Social media for small business
How to use social media for small business
Social media is an excellent way for small business owners to connect with new and existing customers and develop brand awareness.
Social media marketing is considered a crucial part of any business marketing strategy, whether you are a microbusiness/sole trader business or a large corporation.
Social media provides a powerful platform for connecting directly with an audience to build an online presence and generate sales and grow a customer base.
It is widely acknowledged that people are spending more and more time on their phones, and devices and a large proportion of this are spent on social media apps. It is also accepted that social media users regularly interact with companies they are interested in or already do business with via social media platforms, which means that you can not only utilise this free approach to market your business but to build brand awareness because your customers and prospects are already likely to be online and waiting to see you online to interact with you.
Social media is a free and easy tool for businesses to connect directly with people interested in their brand and who want to follow the products and services you offer
There are many social media platforms available, such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Linked, among others, and they are all quite easy to use with a bit of practice. Still, more importantly, social media can provide you with a free platform to market and communicate with potential and current customers. You can get started with creating free organic posts, to start to build or develop your followers and audience.
However, it is essential not to let it become time-consuming or distract from your main business activities. This is why social media scheduling tools are crucial to ensure you can keep an active presence. But like every good business strategy, using social media for small business success needs to start with a good plan.
HOW TO CREATE AND MANAGE YOUR CONTENT
To ensure you create quality content and post, you need to follow a few fundamental principals. Taking these into consideration will help you develop and create social media content that people want to read and engage with. Here are the basics too get started with creating posts and understanding what to post:
- Ensure you have clear social media objectives or goals, or you can find that the time you spend on social media could be wasted. You don’t need lots of objectives, just a few specific ones. The more specific, the easier it is to build a social media plan. Avoid using social media as merely a megaphone for your business but think about how it can help you reach your goals
- Be aware of what your competitors are posting if you are unsure where to start or what to post if you can look at your competitor’s social media accounts. You can even follow them. Learning from what others have done is a great way to reduce your learning curve.
- Creating valuable content, ensure it was what your customer and followers want to read. Make sure it is well written and enticing. Ensure that whatever trends or buying behaviour you see you reflect this. Push products and services that are popular and don’t post things your customers aren’t interested in. Make sure your content, blog, offers, products and services are what they want to see. It must be relevant to your industry and your customer needs.
Decide how many posts you will do and what you will be structuring your content around. This is often is referred to as a social media calendar; you can decide on themes or topics you will post about regularly. Its good to have a calendar to ensure your content /posts are consistent so you can get information, products, services, offers across clearly and with regularity to the maximum audience. It also enables you to find good quality images to support your content. Visuals are critical for social media posts. Associating imagery with a post will have a very positive impact on your engagement rates. There has been a lot of research undertaken which demonstrates this:
- Use the 80-20 rule when deciding what to post. Use 80% of your content to inform, educate, share articles or entertain your audience. Use the other 20% to promote your brand or sell your products and services.
- To help increase your audience reach it is important to use # hashtags in your posts.
- If your content or posts refer to a person, business, publication etc, then always ensure you link to them within your post, in the same way, you can add a family member or friend in a post @Joeblogs or @bbcnews.
- Finally, consider the tone and style of each platform you use.
For Facebook, it is a reasonably conversational platform. However, if a prospective client decides to like your Facebook page, they are likely looking to receive updates ad they want to be aware of future sales and promotions, hear about new products, or get information about upcoming events.
LinkedIn is one of the most established social media platforms. LinkedIn is the most business-focused platform, the basis of LinkedIn is a professional networking site, which has developed to a platform where you can add a business page and post either as yourself or your business and content with those key professionals. You can also utilise the professional groups on LinkedIn. People that connect with you and your business are more likely to be wanting to follow you due to an interest to see what professional information or insights you share. It’s not as much of a sales platform, but more information and knowledge sharing.
If you would like to know more about how to find people and use LinkedIn to build up your networking and connect with position new clients, please feel free to look at a free resource we have created to help you use LinkedIn to build up for your business presence.
Twitter is often considered the most conversational platform, that encourages immediate engagement. But it is not as prevalent for building business networks, but very useful for creating a client following. The downside with Twitter is the limited number of characters you can write in a “Tweet” so it can be hard to get across all the details, so often Twitter posts are good to include a link to a longer article or webpage with your product or offer. Twitter is a good platform to promote your brand image, as posts are generally shares/retweeted more on Twitter than other social media platforms.
Instagram is the one platform that is primarily focused on the visuals. So, it is very important to have high-quality resolution images and be creative. If you are a product-based business, this is easier to create. Still, if you are a service business, I would suggest focusing on showcasing the process behind providing the service, the benefits of the service. Explain the ethos of the company, share your mission with the world, or simply share some tips and how-to’s.
Getting up and running with setting up social media business pages or knowing where to start or how to post and where to use hashtags and how to hyperlink articles can be a bit of a minefield, if you are not familiar with using social media regularly.
Social media can seem quite confusing to those less familiar with it, but there are a lot of courses you can look which are free and help you on your way, such as:
- Facebook Blueprint – https://www.facebook.com/business/learn
Build your digital marketing knowledge, boost your skills and add value to your company with free online training, resources and certifications.
- LinkedIn Marketing Solutions https://business.linkedin.com/marketing-solutions –
Where you can find instructions on how to build a LinkedIn page, how to set up pages, and how to use LinkedIn for your business.
Alternatively, you could ask friends or family to help. However, if you are still struggling, you can find people and businesses who provide social media scheduling, training, help and ongoing support.
Often these types of services will require you to have some budget as some service providers will encourage you to let them do the social media posting and management on your behalf to get the highest return on investment.
But there are also service providers such as ourselves at Oasis Business Support that offer training and guidance to help you learn the core skills to manage your own Social media accounts and help you understand how to post, skills, tips and methods you can use to share your content to a far wider audience.
For more information, please refer to the bottom of this blog for more details.
COMPARISON OF SOCIAL MEDIA SCHEDULING AND MANAGEMENT TOOLS
I have chosen three well known social media scheduling and management tools that you could consider using to help you get the most from your social media accounts in regards to creating consistent and regular scheduling of posts.
All social media scheduling and management tools have different pros and cons. Some have free plans, others only offer paid plans. But with the free plans, they often come with limited options, functionality and number of posts you can schedule. So please ensure you look at any provider you are considering carefully to ensure it meets your needs.
Hootsuite is a well known social media scheduling tool, which offers a FREE plan for individual use. This plan is excellent if you are starting out, but it does have limited options and functionality available in comparison with their paid plans and other social media tools.
The Free plan offers the following:
3 social profiles across any of the social media platforms they are able to schedule to, 30 Scheduled posts a month (1 a day), 1 user, you can have more than 1 social profile for the same social media platform. For example, you could have 2 Facebook profiles and 1 LinkedIn.
It doesn’t include:
Auto scheduling, Bulk scheduling, Analytics, Content apps, Reporting templates, Message monitoring
Social inbox, Compliance security integrations, Access to free apps or $500 of Boost ad spend.
If you like the user interface of Hootsuite but want to be able to schedule more than 30 posts a month, you would need to look at Hootsuite paid plans (See below.)
Hootsuite is compatible with the following social media platforms, which means you can schedule to any of the following you have an account with:
When you are in a position to be able to invest in a paid plan, Hootsuite is not the most competitively priced and does not offer the most comprehensive functionality.
If you look further down this blog, you will see I have shared details of Social Pilot, which has more functionality offered and is exactly the same price as Hootsuite if you are on the annual payment plan.
For example, with Hootsuite’s lowest-cost plan is only allowed for 1 user, linking to 10 social media accounts, no bulk scheduling and limited analytics. But on the other hand, one benefit of Hootsuite paid plan is it offers unlimited scheduling of posts per month, and if you are active on Youtube you can schedule directly to your account.
Many people like the look and feel of Hootsuite as it is very user friendly and they offer a free 30 day trial for their paid plans. This means you can try it out and see if you like the functionality. Also, Hootsuite does have some great additional services that help you post and management your social media activity on the go. They have an app called Hootlet, this is a free browser extension for Chrome which lets you quickly share content to your social networks from anywhere on the web, and they also have Hootsuite mobile app where you can manage your social media on the go its compatible with Android and iPhone, iPad & iPod Touch. You can download the app from your device’s app store.
Buffer also offers a Free plan. To access the Buffers free plan, you must sign up to a 14 day free trial of one of their paid plans. At the end of the trial, you can choose to downgrade to the basic Free plan.
The free plan allows you to have three social media accounts, 1 user and can post up to 30 posts in 30 days, but a downside to the free plan is that you can only schedule 10 posts in any 30 day period.
In contrast with Hootsuite’s free plan where you can schedule the full allowance of 30 posts per month.
With Buffers free plan there is a limit to the amount of historical post information that is stored. They currently store up to 30-days of past posts.
Buffer’s free plan allows you to select three of the following social media platforms to schedule your posts, but you can only have one social media account per social media platforms.
One nice user-friendly aspect of Buffer is its drag-and-drop scheduling calendar that allows you to move content from one spot in your calendar to another easily. It also has a report that shows the most popular and unpopular posts on each platform individually instead of just as a group with an option to “re-buffer,” or reuse, popular posts and offer shorten URLs with the buff.ly link.
One downside of the lowest paid plan (Pro) in Buffer is that it only allows for 100 posts per month which gives you an average of 3 per day, whereas Hootsuite and Social Pilot offer an unlimited number of posts.
However, If you are considering going for a paid plan, Buffer has more limitations than many other Social Media scheduling tools. Still, their prices are lower than several other well-known providers, so again it depends on what your requirements are, and budge.
Although Social Pilot is the only Social media scheduling and management tool in my blog that does not offer a free plan, it does offer a 14-day free trial you can try before you need to consider committing to a paid plan. The reason I have included Social Pilot is due to its competitive pricing compared to many other social media scheduling tools.
The competitive pricing coupled with the high level of functionality offered within each plan, in my opinion, help make SocialPilot an excellent option if you have the budget to invest in a social media scheduling tool.
In direct comparison to the other two platforms I have mentioned in this blog, Social Pilot gives you a lot more for your money.
Social Pilots free 14-day trial, is a no-obligation trial and at time of writing this, they are not taking credit card details for the free trial, so you don’t need to worry about being caught out at the end of the trial period.
With Social Pilots there cheapest plan is (the professional plan.) Compared to Hootsuite and Buffer they offer the fullest amount of functionality and number of users and are very competitive compared to other paid only providers in the market.
They offer a very high number of posts, with a daily limit of 200 posts, which is roughly 6000 posts per month which you can share across 25 accounts.
Hootsuite in comparison is 10 accounts and Buffer is 8 accounts.
With Social Pilot, you have full analytics, post history and built-in URL shorteners to use when scheduling posts, such as bitly.
Social Pilot is fully integrated with Canva which makes is so simple and easy to incorporate the images and graphics you have designed. Plus another great feature is being able to use multiple images in a single post which sadly is not an option in Hootsuite and Buffer free plans, they only allow for a single image.
Finally, Social Pilot allows easy posting of video content across social media accounts.
Plus there is a larger number of social media platforms that you can share your content with via Social Pilot:
Social Pilot is very user friendly and nicely laid out application with thumbnails for different social media platforms with a very easy to navigate look.
One service I like within Social Pilot and that I am not aware is available with the other two social media scheduling tools or some of the other paid providers in the market is there Content Curation platform. Meaning if you feel uninspired their content curation platform provides you with a list of content pieces that can help you come up with unique ideas or get the inspiration to create engaging social media posts.
At the time of writing this blog (30/03/2020 – during Covid-19) Social pilot is offering the below deal.
Often many small business owners, want to be able to manage their own social media accounts but may not know how to do this. You can use the online tutorials and articles within the social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn, and you can learn how to use a social media scheduling tool from within the application itself (Hootsuite etc.)
But If you would like further support or training, we can help you with this. We offer one on one training and also can help you understand what type or level of support you may need to help improve your social media presence.
At Oasis Business Support we offer social media support packages and training packages that normally start from £120, but during this challenging time for businesses due to Covid-19 we are offering our support packages from £50 and our starter training package costs £45 for an initial review and followed up with a virtual training session.
In addition to this, we also offer an initial free 30-minute discovery call to find out what your requirements are and discuss what help, training support you are looking for.
Our training is available for the following platforms: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn. We focus on organic social media activity, not paid ADs.
We offer entirely bespoke training, reviews, analysis and support. We can help you set up your social media accounts, learn how to post, what to post and where to post for greater visibility for your business and audience, as well as providing help with setting up a social media scheduling tool (such as the above Hootsuite, Buffer or Social Pilot).
Our training is based on your needs and budget. It is provided virtually on a one to one basis, which is bespoke to your level of knowledge and the social media platforms you want to focus on. We don’t rush you; we always record the virtual training and send it to our clients so they can then work through the points we covered in their own time.
If you would like to find out more, please contact us.