If you have a small business or are planning on starting one, social media marketing is one avenue that absolutely should not be overlooked.
Consider some vital statistics:
- This year, there are almost three and a half billion social media users worldwide. That’s a nine percent increase over last year. Nine percent might not sound like much, but that little number represents nearly 300 million new users since 2018.
- The rise of social media has a direct impact on consumers. Statistics from last year indicate that up to 63% of consumers are already expecting businesses and brands to offer customer service and help via social media accounts.
- On top of that, a staggering 90% of social media users have already used the platforms to communicate, complain, or ask questions of a brand or business.
- 73% of consumers state that they were influenced by the social media presence of a brand when making purchasing decisions.
So, in short, social media is growing at an astronomical rate, and it’s not only a great way for businesses to market themselves, it’s actually an important method of customer service and customer interaction.
And as big brands and small businesses alike know, a happy customer is one of the best marketing investments you could possibly make.
So let’s dive into the reasons behind the effectiveness of social media and what it actually is, as well as how to do it for any small business or start up.
What Is Social Media Marketing?
Any avenue of marketing involves the production of content geared toward attracting the attention and stimulating the investment of an audience. That’s true of print marketing, email marketing, and it’s definitely true of social media marketing.
That content can cover a wide range. We’ll discuss this in further detail later on in this article, but basically, social media marketing content doesn’t just have to be a sales pitch. Any content that further generates awareness of a business qualifies as social media marketing, if it’s done right.
This is great news for a small business. Small businesses and start ups are often just getting to know their audience. An endless series of sales pitches can turn newcomers off really quickly. Social media gives your small business or start up the chance to introduce itself to potential customers, highlighting why the business was created, what its goals are, the people who work along with you, and what you can offer to others.
Along with being good practice for effective branding, “hidden” social media sales pitches help you to grow your business one step at a time, rather than being overtly focused on making the
The Effectiveness Of Social Media Marketing
As mentioned above, a big reason behind the effectiveness of social media marketing is the sheer numbers. In the same way that advertising during the Super Bowl is more effective because more people are watching, advertising on social media can boost awareness simply because it reaches more people.
But there is clearly more to it than that.
Not all social media is created equal, for instance. There are more users on Facebook than there are on Pinterest.
But your particular potential audience may be more likely to be active on Pinterest. Or your audience may be outside the most likely age range to follow brands on social media — research indicates that internet users between the ages of 18 and 34 are the most likely to seek out and follow brands via social media. If that doesn’t fit the criteria of your audience, you’ll likely need to use social media in conjunction with other forms of marketing, such as email and print, to drive traffic.
So targeting the most lucrative social media platforms for marketing requires market research beforehand.
But for those willing to put in the time, rather than just a haphazard approach, the returns can be well worth it.
A few years ago, Facebook marketing and posts influenced more than half of consumers’ purchases, both online and off — and that number continues to grow. So starting and maintaining social media presence for your business helps to influence the buying behavior of your audience.
It also does a lot to promote engagement. The top brands with profiles on Instagram are seeing a 4.21% per-follower engagement rate, as reported by HootSuite. Engagement on this level opens up communication with customers and, ultimately, increases their investment in a business, no matter what the size.
Social Media Platforms
We’ve mentioned a few social platforms so far. And platforms like Twitter and Facebook are some of the big players. They definitely need attention when it comes to creating your own social media small business accounts.
But there are more avenues out there.
Here’s a quick rundown of some of the most useful platforms, and why you should consider them for part of your social media marketing campaign.
- Facebook routinely makes the top of the list for social media marketing, in a large part because of the sheer numbers of users: more than two billion people log on every month. Facebook is also widely used for marketing because of its versatility. The site is set up for a variety of types of content, including the occasional longer form post, but centering on graphic and video content. It’s also easy to like and share posts, giving you social proof.
- Instagram is another favorite, having been shown to be possibly the best platform to reach a younger audience — 90% of Instagram users are under 35. Instagram has a billion active users, and can boast of a high engagement rate for business profiles.
- Tumblr is another site that is typically a fantastic way to reach a younger age bracket. The site works as a blogging outlet as well as featuring videos and photos, and is known for an edgy, unique vibe.
- Twitter is another common small business outlet for social media, often in conjunction with other platforms, since the platform is limited to short tweets of only 280 characters. But it’s built around real-time, which makes it a great choice for customer service engagements, responses to questions, and shout outs and thank yous.
- YouTube has the video market — and the video marketing market — somewhat cornered, though there are other services out there that mimic its formula. More than three hundred hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every single minute. But don’t let the sheer numbers scare you off, because statistics indicate that more than five billion videos are watched every day. If your small business lends itself to video — which is highly advised — a YouTube channel could be a great way to get your message out there.
Social Media Advertising
Sometimes social media is the best way to advertise without advertising — wrapping your sales pitch in other brand-building information.
But sometimes, straightforward advertising is called for.
This can be done through your own social media channels, using your platform presence to promote deals or services. It can also be done by paid advertisements that appear on social media feeds, like on Facebook.
These will be noted to be paid advertisements. But they should be considered regardless.
As a matter of fact, there are currently more than fifty million small businesses with profiles on Facebook, using those profiles to connect with customers. But of those fifty million, only four million are currently using paid advertising to promote themselves.
Ultimately, what that means for you as a small business owner is that there is relatively little competition in the small business market for paid advertising on Facebook. So it could be a significant boost to your visibility to use this avenue.
There are also paid advertising opportunities on other platforms, like Instagram and Pinterest. The effectiveness of these seem to be tied more directly into the type of business you have, however. It’s much more common for brands related to media to be represented on Instagram, for instance, as opposed to consumer goods.
However, this too could represent more of an opportunity to build your visibility, while not sharing the spotlight with others.
Think Outside The Channel
Meanwhile, while it’s definitely worth your time to create a viable social media marketing strategy, statistics indicate that your investment should not end there. There’s no doubt that brands and businesses get a lot of discussion via social media. But research shows that 96% of those who actually talk about brands online don’t follow the brand’s official social media accounts.
This means that your small business could be getting a lot of mentions outside of your accounts. A good example is Yelp, or other sites that feature reviews that are not immediately directed at the business itself.
Cultivating an awareness of your brand image, even outside of your social media profiles, can help you to address customer questions and problems more quickly. And it goes a long way to helping to build your reputation as a business which is genuinely interested in its clients.
Branding With Social Media
Speaking of building your reputation as a small business or start up, let’s discuss using social media to help brand your company.
Branding is more than just the logo and look of your company, though that’s an important part of it. If you’re running a tech company, then having an IT logo on your social images won’t be enough. Branding is centered around your customers and how they perceive your company — your brand is in the eye of the beholder.
And since social media is so geared toward facilitating interaction between customer and company, your social presence is a branding opportunity that never ends.
Reflect your company’s personality in your content. And make sure to include invitations to engage, such as asking for input or adding, “Share your story in the comments!” where appropriate.
Using social media the right way gives your company a brand image of approachability, relatability, and ultimately reliability.
Content For Small Businesses And Startups
Now that we have a better idea of why social media marketing is important, let’s talk about some specifics.
Here are some of the types of content that you should be creating, and why.
- Video content. There’s a reason why this one is at the top of the list. In a survey just last year, video was voted consumers’ favorite variety of content to see on a brand’s social media.
- Graphic and visual content. Not only does visual content capture the attention more readily, it’s also about 40% more likely to be shared by your viewers.
- Short form content. This type of content can depend on the platform you’re using, since some platforms lend themselves more to visual content, such as Twitter. Short form content is useful for including more information and SEO keywords, such as in brief blog posts. But they still work best when combined with visuals and graphics.
Content like the above is a great foothold for a new brand that is still defining itself to its audience. It allows you to describe who you are and what you do without getting down to the nitty-gritty of straightforward advertising.
Content on social media often works best when scheduled at optimum times for the individual platform. Facebook’s optimal time window, for instance, is 3:00 pm on a Wednesday.
Constructing Connections With Small Business Social Media
A final point that deserves consideration in social media marketing is the importance of constructing connections with your audience.
This is paramount to both customer service and marketing, since establishing good customer service is one of the best ways to advertise.
With social media, customer service is more than just addressing the questions and concerns of your consumers. It’s about inviting and stimulating engagement with your company.
A great way to do this is to invite customer related content. Instagram is a famous and effective example of this; businesses create Instagram campaigns and invite their customers to post selfies with branded content or products, using dedicated hashtags.
This increases customer interaction and, ultimately, customer investment in a brand. This can be incredibly effective for small businesses, which often rely on steady customers in smaller communities. That personal touch goes a long way to helping you garner followers and create demonstrated social proof.
The Upshot of Social Media Marketing for Small Businesses and Startups
With the numbers of users going up every year, it appears that social media is here to stay. And with that rise comes even more reason to invest time and effort into creating a social media marketing strategy for your small business or start up.
Ultimately, social media marketing allows you to reach a wider audience, carry on conversations with your customers, and increase both engagement and investment.
All of that will go a long way to ensuring the continued success and growth of your business.