Social media 101 for small businesses

Petra Smith shares her top 20 reasons why your small business needs to use social media

There is a good reason why so many businesses use social media to market themselves. Because it works. And it doesn’t require a huge amount of your budget, yet still has the ability to help to build your brand and find new business opportunities.

So, if you’re not convinced or are just getting started, this is why you should consider making social media part of your marketing strategy.

Increase brand awareness

With the volume of social media users, you are reaching a large number of potential clients who were previously unaware of your business. And the digital nature of social channels means that there are no geographical limitations. It won’t happen immediately, but you will see the real benefits as your social influence grows. The more people know about you, the more likely it is they will remember you when they are looking for products and services you provide.

Improve brand loyalty

Social media helps your brand to stand out and keep in touch with your existing customers. You can use it to inform them about anything new, remind them about your products and services and encourage customers to spread the word via their own social networks. You are also able to interact and answer questions in real time, building trust with customers and making them feel valued.

Give your business a human face

Social media helps to add a face to your brand and shows your clients who the people behind your business are. It’s very often not what you do, but how you do it. Social media is a great way to show your clients your company’s personality and tell your story.

Listen in to what customers are saying

Listening in on conversations online helps to identify who talks about your business or industry, find new leads and see what your competitors are doing. Your potential clients share a lot about their wants, needs and pain points on social media, which helps with making your first contact with them much more personalised – and more likely to trigger their interest.

It’s how people find you

According to Salesforce, 87 per cent of people start their search for a new product on digital channels. Your potential clients are likely to be already using social search to find potential companies and brands they want to buy from or work with. Plus they base their opinion about you on what they see online.

Become recognised as an expert

Social media is a great place for you to establish yourself as a “thought leader” via sharing relevant content, engaging in conversations and responding to questions. Your profile will stand out the more engaged you are, making you a go-to subject matter expert as you build your brand.

Maintain your reputation

Over time, people will talk about your business. It’s important to listen to what they are saying so you can respond and use their feedback to make improvements. It’s a powerful way to tailor your business’s offering to what your potential clients are asking for.

Improve customer service

Having a large number of customer issues shared publicly is not ideal, but being able to respond to them in real time is very helpful – both for your customers and your brand’s reputation. It’s also a more time efficient way to communicate compared to calls and emails.

Advertise to the right people

With the large volume of data available with user demographics and interests, social media platforms allow for detailed segmentation and audience targeting, making your marketing campaigns and messaging much more specific to your potential clients.

Generate sales leads

The likelihood is that most of your potential clients are already using at least one social network. You should always be present where your potential clients are. Connecting with actual people via social networks is an effective way to build long-term relationships based on trust.

Get you noticed

When you Google your company’s name, what comes up in top results are your social media profiles. Effective social media marketing improves your SEO rankings, so if you are struggling with getting your website on the top search pages, your regular online activity will help to make your website more visible.

Let staff be your ambassadors

Employees are great brand advocates. Keeping them engaged in social sharing not only helps your brand awareness but also with building a culture where everyone is involved in content creation and sharing. The more people share, the larger audience you are reaching.

Increase website traffic

By sharing content published on your website via social media you are attracting new visitors to your website and increasing your brand awareness, especially if you can share engaging content that has the potential to go viral.

Tell your individual story

Social media is a good place to tell your story, especially with the recently launched new “story” features on Instagram and Facebook. Using visual and written content and having a consistent, unique story is an effective way to generate and maintain your audience’s interest.

Event engagement

Social media can also be very effective as part of your event marketing – both when it comes to pre-event promotions as well as live updates from your event. A simple way to start is to introduce a hashtag that you and your guest can use with any event related updates.

Save money

Compared to traditional marketing, social media marketing is much cheaper, yet one of the most effective ways to promote a business of any size. In fact, you are only investing your time if you are not using any of the paid features.

Grow your own community

Engaging in online conversations not only helps to connect with your existing social media followers, but it also opens up the potential of those followers sharing your content with others, creating a rapidly growing online community who recognises and talks about your business. What helps is sharing interesting content and sharing it regularly.

Keep informed

Social media not only helps to showcase your brand, it’s also an important learning resource. You can educate yourself on what your clients are saying and keep on top of the latest industry news and insights.

Find out what rivals are doing

Because everyone is sharing their best work, social media is a great place to keep informed about your competitor’s activities and helps you learn from their successes and failures.

Recruit staff

Talking about your recruitment requirements on social media is a cost-effective way to attract new talent and spread the word about open roles through your existing connections.

Petra Smith is managing director of digital marketing agency Squirrels & Bears