The Small Business Owner’s Dilemma
Owning a business is hard work. On any given day, you’re being pulled in a million different directions, you’re exhausted after staying up way later than humans should, and you’re strapped for cash.
For many, running your own business can feel like raising children. It can mean great sacrifice and unbelievable stress on your mind and body. Why do you do it? You get to do something you love, call the shots in your own life, and watch something you created grow into a successful entity.
Every business owner wants to see his or her business thrive. You may be thinking that you’ve exhausted every avenue to generate new leads and, ultimately, sales. You may have started a Facebook fan page and grown tired of the time and effort it takes to manage it, or grown frustrated that your tweets are only reaching a handful of people on Twitter. With results like these, you may wonder if spending time, energy and money on social media is worth it for small businesses, after all.
Is Social Media Worth It for Small Businesses?
According to a 2015 survey by Manta, 34 percent of the businesses surveyed spent more time on social media networks than they had in 2014. Fifty-five percent of the business said they had been using social media for customer engagement and lead generation. However, even with all of that focus on social media campaigns, and investing those resources, 59 percent said they had no return on investment. But what about the other 41 percent? What were these businesses doing differently?
Where to Be in Social Media
It has been hammered into the ground that the first rule of business is, “Location, location, location.” The same rule applies to social media. Be where your audience is. Different social media networks make more sense for different businesses. Knowing your audience and how they use social media is key for using social media to its full potential in an efficient way.
For example, a clothing company targeting teenagers may not want to limit its social media marketing efforts to Facebook. Facebook is used by an estimated 71 percent of the global internet-using population, so there is almost certainly significant potential there with teenagers and parents alike. However, many teenagers are migrating to visual social networking sites like Instagram and SnapChat, and should be considered!
As another example, a local mechanic may not get much traction with a site like Pinterest, which is often called an “aspirational” social network, where people pin things they like and want to see, eat, do, make or buy. Pinterest users likely do not think of this site when searching for a mechanic to fix their car in a crisis, but rather do a Google search for the local mechanic near them as if the search engine were a directory, much like the old Yellow Pages phone books. In this instance, Google+ Local listings (which double as social media profiles) for the business make perfect sense.
(Side Note: Many people don’t immediately see the value of Google+ as a social network, which is completely understandable for many businesses in many verticals because of the low levels of social engagement on this network. However, Google+ is a Google-owned property, and they have consolidated local listings with the social profiles, so it can actually be a valuable SEO play more than social!)
When it comes to choosing the right social networking sites to spend time and money promoting your business, do the research on the demographics and behavior of the social network, and be selective at first until your available resources to dedicate to social media marketing increase.
Doing Social Media Well
Doing social media well can be a time issue. You don’t have time to sit on the computer posting relevant pages or engaging with customers all day. You have a business to run.
It's important to claim and optimize your presence in most major social networks, but how much time and activity you dedicate to each may vary by network - and chances are, you could benefit from a little help.
Many marketing agencies, large and small, have social media departments that can handle the task of running a social media campaign effectively, which can be daunting to small business owners by themselves. With a marketing expert in your corner, you can achieve a consistent brand voice and a marketing angle you may not otherwise have time for on your own.
The best approach is often to find a professional to run your social media efforts daily, but to keep working closely with them to avoid losing the personal touch and voice that you have with your customers. You, as a business owner, know your followers and repeat customers better than anyone. Your personal touch, in conjunction with a professional’s marketing knowledge is a social media force to be reckoned with.
Making Social Media Work for Your Small Business
The first step in making social media work is to define your goals, and determine your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). Do you want to get hundreds of page likes, or do you want to drive traffic to your website and generate leads? Deciding on your goals should center around the actions that actually help your business grow. You want to generate revenue, so how do you measure that definitively on your website?
In our article, “6 Commandments of Social Media: How to Do it Well and Measure KPIs That Actually Matter,” we give a high-level view of which social media KPIs matter to most businesses when determining your social media efforts’ return on investment (ROI), so you can continually optimize your social campaigns to get the most out of them. (If you’re still not sure where to start, contact us!) Metrics like engagement may mean much more for your business than page likes alone. Users can easily like a page and unfollow it, but if they’re commenting on and sharing your posts, it’s hard to deny your brand’s reach.
Even more valuable than visibility and engagement is when you can measure social media’s impact on your bottom line. If you measure conversions, leads, or sales on your website, you can track real business results back to each digital marketing channel – including social media – to determine how effective your efforts are.
Real-World Examples of Businesses Maximizing Social Media Efforts
The 41 percent of businesses in the Manta survey who reported social media success must be doing something right. Wizards don’t run those social media campaigns - people do. What do those businesses understand that others don’t? They understand their audiences, and they understand how to reach them, so they can spend their time and money most effectively.
Serve Socialites in Real Time
With the constant real-time stream of conversation, Twitter makes it easy to reach people in their times of need. In one example, Heather Physioc was running social media campaigns for the top cosmetology education website in the country connecting potential students with beauty schools in their area. The key to social media success was turning those followers into students who fill out the application to go to school and change their lives.
To achieve real-time social media success, she created the following Boolean query in TweetDeck: cosmetology OR “beauty school” AND think OR thinking OR want OR wanting OR consider OR considering. Instantly, the firehose of tweets was narrowed down to individuals who were expressing real intent and desire to attend beauty school. This allowed her to focus her limited time only on the people most likely to convert to student leads. She then reached out directly to each of these individuals to offer personal help finding schools near them, and answer all their questions about cosmetology education and careers. Also, when she sent links to content on the brand’s website, she included tracking parameters to be able to measure the success of these campaigns and continually hone them.
Ask Social Followers for Feedback
Another classic example of solid social work comes from Emerson Salon in Seattle in 2010. The salon used an integrated social media strategy which combined great website content, blogs, Twitter and Facebook. They shared the blogs about the latest salon trends, and provided links to their stylists’ social profiles, all while driving traffic back to their website to consume the content. They asked for feedback from social media followers about their services and about what clients wanted to read, which helped generate engagement and authenticity. Emerson used that feedback to tailor their services and future to their clientele. Because they developed a clear brand voice and knew their target audience, they were able to post interesting blog content and follow a clear strategy that made the most of their time on social media. Because of their efforts, they saw a 400 percent increase in revenue over two years, and 75 percent of those clients came from the Internet!
Choose Networks that Showcase Your Strengths
Tentacle Inbound client Santa Ynez Vacation Rentals, based in the California wine country of the Santa Ynez Valley, is a great example of truly understanding how their customers use social media to daydream about and plan their travel, and use that valuable knowledge to focus their time and energy on what matters most. With an extensive repertoire of exceptional photography at their fingertips for the luxury vacation rental homes they rent to travelers, they knew they had to get users excited about an incredible travel experience to draw them in.
With Twitter posts, even big, beautiful images sometimes get lost in the flash flood of 140-character tweets. Instead, the Santa Ynez Vacation Rentals team chose to prioritize visually enticing social networking sites like Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram to display breathtaking photos of its managed properties. With the slower pace of content consumption on these networks, and the ability to truly showcase the beauty of the homes and properties they manage, users are drawn into the brand’s website to learn more, view photo slideshows, learn about each home’s amenities, and even start planning their trip with sample vacation itineraries and Valley visitor information.
Social Media Can Work for Your Small Business
Making social media marketing successful for small businesses is definitely possible – even with limited time and resources – and can even be profitable with provable ROI. With strategic thinking and careful planning, even the busiest business owners can find a way to make social media work for them. Seek out professional social media marketing experts who can help you find the right social networking sites for your business, and develop a strategy that gets the most bang for your buck – and for your valuable time.
In a future article, we'll write more about what kinds of content to share on social networking sites in order to get the most traction and best results with your target audience. Stay tuned!