How can small businesses be social media champions?

Rajiv Sodhi
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For a brand or an organisation, considering an effective (and engaging) social media presence isn’t really a conversation anymore but a necessity in today’s hyper-connected world and in the age of digitally empowered consumers. Savvier small businesses recognize this while some are yet to jump on the bandwagon for a variety of reasons.

Social networking allows companies to become more accessible for customers, gives them visibility like never before, and revolutionizes the way businesses market their products. That said, when running a small venture, you are often strapped for resources and time, and social media marketing can appear to be an overwhelming proposition.

There can be challenges for a small business on social media — thousands of other businesses fighting for people’s attention and complex algorithms to measure impressions and reach to determine efficacy. So how can a small business compete? How can you help your business stand out, draw people in and make them want to continue following your brand? Here are some tips for any small business owner to get the most out of social networks, without it being a time drain or making a hole in the wallet.

1. Start with a plan – While it may sound obvious, you will be surprised to learn how many businesses set up a Facebook page or an Instagram account without a plan or strategy in place. It’s important to be thoughtful in your social media marketing and develop a social media plan and strategy that’s a subset of your overall marketing goals. Do some research about the market and the customers you are about to approach. Find out where your competitors are? What does each network offer you? Most importantly, what is it that you want to accomplish with social media? Remember, “going in blind” may seem like a viable option in short term, but in the long run, it can cost you followers. Also, while there are many social media platforms available today, it is important to judiciously use your resources and build a presence on a few that really matter as far as your marking goals are concerned.

2. Know your audience – Before creating content that ignites target audiences’ imagination, you have to know who your target audience is. So, define it. Is your target audience in their 40s? Then, maybe Facebook posts with images of mature, happy, active adults may work. If you are speaking to teens, you might want to focus on more visual content and use the likes of Instagram and SnapChat. Knowing your audience will help you not only decide which platform to choose but also the content you should post.

3. Define your level of commitment – Social media can be a 24/7 exercise. You could spend hours upon hours creating content and sharing it around the clock. Before you get in over your head, pause to consider what kind of commitment you really want to make to social media. How much time do you want to spend on social media? What can you afford? How much are you willing to spend (or to allow your marketing team to spend)? Once you have a budget established, you can figure out what you realistically can expect in terms of a social media editorial calendar.

4. Connect with others – So you are on a social networking website, what do you do next? Network! It’s not enough for people to simply see your social media content — you want them to listen to and engage with it. It’s not a broadcast medium. It’s about building relationships with your audience and your customers. How do you do that? Start by listening to them. Share others’ content. Give mentions or tag wherever relevant. Keep conversations going with a reply or simply “favorite” a Tweet.

5. Content is king – The key to a successful social media marketing campaign is content. Whether it’s entertaining, inspiring or educational, good content adds value. It makes a person’s job and life easier. It helps them accomplish something. It makes them smile. And all of that value inspires them to share your content with their own networks. When choosing the right content, remember that you do not have to restrict yourself to the written word. A picture says a millions words and more on social media. Videos are even better — videos have twice the engagement as photos on Instagram. And it doesn’t always have to be original. Feel free to repost or share other’s content (in other words “curated content”).

6. Be true to yourself – Your social media presence should be a reflection of your brand and what it stands for. What you say and how you say it on social media should be authentic to who you are. Speak in your own voice, but be careful to match the tone of your content to your business. At the same time, to maintain customer focus, observe the language your customers use to talk about your field and engage with them on those terms.

7. Don’t go overboard – Beginners often end up either with posts which are too far and few, or worse, too frequent. So how often do you really need to post? There is no definitive answer. You’ll probably need to experiment a little bit to find the sweet spot for your business. Remember, you want to get seen by your audience but you don’t want to be annoying.

8. Social media is the journey and your website is the destination – No social media account can replace your website, which is your digital home. Social media is a tool for engagement — and a way to drive traffic to your website. If your social media game is on point, your prospects will end up on your website to learn more or make a purchase. This makes an effective online presence in the form of a robust website a must. And remember, since social media is synonymous with mobile today, you will want to ensure that your website is optimized to provide a great browsing and shopping experience on mobile devices.

To wrap things up, when you look at the landscape of social media, there’s no question it’s vast. And that can be overwhelming — especially for small businesses with limited resources. But if you take the time to do it right — by being authentic, offering content your audience craves, responding to and building relationships with your customers and prospects — social media can generate big returns. Remember to back it up with a great website, which is where you really need to start!

This article has been contributed by Rajiv Sodhi (Vice President, GoDaddy India & Australia)

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