Marketing is a battle amongst brands to occupy the headspace of their target demographic. When a consumer thinks of a specific product or service, you want them to associate that product or service with your brand over your competitors.
No small feat considering the sheer volume of ads humans are exposed to on a daily basis.
One of the best methods to help you win this battle is social media marketing. Defined as the use of social media platforms and websites to promote a product or service, social media marketing already plays a large role in how brands connect with their customers. Research shows that businesses are expected to spend over $17 billion on social media marketing in 2019.
We understand that, for small business owners with limited funds and personnel, marketing for your small business is one of those things that can fall by the wayside. But the beauty of social media marketing is it can be effective without costing a lot of time or money. Furthermore, by not engaging in social media marketing you are ceding ground to competitors who engage with your target demographic via social media.
That’s why we created this guide—to help you get started with social media marketing for your small business. We’ll go over how to determine social media marketing goals, create a strategy, and judge success. We’ll also provide you with some additional resources and suggestions to help you implement your social media strategy.
So put on your marketing cap and let’s learn about how social media can help your business grow.
What Is Social Media Marketing
We’ve already provided you with a working definition of social media marketing, but to really grasp the concept it helps to see it in action:
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All of these are good examples of social media marketing for small business. We’ll get into what makes them work later. For now, understand that social media marketing is the act of creating a social media profile for your small business and sharing content via that profile.
Benefits of Social Media Marketing
Aside from being a cheap form of advertising that won’t take up all your time, there are many business reasons for using social media as a marketing tool, including:
Unlike a television or billboard ad, your customers can actually engage with content you share on social media in the form of likes, shares, and comments. If a customer decides to share a piece of content you posted on social media, they are helping your business reach more potential customers.
When a customer comments on your post it presents an opportunity to engage with them by replying back. This type of direct interaction is great for nurturing potential customers and managing your brand’s reputation. Furthermore, when customers engage with your content it helps build your brand’s identity in their minds.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
The idea of SEO is to make sure your business ranks highly in Google’s (and other search engines’) algorithms. Social media marketing can help by driving more traffic to your website and increasing your backlinks, both of which will increase your ranking in Google.
Social media marketing is unique in that you can be extremely specific about who sees your ads, how they see them, and when they see them. This is possible through the marketing technology available on today’s social media platforms. This level of exactness allows you to craft content tailor-made to your target demographic.
If you share something that resonates with a broad segment of the social media population, you could go viral. When this happens, your brand reaches a far greater number of people than it otherwise would, providing you the opportunity to increase your market share.
Determining Your Social Media Marketing Goals
Successfully marketing your business via social media requires a strategy, but before you can determine your strategy, you need to decide what your goals are. And before you can determine your goals, you need to know who your target audience is. This is because you can only determine your goals based on the size and online behaviors of your audience.
“I’ve seen people blow through hundreds of thousands of dollars trying to reach all people between the ages of 18-30 in the United States,” says Gerard Boucher, founder and CEO of social media marketing agency Boucher + Co. “This is terrible targeting because, for most of those people, your content isn’t going to resonate, and for the ones where it does, we won’t know why. You’re better off focusing on a smaller segment that you know needs your product.”
Jonathan Goodman, a social media marketing expert who works with Fortune 500 companies, puts it another way:
“It is better to have 1,000 followers who know you than 10,000 who do not. If you target everyone, even if they follow you back, chances are they are not going to buy a product from you.”
To learn about your audience, research who is already interacting with your business online. It can also be helpful to survey customers and use tools like Google Analytics to research when people visit your pages and what they do when they’re there.
Once you have determined your target audience, set goals by creating key performance indicators (KPIs) for your content. Your KPIs should be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely.
“Increase brand awareness” is a bad KPI because it is ambiguous and can be measured in multiple ways. A better KPI would be “increase the number of people in my marketing funnel by 10% over the next six months.” This KPI is highly specific and timely, and can be measured using backend tools available on most social media platforms.
Other common KPIs include increasing the number of impressions, decreasing the cost-per-impression, increasing the number of link clicks, and increasing a specific type of engagement (share, like, comment). These KPIs roll up into broader goals such as increasing brand awareness or sales.
Keep in mind that, when setting KPIs, it can take 6 to 12 months for a social media marketing campaign to start generating results.
Creating a Social Media Marketing Strategy
Your social media strategy are the actions you are going to take on social media in order to reach your marketing goals.
“Based on the endgame we want, we need to determine what kind of content we are going to share, where we are going to share it, how much of it we are going to share, who is going to see our content, and who is going to be responsible for the actual execution of the campaign,” says Boucher. “We should also determine the timeline for success and where failures can happen.”
An example of a strategy would be to post various types of content twice a day on Instagram and LinkedIn and three times a week on Facebook, with each post targeting a specific segment of the market. By the end of a predetermined time, this behavior should allow the business to reach a specific KPI.
Although this type of strategizing can be very granular, it is needed in order to see results. If you don’t have time to create your own social media strategy, consider outsourcing your social media operation to a third-party vendor (more on this later), or hiring a freelancer or intern to handle it for you.
Social Media Marketing Budget
Whichever route you decide to go, you will need a marketing budget. While most people think of social media platforms as free services, businesses need to pay extra in order for their content to reach their target audience. Businesses are charged on a per-click basis for promoted post, with prices ranging from $0.20 per click to up to $10 per click.
Boucher recommends small businesses dedicate at least $1,000 per month to social media advertising, and says one of the biggest mistakes is not having a realistic social media marketing budget for the results you want.
“If you are just starting out, you need a budget to spend, otherwise the audience is not gonna build itself,” Boucher says.
Best Social Media Marketing Platforms for Small Business
Your budget will be influenced by which social media platforms you choose to market on. You don’t need to be on all of them, just the ones that are most effective at reaching your target audience. We’ll go through the list of the most popular options to help you determine which may be right for your business.
With over 2 billion users worldwide, Facebook is the largest of all the social media platforms. Relative to other social media options, Facebook has a fairly neutral selling environment, meaning it can work for both B2C and B2B businesses. To market with Facebook, you will need to create a free Facebook Business account. The average cost-per-click (CPC) on a Facebook ad is $0.27.
Another neutral selling option is Twitter, which allows you to post content with a maximum word count of 280 characters. Twitter is most popular among millennials and works well for sharing breaking news, official statements, images, and links to longer pieces of content. With Twitter, you can promote individual tweets or entire accounts. Prices range from $0.50 to $4 per engagement (like, share, comment).
LinkedIn is a career-oriented social media network that works great for B2B businesses. LinkedIn ads start at $50, and can be targeted by industry, seniority, job function, company size, geography, number of connections, gender, or LinkedIn groups. The usership skews slightly older on LinkedIn compared to other platforms.
Instagram is ideal for B2C businesses that sell products because it allows you to share vivid images that can create an emotional connection with your customers. What’s more, most of the people who use Instagram are millennials. Because Instagram is owned by Facebook, you can advertise on the platform via your Facebook Business page, and also benefit from Facebook’s advanced targeting.
On average, an ad campaign on Instagram will cost between $0.20 and $2 per click.
YouTube is a video hosting site that is also the largest search engine behind Google. If you want to post an ad on YouTube, you will pay based on how many views that ad garners. Costs per view range between $0.10 and $0.30.
Pinterest is a social media platform where you can discover, collect, and curate images shared by other users. Pinterest’s usership skews female, and the platform is often used for inspiration, such as dinner recipes, style tips, or home renovations. You can advertise on Pinterest in the form of Promoted Pins. CPC on Promoted Pins starts at $0.10.
It is important to note that you don’t have to promote all the content you post on social media, just a handful of posts that will help you grow your audience, such as posts with a call-to-action or useful product information. Also keep in mind that you will likely need to utilize a combination of multiple platforms in order for your social media marketing strategy to succeed.
“You might show an initial piece of content on LinkedIn,” Boucher says. “If the user engages with that content, then you can show them a follow-up piece of content on Facebook or Instagram that you select based on their behavior.”
Social Media Marketing Calendar
We said in the beginning that marketing is a battle to occupy the headspace of your customer. What we didn’t mention is that this battle is continuous. If you hit your KPIs and then stop posting on social media, your brand will fade from the consciousness of your target demographic.
Therefore, consistency is key. Boucher recommends posting one to two times per day on each social media platform you are active on. But we get it, you have a million other things to do as a small business owner. Fortunately, most social media platforms offer a scheduling option, allowing you to plan all your posts for days, weeks, or even months into the future.
There are also social media marketing management platforms that enable you to bulk schedule posts across all your social media platforms (more on these later). If you’d rather plan your posts in advance using Excel or Google Sheets, check out this easy-to-use social media strategy template.
Types of Social Media Marketing Content
Once you have your strategy in place, it is time to craft your content. This is the part where you really get to flex your creative muscles. To help you get some inspiration for what you should be posting to resonate with your audience, we recommend the following strategies:
- Research your competitors: What are your competitors posting on social media? Seeing how they market their products or services can not only provide you with inspiration, but help you understand what you are up against.
- Perform keyword research: Keyword research is the task of identifying popular words or phrases people type into search engines in an effort to figure out what to rank for. With keyword research you can see what your target demographic is searching for and craft content that speaks to their interests.
- Follow businesses with good marketing campaigns: If you see another business marketing themselves in a way you like, give them a follow so you can experience what it is like to be on the receiving end of a good social media marketing campaign.
- Remember holidays: We’re not just talking about Christmas and Halloween. There are so many social media holidays, and that presents you with a chance to craft content for a topic that lots of people are already interested in. To name a few, there’s National Pie Day on January 23, Encourage a Young Writer Day on April 10, and World Tourism Day on September 27.
Once you have inspiration, it is time to go about creating and scheduling your content. In general, Boucher recommends 75% of your content be informational and 25% of your content be sales oriented.
“People don’t like being bombarded with sales content and social networks penalize brands that are overly sales-y,” Boucher says. “So when picking an editorial direction, try to think of what the consumer of the content will see actual value in.”
In terms of informational content, approaches you could take include educational or humorous posts, posts that link to exclusive content (like a blog post), or posts that provide a “behind the scenes” look into your business. Also look to leverage user-generated content whenever possible. If a customer shares a post on social media that reflects positively on your business in some way, consider sharing it on your own networks. This is also a great way to interact with your customers.
With sales posts you could offer promotional deals, product updates, or business announcements. These are also the types of posts you will benefit more from promoting.
You’ll want to consider adding a hashtag to most social media posts. Adding a hashtag followed by a word or phrase (without spaces) allows that word or phrase to be indexed by the social network, and becomes searchable by other users.
If you add a hashtag to a post that is already trending (being searched a lot by users), your content will become more discoverable.
- Images are key: Regardless of the type of post, it is important to include a strong visual component, as this is always the most engaging element of social media content.
- Stick with what works: “If you post pictures of jewelry that get no engagement, and then you post a picture of babies wearing jewelry that gets tons of engagement, post more pictures of babies wearing jewelry,” Goodman says.
As for where to post which types of content, Facebook and Twitter can accommodate most types of content, whether it be casual informational content or formal sales content. Instagram skews more casual than most other platforms, and also requires a strong visual element. On LinkedIn you’ll want your content to be more sober and straightforward to match the tone of the network.
Most importantly, all your posts should help form an emotional connection between you and your target market.
“People want to be emotionally connected to what they buy,” Goodman says. “If you can build a message and story around the value your business adds on social media, that will make you successful.”
Judging Your Social Media Marketing Success
The last piece of the social media marketing puzzle is determining if the strategy you have set in place is helping you reach your KPIs. You do this by tracking the analytics on your posts. Social media networks will offer you analytics on your social presence, but you may need to utilize a third-party social media management platform to get deeper, cross-network analysis.
The metrics that are most indicative of your social media performance are as follows:
The reach of a social media post is the total number of people who see an individual post you make on social media. For example, if you have 10,000 followers but only 2,000 people saw a piece of content you posted, your reach on that piece of content is 2,000.
An impression is a measure of how many times a post you shared was displayed, such as on a social media newsfeed. Impressions differ from reach because they are counted on a per-view basis, meaning the same person could view your post six times, and that would count as six impressions.
The more impressions you can get out of a single person, the better. Social media networks use algorithms to determine if a user, based on their behavior, will see your content again and generate another impression.
An engagement is any time someone interacts with your social media content, such as a like, share, or comment. If someone receives an impression and engages with that content, they are more likely to receive another impression of that content.
Brand recall is a measure of a person’s ability to remember your brand name as a member of a product or service class three-seven days after receiving a certain number of impressions. This information is collected via survey on Facebook and Instagram, and is a strong indicator of your social media performance.
Boucher says a single person needs six-seven impressions in order to have accurate brand recall. A well-performing social media marketing campaign will result in 5% of all impressions having brand recall.
Your conversion rate is a measure of the number of people who recall the brand converting into customers. Boucher says a good conversion rate is around 1%, with anything over 3% being excellent.
All of these metrics make up your social media marketing funnel. Your marketing funnel represents the journey of your target market from being someone who sees your social media content to being someone who patronizes your business.
A person enters your marketing funnel the moment they receive an impression, and remain in it until they receive enough impressions to recall your brand, and then convert into a customer.
Outsourcing Your Social Media Marketing
For those looking to work with a third-party vendor to implement and manage their social media strategy, there are numerous options to choose from. If you need help starting your search, websites like The Manifest, UpCity, and Clutch publish rankings of the top social media marketing agencies in the country.
Before meeting with a social media marketing firm, it is important you determine your budget and goals, as this will determine what services the firm can provide for you. Most firms charge an hourly rate and cost at least $1,000 to get started, and between $5,000 and $20,000 to get their full suite of services.
“The agency should put together a package specifically for your business based on your budget and goals,” Goodman says.
We recommend viewing firms you meet with as potential partners whose business values align with yours, and who have a proven track record marketing brands in your industry.
“The agency should ask you a lot of questions and be honest about what they can and cannot do with your money,” Boucher says. “They should also provide excellent customer service and be flexible with price if you are willing to sign a longer contract.”
Best Social Media Management Tools
Regardless if you decide to work with an agency or go it alone, your life will be easier if you leverage some of the comprehensive social media marketing tools available today. These tools allow you schedule, delegate, and approve posts across all your social accounts in one place. They also provide thorough analytics on your social media performance.
Here are a few of our favorites:
Hootsuite is the original social media management platform. You can manage all your social accounts on Hootsuite, and the platform also provides team management, analytics, post approval processes, and social listening tools. Individual users can pay as little as $19 a month for Hootsuite. Multi-user plans start at $129 a month, which gets you support for 20 social profiles and three user seats. Larger plans start at $599.
Sprout Social offers a social media management package tailored to small businesses. Starting at $99 per month, users can get access to Sprout Social’s content management, social listening, analytics, and post approval tools. Sprout also allows users to schedule their posts, or have Sprout’s algorithms schedule the optimum times for you. If you want access for additional employees, you will need to sign up for the Corporate package, which costs $149 per month.
For small businesses that are looking for a low-cost option, there is Buffer. There is a free plan that does not include scheduling or social analytics functions. To get those functions plus robust mobile capabilities, you will have to sign up for the Pro plan, which costs $15 per month.
Start Marketing on Social Media Now
The last tidbit of advice we will leave you with is that social media marketing is an iterative process. That means you have to try a bunch of different things in order to see what sticks. Most people won’t remember a low-performing post, but many will remember an excellent one. However, the only way you are going to find out anything is if you start putting your content out there in the world.
See you online!
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