How does social media help grow my business?
(when it seems like such a time suck)
At this point, we all have opinions about social media, and a lot of them are negative. It's a waste of time. It fosters division and strife. It's a breeding ground for conspiracy theories. Can anything good come from social media?
Yes. Yes, it can.
For whatever reason, we tend to focus on the negative things social media brings, but it does have the ability to bring good and happier things into our lives. Besides the funny cat memes, it's a way we can re-connect with old friends, watch videos that bring a smile to our face, and learn how to fix things, like my dishwasher last summer.
Over 3.6 billion people used social media worldwide in 2020. (That's not a typo.) The people who track this kind of stuff project it to be 4.41 billion by 2025. Granted, not all 3.6 billion people are in your target audience—it's likely not even one percent is in your group. It's safe to say, however, that a large portion of your audience hangs out on social media at some point in their day.
But it's a massive time suck.
You're right. If you're not strategic, you might find yourself with a profile on every platform, and you'll spend a large chunk of your work week creating social media posts to "feed the beast." I recently read a report that said that almost half of small business owners spent 12 hours a week just on their social media content. That's a day and a half not doing what you love—your business.
Let me tell you straight away, spending all that time isn't necessary.
First of all, you don't have to be on every platform. You need to find the platform where your audience hangs out the most. And you don't have to post every day, either. I always encourage clients to find one platform and start there. Rock it, then consider adding a second one. For most businesses, I recommend you start with Facebook. It's the easiest to learn, the majority of your audience is already there, and it has really great metrics.
Side note: If you are a B2B company, you should really consider using LinkedIn. LinkedIn was created to build referral networks and is an excellent way to build awareness for and interest in your business. Many businesses are finding amazing success by focusing their B2B efforts over on LinkedIn instead of on Facebook or Instagram.
Also, posting every day is not necessary. It's okay only to post three times a week. But what if three times a week doesn't work for you right now? Then choose a number you can stick with, even if it's one post a week. Be consistent and deliver the best content you can. You're not going to stay at one post a week forever. This is just to get your momentum going.
I've learned that consistency beats infrequent posting every time. If you're consistent in your postings, your audience will grow. It'll take time, but you can grow your audience without spending half your life or your entire budget on social media.
Before we dive into all the things social media is great for, let's talk about what it absolutely blows at—sales. If you're looking to social media to get appointments booked or purchase stuff, you're barking up the wrong tree. For whatever reason, social media is not very good at converting to sales.
(Now, don't start barking at me because of all the referrals and leads you get off Instagram. I get it—IG can be an absolute beast if you have a strong following. But you have to post all. the. time. I'm exhausted thinking about how often people have to post every day to achieve those results. It's a lot. It's a full-time job. And almost 100 percent of the time, those high-end Instagrammers have teams that do the heavy lifting for them. For now, we're talking about really small businesses that can't necessarily afford to post 11 IG stories every day. )
Often, businesses will spend a lot of time, effort, and dollars building out their social media strategy, only to see very little return on that investment, causing them to become frustrated and extremely discouraged.
Now, I'm not 100 percent against social media advertising, either. There are instances when it is smart to boost a post or turn a post into sponsored content. Again, whenever I do encourage a client to pay for advertising on social media, we spend a few dollars, it is strategic. and part of a larger campaign. Save those big marketing dollars for something with a higher ROI, like emails.
As we'll discuss a little bit below, social media is really good at conversions to your email list. So, if you're smart (and I know you are!), you'll keep your social media focus on the things below, take your foot off the gas a little, and make sure social media is part of your overall marketing strategy—and not the only weapon in your arsenal.
Now that we've laid a bit of groundwork, let's discuss a few things about how social media can actually help your business. For the purpose of this article, I'll use Facebook as an example, but the principles apply across the social media landscape.
1. Increase awareness.
Social media is a great way to increase awareness for your business. Encourage your existing customers to like and follow you, so they will be aware of updates, sales, promotions, etc.
2. Establish you as an expert.
You do what you do because you enjoy it. And you're an expert at it. (Hey, if you've done it for a week, you probably know more about what you do than I do. Own your authority!) Social media is a great way to share your wisdom with your audience. Remember, even if you have something "everyone knows about," like a clothing shop, it's likely you know stuff your audience doesn't.
Think about the times you saw an article pop up in your news feed that made you say, "Wow! I did not know that!" And then you shared it with your audience. If you can, find some of those "truth bombs" in your field and create those moments for your people.
3. Stay top of mind.
One of the main goals in all of our marketing and communications efforts is to stay top of mind with our customers. We want them thinking about us, so when they have a need we can solve, they think about us first. A great way to remain top of mind (in addition to emails) is through social media. We need all our channels working together, so our customers remember us.
4. Increases website traffic.
One of the biggest complaints I hear about social media is that you have to create all. that. content. And really, you don't have to create as much as you think you do. Instead of thinking about the content you produce for your website, emails, social media, brochures, etc., think about your content strategy. The blogs you post to your website become content for your emails, your brochures, and even your social media.
When you create a blog post, share it on your social media page. (Boom! One piece of social media content done and ready to be scheduled!) Your audience has to go to your website to read the article. And from there, they can learn more about you and potentially even make a purchase or visit your shop.
5. Learn about your audience.
As you build your social media audience, you can use this as your very own focus group. If you've ever wondered if you should carry a new product, run with a certain campaign, or whatever, you can get your buyers' opinions. Create a poll, link to a survey, consider offering a prize to a participant for giving their feedback. Your social media platform is a great way to engage your customers and get their opinion on what they want and need from you. And who doesn't enjoy giving an opinion on a new product or service? Your audience will love that you care about their opinions.
Social media platforms allow you to learn more about your demographic audience, other things they are interested in, and other pages they follow. This can help you craft your posts and fine-tune the messaging you create for your target audience.
6. Manage a crisis.
Sometimes bad things happen. Maybe you have to close up early due to a power outage. Maybe a shipment came in damaged, so you can't fill the orders as you intended. Your social media is an excellent way to stay ahead of a potential PR disaster.
Think back to the start of the coronavirus pandemic. Cities were shutting down left and right. People were looking to business profiles on social media, Google My Business, and websites to see if they were open on limited hours or alternate ways to do business. Social media can help you stay on top of a crisis.
7. Keep your eye on the competition.
You can learn a lot about your competition by watching their social media channels. If you're not already doing so, you should be. This is a great way to see what they're doing, how their audience engages with them, and learn from them and adapt to your situation.
8. Stay on top of market trends.
Follow industry leaders, vendors, and the like in your area. Social media can help you stay ahead of the curve on what's happening in your business world. Are there new trends that will influence buying habits in the next six months? How can your business adapt in light of seismic shifts like the coronavirus pandemic? You can learn a lot by following others in your field on social media. (And sometimes share their stuff with your audience.)
9. Targeted advertising.
One thing that social media does really well is level the playing field. Mom and Pop shops can truly compete against bigger regional and even national brands. How? Ad dollars. It can be cost-prohibitive for a small business to develop a TV ad and purchase air time. Same with radio and magazine ads. And besides, how do you know that your audience will even see your ad in the first place? I like to call that "buckshot advertising." You fire off an ad and pray that someone in your target audience will see it.
Advertising on a platform like Facebook allows you to qualify the people who will see your ad. They may be people who have similar likes and interests to those already following your page. Or you may go after specific neighborhoods or other demographic information. With social media advertising, you narrow the search and spend your ad dollars more effectively. I like to call this "sniper advertising." This type of advertising is laser-focused and directed to those who are more likely to do business with you. Higher ROI = happier you.
If you sell your products online, retargeting comes into play in social media advertising. Almost 70 percent of online shopping carts are abandoned. These are people who like your business, thought about buying, but for whatever reason, didn't finish the sale. With retargeting (and a little Facebook Pixel action), you can make sure those who abandoned a shopping cart see your ad and quite possibly the product they almost purchased.
10. Reporting and analytics.
Facebook is the absolute best at giving you analytics. You can see when your audience is online, what posts had the most engagement, and so on. Reporting gives you real-time analytics on how your content is performing. Back when we just had snail mail, it would be months before we could truly say how a campaign performed. Now? You can know (and adapt!) in minutes.
Social media can be a time suck, and it can sometimes feel like it's just not worth the effort. When you manage your output and create strategies, it can really become a channel that works for you and give you more insight into your customer than you could have thought possible. Don't give up! (But don't spend all day there, either!)