Three tips to start your small business social media campaign

Today’s small business owner has a lot of work ahead of them. In addition to developing an effective product, storefront, unique selling proposition and brand, the modern small business owner needs to know how to run an effective social media campaign. 

And, most likely, that means several social media accounts. 

Small businesses can use the grassroots nature of social media to get a leg up on the competition — or to find a customer base in an increasingly crowded field. However, the work of drafting and scheduling social media posts, managing social media feeds, tracking social media engagement and responding to customers who want to connect via social media can be a job of its own. 

Social media has had a lot of positive impact on the small business world, but it’s also meant that small business owners need to learn a lot of new skills. Here are some of the ways small business owners can use social media to better connect with customers.

Understand how social media works

One of the biggest ways that social media affects businesses has to do with the specifics of each platform’s algorithm. Many small business owners don’t realize that their social media posts don’t necessarily reach all of their followers.

If you want your content to be seen by its intended audience, you have to understand what the social media algorithms prioritize. 

“Content that is considered to be more meaningful to users (for example, that which is shared by friends and family) is given priority over other content (for example, as shared by a business),” Eva Taylor, Senior Manager of Global Social Marketing at Hootsuite, told me. 

However, meaningful content created by a business can also be prioritized. If you want to engage effectively with social media users — and get your content featured by the algorithm — Taylor advises small business owners to create social media posts that add value to people’s lives.

Meg Ehman, digital strategist and founder of boutique marketing agency MWE Creative, notes that you should prioritize your values as well: “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it — this Simon Sinek quote is true as ever. Consumers no longer respond to traditional marketing strategies. Be confident as the face of your brand, highlight your team members, support local community and demonstrate the values you stand for.” 

Strike the right tone on social media

A “bad tweet” or insensitive Facebook post can also seriously affect a small business — so today’s small business owners need to learn how to strike the right tone on social media. Should they be personable or strictly professional? What kind of humor is appropriate? How closely should they follow social media trends, such as sharing or remixing a popular meme?

“Tone of voice and familiarity will likely vary across small businesses,” Taylor told me. “The key is to research and understand your target audience in as much detail as possible.”

This includes understanding the social media platform your audience prefers, as Ehman explains: “If you haven’t updated your social media strategy in several years, it’s time to reevaluate your platforms based on your audience. Instagram and YouTube for millennials. Facebook for older demographics. Twitter and LinkedIn for corporate, B2B and professionals. It’s important to have a presence across at least two or three [platforms] but pick one to really engage on.”

Once you decide which social media platform will be your small business’s primary focus, take some time to learn how the program is currently being used, whether that’s Twitter threads, Facebook Live Video or Instagram Stories. Then use your understanding of your target audience to develop a social media presence and tone that matches what they enjoy seeing online. Remember, your goal is to create content that adds value to people’s lives — not just content that advertises your business.

Here’s one more tip: make sure all of the above applies to your personal social media accounts as well.  “A personal account for a small business owner or founder is a great way to add a human touch — helping the brand to build trust with customers,” Taylor explained. “This personal account can also interact with content from the business account to further a brand’s authenticity.”

Use social media tools to improve your business’s impact

Establishing your small business’s social media presence is the first step in using the social network to build relationships with customers and fans. The second step? Finding the right tools to help you improve your business’s social media impact.

“Small business owners can leverage the Hootsuite dashboard (in particular, streams and the Hootsuite Inbox) to listen to and monitor what your customers and fans are saying about you, and respond in a timely fashion,” Taylor told me. Other popular social media management apps like Buffer and TweetDeck offer their own engagement monitoring tools. 

Social media isn’t a one-way conversation, after all; it’s important to know what people are saying and sharing about your company, and it’s also important to know when people are trying to get in touch with you. 

This means that it’s time to embrace the direct message. According to Hootsuite’s 2019 Social Trends Report, nine out of ten people want to use messaging to communicate with businesses. As Taylor explained: “Today, messaging engagement is quickly eclipsing the more traditional social networks, with 69% of customers affirming that directly messaging a company helps them feel more confident about the brand.”

However, you shouldn’t forget about the tried-and-true methods of connecting with your customers—like your mailing list. Ehman suggests using social media as a tool to build your email list and deliver targeted content to your audience: “Focus on driving social traffic to your website and offer a free resource (aka freebie) to encourage your viewers to subscribe to your email list. You can reach them with much more customized and relevant content in their inbox when you know more about them.”

That’s another important way in which social media has affected small businesses, after all: it’s given you more opportunities to connect with your audience and provide them with targeted, relevant content that will connect them with your targeted, relevant product and service. 

So do your research, understand the algorithm, set up your tools and start posting.