SOCIAL MEDIA GUIDE
WHAT EVERY PAGE MANAGER NEEDS TO KNOW
WHY YOUR SMALL BUSINESS NEEDS SOCIAL MEDIA
Have you been sitting on the proverbial fence debating the merits of putting
your business on social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest?
As you peruse your own personal social media accounts and wade through
an endless stream of goofy photos of your friends and mindless chitchat,
you may find yourself wondering “what’s the point?”
SOCIAL MEDIA USE IS SKYROCKETING
While some social media posts are indeed goofy, it’s important to note that virtually
everyone you know is interacting on social media! The audience is huge. According
to eMarketer’s Worldwide Social Network Users: 2013
Forecast and Comparative Estimates report, one in four
people around the world will use social media in 2013.
In the United States, in 2014, 169.5 million people will
use social networks. The report predicts that number
will increase to 183.8 million social media users by 2017.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that creating a social media presence for your small business will expose you to millions of social media users.
What it does mean is that your current and future customers are most likely using social
networks. When you look at it this way, it makes sense to go where your customers go.
SOCIAL MEDIA IS LOCAL
Unless you have your sights on building a global business, small business owners
don’t need thousands of followers around the world. You need targeted followers
who have a genuine interest in what your business has to offer. Building a local following and offering exclusive promotions to encourage first-time or repeat business is an effective way to grow your business.
Localizing social media isn’t as difficult as you may think. For example, if you are a
veterinarian in Midland, Texas, you could create a targeted Facebook ad campaign
to encourage Midland pet owners to “like” your Facebook page.
With Facebook advertising, you can hone in on specific demographics and interests so that only those users who meet your
exact criteria see your ad. In this case, you might target men
and women age 25 or older living in Midland, Texas (or even a
specific neighborhood or ZIP code) who have indicated an interest in “dogs” or “cats.” If you don’t want to pay for an ad, you
could also get followers by including your social media profiles
on your business cards, signs, company cars, phone book advertisements, website, and email signature.
The goal is to get the right social media users to follow your
social media profiles. It’s quality over quantity that counts.
SOCIAL MEDIA IS INCREASINGLY USED FOR
Google and other search engines remain relevant. However, social media users often search for businesses from within their
desired social networks. If your business does not have a presence, it won’t be
found. In addition to searching on sites like Facebook or Twitter, users turn to review sites such as Yelp to find and research local businesses.
enter your search
YOUR SMALL BUSINESS MAY ALREADY BE ON SOCIAL MEDIA WITHOUT YOUR KNOWLEDGE!
Some review sites, including Yelp, will even create basic business pages for local
businesses, allowing users to post reviews. Whether you’ve created a social profile
or not, one may already exist for your business. Wouldn’t you rather be involved?
Wouldn’t you prefer to post your own interesting tidbits about your company and
its features and benefits rather than leaving your profile to chance? Wouldn’t you
like to be informed if a user posts a negative review about your business so that you
can rectify the situation or respond? This is yet another reason to get your business
involved in social media sooner rather than later.
SOCIAL MEDIA IS MOBILE
According to comScore’s recent report on U.S. Smartphone
subscribers, as of April 2013, 138.5 million people in the U.S.
owned smartphones representing 58 percent of the mobile
market. Why should you care about smartphones? These
powerful devices are always connected to the Internet, and
always in a pocket, purse, or backpack - if not in the user’s
hands. Information is always just a tap away.
Imagine that you run a Mexican restaurant and a hungry potential customer is a few blocks away. She whips out her smartphone and searches for Mexican restaurants in your city. If your
restaurant does not have a website or social media presence, it
might not show up! If it does show up due to a generic listing, it may be competing
with other restaurants that have photos, menus, coupons, and other enticements.
DEVELOPING AN ONLINE AND SOCIAL MEDIA PRESENCE COULD
PUT YOU AHEAD OF THE COMPETITION
With so many social media and Internet users flocking to social networking sites,
you’d think all small businesses would be taking advantage of the opportunities
these channels offer. However, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, only 24.8 percent of businesses surveyed in 2007 had a website. Though this data is old, a recent
article featured on USAToday discusses the 2013 National Small Business Association Technology Survey which found that one in 10 small businesses don’t have a
website and that nearly 30 percent of them do not use social media.
If you want to tap into a local audience of current and future customers who
are using social media to find and interact with businesses like yours, you
need to both create a website, ideally one optimized for mobile users, and
get on social media.
CHOOSING A SOCIAL MEDIA NETWORK
Now that you’ve decided to hop off of that fence and jump into social media, you’ll need to decide which social media networks to embrace. While
you could certainly join multiple social media networks, if you’re just starting
out, it’s wise not to spread yourself too thin. If you’re one of the 90 percent
of small businesses that does not have a website, start there. Make sure
that you select a website design firm that can optimize it for mobile users
(remember those smartphone users who are always connected?) as well as
include blog functionality (because blogging is social!). Once you have your
website up and running, pick one of the following social media types and
begin socializing. Once you’re comfortable with that channel and no longer
overwhelmed by it, pick another.
Adding a blog to your website allows you to regularly
post new content such as announcements, articles,
and fun facts of interest to your customers. Blog posts
do not need to be long in order to be effective. A veterinarian could post a friendly reminder around Halloween about dogs eating chocolate or share an anecdote about black cats. Blogging regularly is a great
way to keep your website fresh with new information
as well as with keyword phrases related to your small
business. For example, the blog post about dogs and chocolate
candy could be titled “A Friendly Reminder about Dogs and Chocolate from Your Midland, Texas Veterinarian.” Blogging regularly also
shows search engines that the website is active and relevant.
In addition to serving as a platform for sharing information and
for attracting search engine traffic, blog readers can join the con-
versation if you allow commenting. If you do allow
commenting, make sure to respond promptly and
actively moderate your blog posts to prevent spammers from taking over. Most blogging platforms include anti-spam tools to weed out most spam.
By now, you’re likely familiar with Twitter and its
140-character tweets. Because of its micro-sized
tweets, Twitter is known as a microblogging site.
While other microblogging sites exist, Twitter is the
Using Twitter in conjunction with a website and blog
is highly recommended. Whether you tweet links to
your latest blog posts or embed your Twitter feed
onto your blog, Twitter allows you to interact with
customers in real-time.
Perhaps one of the biggest advantages to using
Twitter is its Search tool. Simply search for your business name or brand and find out what people are saying about you. This allows you
to monitor customer satisfaction and respond promptly. You can also use Twitter’s
search tool to find people looking for products and services like yours. For example,
you might enter “good vet in Midland” to see if anyone has posted questions such as
“Fluffy is sick. Does anyone know a good vet in Midland?”
Facebook is clearly the godfather of social media sites and may even be your first
choice for venturing into social networking for your small business. In order to set
up a Facebook business page, you will first need a personal Facebook account. Your
Facebook personal profile and business pages will be linked, but not
necessarily publicly linked. In other
words, your customers will not see
your personal posts and your personal friends and family members
will not see your business posts.
Creating a business page on Facebook is a process with many considerations. You may need professional
help to set it up. It’s also smart to use
online tools designed specifically for businesses that want to market on Facebook
such as GroSocial.com. These tools make creating attractive profiles, tabs, and special offers a simple matter of drag and drop.
As you likely know, Facebook users log in and view a “news feed” which contains
status updates from their friends and brands that they follow. Users can “like,” share,
or comment on these updates (or all three). The more a user engages with another,
whether it’s a person or business, the more likely it is that their future posts will appear in the user’s news feed. Because Facebook uses engagement (likes, shares, and
comments) as a factor when it determines what to display in someone’s news feed,
it’s important to post updates that people will want to like, share, or comment on.
Keep engagement in mind whenever posting to Facebook and you’ll be more likely
to build an active community.
Social networks such as Instagram and Pinterest are photo-sharing networks. These
networks can be a good choice for businesses that have highly visual graphics and
photos related to their products and services. Some ways to use photo-sharing
sites are listed below:
• Show behind-the-scenes photos of your business
• Create and share infographics
• Show pictures of your products
• Document a special event with photos
• Create step-by-step photo tutorials on how to use your product
Blogs, microblogs, Facebook, and photo-sharing sites are
just the tip of the social media iceberg, but they’re a good
place to start for most small businesses. Dozens of other
options are available including social networks and forums
dedicated to music, video games, books, science, art, politics, travel, religion, genealogy, and even knitting.
In addition to becoming active on popular social networks such as Twitter
or Facebook, you may want to investigate social media niche sites related
to your business. For example, if you run a knitting and crochet shop, you’d
probably want to join Ravelry which has approximately 3 million registered
users all interested in knitting and crochet. Wikipedia has a huge list of current social networking sites at:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_social_
PLANNING YOUR SMALL BUSINESS
SOCIAL MEDIA STRATEGY
Now that you’ve decided which social networking site to start with, it’s time
to strategize. In the interest of simplicity, we’ll assume that you already have
a website and blog and that you’ve settled on using Facebook. Though we’ll
refer to Facebook as an example, these tips should apply to just about any
network you choose.
PLANNING YOUR STRATEGY
Getting on social media is the easy part; it’s the follow-through that tends to trip
people up. It doesn’t matter how pretty your Facebook page looks if you fail to post
content to it. It also doesn’t matter how many followers your page has if none of them
are potential customers. Obviously, you will need to build a Facebook profile. However, there’s more to consider than which image to upload as your cover picture. Below are a few of the most important considerations beyond page design to address:
Who are You Targeting? Do you know who your ideal customer is? This goes back
to Marketing 101. You should have a solid idea as to who you want to target. Whether
home mom, college student, or video
game enthusiast, you need to spend
time figuring out who you want to target. Once you know, you’ll be better
able to find them and create messages
lawyer, pet owner, foodie, stay-at-
senior citizen, teenager, bride-to-be,
your ideal customer is a man, woman,
that will resonate with them. Without
this vital information, you are setting
your business up for a struggle. With
it, you have the foundation of a social
How Will You Find Followers? A common mistake many businesses make is to buy
followers. For five bucks on Fivrr, you can find someone who will be happy to provide
you with several hundred followers. The problem with these followers is that, even if
they are real people, they are not targeted. If you’re a veterinarian in Midland, Texas,
what good does it do to have college students in New York, Chicago, Hong Kong, and
London following your Facebook page?
If you’ve already figured out who you want to target, finding followers becomes much
easier. If you have a small budget, consider running a few Facebook ads to get “likes.”
This is an inexpensive, targeted approach mentioned earlier. Need to attract women
ages 55 and above to your crochet shop in San Diego? Start with your shop’s ZIP code,
target women ages 55 and up, and enter “crochet,” “crocheting,” “needlepoint,” and
“knitting” as interests. Create a Facebook ad with a great graphic and a call to action
such as “Click LIKE if you love to crochet!” This is simple, but it can quickly result in
an audience that meets your criteria. They live in your community and love to crochet;
when they need new patterns or supplies, which shop will be at the top of their minds?
Yours thanks to your social media presence and consistent, relevant interactions.
What if you don’t have a budget for Facebook ads? Another technique is to interact
on Facebook pages that your targeted audience is likely engaged with. Many business pages allow users to post content, not just comment, on their pages. For example, a veterinarian might become involved with the local animal shelter’s page. You
could offer helpful suggestions in response to questions, talk about the importance
of neutering and spaying pets, post tips about keep pets safe during a thunderstorm,
and so on. Keep your posts informative and helpful and avoid the temptation to blatantly promote yourself. Users will recognize your professionalism and grow to trust
you. Many will follow you without prompting.
What will you post? Don’t wait until you have a following to start posting content to
your Facebook page. While it may seem counterintuitive to post content to a nonexistent audience, you need to give users a reason to follow you. They’ll check out
your page to see what you’re all about. If you don’t have any interesting content on
your page, why would they want to follow it?
So, what should you post? Again, go back to your ideal customer. What is
your ideal customer interested in? If your ideal customer is a video game
enthusiast, you might post reviews of the latest video games, cheats, and
tips. If your ideal customer is a bride-to-be, you might post wedding planning tips, photos of gorgeous wedding gowns, wedding photography or
makeup tips, or healthy eating ideas. Use your ideal customer and his or
her interests as a guide.
Many businesses find it helpful to
follow a theme. For example, an
auto repair shop might designate
Mondays as “Muffler Mondays”
and post content related to exhaust leaks or discounts on muffler repairs. Tuesdays could be
It’s also important to post content that your ideal customers
will “like,” share, or comment on. Cute pictures, interesting
infographics, controversial questions, caption contests, and
polls are all good ways to drive engagement. Not only does
engagement affect whether or not your future posts will
eventually show up in their news feeds, but their liking, sharing, and commenting exposes your posts to their social media followers, some of whom could be potential customers.
As these secondary people see your post, they, too, might
like, share, or comment on it. From there, their followers will
see it. This is how social media spreads.
HOW OFTEN SHOULD YOU POST? After deciding what
to post, how often should you post? Set a realistic schedule that you can accomplish and take care not to overdo
it. You might start with one or two posts a day. No matter
what you determine will be best for your business, try to
post consistently as your followers will eventually begin to
look forward to your posts.
As enthusiastic as you may be about starting your
Facebook page, be careful not to over post or over
promote. Social networking users use sites like Facebook to hang out with
their buddies, goof off, relax, and occasionally find solutions to their problems. If they’ve trusted you enough to allow you into their inner circles,
they may tolerate the occasional exclusive offer (and even expect them),
but they won’t tolerate an endless barrage of self-promotion. Use Facebook to share useful information, educate, answer questions, and continue
building trust with your followers
SHOULD YOU OUTSOURCE SOCIAL MEDIA
OR MANAGE IT IN-HOUSE?
Creating and managing social media sites is a big task. Not only must you
create content such as blog posts or status updates on a regular, if not daily,
basis, you also need to be available to respond to other social media users.
HOW MUCH TIME DOES IT TAKE TO MANAGE SOCIAL MEDIA?
An IntersectionConsulting.com infographic posted on Social Media Today breaks a
typical social media workflow down into 11 components and then assigns an estimated amount of time per week for each component as follows:
• Updates - 4 hours
• Blogging (planning, writing, and publishing posts) - 7.5 hours
• Finding and planning content to share - 4 hours
• Curating and sharing content - 2.5 hours
• Interacting with your followers - 4 hours
• Monitoring brand mentions - 2.5 hours
• Developing promotions, contests, ads, and other campaigns - 2.5 hours
• Community growth - 2.5 hours
• Managing and adjusting strategy - 2.5 hours
• Analytics - 2.5 hours
• Resolving and mitigating unexpected problems - 4 hours
The workflow above requires about 38 and a half hours each week. While your
social media strategy may be more or less labor intensive, this sample workflow
highlights an important question: Where will you find an extra 38 hours each week?
As a small business owner, you already wear plenty of hats, is social media manager
one of them?
While some businesses may spend 38 hours on social media, they’re in the minority.
According to a survey from Vertical Response, most businesses spend less than 10
hours per week on social media and only 7 percent spend more than 21 hours per
week. This same survey reveals that the most time-consuming activities were finding and posting content followed by learning and education, analytics, and following
the competition. The least time-consuming activity involved answering questions on
THE IN-SOURCING VS. OUTSOURCING DILEMMA
As you consider the amount of work a typical social media workflow requires, you
may conclude that you simply don’t have enough hours in the day to run your business and social media. The next question begs an answer: If not you, then who?
If you have employees or are willing to hire a part-time social media manager,
it may make sense to manage social media in-house. A few of the advantages
and disadvantages of keeping social media in-house include the following:
• Employees understand the business and its customers
• It’s generally easy for employees to take photos throughout the workday
• Adding social media responsibilities could add interest to an otherwise mundane job
• Employees are pressed for time and may not prioritize social media
• Though they may be active social media users, employees may be ill-equipped to
manage business pages
• Employees may spend too much time managing social media to the detriment of
their other duties
• The cost of a part- or full-time social media manager may be more than the cost
Many of these disadvantages can be overcome with training, planning, and clear priorities. Digital agencies
and consultants often offer social media management services to small businesses for a flat
monthly fee. Outsourcing can also avoid many
of the disadvantages of in-sourcing while pro-
viding you with consistent and reliable social media services. But outsourcing also
has a few disadvantages including a potential lack of authenticity (after all, no one
knows your business better than you do) and concerns about who will address issues
that customers raise on social media. If you do opt to outsource social media, you’ll
want to discuss any concerns you may have with the agency to ensure that nothing
is left to chance.
The decision to do it yourself or outsource social media is up to you. If you
lack the time, skills, or interest in doing it yourself, then outsourcing is probably the way to go. On the other hand, if you love the idea of interacting with
your customers in the digital realm, you could find that managing your own
social media efforts is extremely rewarding.
SHARING ENGAGING CONTENT
You’ve selected a social networking platform, planned your basic strategy,
and have assigned someone the task of managing your social media efforts.
Assuming that you’ll be handling social media in-house, the next step is to
share engaging content. We’ve touched on what to post briefly including the
importance of sharing content that will encourage engagement. Here are a
few more ideas for finding and creating content to share on social media.
CREATE A SOCIAL MEDIA CALENDAR
Before you start your search for content to share, it’s helpful to have a basic plan in
place that addresses the type of content to post and when to post it. With five business days in the week, you could create five categories (one for each day) and rotate
through them each week. For example, a personal trainer might focus on abs on
Mondays, leg exercises on Tuesday, the gluts on Wednesday, cross-training on Thursday, and nutrition on Friday. A simple system like this ensures that you always know
where to start. Your followers may even begin to anticipate your posts based on the
consistency you show week after week.
In addition to creating a schedule based on the categories you want to cover, you
may also want to identify the different types of content you’d like to share such as:
• Insights and tips
• Thought-provoking questions
• Blog posts
• Relevant reports, statistics, trends, and news items
• Promotions (coupons, contests, and other campaigns)
Just as you rotate through
the various categories each
week, you may want to ro-
tate through the various content types. This adds variety
while keeping your messaging consistent. For example,
if you’ve decided to focus on
abs each Monday, one Monday you might share an abdominal exercise you can do
when sitting at the desk. The
next week you might post a funny cartoon that pokes fun at six-pack abs. The next
week you might share some research that highlights the benefits of strengthening
your core. The following week you might post a promotion for people who want to
tone their abs in time for beach weather.
By identifying categories and content types, you can quickly create a content calendar.
SHARING INTERNAL CONTENT
If you are already blogging and have recently expanded into Facebook or some other
social network, you already have a great deal of internal content that you could tap
into. It’s also likely that many of your social media followers have not discovered
your blog yet, making sharing both new and older blog posts an excellent choice.
Again, you’ll need variety, so don’t rely solely on sharing links to your blog. Otherwise,
there’s no real reason for people to follow you on Facebook or Twitter as they could
just subscribe to your blog or visit it manually.
What other materials have you created for your business? Look through old newsletters, special reports, and fact sheets to see if you could repurpose any of that
content. Remember, you don’t need to share an entire newsletter or special report,
though you could. You may be able to pull some interesting fun facts from each and
spread them out over the course of an entire month.
In addition to repurposing existing content, you’ll likely want to create original content, too. While your posts should be well written, you don’t need to be a writer to
create interesting content for your social media sites. When you’re planning your
editorial calendar, brainstorm ideas for blog posts, tips, and thought-provoking questions. You may be surprised at how much you have to say. Refer back to this list
whenever you are at a loss for words and start writing.
It’s not just words, think visually! Snap photos related to your business and
share periodically. Photos help make your business real. Short videos are
also fun. If you will be featuring recognizable people in your photos or videos, make sure to get a signed model release form.
Another form of internal content
involves coupons and promotions. There are various strategies you could use including
building Facebook tabs, creating an online coupon, or holding
some sort of contest. You could
also use Facebook tabs as a lead
generation strategy. If all of this
sounds complicated, it doesn’t
need to be. Services such as
GroSocial.com make it easy to
create campaigns, promotions,
and lead generation forms.
SHARING EXTERNAL CONTENT
Not only can you share your own content, you can also share external content such as
YouTube videos, interesting blog posts written by others, recent press releases covering an item of interest to your followers, research, and more. Naturally, you’ll want
to give credit where credit is due and not infringe on anyone’s copyright. When you
copy and paste a link into Facebook’s status box, Facebook will automatically find a
thumbnail and include a short summary of the linked content. There’s room at the top
for you to add a comment if desired.
Whether you’re planning to share internal or external content, consider prescheduling some of it. You can preschedule posts directly on Facebook by writing the post as
normal and then clicking the icon that looks like a clock. From there, you can specify
the exact date and time your post should be published. You can do the same for Twitter; however, you’ll need to use a third party tool to schedule Tweets.
With a content calendar and scheduling tool, you could theoretically spend
a few hours at the beginning of the month planning, finding, and scheduling the majority of your content. This can be a real timesaver for busy small
business owners. For example, when searching for interesting YouTube videos to share related to your niche, you may find half a dozen great ones.
Instead of copying and pasting their links into a spreadsheet so you’ll remember them later, simply space them out over the course of a month or
two by using the scheduling tool.
Making the decision to jump off the fence and onto the social media bandwagon is
a big decision that could help grow your business. Numerous options exist including
blogging, microblogging, Facebook, and photo-sharing sites as well as niche networks and blogs. No matter where you choose to start, you’ll need a plan, and you
may need to get external help. One place to seek help is GroSocial.com. GroSocial
offers a suite of affordable tools for small business owners to create attractive Facebook and Twitter profiles, Facebook tabs, opt-in forms, coupons, and promotions as
well as manage content and much more. Sign up for a free trial account today and
build a social presence with confidence!
EMarketer: Social Networking Reaches Nearly One in Four Around the World
ComScore Reports: April 2013 U.S. Smartphone Subscriber Market Share
USA Today: Digital Tools Play Big Role in Small Business Growth
Wikipedia: List of Social Networking Websites
Social Media Workflow (Infographic)
Vertical Response: Survey Shows Small Businesses Investing More in Social Media,
But Juggling Resources