7 Key Values of Social Media for Small Businesses
Social media, like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest, are budget-friendly, easy to use, and extremely popular, making them excellent places for small businesses to start their digital marketing campaigns.
Social media is free (there are paid options, but that’s an entirely different conversation). Posting content, adding followers, spying on competitors, engaging with your customers, and so much more is possible without spending a single dollar on social media. That makes it an attractive destination for businesses and consumers alike. While most of the mainstream social media platforms are free, as a small business, you shouldn’t just sign up for an account on each one. It’s important to strategically decide which social media to use based on what your business is selling, who makes up your target audience, and what type of content you’ll be posting.
Social media is also easy to learn and, intentionally, even easier to use. Companies like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn want you to use their product as frequently as possible, so they’ve made their platforms user-friendly (and scientifically addictive). A lot of people (myself included) find themselves checking social media first thing in the morning, falling for phantom notification vibrations throughout the day, and mindlessly scrolling through social media before falling asleep. Social media use has become such a big part of our daily lives that companies like Apple now let you know how you’re spending your screen time each week. And social media’s popularity is driven by its ease of use, popularity, and community-focus (as well as loads of research done by social media giants that we’re not going to get into here).
Additionally, almost everyone you know is on social media, which means almost all of your customers and potential customers are already there. You don’t need to attract your target audience to Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, because they’ve been using social media for the better part of a decade already. With more than 2.4 billion active users, Facebook is a great place for most small businesses to start their social media strategies, but social media like Instagram (1 billion active users), Twitter (330 million active users), and Pinterest (265 million active users) are also very viable candidates.
While cost, ease of use, and popularity alone might be enough to convince small business owners to start their social media plans, there are a few other key values of social media for small businesses.
Before the term social media was commonplace, Facebook, MySpace, and digg were referred to as social networks. They were set up as online gathering places for people with similar interests to come together, meet each other, and share in some aspects of their lives. For Facebook, it was connecting Harvard students with other Harvard students. For Twitter, it was small groups communicating via short bursts of inconsequential information. While today’s social media have evolved to become marketing behemoths, at their core, social media are still connection, communication, and community focused. With a small business, you need a strong core of avid cheerleaders, who help get your brand out there, and these days, social media is often the first place those cheerleaders turn to share anything at all with their friends.
Fifty years ago, you could walk into your local deli and your butcher would have your order ready for you after work, ask how your kids were, and chat about which movie your family was planning on seeing that weekend. As companies expanded worldwide and even as competition spread through small towns, personal relationships with customers became more difficult to maintain. Now, social media allows even multi-billion dollar corporations to interact with customers on a one-to-one basis, increasing customer loyalty.
As your audience starts to grow and you continue to nurture your customer relationships, you’ll want a way to track what digital marketing strategies are working to bring in new leads, convert prospects, and retain returning customers. All the major social media collect customer information, and you should use that data to your advantage. Even at a high-level, data can allow you to make decisions on how to write your messaging, which websites to advertise on, and when to offer certain promotions and discounts. Data itself isn’t enough to do that, however, so you’ll have to put on your analytical hat to dive into how and why your online audience responds the way it does.
Unlike print marketing and larger scale online programs (like your company website), it’s really convenient to turn your social media strategy upside down. You can experiment with what works for your business and what doesn’t, get a feel for what your customers like, and create content to engage them. And when your customers shift their focus, you can shift along with them. Since social media is free and easy to pivot, you have the opportunity to shift when necessary (however, constant shifting could confuse your customers, so if something isn’t working right away, let the campaign breathe, before jumping ship.)
If your small business is ready to kickoff your social media presence, start by asking yourself these three questions to decide which social media to sign up for first: who is your target audience, what product or service do you sell, and what are your digital marketing goals?