As we approach year-end, there’s no avoiding the barrage of annual self-evaluation questions filling the small business owner’s busy brain: What could I have done to bring in more business? Did I do the right kinds of marketing through social media? And on and on!
The good news: While you’re trying to figure out the best way to reach your audience on social media, the marketers at social networking platforms are working to help you accomplish the same goals.
To make your next year in business even better (at least when it comes to marketing through social media), here are 10 essential tips and trends to increase engagement and strengthen your brand.
1. Know the Facts
Before you can decide which platforms deserve your full attention and which you just need a minimal presence on, you need to do your homework to see where your target market is spending their time. According to Pew Research:
- Roughly eight-in-ten online Americans (79%) use Facebook. More men than women use Facebook: 83% of online women and 75% of online men use it.
- Around one-third of online adults (32%) use Instagram; however, among the 18-29 age group, that number rises to 59%.
- Roughly one-quarter of online adults (24%) and 36% of those aged 18-29 use Twitter.
- About three in 10 online adults (29%) use LinkedIn. This site is most popular among college graduates and high-income individuals.
- Roughly three-in-ten online Americans (31%) use Pinterest. Nearly half of online women (45%) use it, compared to just 17% of online men.
2. It’s All About Photos and Videos
There’s overwhelming evidence showing social media posts with images and videos get more engagement than those without. In the recent Hootsuite 2018 Social Trends Survey, 46% of respondents say they’re already implementing social videos, with another 26% planning to start using them in 2018. Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat each have a live video format that’s wildly popular. But since social media users have tons of content to scroll through, you need to make the videos worth your customer’s time. Keeping them short, making them informative, and being funny are all ways to be share-worthy.
3. Try Ephemeral Content
It goes against all marketing logic, but content that lasts only a short time before disappearing is on the rise thanks to the popularity of Snapchat. According to Adweek, whether or not you understand the popularity of Snapchat, ephemeral content is here to stay. Because the content disappears, Snapchat users feel more urgency to check the platform frequently—a plus for digital marketers. Post coupons, QR codes and more promotions to create excitement about a new sale or extended store hours.
4. Create a Cliffhanger
TV shows leave viewers wanting more by creating cliffhangers. You can create your own cliffhanger by holding a contest with viewers posting their own images to be voted on. Tout a special of the week with secret codes that are only available on a certain platform. Or pique your social media followers’ interest by posting before-and-after images of your services—this works great for businesses ranging from dentists to interior designers to beauty salons. Offer a surprise reward such as a free gift or discount for spreading the word to friends on social media. If you’re just launching your business, you can leave visual clues on different platforms and have followers guess what kind of business you’re about to start.
5. Get Personal
Marketing through social media works best when you’re connecting on a personal level with your customers. Tell your entrepreneurial story by sharing the trials and tribulations of small business ownership. During the holidays, talk about your own struggles to find the right gifts or tell a touching family story your followers can relate to. Show the people behind your business and you’ll be rewarded with likes and loyalty.
6. Target Your Posts
Social media platforms know who’s doing what on their platforms, so make sure you’re using all the data available to target your efforts. User profiles make it easier for marketers to target material to viewers based on age, gender, education level, income, likes and location. Reach out to influencers on each platform and try telling a story to promote your business instead of doing a hard sell. Websites like co list the social media kings and queens who are already connected to the customers you’re trying to reach. Find out how many followers influencers in your industry have and see if you can strike a deal to partner up.
Twitter limits tweets to 280 characters, but you can get around this by “tweetstorming.” String a series of tweets together to form a longer thought (number the tweets to avoid confusion). You can tweetstorm by writing one tweet, then hitting “Reply” on the previous tweet, deleting your handle and writing the second tweet, and so on. There are also apps like Storm It available to do the work for you.
8. Use Both Paid Ads and Organic Posts
According to the Hootsuite 2018 Social Trends Survey, you’ll get more engagement by using both types of posts. While social networks are offering more advertising features, consumers are fighting back with ad blockers. eMarketer estimates that 41% of millennials will use ad blockers by the end of 2017. You must build real customer engagement on your social network sites to make sure you’re reaching users organically, too.
9. Listen In
One of the insights business owners have gained by marketing through social media is the advantages social media offers in terms of customer insights and gathering competitive intelligence. Instead of holding a focus group to find out what customers think of your business, you can get the same information by simply paying attention to what they’re saying on social media about you. (You can even find out what they really think of your competitors). You can also take a more proactive approach by conducting surveys or asking for feedback on new products and services.
10. Be Authentic
In this era of “fake news,” consumers are increasingly distrustful of big media outlets, government institutions, and large corporations. More and more, friends and neighbors influence whom to believe—especially when it comes to making purchasing decisions. Earn your customers’ trust and loyalty by demonstrating honesty and authenticity in your social media posts. When they trust you, they’ll share your posts with their friends, and your circle of influence will grow.