We live in an age of digital connection. Many brands and companies use online marketing strategies to engage with consumers, to market events and sales, and even to manage customer service. For business owners, an active and robust social media presence can draw in customers from far and wide. In this three part series on social media marketing for beginners, we’ll cover the basics of social media and how to build your social media presence across three major platforms: Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. This will include an introduction to social media, building your brand, and increasing platform traffic.
Where To Start?
No matter how far you are in your business journey, it’s important to have a mission statement. You should be able to describe, in a few sentences, your goals (what you hope to create or achieve), your value (what product or services you offer), and what sets you apart from your competition (your inspiration, why you are the best choice). Take a moment to think about it: can you do that?
Next figure out what your goals are for using social media. Are you hoping to establish yourself as an expert in your field? Do you want to build relationships and a community with your clients? Are you looking for new partnerships or employees? Your goals will inform which social media platforms you focus on.
Social Media Platforms
- Facebook: This is the ‘original’ platform. Most businesses should start here: many clients already have a Facebook account, and it’s set up in a way that actually supports small businesses, by offering reviews, feedback, and direct client communications
- Twitter: Twitter is a platform for short-form communications: it’s posts are limited to 280 characters. Many businesses use it to update clients on sales, new products, and current events as they pertain to their industries.
- Instagram: Instagram, a photo-based platform with no character limit, focuses on visual marketing. This is great for eye-catching flyers, thoughtful product displays, and service vignettes.
- Pinterest: Pinterest is a share-and-discover platform that is visually focused, but not as streamlined as instagram. Pinterest features an image linked to a webpage, such as a meal linked to a blog with the recipe. The platform allows users to save (“pin”) the image to save for later or share with others. There are some industries for which this platform is very effective, such as food services and events, hair and makeup, fashion, interior design, and blogging.
- YouTube: YouTube is a video platform that has been around since 2006. While there’s a good amount of nonsense on it, there are also great opportunities for marketing for those with a solid strategy. Tutorials, reviews, and q-and-a’s are great options for YouTube.
- LinkedIn: LinkedIn is a professional networking platform, used for sharing your own work or new events in your field. It can also be used for recruiting employees or partners. Everyone should have two LinkedIn accounts: a personal profile and one for their business.
Once you identify which platforms are most beneficial to your brand’s mission, it’s time to do your research.
- Follow similar brands on your preferred platforms to get an idea of what kind of content is resonating with consumers. Remember that for independent businesses, it’s important to build and maintain relationships with peers instead of increasing competition. You can share their content, which can show consumers that you’re committed to supporting your field. This can create a sense of kinship with the other business – which in turn might influence them to share your content.
- Create your own content schedule. This can be as simple as taking a blank calendar format and filling it in with ideas for the month so you don’t draw a blank when it comes time to create a post. You can also utilize a publishing software to pre-plan your posts.
- Keep tabs on the people frequenting your pages – they are your community. The goal is to have the people consuming your content actually engage with it.
- As this is an extension of your customer service, be sure to respond to questions, comments, reviews, and direct messages in a timely manner. Thank users for their time, and offer responses that reflect your brand’s values.
- Use your social media accounts to announce new products or business developments, gain customer feedback, promote events or sales, and most importantly provide a positive customer experience.
Getting To Know You
You should spend a little time getting to know how each of these platforms work, exploring other brands and businesses, and formulating your own mission statement. Find inspiration in the posts of your competitors. Begin to visualize what your social media branding will look like. In the next part of this series we’ll address how to build your brand and presence online.