How do I market my business on social media and get real results?

by Shannon Kinney

There are three key factors to consider when you are promoting your business on social media – the first, is to have a plan. We work with businesses to understand what their goals are, their marketing needs, competitive landscape and more. We then look at best practices and create a strategic plan on what we think will work best online based on the resources we have – including what channels to start with, what kinds of content to post, when, where and WHY.

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Planning is key. The second factor to consider is your audience. Who is your audience online? Who is your target customer? Who is your best customer? We then craft our messaging to reach that audience on each particular channel. Online it is much easier to get specific about your target audience than any other medium, and we devise plans to cultivate those audiences.

Third, is to think about your story. What makes your business different and unique? How does that appeal to your target audience? Then, in your planning, find how you will best tell your story in a compelling way.

Now, you’re ready to consider which social network will work best for you. When considering which social network you should be posting on, remember that you need to go where you will find your target audience, and tailor your messaging for that channel.

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Here’s a high level breakdown of the major channels:

Facebook offers the broadest demographics and highest reach for many small businesses, and for nearly all businesses it’s the best place to start. We like to mix up posts with strong calls to action, the personal touch (about your team, your customers, your work, or your ideas), and establishing expertise. Like most social networks, visual content is critical to building engagement, and as the algorithms on the platform evolve, we’ve also found a mix of using boosted posts and/or PPC is an important strategy to reach more people and gain results.

LinkedIn – LinkedIn is an excellent tool for three types of content:

1.   Business to Business – Out of the more than 300 million users, more than half are the decision-maker at their company. Content about your business and what you do, your industry, or your field works well here whether posted on your personal profile, your Company page, or in Groups.

2.   Managing your career, hiring or checking references – I haven’t had a printed resume in more than thirteen years. With LinkedIn there is so much opportunity to create a more well-rounded view of yourself. Your background is in your profile, and you can also receive recommendations and endorsements from people you’ve worked with and for. This is a powerful tool. There are advanced recruiting tools available as well.

3.   Sales –  You can target messages by Company, Industry, or Job Title, and by using LinkedIn to prep for sales calls, you can learn more about your prospects. It is an invaluable tool. Also, in my meetings with LinkedIn last month, they revealed that they have new sales tools coming. We are excited about how to apply them for our clients!

Twitter – You want to keep things short and sweet on Twitter, each tweet needs to be 140 characters or less. Hashtags to help categorize the content and target searchers is an important strategy and why for many businesses it’s easier to get assistance with Twitter then tackle it on their own. It is an excellent tool for sharing content, establishing your expertise, and quick conversations. In all of our work with Twitter, we also view it as a strong tool for listening for purchase intent and responding to current and potential customer inquiries. For many small businesses we work with it has become a primary customer service channel.

Google+ / YouTube – Google+ is less of a social network and more of a place for a business to claim and manage their business identity online. We work directly with Google to maximize the power of Google+ and the rest of the platform (including YouTube) to our clients’ advantage. It’s important to have strong branding, accurate information, and populated content. Also, all content you post here goes directly into the Google database and helps you show up better on search engines. This is a critical success factor for the organic search engine optimization of any business, and we leverage strong content marketing planning to help our businesses perform well. They also have an increased focus on reviews – and good reviews about your business here perform very well on search engines. They key is to manage this channel carefully or get help from someone to do it for you to make sure that you can be found well. More than 97% of consumers in the U.S. search for local business information online. YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world, and owned by Google, if your business has video it can be a very compelling selling tool.

Pinterest – Pinterest offers one of the highest conversion rates to retail sales of any of the social networks that we use. The audience skews heavily female, and what’s important here is that Pinterest users aren’t price sensitive. Rather, they are aspiring to something – this is the kitchen I wish I had, the haircut I wish I had, the outfit I want to buy, the vacation I want to go on, the recipe I’d like to make my family, and so on. We’ve also found that posts have the longest shelf life here based on that use case of aspiration. Many months after the original post-date we see conversions coming in. The content needs a very strong visual and good headline to entice people to pin and share.

Instagram – Instagram skews younger and isstill in the fledgling stages of allowing small businesses to really leverage it. It requires a strong hashtag strategy and compelling visual content. In our tests with businesses we have found a strong opportunity for brand building with Instagram.

Vine – Catchy and memorable works best here and the platform skews younger. Early adopters are a smaller base that use it heavily, and it’s still developing in terms of opportunities to market small businesses heavily.

Blogs are an excellent tool to establish expertise and thought leadership, share news about your company, links to articles that have been published about you, and add a personal point of view to the work you do. We work with small businesses to develop their content marketing strategies and utilize blogging, email and social posts to reach new customers, educate and serve current customers and grow their businesses.

Wondering where to start? It depends on your goals and your target audience as outlined above. For most businesses to get started we focus on Facebook and establishing their identity on Google+, we then move to either LinkedIn, Twitter or Pinterest as our next steps depending on the marketing goals of the client.

If you have any questions about how to develop your marketing plan for your business, how to best tell your story and grow your customer base, and how to get a strong return on investment with social media and content marketing, let us know …

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