Harnessing the power of social media for small businesses – getting started

If you only have a small marketing budget, social media can seem like an ideal way to promote your product or service. Twenty years ago marketers could only dream of having access to such a huge audience so quickly but if you’ve not got much time or experience of using social media, where do you start?

I originally wrote a version of this blog when I was working at Staffordshire University as Dean of the Business School. I had a team of people who would manage the university’s social media and marketing. Now, I’m working for myself, with limited resources – i.e. ‘me’ – and I’ve personally found these four tips really useful as I build my own social media presence.

Here are just four suggestions that could help get you started:

Know your audience – sounds obvious, but is the biggest mistake people make. It’s so easy to take your eye off the ball when it comes to ensuring your communication channels and messages are targeted at the appropriate audience(s).  We can get carried away by all the opportunities open to us that we forget what the purpose of engaging with social media actually was!  For example, why use Facebook if you’re primarily targeting a business-to-business audience?  (Sometimes, there’s good reason to do so, but you need to know why). 

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Spend time making sure you know who your intended target audience is and the key message you want to communicate with them.  Only then can you identify and choose the communication methods which best fit your message and audience.

Know your limitations – basically, don’t try to do too much!  Social media may seem very low cost compared to other forms of advertising or sales promotion, but there is still the cost of your time to factor in, at the very least.  It’s also very content hungry. If you commit, say, to writing a daily blog or tweeting several times a day, you may find you crash very soon.  We all still have the day job to do! Take note of what other businesses your size manage to do and, where possible, plan your messages in advance.

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Know how to create synergy – try to use the same or similar content more than once if you can. So, if you write a blog or post something on LinkedIn, direct people to it via Twitter. Could you use the copy for some promotional material or a newsletter as a blog? When you put something on YouTube, how can you maximise its use? It’s pretty obvious, but not everyone does it. Encourage customers and staff to send in stories which you can promote. I’ve found that people get a buzz from seeing something they’ve submitted being used or published. It creates a virtuous circle and they feel encouraged to submit more material, making your job easier.

And, finally, think of ways you can work with others to create mutual benefit. A while back, I did an interview for a friend who was looking to increase traffic to her website via YouTube. As a result, I shared her webpage and YouTube channel with my contacts and used the content of the interview to develop this blog. We both benefited and had some fun doing it.

A version of this blog was originally published on 5/10/2018 on the following site: https://blogs.staffs.ac.uk/business/2018/10/05/harnessing-the-power-of-social-media-for-small-businesses/

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