How to kickstart your social media campaign as a small business

Small business has always been about personal connections and social interactions. Today, a smile and a handshake isn’t enough to connect others to your business – you need to be able to tap into social media and engage with them on an ongoing basis.

social2Breaking in to the business
Some people think that social media is frivolous, and in the wrong hands, it can be. When wielded by a knowledgeable businessperson, however, social media can be a powerful tool for small business lead generation. Websites like Facebook and Twitter have all but replaced things like billboards and radio spots in some industries. Social media provides a forum for small business owners to share updates, promotions and events, but some companies can have difficulty attracting social network followers. Without followers, even the best social media campaigns will full utterly flat. Fortunately, there are several things proprietors can do to improve their social media presence.

Forbes recently relayed five “hacks” that small business owners can use to their advantage when trying build their presence on social media, the first of which is to attract influencers. This is absolutely essential, especially if you are just getting started with your social media campaign. Finding new followers can be challenging, even if they are already customers, but sometimes all you need is a popular friend to get things moving.

It’s kind of like being the new kid at school. You might know a few people, but if you can make friends with someone with a massive social network who will invite you to all the cool parties and introduce you to new groups, then you’ll be able to make friends much more quickly. The challenge is meeting these kinds of people in the first place.

Making new friends
According to Joe Pulizzi from the Content Marketing Institute, attracting influencers is a matter of paying it forward. Social media is all about sharing, and people will appreciate it when you repost or share their content as long as you give them credit. Therefore, when you are trying to attract an influencer, a significant amount of what you post should come from your target influencer. In fact, Pulizzi suggests that 67 percent of what you post should be shared from other people. In the give-and-take game of social media marketing, this means that your influencer will eventually notice you and share something original from your page with his or her extensive network of friends and followers.

Generating content
Jump-starting a social media marketing campaign isn’t all about sharing and reposting, however. Even at the early stages, while you’re trying to attract influencers to help you grow your social network, it’s important to post some original content as well. That can be challenging for some people. Some businesses lend themselves easily to social networks. Bars and restaurants can post about specials or promotions, for example, but what about real estate agencies or insurance companies? There are some industries that are starved for content to post on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter.

content2According to Forbes, you can almost never miss on show-off reviews. That is because customer feedback is more important than ever. In fact, according to a survey conducted by BrightLocal, 73 percent of consumers say that positive customer reviews make them trust a business more, and 79 percent trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. That means that if you can solicit good feedback from your customers, either in the form of direct posts on your Facebook or Twitter pages or on a third-party platform like Yelp, then you will never be starved for content.

Calls to action can also be another fruitful source of status update fodder. Social media networks like Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest are all about sharing, and for most followers, all you have to do is ask. So if you want your posts to reach a wider audience, Forbes recommends that you use language like “share,” “comment,” and “like” to inspire people to get the word out. If you are really motivated, you are also going to want to build in a sense of urgency, so people don’t scroll past your post and then forget about you. Time-sensitive calls to action are naturally helpful when inspiring urgency, but much can be conveyed with tone and wording alone.

Calls to action and positive reviews are good, but effective use of images is without a doubt the best source of content available to the fledgling social media marketer. According to research from eMarketer, interactions with Facebook posts increase by 87 percent when the post features an image. Likewise, tweets that feature an image URL boast a 35 percent higher chance of sharing.

instagramPicture perfect
But what kind of images should you post? The most important rule of thumb for posting images to social networking sites is to remain consistent with your brand voice and identity. If you are posting things that run contrary to your company’s public face, then you will create dissonance, and people will be confused. Nonetheless, just about every industry has room to make a joke or two. For example, the fan-favorite “caption this” style image post is always an effective driver of interaction and sharing. Popular memes with industry jokes can be effective, as well as inspirational quotes.

The final tip for kickstarting your social media marketing campaign is to remember that the word “social” is an operative term. Facebook isn’t just a billboard, it’s an opportunity for your company to interact with its customers. So don’t just post, engage. If a particular thread sparks a lot of interaction, follow through and join in. If someone thanks you, thank them back. If someone complains, don’t delete their post, interact with it. Treat every customer interaction as an opportunity to improve your relationship with the people who support you by purchasing your products and services. Remember, it’s a conversation.

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