Grow your business with social media

With an estimated 2.3 billion users worldwide, social media provides huge opportunities to grow your customer base and build powerful relationships. According to Time magazine, 81% of consumers would have more faith in a company if they use social media, and millennials (those born from the early 80s to early 2000s) will be more likely to listen to social media users when making a purchase decision than anything said by government, business, or religious institutions.

However, just being on LinkedIn or Twitter isn’t enough to deliver commercial results. Contrary to popular belief, it’s not the time you invest in your social media that matters. Yes, a time commitment is required. But ultimately, it’s having a strategy that makes the real difference.

We take a look at how to create a smart presence social media without spending lots more time online.

Where are your customers?

Before getting started, ask yourself which website your target audience is likely to use. We’d suggest you start small, trying out which social media platform works best for your product and then focus your efforts on one or two. You’ll quickly find yourself in a free soapbox from which to promote your business and it’ll become part of your marketing strategy.

Facebook have created a handy short video showing you how to setup a business page in a matter of minutes. You can also find out how to sign up to Twitter here.

What is right for your business?

It is also important to consider what is right for your business. Pinterest, for example, might be great for a business with attractive products, like a clothing retailer, but is unlikely to be relevant for an accountancy firm. Don’t forget, however, that the most important part is being where your customers are, so even if a platform works really well for your business, if your customers aren’t there then it’s unlikely to be right.

Follow best practice

To promote the best experience for users on social media, many platforms have rules that customise a ‘News Feed’ based on the likelihood that the user will engage with a post.

To guarantee your posts are seen by your target audience you need to make them engaging. Here are a few quick tips to help:

  • Keep your message concise: you only have a moment to catch people’s attention!
  • Attach an image: to ensure your post takes up more area on page (real estate) and is eye-catching
  • Calendar hooks: tie your post into a key date or relevant event that your audience may find interesting
  • Tag others: link to other businesses in your post, if applicable, to increase your exposure

How many times a week should I post to guarantee success?

There isn’t a magic number of times that you should be posting, it’s more important to make sure your posts are engaging for your audience. You want to post enough so your customers don’t forget about you, whilst not posting too much to appear ‘spammy’.

The frequency and type of posts can depend on the website you’re using. In our experience:

Facebook is best for posting blogs, running competitions or promoting business and industry news.

Twitter is great for interacting with your customers in real time by joining relevant conversations and finding trending topics. It can also be a good place to post blog content.

Instagram – We’d suggest trying something different, for example giving your customers an insight into the company through ‘behind-the-scenes’ photos. Instagram users are often less interested in reading longer blogs and press releases.

Social media data can help you understand and target potential customers

One of the biggest benefits for your business is the data social media captures about your customers. Facebook, for example, will allow you to target specific groups of ‘prospective’ users through their audience targeting features. You do have to pay for this service, but even with small budgets this can be hugely valuable.

Keep track of your activity in one place

As your social media presence increases, and you find yourself posting across a number of social media websites, you may need some help in managing this. Here’s a couple of tracking websites we think do this best:

Hootsuite: schedule and report across three social media websites for free

SproutSocial: manage, schedule, report and optimise across a number of social media websites. Prices start at about £44 per month

Speak naturally

No one wants to talk to a robot. Social media is about connecting with people and building relationships, so don’t be afraid to let your personality come across in your posts. Getting a stock reply can make people feel unvalued, whereas being personal will help build trust in you and your brand. Engage with people and talk to them directly by using ‘you’ and ‘your’, and make sure you keep the tone consistent if different team members are posting.

Replying is more important than talking

Any opportunity to speak directly with a customer is important, whether it’s on social media, email, phone, or on your website. The difference with social media is that your response is in the public domain, so you can quickly gain or lose fans depending on what you do.

If you hide away from replying to a complaint, people will speculate or get more frustrated. If you try to challenge them, it could escalate and get worse. Take comments seriously, show empathy and apologise. Even if it wasn’t your fault, say you’re sorry they’ve had a bad experience. Provide information if possible and ask for details so you can call or message them directly.

Think of it as any other customer service channel. If you take time to respond to people and give them a great experience, you’ll add to your reputation and customer loyalty. Remember to use their tag (@name on twitter, name on Facebook etc) so that your post then appears on their network. Then if they like or share your response, you get a free advert of your great service!

Turn everyday events into content

Creating content doesn’t have to be time consuming. Capturing everyday events is an easy way of adding content for your social channels, and can help promote your products to your customers.

When anything gets you excited, take a photo and share it. It could be some fresh stock in your store (It’s strawberry season and these have just arrived fresh from the farm!), a new van for your fleet (Meet Terry, the newest member of our crew), or hiring a new staff member (We have a new Pastry Wizard joining our kitchen today – say hello to Jenny!).

If you’re setting up a seasonal display, or have filled your warehouse with 10,000 boxes for your peak sales period, let people know. These ‘behind the scenes’ posts help customers get to know your business better, building on your relationship while promoting your product or service. Always remember to tag users and use hashtags to reach a wider audience.

Curate content, start discussions

You don’t have to come up with everything yourself. Sharing articles, news, and photos from other sources is a great way to add variety to your posts and bulk out your content.

Think about what your customers are interested in that relates to your business. If you’re a bakery maybe that’s pictures of superhero cakes on instagram. If you’re an IT company it could be an exciting new technology launch. You can then use those posts as the starting point of a discussion — ask for people to share some favourite cake examples of their own, or for opinions on the news article you’ve posted.  

By adding content from elsewhere you avoid talking about yourself all the time and coming across as too salesy. Your followers will then get more value from your social channels, be more likely to engage with you, and be more likely to return.

Remember, engaged customers will advertise your business for you

Whether you’re one man band or have an in-house marketing team, managing social media can seem too time consuming to be worth the hassle. However, with a little effort, social media can turn your customers into brand ambassadors, building stronger relationships with them and giving you free advertising all at the same time.