When last did you pay serious attention to a banner ad, pop up or a pre-roll video advert? These days, the average online user just scrolls passed them, or shuts them down as quickly as they can. You see, digital technologies may have opened up a new world of opportunity for the small business owner wanting to reach their ideal customer base, but those on the receiving end of most of these unsolicited marketing messages find them to be quite disruptive and distracting.
The good news, though, is that there are many ways to get online advertising right, which brings us to the topic at hand: how can you use social media for effective small business marketing?
You’ll need to begin with some insights about user behaviour on social sharing platforms
According to a recent Harvard Business Review (HBR) article, building an online brand presence that generates real interest in one’s products and services isn’t a straightforward task. How consumers interact with brands today is different to that of yesteryear. We live in a highly networked society, where people are looking for – and are accustomed to – meaningful, online interactions. And they aren’t as enamoured by brands and associated branded content as they used to be. Instead, online users rally around thought leaders, celebrities, entertainers, and those business people who represent the ideals, values and interests they support and aspire to.
As a small business owner, or someone involved with small business marketing, you’ll need to get stuck into how your ideal target market thinks and feels, the ideologies they support, and the fads they’re into – and you’ll need to join their online conversations to contribute meaningfully to these and create authentic connections with real people.
Facebook for business – ready, set, go!
The following pointers should help you with setting up and managing your Facebook business page.
- To grow brand recognition, be sure to use your business’ branding consistently across all social media platforms. Online users appreciate tasteful design and will be instantly put off if your company logos, product images, and associated artwork doesn’t look professional.
- Any business information that you add needs to be well curated and must include details about your business’ unique values and ideals – especially those that will appeal to your ideal target audience.
- Be sure to redirect your Facebook page followers back to your website and do this as often as possible by generating relevant content on your site that you can then promote on your page.
- To begin engaging in online communications and building brand awareness, ‘like’ and follow other business pages that are similar to yours, as well as the pages of influential individuals in your industry.
- Avoid spamming online users with product information unless they directly request it from you. An unsolicited and badly timed product push might only serve to put a potential customer off entirely.
Twitter for business: what you need to know
Twitter is a social networking platform for sharing news items, comments, opinions and ideas on a global scale. The platform allows users a total of 140 characters for each post, or ‘tweet’, including any images or links to relevant websites or blogs. It’s ideal for online users who just want to skim through news items or catch up on a specific topic or conversation that’s trending for that day.
Twitter users harness the platform to keep up to date with their favourite sports team or brands, to join in on global conversations around pertinent subjects and to grow their business’ online presence. This is where the power of the hashtag comes into play. Hashtags are used to link your posts to similar tweets on Twitter and are used on all social media channels to connect conversations and posts.
The power of visual communication: packing a punch with Pinterest and Instagram
Pinterest and Instagram are ideal social networking platforms for creatives who head up small businesses. Use these platforms to share product images, infographics and inspirational designs, or provide customers with behind-the-scenes snapshots of your business’ daily operations. Introduce them to your team, share tips and ideas with them and help them feel engaged and connected.
Take your blogging to the next level with Tumblr
Tumblr is a social network and a multimedia microblogging platform combined. It can be used to create highly interactive blogs using photos, GIFs, mp3s, videos, links and the like. Your Tumblr dashboard allows you to follow other blogs, reblog content to your own blog and comment on others’ blogs to grow brand awareness while joining relevant online conversations.
In short, social media platforms are powerful marketing tools for the small business and should be incorporated into your small business marketing activities to grow brand recognition and your business’ online footprint.