I, like many other people, am incredibly guilty of making several purchases direct from my Instagram feed, simply because they have handpicked a product I am likely to want from a brand I will probably like the look of and plopped it right into my hand.
As a business owner, whether you’re small and independent or opening up the next in your chain of successes, there is so much you can gain from networking across the various popular platforms we all spend far too much time on.
In my experience, the most successful businesses always have a dedicated team to work on their numerous social media profiles; communicating with customers, sharing your products, and generating hot content that gets plenty of people talking and, more importantly, sharing.
Don’t feel freaked out if you’re not hugely experienced in Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Linkedin, Snapchat, TikTok… sorry, I’m making it worse, aren’t I? There’s a whole lot of sites to think about these days, but don’t worry, you won’t be in the deep end for long.
Whether you need more convincing that it’s worth your time and effort or you’re ready to dive in and get started, this guide lays everything out for you in clear, simple terms, explaining the most difficult jargon to comprehend in a way anybody can understand.
Before we start, some keywords you may or may not know already:
Algorithm: A set of processes that determine what a user is shown, depending on their preferences and the posts or other users they interact with.
Bio: Short for biography, a limited space for you to outline who you are and what you do. Try to be as creative and catchy as possible! Throw a couple of emojis in there, too.
Brand: Your business as a recognizable, named commodity customers recognize
Conversion: The number of web visitors you have divided by the number of goals successfully completed, i.e completed sales, signups to a mailing list
Engagement: Not just looking, but *engaging* with your content – liking, commenting, sharing, reposting
Feed: A social media platform’s main hub, where posts from users you follow and other suggested content or advertisers are shown. Your main aim is to reach the feed!
Impressions: How many times a post was seen on a user’s news feed.
Lead: Any potential customer, having indicated their interest in some way, whether by sending you a direct message, adding a product to their basket or joining a mailing list.
Metrics: The data about your brand’s social media accounts, which shows how successfully (or not…) you are engaging with users
Niche: Your brand’s simplest description. Could be coffee, could be diapers. Literally anything!
The Benefits of Social Media Marketing For Businesses
Okay, everyone’s talking about the benefits of social media marketing, raving about beating the algorithm or boosting their engagements across all apps, but what does that actually mean in layman’s terms? Well…
More Brand Recognition
Want to be the next best thing? A primary goal of social media marketing is to promote your business as a recognizable brand, and considering there were 3.48 BILLION social media users across the world in 2019, where best to start? That’s half the entire population!
Most consumers are using the internet to find pretty much all of the services and products they want and need, as you can do so from the comfort of your bed, sofa or – we all do it! – toilet. You can’t reach those customers if you aren’t able to be found!
If your niche (the purpose of the business, so what you sell or offer) has very limited content on social media, get on there and take advantage! Even when it’s filled with your competition – don’t give up hope. Get on there, share better content and attract the users to your pages.
Direct traffic from social media profiles to your website immediately by dropping links in your posts, bio, and stories (more on these later) and drive up engagement with your content through the wonderful currency of likes and retweets.
Unless you’re paying to feature certain posts as advertisements in feeds (which can also prove very useful in beating the dreaded algorithm), then it’s a totally free way of advertising your business and exposing yourself to more potential customers.
Learn From Your Competition
They say keep your friends close, keep your competitors closer, and by following your rivals or keeping an eye on their socials by checking regularly, you can glean inspiration from their tactics, promotions and campaigns, or what their customers are saying about their content.
If you notice that a lot of your competition are following a particular trend or covering a topic, it might be an idea to engage with it yourself and put your own twist on things, or perhaps offer something completely different to try and sway the crowds.
Also, should it appear that a strategy, product or service doesn’t seem to be working for a brand, or is really succeeding, you’ll be able to implement that information in your own social media endeavors to stay on top of the game.
Generate Leads: Boost Conversion
Posting regularly on social media and sharing your socials widely is one of the easiest ways you can create interest in your brand, thus increasing your number of leads (potential customers) and successful purchases or interactions, which are also known as conversions.
Don’t let the lingo throw you off, it’s pretty simple really – by advertising your products on social media, you’re already hitting your target market, because your content is shown to those who have opted to follow your account or are engaging with brands like yours.
By following a few simple steps, you’ll be well on your way to generating leads on your socials, and because your products or services already interest those leads, it’s more likely they’ll end up being conversions. You know what that means? You’re making money!
Competitions: Everyone loves to win, and social media competitions can serve as enticements to engage with your content. By hosting a giveaway, you can ask users to follow your account and like, comment or share (why not all three) on your posts.
Sell Directly: Buying your products can be as simple as posting a photo of them and tagging your store, so users can click and buy directly from their feeds. Easy peasy!
Go Live: Most social media platforms allow you to stream live, which is a great way to get curious potential leads to tune in and hear your announcements and updates. These work especially well in conjunction with contests – announce your winners live!
Link in Bio: A common phrase on the internet, making the link to your website or online store more accessible in your social media bio is a simple way to get customers to click.
Build Rapport With Customers
You don’t have to be their best friend, but sharing content with and responding to your customers on scoial media creates the illusion of a relationship, allowing them to trust in your brand and the faces behind the name,
Like and reply to comments, share posts when users tag you in pictures of your products, especially if the caption happens to feature a glowing review. Customers love instant satisfaction, so replying to their questions in the comments will help them get answers fast.
Posting FAQS, information about your products and asking your followers what they want to see from you, especially using the poll function, is a great way to get some free feedback and curate your product or service to better suit your audience and what’s on trend.
How To Create A Social Media Marketing Strategy
Alright, so you know all about social media and why it’s worthwhile for you to utilize it for your business, but how do you go about it? It can be a little intimidating at first, especially as you’re building an audience, but try not to worry.
Having been a social media user and someone who promotes their work using Instagram, I’m very familiar with what works and what doesn’t, and I’m here to outline exactly what you need to know.
Establish Realistic, Appropriate Goals And Stick To Them
Unless you have some serious money to pump into a killer ad campaign, you’re not going to hit a million followers any time soon. It’s important to keep your goals small and easy to accomplish at first, whilst you start to gently build up your user network.
Make a list of successes you’d like to achieve, like your first hundred, five hundred and thousand followers, and mark each occasion with a special post or giveaway, to keep momentum building whilst you gain.
Don’t slack off! Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither will your social media empire be – it takes time and dedication to establish a following and create a name for yourself, and requires a lot of commitment.
Figure Out Your Metrics
It may sound complex, but metrics are essentially bits of data that reflect how well your posts are doing amongst your followers and what level of engagement you’re receiving across the relevant platforms.
It’s a good place to start if you’re looking for places to improve or areas to focus on in your strategies and campaigns. Which metrics might you want to look at regularly?
Followers: Pretty straightforward: how many followers do you have on each media profile? The more you have, the better, obviously, but reaching a certain number can unlock special resources like an authentication tick or promotional abilities.
Engagement: How many customers are interacting with your content? Clicks, comments, likes, shares, replies and messages, saving or pinning your posts – all ways for clients to get involved with your business.
Impressions: The total number of views on an individual post – this just means a customer has seen it in their feed, not necessarily interacted with it, so you shouldn’t worry about this too much, it might be that some people were just scrolling by.
Reach: How far is your business going – what number of people have seen your page or its content and where around the world are they from?
Visits: A total for the number of times someone has clicked on your profile. Easy enough to understand!
Views: Some platforms allow you to share videos, and the number of views reflects how many visitors have watched (or started watching, you might not know if they finished it or not) what you posted.
Tags: You’ll be notified when a user is tagging your business’ social media in your post or using a hashtag you’ve started, so keep an eye on what content you’re being associated with – it might not all be good!
Shares: How many times a social media user has directly shared or reposted your content from your profile to their own feeds.
How do I find my metrics?
Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and other major social media platforms have collated all of your metrics for you and present them as a set of analytics for your perusal – isn’t that nice of them!
It’s worth knowing that to see more specific, in-depth metrics on Instagram and Facebook, you need to make sure your profile is specifically set up as a business (you cn check this in your account settings) in order to have access.
If you want to check out the metrics on your business’ website itself, there are tools you can use to gather, track and present your site’s information for you, like Google Analytics for instance.
Understand Your Target Audience
Whilst you might think that your ideal social media audience is everybody who uses it, that’s an easy way to get lost in a sea of millions of other brands who also haven’t found the right niche.
Your target audience helps you to design your entire strategy, as it gives you an aim and helps you to narrow down your content in order to suit their specific needs and wants – trying to please everybody is far too difficult.
Have a think about your product or services and the type of people who might be interested: what demographics are you looking at? Age, location, gender and similar interests are all key factors to consider.
Start by doing some good old fashioned digital digging; researching your audience enables you to curate content, advertisements and responses to suit your audience, generating more leads and increasing those all important conversions.
Sometimes the more specific the better, and don’t be afraid to start with something more broad and narrow things down. Compile some data about your existing customer base and any commonalities there may be between them.
Characteristics to consider include:
> Age: Generation or decade is fine, you don’t need to think too much about this one
> Location: Which geographical areas are you popular in and should, therefore, target more frequently?
> Time Zone: Is there a time your posts do particularly well or you should have more customer service/social media representatives be online at?
> Language: What is the most common language your audience speaks – do you need to get a translator in to help you reach more customers around the world?
> Budget and Spending: Do you know how much your customers typically spend, or what their budgets are? Is there a demographic you could offer discounts or concessions to?
> Mutual Interests: Check out the other things your audience like in relation to your business or what’s popular in others.
> Subcategories: Is there a specific group you could target within your audience, like students, parents, married couples, those who are retired?
Social listening allows you to find discussions about your brand, the industry you’re working in, the kinds of products and services you offer and involving members of your target audience.
By following the hashtags, keywords and phrases related to the above, it’s quick and easy to find conversations about you and your competitors, even when they haven’t directly tagged you.
By responding to these posts and comments, you can reach your target audience to thank them for their feedback and support, address any concerns or answer questions potential customers have.
It’s not exactly eavesdropping, so don’t feel weird about monitoring your brand – even celebrities Google themselves, and it’s important to stay on top of any potential issues before they get out of hand or the rumor mill catches hold of them.
Choose The Right Social Media Channels For Your Audience
Okay, so you’ve started to figure out your target audience and what sort of content they might be into based on their demographics. Now you need to figure out which social media platforms your likeliest potential customers are hiding on.
First, let’s talk about The Big 3…
With a user base of mostly millennials, it’s no wonder their app is downloaded onto the phones of over a billion users and rising. Everybody is doing it for the ‘gram these days, it seems.
Aesthetic is everything on Instagram, so it’s important that you understand how to take a good selfie or put out a good flat lay. You need to catch the user’s eye, like attracting a magpie with something shiny – a gentle filter can help, but don’t overdo it.
If you’re looking for public relations or customer service, you can offer a natural-looking, lifelike, trustworthy brand image, offer a peek behind the scenes, share user-generated content and get access to free and paid advertising.
Mark Zuckerberg’s college procrastination has turned into a super platform serving Generation X and millennials alike, racking up 1.73 billion DAILY active users across the world, with more signing up every minute.
There’s a lot of fake news on Facebook, and audiences are more likely to interact with spam or clickbait ads – make an effort to avoid this, though, despite the frustrations, as it can take away from your reputable, trustworthy image.
Raising awareness of your brand and advertising are what Facebook is most known for, as it’s a bit more difficult to be personal when you’re using their Business page, but it’s worthwhile to keep it updated with pictures and competitions.
Slightly less serious than Facebook but a little more professional than Instagram, the blue bird has become a huge hit with the younger generation, especially millennials, for it’s easy access to the inner thoughts of 145 million active users.
Businesswise, it’s a good opportunity for public relations, as it’s easy to share content related to your brand as well as showing your audience you’re keeping up with important world events and the context of your industry.
Likewise, you can offer easy customer service in an instant, as well as having chats with your audience and potential newcomers by searching and responding via the hashtags, which are used predominantly for conversation.
Less common, but still worthwhile, are:
LinkedIn: Professional networking with 675 million monthly active users across the world, consisting of baby boomers, generation X and millennials – quite the melting pot. Great for employee marketing and developing your business.
YouTube: A hard nut to crack, as it involves making regular video content and fighting a gnarly algorithm full of clickbait competition, but well worth it to access two billion logged-in monthly users across the globe.
TikTok: Its sudden rise in popularity amongst middle and high-school students since the death of Vine (RIP) means plenty of brands are trying to crack this new, hip nut’s 500 million monthly users.
Snapchat: Although primarily used for talking to your friends, brands can have publicly viewable stories, though it’s not possible to directly interact with your followers through them. If you like making 10 second clips, check it out!
Scope Out The Competition
We’re not talking outright idea theft, but observing the social media behaviour of your brand’s biggest competitors enables you to keep track of what your target audience are interested in, and what they don’t really care about, to really hone your content.
In order to make sure you come out on top in the battle for reigning social media champion, you can conduct an analysis of your competition, showing you where you fall among them as well as revealing possible pitfalls or potential opportunities.
Though it sounds scientific, all it requires is looking at the strengths and weaknesses of rival brands and what comparisons you can draw to those of your own, allowing you to clearly see what you need to change and where you’re getting it right.
Identify your competitors
What keywords are you trying to appear alongside when users search for them? Understand which other businesses might also want to have their brand in the results for your searches – those are your social competitors.
For instance, if you’re a yoga studio, other studios in your area or wellness activities would be a good place to start, but you’re not likely to be competing with chains of gyms and sports courts.
If you need help, try the Google Adwords Planner, which you can feed your website to receive a list of the best keywords in relation to your brand, as well as your level of competition and the average number of monthly searches.
Conduct your research
Check out the various social media pages for the brands you’ve highlighted as your biggest potential threats – you’ll be able to find this by using Google or looking for buttons on their website. Answer these questions and make notes:
What platforms do they use most?
How many followers do they have?
How fast is their platform growing?
Do they have many celebrity/influencer followers?
When do they post?
Is engagement with their content high?
Do they use hashtags – which ones, how many?
Identify strengths and weaknesses
Okay, you’ve got all the data you need… now you have to interpret it. Sorry! I didn’t say it wouldn’t require any work. Find out where they’re doing well and scoring high engagement, as well as where they’re flopping a bit (if at all).
If your greatest competitors are all over Facebook and raking in customers, then you need a piece of the action. Notice they get a lot of action from influencers on Instagram? Try to up the number of accounts you reach out to.
What Content Will You Share?
Pictures of your employees reveal the faces behind your brand and humanize it, allowing customers to recognize there are actual people working on the content and looking at their comments and shares.
You’re likely to capture the trust of your audience by featuring real people that work within your business, which allows them to create a connection with your brand, especially if your employees are offering information about what it is you do.
Sharing quality images of your products is an excellent opportunity to get creative, and the easiest way to catch the eye of a potential customer. Use colorful backgrounds, curate a feed theme and make sure they’re nice and high definition!
Reposting pictures from customers works well for highlighting particular products as well as demonstrating some positive, complimentary feedback, especially if the photo is interesting or has a standout feature.
Not to be confused with their textual cousins, the Story is a relatively new feature that was started by Snapchat and has taken off across all platforms, especially popular now on Instagram.
It’s a quick and easy way to update your socials and you don’t have to be as precise or as purposeful in your story posting – you can also share content from other accounts to drum up interest and encourage engagement.
You can link to your posts to get around the pesky algorithm’s bias on the news feed by drawing your followers’ attention to them directly, as well as post URLS and link to your website and other socials, but again, you need to have hit 10k for this feature.
Offering teasers, promotions and behind-the-scenes action via your stories means you can be a little less formal and create content you might see from a friend, rather than a brand, to increase your relatability.
Got a social media star in mind that you’d love to feature in your content? Try reaching out to them, but bear in mind that they’ll usually only work for a lot of money or a high probability of engagement with hundreds and thousands of followers.
Try aiming for Guest Takeovers whilst your own follower count and budgets are still low, by offering users with a connection relevant to your brand and a smaller platform the opportunity to post to your feed or stories – you get content, they get promotion.
Though you should avoid posting the entire blog in your caption, a longer one is merited when you’re linking to a more detailed article, as you can share a key paragraph or phrase and an appropriate image to entice readers to click.
Remember that on Instagram you’ll need to redirect users to click links in your bio unless you have more than 10,000 followers, at which point you can also implement swipe up links in your stories.
Set Your Profile Up Right
There’s nothing worse than a brand with a shoddy social media presence. Whether it’s links that don’t work, hashtags that aren’t relevant or a bio that makes no sense, it’s an immediate turn off for most customers, particularly young, hip ones.
Your handle, which is usually your username, is the easiest way for customers to find you, so make sure it relates to your brand – to keep it simple, just use your business’ name, and if that’s taken, try a variant with numbers or the city you’re located in.
It helps to have a cohesive set of socials with the same username or as close as you can get, as customers will often try to find you across all of the platforms that they use, especially if you run competitions, so try not to stray too far.
You don’t have many words to grab a potential client’s attention, so the 100-200 characters you do have need to accomplish a lot in as few words as possible – convey what your business or brand does or offers, and how you can be found.
It’s even better if you can demonstrate some charisma, personality or charm by being witty, making puns or pop culture references, especially if this encourages the customer to visit your site or follow your account there and elsewhere.
A profile photo that reflects your brand is vital, as it will show up everywhere your username does – try and stick to logos or product and service photos, so you can attract your target audience and appeal to what they like.
Make sure your pictures are of a high quality, don’t pixelate and haven’t been stolen from another artist or brand, as this is a surefire way to get yourself into trouble and lose customers by demonstrating a lack of integrity. Always make your own content!
Business accounts on platforms like Facebook and Twitter can also choose a category to be listed under, which indicates what kind of business you are or the sort of products and services you might offer.
Make sure to link to your other social media accounts wherever possible, as the easier it is for your audience to find you everywhere else, the more likely they are to follow you or engage with more of your content.
When Will You Post?
Annoyingly, social media marketing relies on a brand’s ability to find that sweet spot right in the middle of posting enough content, but not spamming your followers’ feed by posting too much or sharing content that is irrelevant or unnecessary.
Failing to share enough original content means you’ll be shown less to your audience as a result of the loss of engagement which encourages the algorithm to believe that customers are less interested in what you have to offer.
However, if you overshare, you could potentially lose followers by clogging up their feed and annoying them – it’s important to hit a balance and only share when you have something worthwhile to say.
The time of day you post is also significant, as depending on your target audiences’ timezone, they are likely to be online and active at specific times on different days – experiment and see when your content is most successful.
Once you’ve figured out when is best for uploading content, set up a schedule and stick to it – audiences love consistency, and they’ll be more likely to tune in for certain segments or features if you can successfully adhere to them.
It’s well worth spending time conducting research into the industry your business falls under and the habits of its most active users, as it will indicate to you when your engagement levels will be at their highest.
Putting Plans Into Practise: Make Your Content
Whether it’s photos, blog posts, stories, videos or influencer takeovers, you need to prepare your content in advance – being able to regularly upload and stick to your schedule will help you keep your followers interested and engaged.
Make sure your posts are varied, and take inspiration from what’s happening around the world – if there’s a holiday, special event or industry change happening, make sure you’re around to cover it, always relating back to your products.
Leaving things to the last minute might be tempting, but your followers aren’t stupid and will recognize rushed work or irrelevant posts when they see them – remember, it’s about quality, not quantity.
If you only have time to post twice a week (although, we’d recommend throwing a few things on your story or sharing user and influencer content in between), that’s fine, just as long as you make sure what you’re offering is new and interesting.
Can You Afford Paid Promotion?
Depending on how many posts you advertise and the length of your ads being online, you can actually get some pretty affordable promotion using a platform’s integrated software, pulling your posts into more and more feeds.
For just a couple of dollars at a time, you can boost your content’s engagement rapidly by having it advertised into the feeds of users who interact with accounts and posts that are similar to yours.
Make sure you only pay to advertise posts that aren’t naturally picking up likes, comments, shares and reposts, as it would be a waste of time to promote the content that is already doing well!
Reach Out To Influencers
If you have the budget and the backing to request a collab with or offer a gifted sponsorship to an influencer, then definitely give that a try; the more relevant to your business they are, the more new customers you’re looking at.
Offering a sample of some of your products or a trial of one of your services is the easiest way to work with an influencer, so try to find people who are likely to enjoy what you have to offer, so they’ll appear genuinely, naturally enthused in their reviews.
Be confident and adventurous, but know your limits – if you’re a new brand with only a few hundred followers under your belt, don’t bother sliding into Kylie Jenner’s Instagram DMS with an offer she can’t refuse… because she’ll definitely ignore it.
Analyse Your Data
As we’ve outlined above, paying attention to your metrics is incredibly important to maximize your success, as they’ll highlight where your brand is succeeding alongside areas that may have room for improvement.
If you fail to take advantage of the swathes of data you can uncover about your customers using social media’s analytical tools, you’re missing out on golden opportunities to improve your business.
Set aside time once a week (or once a month, if you’d rather do it all at once) to check out your engagement on posts across your socials, making notes of what’s doing well and what doesn’t seem to be reaching users.
Keep a notebook or document and regularly update your findings, so you can track your progress and make comparisons or revamp old ideas in the future – you’ll be pleased you put everything in one place, trust me!
Adapt And Respond
Social media stardom is about more than just reading your analytics and thinking about what changes you can make – you actually have to adapt and respond to the wants and needs of your customers, past, present and future.
When a certain kind of post isn’t getting the engagement it should, you need to find out why and modify your marketing strategy – change what time you post, the design of your image, different hashtags, find out what works for you.
By serving your customers’ direct needs and wants, you guarantee an increase in leads and successful conversions, because you’re seeking out the products, services and improvements your customers want to see and making them happen.
5 Tips For Improving Your Social Media Strategy
Targeting True Engagement
When you receive a genuine comment, share or repost, it’s important to respond appropriately, as responding to those displaying an actual interest in your products or services is a surefire way to keep them coming back.
Rather than focusing on how many views or likes a post has, you need to go for the big guns – tags, shares, follows, direct messages and actual purchases that make your business money.
Remove Your Fake Followers
Decreasing your follower count might sound counterintuitive, but when it comes to fake followers or bots, the more you have, the worse off your account. Not only are you at risk of spam comments, but you could harm your valued customers.
Your account runs the risk of being suspended or banned if you appear to have a large fake following, and the links these bot accounts leave on your posts could infect innocent users with viruses and scam them out of money. For more information on increasing your Instagram followers check out the guide from Instasize.com.
Maybe you’re not quite in the big leagues, but you can try reaching out to so-called ‘micro-influencers’, users with a couple of thousand followers who can boost your numbers and their own in turn.
It might not guarantee you millions of views, but it’s a small boost that, performed regularly and with the appropriate accounts, can really help drum up more business – users that follow influencers are likely to be easily, well, influenced, after all.
Use Shopping Features – Become ‘Shoppable’
By giving followers and new customers alike the ability to shop for your products and services directly from your social media accounts, you increase the number of successful leads and conversions.
The easier it is for a product or service to be purchased, the more likely it is that a customer will actually follow through with the purchase, as opposed to adding it to their carts and forgetting about it.
Research And Implement “Dark Social”
Slightly more ominous than they sound, ‘dark’ social media engagement actually refers to the ‘invisible’ shares that take place in apps like Messenger and Whatsapp, but also through text messages and emails, too.
This means that your links are being shared indirectly, so your traffic is being attributed to the wrong source – referral traffic that appears to come from a completely different channel.
Your profile’s total shares are only a fraction of the actual number of times a post or your account has been shared, making it pretty difficult to know what your actual metrics are in this area.
However, once you’re aware of the existence of dark social, it’s easy to try and estimate how many invisible shares you’re getting by using Google Analytics to look at where your users are coming from and how they got to you.
Read more about Dark Social and how to track it accurately for your business in this great article from Chris Breaux, who outlines research traffic and how to track it for the purposes of social media success.
Although that was a huge amount of information to absorb, especially if you’re a social media newbie, you’re now equipped with all the tips and tricks you need to set up an appropriate, reliable, and most importantly, successful social media campaign.
Remember: consistency is key. Upload regularly, check your metrics and engagements regularly, interact with your audience regularly – all of this will build your reputation as a trustworthy, friendly and dependable brand.
Most importantly, though – have fun! Using social media platforms is a great opportunity to have fun with your business across a range of different communication channels – whether textual, audible, visual, it’s a chance to really get creative and enjoy what you do.
Customers love it when a brand is relatable, knows who they are and clearly love their products or services, so if you can communicate these feelings through your social media content, then you’re on to a winner. Good luck!