17 Tips For Getting Your Small Business Started With Social Media Marketing

You’re trying to grow your business, and you’ve reached the conclusion that a stronger social media presence is the way to do it. But where do you begin?

Taking that first step into social media can be overwhelming. There are so many sites and platforms, so many users, so much content out there waiting to be explored, where do you even begin? What are your overall goals for marketing your business? It’s a lot to process.

Hopefully, this guide will prove helpful. What follows is a quick step-by-step walkthrough for social media marketing for beginners.

Here’s what you need to do:

“It’s best to begin with your goals in mind, so you can constantly keep one eye on your progress.”

1. Start with your basic objectives
Before you can really begin to leverage social media, you need to ask yourself some key questions about why you’re doing it. What are you hoping to accomplish? Are you hoping to increase sales, or improve customer service? Or alternatively, are you just looking to create a little more visibility for your brand?

Answering these basic questions will help guide the direction of your social efforts. Over the coming months and years, you’re going to invest a lot of time into social media. It’s best to begin with your primary objectives in mind, so you can benchmark and measure your progress.

2. Start small, and be selective
There are numerous social platforms. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest – the list goes on. If you’re ambitious, you’re probably anxious to get your business up and running on most of them. But the reality is this – you can’t (and shouldn’t)  try to create your social presence on each of these platforms overnight. You have to start small (think crawl, walk, run).

Be selective at first. Choose one or two sites to start out – the ones that make the most sense for your business. Then, once you have enough time and money to commit, begin to scale your efforts and social footprint.

3. Hone in on a target audience
As you’re developing your social strategy, choosing sites and content strategy, etc, you’ll probably be guided by one key question: Who’s your audience?

This will influence everything. Take your site choices, for example. If you’re trying to cater to millenials, you might want to emphasize YouTube, Instagram and Snapchat more than other networks. If you’re targeting moms, Pinterest works great. Facebook is broader, appealing to everyone.

Which social site is the best match for you? It depends on what your business is trying to accomplish. Research your intended audience before you make any final decisions about where you will focus your social efforts.

4. Come up with a memorable handle
What’s in a name? Ideally, it’s one that’s catchy and memorable. When it comes to your social presence, you’ll want to create a handle that people will recognize across all of your social brands.

It might be just your company’s name, or it might be something a little more elaborate, just to emphasize a certain aspect of your brand. For example, the BBC uses the username @BBCBreaking for its wildly popular Twitter account, reminding people of their abundance of breaking news. Samsung uses @SamsungMobile, which encourages consumers to buy their mobile devices.

What kind of handle works best for your business?

Once you decide on your handle, do some research to ensure it’s available on the various social platforms. One of the tools I use for this is Knowem.

5. Build a social media team
Once you’ve got a plan for delving into social media marketing, you need to have resources to execute it. Once your social presence begins to scale, you won’t be able to handle every aspect yourself. You have a business to run, and you’ll need help.

Build a team of creative social media thinkers.
Build a team of creative social media thinkers.

Try to build a “dream team” of people who all bring different strengths to the table. Have a writer who can write compelling social content, as well as graphics and video people who can take you into the multimedia sphere. You’ll also want an analytics person who can track your progress and assess the strengths and weaknesses of your campaign. Most small businesses won’t have a budget for adding these positions to the payroll on a fulltime basis – but don’t worry – there are an amazing number of passionate freelancers available to you, for almost any budget. Check out Freelancer.com and Upwork to get an idea of who and what is available to you.

6. Get the pacing right
One of the key questions guiding your social efforts is this – how often will you post on your social sites? Is once a week enough, or do you need to do more?

The answer? It depends on which sites. A good rule of thumb is if you’re writing in-depth blog posts with a lot of words, once or twice a week is probably fine. On sites like Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn, where people follow a lot of content from a great many people and brands, you’ll need to step it to 3-5 posts per week. On Twitter, where volume is king, you can do more. Several tweets per day is acceptable. One key rule – don’t post, just to post. Ensure each post, tweet or piece of content is relevant to your audience and adds value.

7. Have a schedule, but show flexibility too
Once you’ve figured out how many times to post on your social sites, the next question is when.

Timing your social posts is part science and part art. On one hand, there are certain optimal time slots – people love to browse social media sites during their lunch breaks and in the evenings after work. But if you adhere to a rigid schedule just to hit those sweet spots, you’ll start to seem too automatic, like a robot. You’ll want to mix it up for variety’s sake.

One of the best tools I’ve discovered for managing your content is Co-Schedule – It’s an amazing WordPress plugin and you can see it here.

8. Be authentic and personable
Mingling with people on Twitter isn’t that different from doing so at a party or social gathering. In both cases, you make friends by being yourself and being authentic and nice.

Keep this in mind as you’re posting online. People don’t want to cozy up to a brand whose social presence sounds rigid and corporate – or worse yet, unpleasant. Show a human side, interact with people kindly and develop a personality. People will appreciate that, and the following will come.

9. Develop a content pipeline
A cute or funny post can grab a viewer’s attention for a minute or two, but what really keeps them coming back is engaging content. You want your social presence to link to sites and articles that people will find interesting, or that will add value to their lives. If you can do that, you can secure consumers’ loyalty.

So develop a pipeline for your content. What types of content will you post? When and where will you post them? Map out a plan and stick to it for a while, but don’t be afraid to adapt if you think it’s not working.

10. Mix up your content offerings
You’ve got to have a plan for sharing content, definitely. But what type of content? Ideally, you’d have a combination of different elements. Try to balance your own original content with valued, content curated from other sites. Search for those “nuggets” of content that your audince will value, but might not otherwise find.

Balance your original content with the content you curate and share. If you only share content from other sources, you’ll just seem like you’re leeching off of others’ hard work rather than doing your own. If you only share your own content, you’ll seem too promotional and sales-y. A nice balance will make you appear knowledgeable, worthwhile and humble 🙂 .

11. Link, link and link again
Once your business has a strong social media presence up and running, you want to link people to it again and again and again. You don’t want to force it too much, lest people start to feel like they’re being spammed, but still – it’s important to reinforce your brand.

The great thing about having multiple social accounts is they can all be interwoven with one another. Put up a blog post and link it to your Twitter page. Post a photo on Instagram and invite people to learn more on Facebook. One social presence can link to several others.

12. Coordinate from a central dashboard
The downside is that juggling all of these accounts can get confusing. You’ve been meaning to post on one of your social sites today, but which one was it? Twitter? Pinterest? YouTube?

You might need to use some kind of tool for coordinating all of your social efforts. Investing in a social media management platform – say, an application like Hootsuite , Sprout Social  or Sendible will give you a convenient centralized dashboard. This way, all your social media logistics will be viewable on a single screen. There are a number of social management platforms available – research and select the one that is right for you.

13. Add value for customers
Here’s a key question that many small business leaders have about posting on social media – “Once I begin interacting with customers, what approach should I take? What should I actually say?”

The trick is to find the right balance between delivering the brand message and being personable. After all, the goal is to increase your sales, but you don’t want to come across as being sales-y. Social media is a great platform for increasing awareness of your brand and raising visibility at the top of the sales funnel. It’s not the place to be driving price points and conversion tactics at the bottom of the funnel.

Focus on adding value for customers in subtle ways. Offer them useful tips. Solve their problems and answer their questions. Recommend strategies for their business or personal lives. If you add value in small ways, the sales will come.

14. Make valuable business connections
The other name for social media you commonly hear is “social networking,” and there’s a reason for that – there’s no better place than the Internet to network and make key connections with others. You should be using your social presence to build relationships that might help you later.

This can include any number of strategies. You might use LinkedIn for reaching out to potential hires and to bypass the gatekeepers at various companies you would like to work with. Twitter is a great place for sharing content with industry thought leaders. Facebook helps you bond with local people in the community who might become customers. Everywhere you look on social media, there are opportunities to make connections. Don’t shy away it.

“The best time to begin building your social network is before you need it.”

15. Be willing to try new things
Social media has been a viable marketing strategy for some time now, and we’ve come to understand that there’s an accepted way of doing things. There are norms for where to post, when, how often and so on and so forth.

Maybe in the beginning, you’ll adhere to these rules like gospel. That’s probably for the best – you don’t want to stray too far from what’s accepted until you know what you’re doing and understand the various nuances. Eventually, hen you’re ready, you can begin to branch out and try new strategies.

Play with the volume and timing of your posts. Share content that’s different. Venture into new social sites that aren’t in the mainstream yet. Experiment with convention, and you might stumble into a new strategy that works surprisingly well for you and your business.

16. Track your company’s reputation
Every social media site represents a great place for sharing information about your business. But here’s the secret – you’re not the only one talking about you. Other people are, too.

As you explore the various social sites, devote some time to tracking the reputation of your business. Search for what people are saying about you. If the word is positive, take a moment to express gratitude for the nice things people are saying, and vow to keep up the good work. If it’s negative, look for constructive criticism. Do people’s social comments point to something you can do better?

17. Measure the results of social media
Way back at the beginning of this post, we discussed the importance of starting with a goal in mind. Remember what you got into social media for – whether it’s increasing sales, better service, better exposure, whatever – it’s always good to have goals.

Along the way, you want to measure your progress toward those goals. If you wanted to increase sales, then check the numbers – are they going up? If you wanted better service, then ask around – are your social efforts making a real difference?

Getting involved with social media takes time, energy and of course money. You don’t want any of those resources to go to waste. If you follow up and measure your results, you can ensure that they don’t.

In conclusion…
There’s a wide world of social media sites out there with a range of different uses. Here’s how to make the most of them all:

  • Begin with your basic goals. Consider them as you decide on a social strategy, an audience and an identity.
  • Build out your social presence with a great deal of content, both from your own business and elsewhere, and share it with impeccable timing.
  • Branch out, explore, interact and monitor your progress. Social media will help your business grow and thrive – but remember, it takes timeand won’t happen overnight.
If you’re ready to get started, be sure to check out this post, 40 Tips and Tools To Bootstrap The Ultimate Social Media and Content Marketing Engine for additional tips and resources.

Martin Jones

Martin Jones is a Senior Marketing Manager with the corporate Cox Communications social media team where he assists in leading strategy, campaign ideation and marketing execution for Cox Business social media & content marketing. Today, over 1 million fans engage with Cox Communications content, campaigns and Customer Care on Facebook, Twitter, You Tube. LinkedIn and Google+.