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Social media is one of the pillars of digital marketing. Done right, social media marketing can reach customers where they are and build awareness of your business.
But with ever-changing platforms and features, social media can also feel overwhelming for busy small business owners, especially if they aren’t regular social media users outside of their business.
Resource-strapped business owners often begrudgingly climb on the social media bandwagon and put in a few months of sporadic effort, only to wind up with seemingly nothing to show for it. It’s easy to see why so many small businesses feel skeptical, or even downright disillusioned, when marketing pros implore them to spend time wading through cat memes and parody accounts to promote their offerings.
Statistics highlight the dilemma faced by small business owners. A recent Manta poll found that 38% of small business owners invest in promoted posts and paid advertising on social media, yet 48% of them do not see a positive return on investment. According to another poll, 84% of small business owners manage their own social media accounts, with 49% spending three hours or more every week to do so.
So, how can business owners avoid the trap of investing their time and resources into social media marketing with no clear return? Go in with a plan. Building a successful strategy is not only possible for small business owners, it’s relatively simple—even if you’re not particularly social media savvy.
These three steps will help you launch a more effective digital marketing plan well worth your investment.
Can you imagine walking up to a stranger and trying to become instant best friends? Of course not! You don’t know the first thing about one another.
Before you can connect and engage with your target audience, you need to get to know them (at least, figuratively). Learn as much as you can about your customers’ demographics, shopping habits, and social media preferences. If you do, you’ll squander far less time on platforms that don’t interest your audience. (For example, you don’t want to drop most of your budget on Instagram if your particular audience prefers LinkedIn.)
You’ll have a sharper understanding of how to create on-brand content that interests and motivates them. Google Analytics and other analytics tools are great places to start your research, but don’t forget about old fashioned face-to-face market research: Ask your customers what social sites they use.
A lot of businesses use the old “spaghetti on the wall” approach: Throw out a big handful of social media content and see what sticks. This usually results in a confusing, diluted brand message that’s hard for audiences to engage with.
Instead, set your business and marketing goals, and then map each social media tactic straight back to those larger goals. This will help you optimize every minute and dollar you invest in social, and maximize your ROI.
Is your goal to drive attendance to a promotion or special event? Focus on building an engaged Facebook following so you can invite them with a Facebook event listing. Do you want to build awareness of your new products? Invest in Instagram, where you can show off photos and videos of your new products.
The internet is lousy with SEO and social media companies that promise “set it and forget it” services (usually for a hefty fee) to busy small business owners. As tempting as that sounds, successful social media doesn’t work that way.
Like all relationships, your online engagement with customers takes time, plus some strategic trial and error. That’s why it’s important to measure your results over time. You should keep an eye on which posts generate the most engagement and which ones are duds.
These days, social media advertising platforms make it easy to tweak paid campaigns if a certain segment or message underperforms. You (or a trusted pro who doesn’t specialize in pie-in-the-sky promises) can and should also monitor your organic (unpaid) content, and take advantage of every opportunity to learn and adjust as you grow.
With these tips in mind, real social media impact is possible for your business. Heck, you might even be able to relax a bit and enjoy the journey.