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8 Steps to Social Media Marketing for your Small Business

Like it or not, social media has become one of the most essential tools for any small business looking to market themselves these days. If you choose to ignore online then you are losing out on a huge potential customer base! Many people now spend so much of their time online that it is inevitably the first place they search when looking for a product or service. Your aim should be to have your company name appearing anywhere and everywhere they might be looking.

Some small business owners are intimidated by the social media beast.  It’s easy to see why of course – it is always on so requires a considerable amount of care and attention, and it allows for instant direct feedback from customers, something which some businesses feel unequipped to deal with. However, it is not as scary as it seems, and it could benefit your business in ways you never thought possible. So quite fighting against the inevitable (it is clear now that social media is not a fad and it won’t be disappearing anytime soon) and get involved with social media marketing for your small business using our 8 easy starter tips.

What do you want?

This is an important first step. Decide what you want to get from social media, this is so important because it will dictate what your approach is going to be. Are you trying to engage with your customers more directly? Are you trying to improve sales? Improve customer loyalty? Think carefully about this before doing anything else.

Who is your target audience?

This will again influence significantly on the kind of social media activities you decide to carry out. Who is your product or service aimed at? Build up a character profile of your typical customer and think about what kind of things they might do online and the social media sites they are more likely to spend time on. There is plenty of research available online which will outline the types of users on the various sites (i.e. if you have a young target audience you should consider targeting Tumblr or Pinterest). Once you know where they are, figure out what it is that is driving them there.

What can you offer them?

So you now have a firm grip on the ‘who, where and why’ of your target audience. You need to think about ways you can fulfil those same online needs in a way that relates to your company and can make them aware of your brand.

Look at what kind of resources you have. Can you write well? Perhaps you should start a company blog. This is the most common route to social success but not the only one – there are other ways to source relevant content. Look at what your closest competitors are doing online and which parts of it is working. Every business is different so there is no catch all answer for this, but remember that people simply want to be entertained and informed. So you need to try and find the most interesting and /or entertaining angle your business has and play to those strengths.

Create that killer content

Once you know what your audience want, there is only one thing to do – give it to them. Okay, so that is much easier said than done.

The biggest marketing concern from small businesses is that creating great content is massively time-consuming. Of course there is the option of hiring a freelancer to do this for you but then you risk missing out on what can truly make your content special – your knowledge! As much as you may not realise it, you are an expert in your field – nobody knows more about your business than you do and sharing that knowledge can elevate your content to a level where people want to share it.

Plan ahead

The key to making sure you keep on top of the social media marketing game is by planning ahead. Decide how many times you want to blog/share posts/etc. and then stick to it! This is crucial because what you want is to build an audience who are waiting for your content. They should know when it is likely to be available and if your schedule is too erratic then they will simply get bored of waiting for it and find another more reliable source.

Don’t just sell

All social media experts will tell you that one of the golden rules of marketing this way is to find a respectable balance between promotion of your own interests and those of others. One of the most commonly cited numbers is 80-20.

This rule suggests that the best things you can do is to spend 80% of your time on social media sharing posts by others or just having conversations with customers without trying to sell them anything. This will help to build relationships and give people confidence in your brand. The other 20% can be spent promoting your own interests - your followers will be far more receptive if you are not barraging them with promotional messages. Remember – people want to be entertained not sold things.

Quality over quantity

One of the common mistakes that newbies to the social media world make is that they think bombarding people 24/7 is the best approach to reach customers. It’s understandable really, given how quickly the social world can move.

This is a poor technique though, you should focus on delivering high quality posts - even if this means they will be more sporadic, just set a realistic schedule. People appreciate quality content and they can recognise when there has been time and effort invested into something – it makes them more likely to share it.

Make your own rules

Once you get a foothold in the social media marketing world you will find out what does and does not work for your business. From here you can start to experiment to get the best results. There are no hard and fast rules, and those who make social media their own playground often come out on top. Most importantly, have fun!