7 Ways Your Small Business Can Market Better on Social Media

Social Media is often touted as a fix-all marketing wonder channel. And, with its ease of use, there’s no excuse for businesses not to at least experiment with that channel.

Justin Sachs of the Young Entrepreneur Council points out:

One of the best features social media marketing has for businesses today is its low barrier to entry. Gone are the days where a business is required to spend thousands of dollars on advertising to reach its prospect. You can now reach your audience spending as little as five dollars per week!

And not only is social media easy to access, research has shown that social media can be a truly powerful marketing force.

A 2017 study by Social Media Examiner reveals that 92% of marketers surveyed feel that social media is important to their business. 88% of those marketers said that social media has increased exposure and 78% of marketers listed increased traffic for their business (among other benefits like generating leads and increased sales).

But, like any other channel, social media is only as useful as the strategy behind it. For many business owners and marketers, figuring out what content to post on social media is a bit of a puzzle. We’ve heard many business owners and marketers ask “How do I use social media for my business?” or “How do I start social media marketing?”

Let’s remove some of the mystery.

We’ve curated a list of 7 best social media content practices that will help your business engage customers, promote your business, and get the most from its social media efforts.

1. Establish your audience.
2. Honor your brand voice.
3. Leverage content across multiple platforms.
4. Don’t bite off more than you can chew.
5. Create a content calendar.
6. Capture attention with images.
7. Offer content of value.

1. Establish Your Audience

When creating content for social media the first question you need to ask is, “Who is my audience?”

Determining your audience will guide your choices on what kind of content you should share. (Hint: you should share content that your audience will value!)

In our previous article, “A Mile in Their Shoes: Framing Your Content Marketing Strategy” we wrote:

…the best way to excel in content marketing is to give your target audience something they’ll find valuable. Knowing who they are is the first step. The next is trying to put yourselves in their shoes, and then creating something that would mean something to you in that position.

If your business has already done its due diligence in establishing its brand, you should already have a good idea of who your audience is. So, as in all major business decisions, refer back to your brand if you need some extra guidance. Then ask yourself – what does my audience want?

Then give it to them with thoughtful, well-written content.

It’s important to remember that you simply can’t be everything to everyone. Trying to capture too broad of an audience is not only a vast undertaking, it’s also an exercise in futility. Focus on building strong relationships with a niche audience instead.

Sara McGuire explains in her article “Why It’s Worth Writing for a Niche Target Audience,”

…content written for an audience that already has a large following needs to compete extra hard with existing content, and content that will soon exist. Content created for an audience with less content is more likely to be seen in the first place.

While less competition is a compelling argument in and of itself, there’s an even better reason to write for niche audiences. Writing for a smaller niche allows you to focus on content that resonates strongly with that group since you’re not diluting your message trying to achieve broader appeal.

Whoever your audience happens to be, keep them in the forefront of your mind whenever you plan content.

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2. Honor Your Brand Voice

When planning your content, it’s vital that your posts remain true to your brand. Consistent branding is essential to building trust – especially in the social media realm where it’s presumed that interactions will be more genuine and less rehearsed. Carol Barash, founder and CEO of Story2 points out:

Your brand is the accretion of these fleeting but memorable moments, when your company speaks to customers through the stories of our shared human experience. To succeed in social media, you need to maintain a cliché-free zone. Real people don’t respond to marketing lingo. Young people arrive suspicious, and will click out the instant they sniff anything inauthentic.

So, make sure the content you present is authentic. The content you create should jive with your business’s point of view and be shared in a consistent, recognizable voice. As we said previously,

Customers can’t get to know (and trust) your business if they don’t have the opportunity to experience your brand in a consistent manner.

So, each and every interaction on social media (whether it’s Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest or LinkedIn) should maintain the same brand presence your audience has already grown to know. If you need a little help determining what your brand voice is, check out the Content Marketing Institute’s5 Easy Steps to Define and Use Your Brand Voice.”

3. Leverage Content Across Multiple Social Media Platforms

You can reach a wider audience and gain more views by sharing your content across a variety of social media platforms. Many marketers start by asking,”What are the best social media marketing sites for business?”

Even though Facebook and Twitter seem to dominate the social media landscape, they are not a one-size-fits-all solution. The best social media platform for your business is the platform where you can best reach your audience.

Multiple social media platforms exist for a reason – each platform is unique, meets a specific need for its users and may attract a specific audience. Facebook is not Pinterest, and Twitter is not LinkedIn. Savvy marketers will focus on the social media platforms where their target audience spends their time.

Cathy McPhillips of the Content Marketing Institute recommends:

…you need to have a dedicated plan for every channel you intend to distribute social media content on. Just because you can share something on every channel there is, doesn’t mean that you should.

Customize the content you distribute on each channel. Consider what messages are appropriate for each channel and create a message you think will resonate with that specific audience. Think about the kind of informational needs people in this channel have and how you can help.

Once you’ve determined which social media channels are most valuable to you, consider the best way to frame your content for that particular channel. McPhillips suggests that you ask yourself what your business goals are for being on that specific channel, what action you want to see from your audience, what type of content this audience is seeking, and what tone is most appropriate.

Answering questions like these will tell you how you can best package your content for each social media platform. This is true of unique, discrete posts as well as repurposed content. After all, you’ll want to share your best content across multiple channels. Dan Shewan of WordStream reminds us:

The best content takes time, effort, and skill to produce. Even if you’re giving away your best content for free (which you should be), that doesn’t mean you can’t get a greater return on investment from your content. This is why so many businesses repurpose content from one format into several.

Knowing how to frame that content appropriately increases the chances that it will be well received. Reframe your content to help it align with each platform’s strengths for the best benefit.

4. Don’t Bite Off More Than You Can Chew

Social media marketing is largely free. “So, shouldn’t I want to be on as many social media platforms as possible to increase my exposure?” I hear you ask. The answer is yes. And also no.

Remember that time is money. And social media, while it may seem free, accrues its actual cost based on how many hours you spend managing it. Danica Benson, Marketing Communications Manager at RivalIQ explains,

Planning, creating, scheduling social media content and having conversations with potential customers takes time. If you sign up for every social media channel under the sun, you will be spreading yourself too thin and your content will perform poorly.

The cost of trying to do too much, and failing, is too high. A poorly managed social media experience will do more harm than good to your business.  Customers lose faith in businesses with dead social media accounts. Jayson DeMers describes this as a fatal social media mistake:

The only thing worse than continuing to post without incorporating feedback is not posting at all. To stay afloat in social media, or to build a gradual audience, you need to post on a consistent basis—Facebook and LinkedIn should see you popping in at least once a day, while faster-paced platforms like Twitter should see multiple posts a day. Without this level of commitment, your followers will quickly forget about you and move on to more active brands.

Be selective about which platforms you choose to participate in. Only maintain a social media presence on channels where your efforts will serve your audience and your business the best.

5. Create a Content Calendar

Managing a social media content campaign can seem overwhelming if you don’t plan ahead. Sitting in front of your keyboard each day wracking your brain for new content ideas can be time-consuming and frustrating.

So what’s the alternative? A content calendar.

As we wrote previously:

It’s very tough, especially for teams, to leverage content marketing if it’s done randomly. Plan in advance and create an editorial calendar to help you and others. Calendars are not sexy, but they do help. For example, we used to post questions randomly on the crowdSPRING Facebook fan page, in an effort to better understand our fans and customers. We found that we repeated questions and didn’t do a good job creating a series of questions that built on one another. So, we created an editorial calendar that we update regularly. It has two weeks of questions, one question per day – and we’re doing a much better job today because of the calendar.

Create an overarching strategy with an accompanying schedule to take the frustration and guesswork out of the day-to-day management of your posts. Lindsay Kolowich of Hubspot relates:

Scrambling for social content is not a new phenomenon…. And it’s really hard to get any meaningful amount of work done when you have the next social media update looming over your head every 30, 60, or 90 minutes. It all moves so fast that you might periodically feel a case of the vapors coming on, which is why pre-scheduled social media content should be your new best friend.

Check out Hubspot’s Social Media Content Calendar Template here to start building your own content calendar.

Pro-Tip: Work smarter, not harder by dovetailing your content with topics that are already on your agenda. With less effort, you can capitalize on ideas that are fresh and relevant to your business.

6. Capture Attention with Content Images

Images make every piece of content more clickable. A study by Chute and Digiday reveals that visual content performs an average of 4.4 times better than text-only content. And Social Media Examiner reports that photos on Facebook have an astounding 87% engagement rate.

The next-most engaging post type received a meager 4% engagement rate in comparison.

These numbers are too compelling to ignore. You should incorporate images into your posts whenever appropriate. But, don’t just slap any old photo on your content. Give your image choices the same care you give the rest of your content strategy.

Ask yourself – what is the most appropriate image for this content? Stock photo? Product photo? Candid, cartoon or infographic? You can find great stock photos at sites like Unsplash or Pexels. Ideally, you should provide your own product photos and candids.

Wherever you acquire your photos make sure to name them with appropriate targeted keywords to optimize their SEO impact.

7. Offer Content of Value

Invest in your audience by providing valuable content and they will invest their time/money in you. Quality content builds trust between your business and your audience by showing that you are willing to share something of value for free. Mike Wolfe of Smart Bug Media shares,

People become social media followers and fans of an organization because they trust that the content provided (the posts they will see in their daily feed) is both reliable and relevant to them.

Obviously, knowing your audience is the first step in determining what valuable content is. Your content’s value is measured by how useful it is to that audience. And, remember that “value” doesn’t only refer to promotions, discounts, and coupons. Informational content has great value as well – assuming it’s information that your audience will find interesting or useful.

We explain in a previous post:

Instead of focusing solely on relevant search phrases and headlining best practices, think about how you can best be of service and appeal to the people for whom your content is intended. Think about how you and your brand can make their lives better or easier…

By all means, make sure you’re optimized and measured every step of the way, but if you want your content marketing to succeed, put the people in your audience before the numbers that represent them. Everything else will follow.

For more specific content creation guidelines, see this Checklist to Creating Valuable Content from the Content Marketing Institute.

Social media is too valuable a tool to leave your content creation to chance. Marketers and consumers alike agree that social media impacts their business interactions. (An Ambassador study shows that 71% of customers who experience a positive social media interaction are likely to recommend that brand to others!) Follow these 7 tips and you’ll be well on your way to reaping all the benefits that social media marketing can offer.

So, don’t let the power of social media pass your business by. Follow these 7 tips and you’ll be well on your way to reaping all the benefits that social media marketing has to offer.

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