Social media is free right? You can set up an account and start posting in minutes. But just because you don’t have to pay doesn’t mean social media is free. It requires a ton of time and resources to do effectively, and you need to have enough content to post and share consistently. Nothing damages credibility more than seeing a brand that hasn’t posted in months.
Small businesses especially struggle to grow their social media following because they do not have the name recognition that large brands have. Massive consumer product brands will have people come to them simply because they are so well known. But local businesses and small startups don’t have the same luxury.
So what can these businesses do to grow their social media?
Promote your channels everywhere
Your social media platforms shouldn’t just live online. Every piece of marketing material you create needs to have your website and social media handles on it. This means every poster, handout, business card, email signature, whitepaper… everything. This way, you don’t have to rely on people discovering your channels while on social media. You can also encourage your employees and people you already have a relationship with to follow you and share your content with their networks.
It may be tempting to sign up for every social media platform available. But if you’re a small business with limited resources and personnel, this will never be sustainable. Choose the channel that gives you the best chance of reaching and engaging with your audience.
For example, if you have a very visual product, you may choose to use Instagram as your primary channel. If you are selling complex technologies primarily to businesses, LinkedIn may be your best choice. Making these decisions requires careful analysis of your goals and what each channel can provide. And most importantly, go where your audience is.
Leverage third party content
Let’s be realistic. It’s almost impossible to consistently share original content. This is especially true on fast moving platforms such as Twitter which require you to post multiple times a day just to have a chance of being seen. But even if you could manage, you shouldn’t. Only talking about yourself and your products is boring, and it quickly becomes salesy.
By using third party content (and crediting the authors) you can build up a position of trust with your audience. You aren’t just a source of product pitches, but of interesting and relevant industry news, helpful tips and tricks, and entertainment. Start by following the rule of thirds – 1/3 on industry or third party content, 1/3 on product and company related content and 1/3 on social interactions and conversations with your audience. From there, you can adjust the ratio to optimize your results.
Pay for ads
There will come a point where you need to bite the bullet and pay for social media advertising. This is hard for many companies to come to terms with as they still view social media from their personal perspective: free and open to everyone. Unfortunately, from a business perspective, advertising isn’t usually free, and most social media channels have made changes to encourage companies to pay.
The benefit is that you will have a much wider reach than anything you could achieve for free. Most social media platforms provide in-depth targeting options that let you fine tune your audience so that you are reaching the people most relevant to your business. While you can easily spend a fortune on social media ads, trying it out is simple and cost-effective. At the end of the day, all platforms let you set the budget you are willing to spend to reach the right number of people.
Start with realistic expectations
Social media isn’t easy, and getting a loyal following won’t happen overnight. Most likely, you’ll never reach a million followers, over even a thousand for that matter. What’s more important is that the people who are following you are the right people for your business. Social media isn’t about scale, it’s about relationships with people that matter.
Bridge the Gap Marketing Solutions provides social media management, strategy and training services to help you achieve your social media goals and focus on your business. View our social media solutions today.