Social media can be a great way for small business owners to connect with prospects and customers. Done right, it can make sales skyrocket. Some entrepreneurs have even built an entire business on a social media platform, like Rachel Dunston, the founder of Rachel Bakes More Cake, who built a thriving cake business on Instagram. But if you’re not careful, it can be a distracting time suck, or even backfire by alienating customers and prospects.
Here, 10 small business experts share strategies small business owners can use to nurture a successful presence on social media.
1. Lead with objectives
“Start with your top three marketing objectives, then evaluate how social media may help you achieve them. Too often business owners buy into the idea that ‘I have to be there. I have to be in all these new places or I’ll be left behind.’ But social media has to help you reach your objectives or you’re just wasting time. Don’t think of social media as just a megaphone for your business, but think about how it can help you reach your goals.”
John Jantsch, business marketing consultant, speaker, and author of Duct Tape Marketing.
2. Build your authority
“As a business owner, I believe that you can’t over-invest in your LinkedIn presence in 2018. This also applies to anyone looking to further their career or success, particularly those working in sales or marketing. Concentrating on growing audiences and engagement on LinkedIn can absolutely boost sales and conversion rates. It will also lead toward amazing opportunities for collaboration.
“As someone who turns entrepreneurs into media celebrities, I teach that LinkedIn is also excellent for attracting amazing opportunities to be seen as the go-to authority for your industry. Authority is a currency. The more of it you have, the more you can cash in on opportunities for growth of all kinds.”
Josh Elledge, founder of upendPR.com, and a weekly syndicated newspaper columnist who reaches more than 1.1 million readers; also regularly appears on radio and more than 75 TV stations across the country.
3. Start a conversation
“The key thing with Facebook is to remember that the algorithm they use rewards posts that have interaction. If a business posts something but no one responds, then Facebook won’t show it to anyone. They’re trying to keep people on their website, and they can only do that by showing posts and stories that people find interesting. It’s going to get more difficult, as Facebook announced they’re going to be changing their algorithm. They’ll now favor content from friends over companies and other pages.
“The key is to ask questions and respond to the answers. A car dealer could post a picture of someone buying their first car and, sure, it’s interesting enough. But if they turn around and ask people, ‘What was your first car?’ they have a chance to get people to answer, and then they can respond. Now, to that person who answered the question, it’s not a car dealer, it’s a car dealer who knows his first car.”
Adam McCloskey, Associate Director, Florida SBDC at UWF, which is part of the Florida SBDC Network, a statewide network of more than 40 centers offering consulting, training, and resources to aspiring and existing small businesses.
4. Show appreciation
“The most important thing about social media is that it’s not just about you! Social media is not a monologue where you tell the world about the awards you’ve won, or the special deals on your products and services. It’s an opportunity for you to connect, in a meaningful way, with the people who have helped you and supported you in business. If you think about the 10 to 20 most important people in your business world, social media allows you to recognize and thank them for helping you along the way. You can thank them by giving recognition to their posts and tweets: like, follow, and share their messages. It’s your way of saying thank you. More importantly, they will appreciate the gesture and continue to support your efforts.”
Brian Moran, small business expert and founder of SmallBusinessEdge.com.
5. Stand out
“Social media is personal. It’s your personal brand first, and your job or business second. You need to convey your persona. Get above the noise. Be different. You don’t have to wear a superhero costume like me, but in a world of social media noise you need to stand out and be remembered.“
Kedma Ough, “Small Business Superhero” speaker and small business consultant.
6. Have a clear goal
“Advertising on Facebook can be lucrative, but it will require an investment in both time and money, and there will be a learning curve. Know exactly what you are trying to accomplish: sales, leads, or both? Avoid “dopey” metrics like likes, follows, or impressions. Use Facebook pixel and/or Facebook lead ads so you can track and measure results. As a small business owner who advertises on Facebook myself, I measure the ad spend vs. sales or leads generated to determine if it’s worth it or not—so should you.”
Gene Marks, small business owner and author who writes daily for The Washington Post and weekly for Forbes.
7. Dominate on one platform
“Find out where your target customer spends time online. Then pick one social platform and dominate on that one. Claim your profiles on the other networks, but focus most of your time on that one. Listen first. You need to be ‘friend-raising’ online. I started out (on Twitter) just sharing other people’s content for six months. When you share your own content, do it on a four to one ratio—share four pieces of someone else’s content for every piece of your own that you share. On Twitter, where I have over 324,000 followers, my advice is, ‘Be sweet, retweet.’”
Melinda Emerson, the “Small Biz Lady” and author of the e-book How to Become a Social Media Ninja.
8. Create a calendar
“Planning your social media activities will allow you to post consistently—and get more consistent results. You can create a strategy and actually get better results with less time and effort. You can determine which activities to automate and which to assign, whether that’s to an employee or contractor.”
Anita Campbell, CEO of Small Business Trends.
9. Be visual
“Attention spans are short so be sure to add photos and videos to your social content. It will boost engagement and is perfect for businesses with products to show off. If you have a service-based business, consider a photo with words or a photo that complements your text. And don’t overlook visually-oriented platforms like Instagram and Pinterest.”
Carol Roth, billion-dollar deal maker, creator of the Future File Legacy Planning System, business advisor, New York Times bestselling author, and TV host and personality.
10. Don’t try to do it yourself
“As a small business owner, your time is limited, so delegate social media work to someone (or a team) in your company, or engage an outside expert. Then add the cost of your social media strategy to your budget.”
Barbara Weltman, author of J.K. Lasser’s Small Business Taxes and publisher of Idea of the Day® and Big Ideas for Small Business® at BarbaraWeltman.com.
Social media can feel overwhelming, especially to the already stretched-in-a-million-directions entrepreneur. Even business owners who hate social media can be successful if they are strategic in their approach.