Denise Russell

 Is social media marketing good for your SME?

Social Media is a great way for many small businesses to promote themselves, but can also easily be a time waster that delivers no ROI. That’s a cost you really can’t afford if you’re running your own business and stretched in all directions, so rather than tell you how easy it is to run a twitter account or how cheap ads on Facebook are (both of which are true) I’m going to talk about how to ensure that your social media activity is right for your business and how you can create an achievable plan that will really deliver value.

As with any marketing activity, you need to be clear about four key things when you decide to market yourself on social media

  1. How much time/effort/funding do you have available?
  2. Who are you talking to?
  3. What do you want them to do?
  4. How are you going to measure that?

 How much time, effort, funding do you have?

Be realistic. Yes social media is free to use, but as a small business owner your time is money and if you’re going to spend just 10 minutes a day on social media over a year that’s more than 60 hours.

Once you’ve freed up the time you need to consider how you’re going to get your message seen – even if people are already fans or followers they won’t automatically see your posts – all of the social media platforms are ad-funded and if you don’t pay there really is no way to ensure that you can get in front of your audience. Luckily social advertising is cheaper than many other forms of advertising, but it’s vitally important to decide your strategy with an understanding of the time and costs involved.

Who are you talking to?

The importance of knowing your target audience can’t be understated for Social Media Marketing. It’s very easy to attract lots of comments or encourage people to follow you by running ‘comment to enter’ competitions or featuring cute weekly puppy pictures. And there’s nothing wrong with this* as a part of your strategy if you’re selling lucky clover necklaces or running a dog grooming business, but as a local barber, is this really your target audience?

Your social strategy should be based around the social media channels your customers use, and the things that interest them, not around things which are easy to do or get engagement from the wrong people.

What do you want them to do?

Most people using social media are enjoying their leisure time, they’re not looking for your services.  If you want them to visit your website, think about ways to encourage them to do that. If you want them to pop in next time they’re passing, your messaging needs to encourage that – tell them about your open day, or free samples, or end of season sale. Do you sell beautiful jewellery? Perhaps Pinterest would be better at keeping you pinned to their boards and in their mind than Facebook?

Just as you would in other forms of advertising, make sure you ask people to take a positive action. Whether it’s joining your email list, following you for news of special deals, or signing up for your coffee morning event, aim to make the most of people’s social frame of mind rather than forcing them to buy something right now.

How are you going to measure that?

Don’t believe people who tell you that “you can’t measure the impact of social media”.  If you’re using social media for branding then it’s harder to measure than if you’re looking for direct sales, but it can, and should, still be done. Both Facebook and twitter offer tracking pixels that you can add to your website to understand what people who visit from social media are doing. This can include soft conversions like signing up for emails or finding your address, as well as direct sales.

You should also make use of the analytics package you use with your website to look at the behaviour of the visitors from social media. Do they view more or less pages than average visitors? Do they go to certain pages, perform certain actions or do they all ‘bounce’ straight back to the social channel they came from? If you use Google Analytics you can also make use of the basic attribution model (scroll right to the bottom of the left hand menu and look under ‘conversions’ to see if more people first hear about you on social media (first click) than buy immediately after clicking on your posts or ads (last click)

Even if you don’t have a website and use social media to drive people to your shop or to call you, you can measure Brand Awareness through surveys amongst your target audience, or Brand Mentions using a social monitoring tool which will make it easier for you to monitor who’s talking about you and what they’re saying – a good free one to start with is HootSuite.

Finally, you need to monitor your measurements and keep working to improve your metrics. Just like anything you do in your business, if its working then carry on but try to make it a bit better every time. If it’s not working, you should reassess what you’re doing and consider making changes.

Using social media sounds easy but doing it well involves a lot of thought and planning. Today I’ve really only mentioned the basics and there’s so much more that you’ll want to learn.

There’s a lot of great information online and some very good courses available at low or even no cost if you think Social Media Marketing might be for you. The best advice I can give you is to always think about it as you would any part of your business. You should never delegate your social account management to your 12 year old because they understand social media better than you do. You understand your customers and you need to bring both together to really succeed with social marketing.

*but please check Facebook’s terms and conditions because this isn’t an entry mechanism I’d recommend.

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