A guide to social media marketing for small businesses

Social media marketing may have become a sophisticated animal, but that needn't prevent small businesses from enjoying the same benefits as bigger brands.

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Social media marketing has really come of age in the last few years. This is particularly important for smaller businesses to understand, because social media has levelled the playing field to the point that smaller brands now have a genuine chance of competing on the same platforms as their larger competitors.

If your brand is looking to dabble in social media marketing, then there are a few important considerations you should bear in mind first. Read our pointers below and let us know if you have any questions or feedback in the comments.

Start with a narrow focus

It’s tempting to sign up for every social network known to man and start posting away to your heart’s content. However, this scattergun approach is not advisable. Focus on one social network, initially at least. Once you’ve learnt the ropes there, move onto another.

Create a blog

A blog is a useful, versatile platform with which you can publish content to make your business shine. If you already have your own website then creating a blog will be easy, but you may decide to set up an entirely separate site specifically for blogging. Either way, a blog gives you a platform to create content that you can easily share on social media (or get your readers to share by using the kind of social sharing buttons you can see to the left of this article).

An example of a regularly updated blog that nicely showcases a company’s products is Gemma Redmond Vintage – a jewelry blog that features regular posts linking the company’s products to key fashion events such as the Oscars. Mirror this approach to gradually build up an audience and you’ll start to generate the trust that you need to encourage them to share your content with their friends.

Develop interesting and worthwhile content

Content marketing is one of the big buzz phrases of the current marketing era. Most businesses now realise they need to provide some value before they can expect people to engage with them online. You need to be developing interesting, worthwhile content that provides your audience with a memorable interaction.

It might be a video, it could be an infographic, a downloadable report, a guide or a survey, or it could be a simple blog post. Whatever it is, think to yourself: if I was a consumer would I really stop to engage with this content, or scroll on by?

READ MORE: 10 Facebook marketing mistakes you’re probably making

Use a content calendar

The process of creating content will be much more straightforward if you plan ahead. This is where content calendars come in. Try and plan your output at least a month in advance, even if all you’re doing is jotting down a few notes next to a certain day.

Whatever your business sells or provides, there will be times of year when digital audiences will be more interested in what you have to say – be it Christmas, school holidays, end of the tax year, a big sporting event. Whatever it might be, you need to have a content campaign planned around it if you’re going to maximise returns.

Allocate time to build up your audience

Don’t expect miracles overnight. People are bombarded with so much branded content these days that it’ll take time for them to begin to notice and then trust your business. Assuming consumers need to see your content four to five times before they start to trust you as a source of information, you could be looking at up to six months until they’re on board. You can’t expect them to share your content or enquire about your services or products until that trust is there.

Measure results

To get social marketing converting into sales and leads you need to be tracking results all the way along the customer journey. Are they engaging? What type of content are they engaging with? Are they starting to click through to a landing page? And are they then going on to purchase or to enquire? If you don’t track this process then you have no way of knowing what’s working and what isn’t. Without that, you’re just treading water.

READ MORE: Snapchat marketing: 11 tips for promoting your brand

Learn about your channels before you start paying for advertising

If you’re going to spend money on advertising, focus on one or two channels that you know you can learn first or else you risk throwing money away. Read up on your chosen platforms first; there’s a great deal of information out there. Advertising on social can be fairly straightforward, but it’s very easy to waste money if you jump straight in without a reasonable level of knowledge.

One final tip… start today

Go out there, create yourself a Twitter account or a Facebook business page and start learning how social media marketing works. You can guarantee that your competitors are already out there talking to your audience.

READ MORE: 8 Ways to Use Instagram Stories to Promote Your Business

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