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Ask any business owner what they want, and the answer will almost universally be the same: more customers.
While it’s easy to give that answer, actually following through is the hard part. Especially when you’re a small business owner trying to compete with the big brands.
That’s why so many small businesses are turning to social media. Today, social media has the unique ability to level the playing field a bit. A small brand with a robust social media strategy can drive traffic and gain customers.
What makes social media so powerful is the sheer number of people who actively use it every day.
A recent survey from Smart Insights highlighted some mind-blowing numbers around social media usage. As of early 2017, there are nearly 2.8 billion active social media users around the world.
Facebook leads the way with over 1.8 billion active users. Chat and messenger applications (WhatsApp, FB Messenger, WeChat) come next, followed by Instagram, Tumblr, Twitter, and Snapchat.
There’s lots of potential. And small business owners know it.
You can find plenty of ideas out there for how small businesses can promote themselves more effectively. In this post, you’ll learn five strategies you can use that are focused on promotion through social media with an example for each.
One of the easiest and most common ways to promote a small business is through social media advertising. In recent years, advertising on social media channels like Facebook has exploded among small business owners.
According to BIA/Kelsey almost 78% of small business owners say they use social media to promote their business. But only 25% of them use Facebook ads.
Where your small business can get ahead is by embracing Facebook’s video advertising platform.
According to Buffer, “Facebook video receives, on average, 135% more organic reach than a Facebook photo.”
Here’s an example from Facebook’s success stories.
Manscaped is a men’s grooming company with the aim to help men “below the belt” with grooming products. They wanted to drive customers from Facebook to their Shopify store and saw success with video.
By creating an engaging and entertaining video around a somewhat uncomfortable topic, Manscaped had a winner. The results: a 3.4x return on ad spend and a 53% increase in conversion rate.
From Ryan Fiore, VP of marketing:
The increase in performance when we moved from static images to video was astonishing. The video ad enabled us to share the Manscaped story and bring our brand to life. The proof of our Facebook campaign’s success was having to pause our campaign less than 30 days in because we completely ran out of inventory.
You don’t need high-tech video editing or a massive budget to succeed with video. In fact, for many, your phone or DSLR camera can provide everything you need to start.
Right now, video is seeing huge returns over conventional image only ads. Plus, video ads let users see your brand’s personality—they let you have a little bit of fun.
One of the great things about social media is it gives everyone a voice. Now, if you have customers who love your brand, you’re likely going to hear about it or see it on social media.
While having hordes of happy customers is enough to give you the warm fuzzies, what’s even better is it’s ready-made content for you to use.
A recent trend in marketing has been to embrace user-generated content. It’s as simple as it sounds—brands are taking the content created by their users (with permission) and highlighting it.
There are two main benefits behind this. First, it makes marketing a bit easier for your brand. The second, and more important, benefit is it highlights and showcases an active community to your followers.
Consumers today, and especially the millennial generation, want to see input from other customers before they buy. According to Mintel, 81% of 18 to 34-year-olds seek out opinions from others before purchasing.
The fact of the matter is they trust people over brands.
For small businesses that take this approach, that knowledge is a powerful tool. And it also explains why user-generated content works so well.
Here’s an example.
Would you be surprised to learn that an Instagram account solely made up of images of laptops at various workspaces has over 73,000 followers?
Welcome to the Work Hard Anywhere Instagram account. This small business brand sells items geared toward entrepreneurs and digital nomads: stickers for laptops, mugs, phone cases, etc.
Not exactly revolutionary stuff.
And yet, they have a massive following. This is because they embraced user-generated content.
Every single image they share on Instagram was taken by someone else. Work Hard Anywhere shares the original photo with credit.
You can use user-generated content to highlight customers who love your products and build a community. Many small businesses are even using in-store experiences like selfie booths to create this content.
Most brands look at social media as one channel to promote. They do this mostly by sharing their content and hope for the best.
Here’s where there can be a slight disconnect between brands and consumers. Brands are using social for promotion, whereas consumers are often using (or looking to use) social media for customer service.
In a survey by Sprout Social, 90% of respondents said they’ve used social at some point to directly communicate with a company. It’s also the first place customers choose to get a response from a brand over both phone and email.
Unfortunately, many brands are still dropping the ball on this one. This is great news for you, the small business owner. Why? Because amazing customer service is an incredible competitive advantage today.
Remember the stat from above, millennials (the generation most likely to be on social media) do their research before they buy. They both want to hear and trust the opinions of others on social channels above those of brands.
A survey from Conversocial found these statistics:
These numbers show where successful small business can see opportunity.
Here’s one example:
BarkBox is a subscription box service dedicated to pets. Dog lovers, an already passionate group of people, can order a monthly box full of treats for their furry friends.
Since sharing photos and videos of dogs is something pretty much everyone on the planet loves to see, their social media channel management is pretty easy.
But even BarkBox has moments where consumers need to get in touch for service, and here they shine.
If you observe just their Twitter account, you can see tons of interaction and engagement with customers. They are not only quick to thank people for sharing their content and purchasing a BarkBox, but they also share service issues—and their solutions.
They’ve also taken something that would normally frustrate every dog owner, destroyed toys, and turned it into a potential opportunity for better service.
By going above and beyond with their customer service and offering it in a fun way, BarkBox is showing any potential customers they are quick to respond and care.
Influencer marketing is one channel that has been growing over the last few years. Essentially, brands look for people who have an online fan base comprised of their target audience. Then, they team up with the influencer to promote their content in a way that’s more authentic and engaging.
Most small business owners think influencer marketing is only for big brands and people with massive followings. That’s not true at all.
One thing to remember about influencer marketing is not the size of the following but how engaged and excited that following is. You might find a lot more success with someone who has 5,000 super-engaged fans right in your target audience over another person with 200,000.
These people are called micro-influencers.
Markerly recently did some research on Instagram. They compared the engagement rate of people with small followings (micro-influencers) versus large followings.
The results might surprise you:
We believe influencers in the 10k-100k follower range offer the best combination of engagement and broad reach, with like and comment rates that exceed influencers with higher followers.
Here’s an example of a successful micro-influencer in action:
Vineyard Vines has gone all in on the micro-influencer trend. They’ve worked with Instagram micro-influencers Jacob True and Erick Dent (follower count 12.9K and 36.1K respectively) to promote their products.
These guys fit exactly into the ideal target market of their customers. Plus they showcase a lifestyle that is common among men who shop at Vineyard Vines: beaches, sailing, and preppy.
Working with men like Jacob mean they attract a smaller following of people, but those who do see them are more likely to be excited and shop Vineyard Vines.
Small businesses can do this on a much smaller scale by searching for local Instagram and YouTube channels with followers who hit their ideal customers.
Sometimes, all it takes is a mention or showcase of a product to see traction.
Until recently, Snapchat was the place to go to find brands able to engage users with stories. Their growth showcases this as well. In the first quarter of 2014, Snapchat had 46 million daily active users. In just three years, that number has grown to 166.
The ultimate Snapchat competitor is here, and it’s called Instagram Stories.
Currently, Instagram Stories have 200 million active daily viewers. That means it is the perfect place for small business owners who had trouble with Snapchat to jump in.
In the basic sense, Instagram stories let users share a traditional video, take live video, and piece together bits of images and video into a larger story. These are live for 24 hours and then they disappear. You can use filters to add text, emojis, and locations (among other fun things).
Instagram stories are great for small businesses for a number of reasons. First, they are cheap, all you need is a phone. Second, they are authentic, something that millennials especially love. And finally, they force active engagement; users have to click on your story and watch it, which helps to build deeper connections.
Foundr Magazine has been able to use Instagram stories to drive users off Instagram and on to their site.
Recently, they highlighted a special promotion only to their followers on Instagram. The key? Their followers had to watch the story to know what the promotion was.
Once they watched, it became clear they would get a free issue of the magazine if they typed the link into their browser.
The story itself served as a type of coupon and when users went to the landing page. Once on the landing page, readers can sign up for their free issue.
This is a great example of how Instagram stories can be used to drive traffic and increase email lists. Those who signed up this way are likely going to be more active engagers. After all, they followed the extra steps to get more content.
This is an easy way to grow your email list through social media without needing to spend a cent on advertising.
Use these creative social media strategies to help promote your small business. Doing so will likely help you stand out from the competition and engage with more potential customers over the long run.