Four ways SMEs can scale social marketing efforts

By Brayden Cohen, below, Manager of Social Marketing, Hootsuite

In an increasingly digital-first world, social media has levelled the playing field between businesses of all sizes. With 4.7 billion active social media users who spend an average of 2.5 hours on social channels every day, and a relatively low cost of entry, the possibilities are endless — especially for smaller brands looking for an effective, meaningful way to scale their business.

With new trends emerging daily, keeping pace with the ebbs and flow of this wild space has become increasingly challenging. As small to medium enterprises (SMEs) navigate social marketing with limited resources, having the right social media marketing strategy in place is essential. While seemingly overwhelming, there are simple ways to effectively reach customers and drive results, even without a dedicated social media manager, let alone an entire team.

Here are four steps SMEs can take to master social media marketing in 2023 and beyond.

  1. Set SMART goals and track for success

Before jumping into execution, it’s important that SMEs take a step back and set realistic goals for their social marketing efforts. These goals should align with business objectives, as this will ensure attributable ROI metrics that can be laddered up to the overall success of the business.

A great way to set up effective objectives is through the ‘S.M.A.R.T’ framework, through which every goal is: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound. A good example of a ‘SMART’ goal is: “We will use Twitter for customer support and lower our average response rate to under two hours by the end of the quarter.”

Equally important, SMEs need to track the right metrics. ‘Vanity’ metrics such as the number of followers and likes are particularly easy to track, but to prove their value they should also be tracked with more attributable metrics. In addition to vanity metrics, try focusing on engagement, click-through, and conversion rates – as these are more easily attributable to success. It’s also worth noting that different strategies work for different social media networks. To realise the full potential of each network, setting up each channel strategy for success by identifying tailored goals and success metrics will allow SMEs to identify the networks that are most effective for them.

  1. Map out a content strategy

Social media platforms are saturated with brands trying to get consumers’ attention. In this attention economy, it’s not enough to simply post regularly and hope for the best. In order to drive engagement and awareness, brands will need to create and implement a content strategy.

A great place to start is to create a simple mission statement for each social network. This is a one-sentence declaration focused on a specific goal. For example: “We will use Instagram to highlight new products and repost quality content from influencers.” From there, providing examples of the type of content needed to fulfil the mission on each network will ensure that content is aligned with the purpose of each social network.

Businesses have bespoke audiences, and deciding on a preferred content mix needs to keep that in mind — what works well for one business will not necessarily for others. Posting the same content on each channel is not best practice. However, some popular strategies to try could include:

  1. The ’80-20 rule’ – if a brand is starting from scratch, a good way to test out content would be to try 80% of social posts intended to inform, educate, or entertain the target audience, whilst 20% directed to promote the brand itself.
  2. The rule of thirds – in this instance, one-third of content is personal interactions with the audience; one-third promotes the business, converts readers, and generates profit; and one-third shares ideas and stories from thought leaders in the organisation’s industry or like-minded businesses.

While finding the right content mix is incredibly important, testing and iterating to find what works for each audience and platform is equally crucial. That’s where measuring success comes in.

  1. Measure success to know what works

Social media metrics provide  invaluable insights – including whether the right content mix is being used, which platform is the most worthy of time and effort, areas for improvement, and most importantly, the ROI. By utilising metrics, businesses can better understand their place in the social sphere – in turn, creating a social strategy that is well-informed, tied to business goals, and is clearly attributable to success.

Depending on the type of content being pushed out, and the results businesses are wanting to lead, the following are some important metrics across the board:

  • Engagement: the rate of engagement calculates the interactions received on each post — everything from likes, shares and comments. A high engagement rate shows that a piece of content is resonating well with the audience, while a low engagement rate might be a call to revise the content strategy.
  • Impressions: measuring content impressions gives insight into the number of people seeing the content being published, whether users are engaging with it or not. Note that one person could have multiple impressions for a single post. A high number of impressions on specific content ideally warrants trying to find out why so that this can be recreated in future content.
  • Reach: while impressions show how many times one person sees a post, reach is the total number of unique people who are seeing a post. For example, if a social media user sees a post 5 times throughout the day, it would be considered 5 impressions, but only 1 reach. An ideal outcome would be content reaching beyond followers — which is why this should be measured and noted.
  • Conversion: to measure the actions resulting from social efforts, conversion rates measure how often someone clicked a link pushed out through social, leading to a subscription, a download, a sale, and anything else that adds value to a business.

Once the right metrics to track have been identified based on the social marketing SMART goals and overall business objectives, SMEs can use further techniques, such as social media analytics to capture those important insights. Most social media management platforms, such as Hootsuite, have built-in analytics tools, and businesses should leverage these tools to take the guesswork out of measuring success on social.

  1. Leverage a social media community

Every brand needs an engaged, thriving community behind them to be successful on social. But building a connected community of relevant, interested people takes research, time, and effort — and lots of consistent engagement. To start building a community on social, businesses can tap into tried-and-true approaches, such as:

1)      Partnering with social media influencers and/or content creators to scale reach beyond existing followers

2)      Building and fostering a community of brand advocates by establishing consistent two-way engagement to listen to and understand your audience

SMEs can be more strategic with their social media marketing by leveraging relationships with social influencers and content creators. Marketing-budget cuts at larger businesses have resulted in bigger brands competing far less for creators, leaving the door wide open for smaller businesses to partner with social influencers and creators. And working with influencers isn’t as expensive as you might think. Most creators are paid less than $100 (£83) per post .

Every brand, no matter its size, needs an engaged and thriving community in order to be successful on social media. To see results, businesses should engage in community management – through responding to comments and direct messages, answering questions, and getting creative in interacting with customers on social.

In many ways, this approach is an extension of social customer service. For SMEs with limited resources, quality is better than quantity — and by utilising social listening, brands can learn what customers are most interested in, and tailor their social content and responses accordingly. This is the approach Stocksy, a social-first SME, chose when partnering with Hootsuite. Rather than only creating content about its own business, the company instead amplified conversations and engagement around topics like diversity, equity, and the usability of art. Going forward, Stocksy is planning to collaborate with TikTok influencers, capitalising on Hootsuite’s integration with the platform.

Driving business success through social

Social media is a key marketing channel for organisations of all sizes. Already, nearly three out of four small to mid-sized businesses use social media to market themselves, and over half are posting once a day. But with limited resources, it’s crucial for SMEs to have a social marketing strategy that’s efficient and effective. The good news: social success is well within reach with tools and resources just around the corner for businesses to leverage. Responding to this need for foundational skills, Hootsuite revamped (and condensed) its Social Media Marketing course to help smaller brands take their social strategies to the next level, by connecting with customers and social marketing experts, growing their business and standing out in the crowded social space.