. (Think: business networking.)

YouTube – Good for ongoing engagement such as tips, reviews, and short skits. Primarily, YouTubers are small businesses unto themselves. However, YouTube is a great place to add and share your videos such as a walkthrough of your restaurant, demonstration of “behind the scenes” in your bakery, or some fun video of your products in action.

Your Website – This isn’t a “social media platform” in the strictest sense. However, blogs were interactive from the start and pre-date social media. More to the point, you want to have an independent spot on the web that you have full control of.

There are other social media platforms out there too, but these are the main ones to consider – and probably the best place to start.

Measure the Right Things

Measure sales, not social media "likes".One of the major pitfalls of social media marketing is that many small businesses measure the “likes” but not the sales. Yes, it is exciting to get the positive reinforcement a thumbs-up gives you! But you can’t pay the bills using hearts on your Instagram photo. (At least not yet…)

Figuring out how to measure your social media success can be tricky. But it will be easier if you have specific goals as outlined above. “Sell all our t-shirts” is easy to measure – if you sold them all, then your social media marketing plan was a success!

Don’t forget too that your social media marketing plan will likely be part of your overall marketing. So, did that customer buy your t-shirt because of your Facebook post or because of the poster in your window? It’s okay to ask. And, it’s also possible that both social media and traditional marketing working together is what triggered the sale. Reinforcing messages across different platforms definitely has a cumulative effect!

How to Use Social Media Marketing for Small Business

There are many different ways you can use social media marketing to boost sales for your small business. Different strategies work better for different goals – as mentioned above, it’s important to establish goals and create marketing strategies to meet them. Here are a few ideas.

Share or Like and Win!

Share, like, win! Just one of many social media marketing strategies.You’ve probably seen these in action before. Someone says “like this post” or “share with a friend” to automatically be entered to win a free book or hour consultation or something. The reason you’ve seen these before is that they work.

The idea is simple – getting your followers to share your posts extends your reach to their friends. Not everyone is going to be interested. But some are. If you get just one friend from each one of your followers to follow you too, then you’ve doubled your number of followers!

You can see an example of this approach in the photo above. (See the original Instagram post here: https://www.instagram.com/p/CBWQHAjpsW-/)

Social media marketing giveaways can generate interest and boost your number of followers -- and therefore reach!

Note that these work best when you have a specific offer. Sharing a “What a great morning it is…” post probably won’t get shared. But if you’ve piqued the interest of someone with a special deal that they think their friends will want to know about, you’ll increase the chances they’ll share it.

Social Media Giveaways

Everyone likes something for free. Here’s an example of how Wizard Pins gained 30,000 Instagram followers in a year and a half by giving away 40 pins.

Photo and Similar Contests

Photo contests are another popular way to engage customers. Try to tie it into your small business though. Sunset pictures look great, but they may not have much to do with your business! (Unless you run a sunset cruise, in which case this would be the perfect contest. You’re welcome!)

For example, ask people to submit pictures eating your ice cream or wearing your t-shirts. If you run a dog grooming service, perhaps customers could submit their pet looking their best – or looking their worst! (They win a free dog grooming session, after which you can show the before and after…) Then, engage your customers further by choosing a small number and getting them to vote for the best photo.

Other variations on this type of contest include Best Caption contests and Best Comment.

Social Media Advertising

Social media advertising is another area you can explore. We won’t get into the details too much here – that’s a topic all on its own! But Facebook ads, Instagram ads, and even Google Adwords could help you directly boost your customers.

Here is some great information on social media ads (get a coffee first – it’s a long read!): https://blog.hootsuite.com/social-media-advertising/

Get Someone to Manage Your Social Media Marketing

Get social media marketing help from Elite.For some, social media comes easily. There’s nothing they love more than stopping into Starbucks, sitting on the patio, and updating their Facebook or Instagram or other social media platform.

But for others, that sounds like a waste of good patio time!

If you’re not naturally drawn to social media, it won’t be as effective for you. You’ll need someone to manage your social media marketing for you to ensure you:

  • Keep to a schedule (nothing kills social media marketing like an abandoned Facebook page)
  • Engage potential customers with posts they want to read
  • Review your marketing goals to ensure you’re reaching your targets

This may be someone in your office. Or, it may mean reaching out to the professionals.

Elite Office Solutions can help. Our team of marketing professionals at Elite Marketing + Promotions have years of experience designing and implementing social media marketing strategies for small business. Contact Elite for a free marketing consultation, and let’s find out how we can help you!

But no matter what route you go, social media marketing for small business can be a great, low-cost way to attract new customers and engage old.