Making Social Media Work for Your Small Business

How to Make Social Media Work for Your Small BusinessThis isn’t going to be one of those posts that tells you to pull together a cross-functional team to determine how to write persona-specific high converting posts or espouses a complex social listening strategy so you can discern the most engaging content. This article is written for small business owners who do everything from accounting to strategic planning. While the principles outlined here will work for every size of business and organization, I have paid careful attention not to make recommendations that would be too time-consuming for a small business to reasonably implement.

It seems far too many small businesses get on social media because that’s what the cool kids are doing – and who doesn’t want to be like the cool kids?! The truth is, doing social media because that is what everyone else is doing, or that’s the advice you have got from a self-proclaimed social media guru, could be detrimental to your business’s growth.

Most businesses closely monitor and adjust their marketing and sales activities, but when it comes to social media, they often fail to apply the same rigor. Social media can be an important component of your marketing strategy, but like the rest of your marketing strategy, it needs to be planned out and tied to your overall business objectives. If your social media is not helping advance your business objectives, you are wasting valuable time and energy.

In this post, I’ll help you avoid one of the most common pitfalls of social media marketing and walk you through how to tie your social media activities to core business objectives, assign a purpose to each post, and use key performance indicators (KPIs) to home your social media activities and squeeze the maximum ROI or of the time you invest.

Strategic Level: Tie Social Media Activities to Advancing Core Business Objectives

[three-fifths-first]When I am helping a small business owner plan out their social media strategy, I always start by asking, “what are your business or marketing objectives?” Far too often the answer is something along the lines of “to drive sales” or “bring in more revenue.” Of course. Every business exists to make money – that’s a given – but successful businesses have defined their key objectives and plotted a course to achieving those objectives.

A few core business objectives social media can be well-suited to help you achieve are:[/three-fifths-first]

[two-fifths]Avoid a common #SMM pitfall: make sure your social media efforts help advance a core business objective. #SmallBusiness Share on X[/two-fifths][clearfix]

  • Building brand awareness
  • Creating brand advocates
  • Enhancing public relations
  • Generating leads
  • Driving sales

Once you have identified which core business objectives you are going to use social media to help you achieve, set up SMART goals to keep yourself focused.

Using SMART Goals to Accomplish Your Core Business Objectives

My favorite kind of goal is a SMART one. Whether you are a seasoned pro, or new to the concept, SMART goals are one of the most powerful tools I have found to ensure your social media activities are helping drive your business forward.

SMART stands for:

  • Specific – Your goal should be narrow and well-defined.
  • Measurable – Your goal must be something that can be quantitively measured. Thanks to a myriad of analytics tools, it’s not hard to measure your social media activities.
  • Achievable – It is good to be ambitious, people tend to give up on goals they cannot realistically achieve.
  • Relevant – Your goals should not exist in a vacuum. Make sure individual SMART goals are relevant when you look holistically at your business’s objectives.
  • Time-bound – Set a timeframe over which you will measure your goal.

An Example SMART Goal

Heartstrong Coffee a new coffee shop in a revitalizing neighborhood and they need to generate brand awareness to bring in new customers. A good SMART goal for them would be:

Over the next quarter, we will add 100 new fans on our Facebook page.

Why this is a good SMART goal for Heartstrong Coffee:

  • Specific: We know exactly what Heartstrong Coffee is going to do – add fans on Facebook.
  • Measurable: They have quantified what it takes to achieve success – add 100 fans.
  • Achievable: In the last 6 months, Heartstrong Coffee has added about 30 new fans each month. To achieve this goal, they need to add just over 30 fans per month.
  • Relevant: A handful of customers mentioned they heard about Heartstrong Coffee on Facebook and decided to stop by and give them a try – so Facebook has shown itself to be a useful tool in bringing in customers. Adding more fans will mean a bigger reach for their posts.
  • Time-bound: Heartstrong Coffee is going to measure their success over three months in the upcoming quarter.

Once social media activities have been securely fastened to core business objectives, it is time to focus on the tactics of creating posts which help you accomplish those objectives.

Tactical Level: Creating Social Media Posts That Work Hard for You

When was the last time you had a really good conversation? What made that conversation memorable? Was it because you learned something new, heard an entertaining story, or got inspired to try something new? Good conversations happen because there’s a purpose behind them. The speaker understood the audience and gave them content that was meaningful to them. Your social media posts should be no different.

Posting with a Purpose

If you want to create an engaging social media post, give it one of these purposes:

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Did you know used coffee grounds are good fertilizer? Neither did I until I saw that on a Facebook post from a coffee shop. This is a great example of an informative post which provided me with some actionable advice to keep my houseplants[/one-fourth-first]
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Life can be way too serious at times. Give your fans a laugh or brighten their day with entertaining content. The Internet is littered with stories about brands trying to be funny and really missing the mark; if humor is not your thing find other ways to entertain your followers.[/one-fourth]
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Ignite something within your audience to get them thinking differently. Whether that is a different perspective or just something you personally find inspirational, giving your followers a point of view or a message is thought-provoking can really help you to stand out from[/one-fourth]
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The final post purpose is one that’s all about your business. When you post to persuade, your goal is to convince your fans to take action – it can range from downloading a white paper, to signing up for an email list, to buying something.[/one-fourth][clearfix]

If you are looking for a great in-depth article on posts purposes and the type of content you can create to support those posts purposes, I highly recommend this article from the good folks over at Buffer.

We have covered the strategic side of social media – aligning it with core business objectives, and we have discussed giving each post a purpose to ensure your content is meaningful. So now it is time to get on Facebook and tell everyone how great you are and that your product or service is the best, right? Not so much.

The 80/20 Rule of Social Media

Facebook Profile on an iPhoneIf you want to avoid alienating your social media followers, 80 percent of your posts should not discuss your brand, products or services, or be sales-focused. Rather, 80 percent of your posts should provide your fans with useful, helpful or informative information. Your goal with this content is to get your fans engaged in a conversation or sharing the content with their friends. While it may seem as if you are missing an opportunity to sell, this content will help keep your business top-of-mind while building brand affinity and strengthening customer loyalty.

The other 20 percent of the time, talk about yourself! The content about you doesn’t always have to be about persuading your fans to take action. While it is great to encourage people to sign up for your email list, visit your website, or buy your stuff, remember there are three other post purposes you shouldn’t be ignoring. Create variety in the posts about you by highlighting an inspiring story from an employee, inform your fans about interesting trends in your industry, or entertain them with a fun picture.

Finally, keep in mind there are plenty of ways to talk about yourself, without talking about yourself. I see clothing stores do this all the time – they will post about styles and trends that will be “in” this coming season without giving themselves a shout-out or encouraging their fans to stop in and check out what’s on their racks. If you take this approach, be mindful that consumers are really good at picking up on sales material masquerading as helpful content.

Bringing It All Together

Social media is not a business activity. It’s a tool you have to accomplish your business goals. Too often, small businesses go chasing likes or fixate on the number of followers they have. These metrics are unimportant because they are often not tied to a core business objective. To make your social media work hard for your business, first, determine what core business objectives you need to accomplish. Next, ensure your posts are meaningful by ensuring each post has a purpose. Keep your social media strategy from going stale by using SMART goals and updating your strategy as you accomplish those SMART goals.
Social media is not a business activity. It’s a tool you have to help you accomplish your business goals. Share on X

Before You Go

Thank you for reading this post – I really hope it was useful and you have new strategies for getting the most from the time you invest in social media. If this post was helpful, I’d appreciate it if you would hit one of those social share buttons below and help your friends or colleagues know about this article.

If you’ve got more questions than answers after reading this, hit me up on Twitter or LinkedIn and let’s get those questions answered!