I’m regularly approached by local small businesses, each seeking the holy grail of social media perfection.
When you think “SOCIAL MEDIA,” it seems daunting.
Where do I start?
How do I know if it’s working?
What should I post?
Does it even matter?
Like any big task in life, the key is to break it down into bite-sized chunks. This primer isn’t revolutionary. You’ve likely read other similar topics on the web. My goal is to help you discern what the bite-sized chunks are.
What platforms should I invest time into?
This is a big question, but for small businesses, I always suggest that you start with your favorite one and add other ones as you go. If you’re personally most comfortable with Facebook, start with that one. If your customers are different from you, it might be beneficial to find the platform most of your customers use. So, if you are a grandma, and you love Facebook, and you miss Farmville, but your customers are mostly teenagers, you’ll probably want to start with Instagram.
My point here is simple… DO NOT start investing time into all of the platforms right off the bat. It’ll wear you out, and you will likely give it up.
Master one, and then add another one.
That said, it will benefit you to grab the same username on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and Pinterest at the same time. It’s more difficult to get the same username later on.
What do I post?
You’re currently reading a social media primer on a blog owned by a Christian university in Central Texas. While this post isn’t central to our mission in the world, it tends to engage people, and some of those people are going to be curious about what we do. Hopefully, some of you will visit us and become students.
So, what should you post?
Anything that you’re passionate about that could potentially attract customers in your demographic.
It’s best to post content on social media that is either wholly contained within the platform or takes people back to your website. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to link people to someone else’s site… the information may be helpful, but you’ve thrown away a chance for further engagement.
Doesn’t it take a lot of time to manage all of this?
It can. Our team spends between 5-15 hours every week managing our social media presence. Other companies employ entire teams of full-time employees to manage social media.
Both are out of the reach of many small businesses. That’s okay.
You should first decide your goals for social media. That’s the most important step, and it helps drive the rest of your decisions.
For instance, if your goal is to get more customers to your frozen yogurt shop, you can simply offer a dollar off for checking in and posting a photo at your location. There’s almost no time required for you to put this strategy into place, and it’s marketing that still works pretty well… as long as people don’t change post privacy to “Only Me.”
If your goal is to get more customers to your tire shop, that approach won’t have the same effectiveness. We have one local tire shop posting regular videos to their Facebook page about their sales. They boost these posts (small charge). The movement in the feed from a tire shop is enough to make you pause as you scroll, and I’m certain that this approach is working well for them.
The point here is that your goals define your platform, your schedule, your content… all of it.
- Don’t bite off more than you can chew. If you set out posting three times a day on four different social media platforms, you’re going to grow weary of it. Find a reasonable workload that you can manage into the future.
- Get a blog. Blogs are the easiest place to house random content pieces that are shareable on social media. Your web host probably has the ability to enable a blog on your website. If you don’t have a website, get one from Squarespace or Wix. Both of those have blog features, and both are affordable.
- Get help. There are lots of people who can help you write content for your business. Your employees can write, even if they aren’t marketing staff. We invite our entire faculty and staff to contribute to the blog. Your customers can write. Sure, it’s easy for us… students are our customers, and they have a real affinity for the university. You likely have some customers who love you and would spend some time writing for you. Alternatively, you can probably find a local college student in a marketing program who will manage your content for a surprisingly low rate. Make sure that you dictate the strategy to them… it’s your business, not theirs.
- Get a management tool. There are a ton of them. I prefer HeyOrca… it’s the simplest management platform for planning content in my opinion. There are plenty of other options. HootSuite is one of the most popular, and you can start for free with them.
- Set a schedule/frequency. We post twice a day on weekdays to Facebook and Instagram, one to three times a day on Instagram, once a day (ish) to Instagram stories. We publish all blog posts on Pinterest, and we publish all news releases to LinkedIn. Your schedule will look different, but it’s important that you make one. Don’t get too wrapped up in when you should post. There’s tons of research out there about it… it’s just an advanced topic. As you’re starting out, the most important thing is that you post and that you post on your pre-determined frequency.
- Snoop on the competition. See what your competition is up to. You can see which of their posts are performing well. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, so create your own versions… don’t copy, but definitely use them for inspiration.
- Build a following. You need to achieve some sort of critical mass in the platforms you’re active on. They will grow organically, but you have to have a tribe to start with. Shamelessly ask your customers to follow you. Repeatedly. Offer an incentive if you think it’s valuable enough. Don’t pay for this… followers that you buy from a service are always worthless.
Here are some of my favorite tools.
- Graphic design: Canva (basic is free, pro is free to non-profits) – it can help you make nice looking graphics. If you’re not a designer, don’t stray too far from their templates… you can still end up with really ugly stuff if you do.
- Content ideas and templates for churches and ministries… I know this isn’t helpful to most small businesses, but these two make FANTASTIC graphics, and their annual plans are quite affordable: Sunday Social (best) and Church Motion Graphics (okay).
- Content ideas and templates for everyone… Creative Market
- Quirky website to help discover weird holidays… Forekast