What is Social Media?
Social media is a phrase widely used over the last decade. People have started to use it vaguely to describe more or less any type of website, however; this is not the case. Let’s break it down and into layman’s terms to gain a better understanding.
The “social” side: Obviously this refers to interacting with other people, whether it be sharing information or receiving it from them.
The “media” side: This refers to a type of communication, for example, the internet.
So, from breaking the two terms down, we can now form a broad definition:
Social media are web-based communication tools that allow people to interact with others by sharing and consuming information.
Types of Social Media
There are various types of social media and not every single one may be relevant or functional for your business. Here are just a few of the popular ones.
• Facebook – Assuming you’ve not been living under a rock for the last ten years, you’ll know what Facebook is; a social networking website with over 2 billion users, that allows you to keep a friend base, post text, photographs, videos, locations and much more both publicly and privately via their messaging service.
• Twitter – A social networking micro-blogging service where you can publish short posts (140 characters) called tweets. Members can post tweets and follow other users’ posts. It also has a ‘trending’ section where you can see popular news being discussed by readers, plus its very own private messaging service. It’s easy to catch the Twitter-bug the first time your post gets a few retweets!
• Instagram – A social networking app (and now desktop site) for the sole purpose of taking pictures/videos and sharing them with your ‘followers’ publicly or privately. It also has a private messaging service.
• Pinterest – Imagine a big pin board, your favourite magazine, a pair of scissors and some pins. Pinterest is the virtual way of pinning ideas and inspirations to multiple ‘boards’ online. You can also ‘follow’ your favourite accounts.
• Snapchat – A mobile app where you can send pictures/videos to your ‘friends’ for up to 10 seconds before they disappear. It also has an in-app messaging service.
• Tumblr – A micro-blogging platform for creative self-expression. Users can write text posts, post pictures, ‘re-blog’ other people’s content and ‘follow’ their favourite accounts.
• You Tube – A website purely for video sharing.
• Flickr – A photo-sharing and hosting service where users can share ad explore each other’s photos.
• Linked In – A social platform for professionals to help users stay in contact with millions of like-minded users.
Is Social Media Effective for Small Businesses?
The answer is YES! Social media is an absolute must for any type of business. No business is too big or too small. If you’ve been running your business without any social media accounts, you’ve been missing out; big time. 47% of clients expect to be able to receive service from a company’s Facebook page, yet 42% of small businesses don’t use social media.
Here are some ways that appropriate social media use will increase your company’s popularity:
Spread the news! –
Posting online from your business’ account is the virtual version of handing out leaflets – except they don’t litter the street, clutter your bags or cost a fortune to print! They build name recognition and help your business begin to form a brand identity. You can track your accounts to see whether they are performing well. This is a brilliant way to improve growth for your small business.
Increase the traffic! –
Now I know that we very rarely wish for traffic - especially on a Monday morning, when we take a diversion to Costa to get a double espresso (extra shot (this one’s for you, Monday)) and consequently, are now running late to work – but in the world of social media and business; the more traffic the better! Share blogs! Promote any offers you have on! Share industry-related news! You will reap the benefits if you utilize it well.
You can start to track which social network posts drew people to your site and which, if any, led to direct lead generating or a purchase. With your social network dashboard, you can track which URLs drew the most attention. You may want the opening URL to take you straight to pages optimized for conversion as apposed to your homepage, such as contact forms, subscription forms or directly to a list of products.
Form YOUR community! –
This creates a network of people who enjoy your brand, what you post and are potential repeat customers. There are a variety of ways to do this such as getting customers to answer questions or share content of themselves giving an opinion on something relevant/with your product – people love to feel involved. If a customer question would benefit your new community, turn it into a blog post and invite others to share their experiences. Ideas like this should make them feel part of your community and ensure they come back time and time again.
How Do I Get Started?
The increased use of social media is giving your business yet another platform to promote itself online for very little investment. Time is the most significant cost when it comes to social media. Since most small business owners are snowed under with all aspects of keeping their business running, they don’t have a lot of time to be spending online and that’s a shame because they could be missing out on customers that could take their business to the next level.
You may want to consider creating a marketing plan and setting goals for social media, however, this may be difficult if you don’t have much knowledge on the subject. It is in this case that you should turn to experts in this area like us at MA Design, because, after all we do this for a living. We even offer social media master classes so that you can begin to understand how to use the platforms appropriately so you can reduce the learning curve and avoid wasting time.
1. Be present –
It is important to be active – and no I’m not talking about dragging yourself to the gym after work on a Monday – Small businesses need to be active and responsive to their customers on social media. You’d be surprised the number of potential clients who end up avoiding your company because your site hasn’t been updated in a few weeks/you haven’t replied to a few comments asking questions regarding your services.
2. Pick a time – Whilst I’m not expecting you to magic time out of your day to sit and think up quirky posts for your site – I’m sure you don’t even have time to do that anyway– it is important to allocate a time budget that fits into your schedule so that you can maintain that online presence I keep talking about. And stop thinking about this as ‘time wasted on social media’ – I’ve already emphasised the impact this could have on your business – It is too great to miss out on.
3. Create an approach – You’ll need to decide on different ways to use each of your social media sites. Will you be a communicator, provide an industry-related newsfeed or present a mix of business and personal information? Outline your approach and work on your goals before you get started.
4. Be consistent in your profile – Make sure that every single field in your profile is filled out and correct to ensure that you seem competent and efficient to your potential clients. Also it is just as important to maintain consistent information throughout all of your social media sites as this will aid in recognition, a broader reach and ongoing communication with the same contacts on different sites.
5. Observe your competitors – Sometimes this can be the best way to get started on a new social media site. See what’s working for them – maybe you could do it better? It is a good idea to ‘lurk and observe’ these other sites before setting your goals so that you can see what works for them in terms of traffic and then you can decide on your approach.
6. Use a dashboard! – Just to add to all the confusion of new social media sites – you should consider using a social media dashboard because it will be worth it in the long run. This will save you a lot time by allowing you to post on various sites with one click of a button. They will also allow you to set up alerts and skim activity quickly. It will smoothen out the social media process for you whilst you’re still getting your head around it. Some sites to consider are Hootsuite and TweetDeck.
Which Social Media Platform is Best For Your Company?
Who should use it: Absolutely anybody.
What to share: Various types of content, events and advertisements.
Post Frequency: Once or twice a day.
1. With its popularity, it's hard to find someone who's not on Facebook. The majority of your customers will be there and it’s a great way to target new audiences.
2. There are amazing insights that help users understand the best times to post and how many times your post has been viewed.
3. It is a powerful marketing tool via paid and unpaid posts.
With Facebook’s active users now hitting over 2 billion, it has high percentages (over 50%) of users in all gender and age diversities and is the biggest and arguably the most versatile social network. It’s a great starting point for any business, regardless of industry.
Who should use it: Everyone – from individuals to the largest multinational companies.
What to share: Post related industry-based articles that your follower-base may find of interest, post about your company and what it offers (not too much though – blog post coming soon on social media formula) and lead conversations by leading directly with brands and customers.
Post frequency: Multiple times per day.
1. The use of hashtags to boost your posts worldwide.
2. Multiple companies in the same industry to network with and observe.
3. You don’t have to get technical – 140 characters is just enough to get your point across. #shortandsweet
With well over 500 million active users, Twitter is a great way to connect with people across the globe. The key to making your voice heard is relevancy, personality and brevity. There are various tools that help spread the word about what you’re posting such as a ‘retweet’ or you can boost your posts by using hashtags - this will all be explained in the upcoming series of blog posts - #twitterpro.
Who should use it: Lifestyle, food, fashion, personalities and luxury brands.
What to share: Visual content including photographs, videos and boomerangs (a short video clip which reverses the video).
Post frequency: Once a day.
1. Visual posts are great to catch attention - did you know images are digested 50x faster than words?
2. The ‘explore’ page could gain you more followers and potential clients if you use it correctly.
3. The use of hashtags to expand your audience.
With a network of over 600 million active users, this little app is unlike others and can be fantastic if your company relies on an artistic niche. If not, it’s probably not for you. If you want to succeed on Instagram, it’s important that the person running your account has an eye for detail and basic photography skills.This will help to ensure your posts are of a high quality so that your followers will enjoy them and hopefully turn into potential clients. It is a good brand building tool if you have a decent following and you can implement the use of hashtags to boost your posts and expand your audience
Who should use it: Fashion, food, home, design, travel and DIY. Female audience of 4:1.
What to share: Creative, visual content.
Post frequency: Multiple times a day.
1. Again, visual posts catch attention and could generate 'pinners' into leads and clients.
2. Relatively low maintenance - as long as you have someone with a good artistic eye.
3. Pinterest is an inspirational social media account - if people are pinning your posts, they will probably want your services.
Pinterest differs from other social media sites and heavily favours in recent content, so ‘pinning’ and ‘re-pinning’ frequently is essential to maintaining a presence. With well over 150 million active users, 81% of these are female. It is heavily visually and more niche-orientated, so is not suitable for every business.
Although I’ve clearly not mentioned all social media sites, I’ve mentioned those most-useful to small businesses. There are, of course others that you may be keen to try but they may have minimal effect on a small business, for example Snapchat is a fantastic app for business but specifically for companies with followings in the millions.
Social media is absolutely, 100% relevant to small businesses. It is a free-small cost tool that could help you expand your business by gaining a wider audience if used correctly. There are various types of social media and these aren't suitable for all businesses as advised, but is your business and the
world internet is your oyster. It's time to start taking the online world seriously.
This is the first out of five posts in a series of social media-related pieces and should break novices in gently to the world of social media optimization. In the meantime, if you are a little overwhelmed and feel like you may need an expert’s advice, contact us here for a more in-depth review of your needs, to find out about a masterclass or for a quick chat about your business’ needs! Hopefully, by the end of this series you'll be a #socialmediapro.