growing your business with social media

Growing Your Business With Social Media

No matter how savvy you may be with all the different social media channels, starting the process and making it work to grow your business is no easy task. With dozens of networking sites to choose from, it’s hard to know whether you should be Snapchatting, live streaming, or Tweeting.

Start Small

Quality over quantity is key when figuring out your social media strategy. You may be tempted to join all of your favorite social networks, but there are many reasons why it’s not a great idea. For starters, consistency is important when building your brand in order to grow your followers. When you join a social network, you want to have a clear understanding of what you’re going to be posting and how often. Joining 6+ social networks at the same time only to post on them once and then never return reflects poorly on you as a business. I suggest starting with 3 or 4, and expanding once you get your footing and understand how your audience is responding.

Understand the Game

One of the biggest misconceptions businesses still seem to have with social media is thinking that simply having an online presence will bring in customers. But honestly, just because someone has over 50,000 followers on Facebook doesn’t mean any of them are actually buying. Social media is a game, and the rules are always changing. Every new network introduces features that other networks haven’t thought of; therefore, forcing them to make updates to their functionality just to stay in with the competition.

The best thing you can do is understand from the beginning that growing your network is time consuming, and you might not see any results for a while; so having a clear goal, such as getting 200 new visits to your website from social every month, is necessary to understand your progress.

grow business social media

Find Your Audience

Although it may seem like everyone is on Snapchat or Twitter, it doesn’t mean that your ideal customers are. And there really isn’t any point in being on a social network that your buyers aren’t. Let your buyer personas guide you to figure out which social networks are right for your market.

Know Your Networks

No two social networks are the same, and you shouldn’t use them as if they are. What works on Facebook isn’t going to produce the same results on Twitter and so on. Once you’ve figured out which networks are right for your audience, learn how to create content that will drive engagement on each platform. Here is an overview of some of the most popular social networks:

facebook

Facebook

Facebook is probably the only social network that I would say every business needs to be on. Even though it definitely has had its downfalls, Facebook remains a social powerhouse with over 1.55 billion users. Paired with their recent release of Facebook Live, the network gives users the option to connect with people and brands through reactions, comments, messages, as well as share images, GIFs and video. It’s arguably the most versatile social network out there; and every time their future seems questionable, they come back with new features.

How to use it: Like most social networks, Facebook is about having fun and showing personality. Use video and images to show off the cool new products you have or projects you’re working on.

What you need to know: Unfortunately, Facebook is definitely a pay-to-play network. Meaning, because of how their algorithm works, if you want your content to be seen, and ultimately build more followers, you’ll need to spend some money to create Facebook Ads and Promoted Posts.

twitter

Twitter

Twitter is a microblogging tool where users can post 140-character messages, or “Tweets,” with the option to also attach gifs, video or images. Twitter is a great place to go for breaking news, but the downside is that there is too much noise, and the lifespan of a Tweet is very short. With that being said, if your audience is on Twitter, it’s still a valuable place for your business to be. Take advantage of Sponsored Tweets and Twitter Cards whenever possible to extend your reach.

How to use it: The best way to engage with people on Twitter is by getting your users to be active. Join, or even host, a Twitter Chat that involves some aspect of your business or current campaign to get people excited and talking. Another great way to drum up engagement is by Live Tweeting an event or starting a hashtag game.

In addition, it’s important to include relevant hashtags with every Tweet if possible. Other than the fact that it’s fun, a huge reason for this is because hashtags are searchable within Twitter. Here’s an example of why it’s important to use them:

Let’s say I want to Tweet out a blog post about day trips in Minnesota. The title of the post might be “10 Minnesota Day Trips to Take This Summer,” and it might feature many great destinations such as the North Shore. Because you’re limited to 140 Characters, once you put in the title of the blog post and the url, you won’t have many characters remaining. If someone were to search for ‘Minnesota Day Trips,’ your tweet will most likely appear within the search results. However, if someone were to search for ‘North Shore Day Trip,’ your Tweet will probably not be seen. By including #NorthShore on the end of your Tweet, you’re increasing the chances of your content being seen.

User Tip: One of my favorite tools for deciding which hashtag to use is RiteTag. You can search for a particular hashtag or keyword, and it will generate hashtags and color code them based on what’s most popular, what has the longest span, etc.

What you need to know: Because of the limited character count, it forces you to be a little more creative with your updates. Use graphics and video when you need to convey more than 140 characters, and a link-shortening tool to save space when sharing outside sources.

snapchat

Snapchat

More and more, Snapchat is dominating over all other social networks for engagement and social selling. And personally, I don’t see this changing, so it’s worth getting in now and learning how to use it.

How to use it: Snapchat is so much more than a self-destructing messaging app. You can send messages, images and video to other users, as well as have an actual video conversation with other users directly in the app. This is game-changing for businesses because you now have the option to give live updates to your fans and interact with them in real-time. Another great thing to keep in mind is that although the recent release of Facebook Live also allows you this option, if your target customer base is in the millennial generation or younger, then Snapchat is still going to be the best place to get your brand seen by them.

What you need to know: What makes Snapchat so fun and unique is the ability to draw on images and use filters to Face Swap and other options. In other words, there are so many unique tools you can use to create original and fun content that the possibilities are endless!

linkedin

LinkedIn

Although LinkedIn’s customer engagements and possibilites isn’t quite like other social networks, the difference is that the people who are using the platform are there for business.

How to use it: Although it’s mostly never a bad thing to show your brand personality on social media, the content you post on LinkedIn should have a more professional tone. Save the #ThrowbackThursday photos for Facebook and Instagram.

What you need to know: It’s important to have a company page, but depending on your business it might not be the best way for you to leverage the network. If your company is product-based – such as clothing, home decor, etc. – then I would put effort into your company page, promoting content that enforces why your product can improve people’s lives – especially if it can help with their work life. But if you’re selling a service, then I’ve found it to be more useful to use your personal profile to connect with other people and start conversations.

instagram

Instagram

Instagram is a powerful photo- and video-sharing tool that let’s users take photos within the app and edit them before posting. The concept in itself is pretty simple, but that hasn’t stopped it from gaining a cult following. Instagram has basically made it mandatory for everyone to step up their photography game and show off lust-worthy images.

How to use it: Instagram can be challenging for businesses, especially small companies, purely because there probably isn’t a lot of “Insta-worthy” moments happening around the office everyday. For this reason, it’s easy to give up or post subpar content. If you find yourself in this situation, remember that Instagram is so unique because it forces to you to visually tell your story. And by doing so you can connect with users in a way that you can’t on other social networks.

What you need to know: Because your visuals will be competing with everyone else on Instagram, it’s important to decide on some style guidelines for your posts to keep consistency. Meaning, you establish angles, proper lighting, even color choices that are allowed for your images. Make sure everything you post stays within your guidelines and represents your brand clearly.

pinterest

Pinterest

Pinterest is essentially like a giant vision board that you can share and collaborate on with anyone. User’s have the option to “Pin” content to their own profile or collaborate with another user on their profile, like Pins, as well as send messages. One of the coolest features for brands to take advantage of are Buyable Pins, which allows the user to purchase products directly from the Pinterest app on their mobile device.

How to use it: Create “Boards” for each category that you want to post about. Pin your own content as well as share and “re-pin” other people’s content, and make sure your profile is filled out completely for search-ability.

What you need to know: Just like Instagram, having consistency in the style of your pins is very important. Decide on a “look and feel” that you like and represents your brand’s style well. This could mean that you’re going for a minimalist look, or maybe you decide to only post illustrated content. Carry that consistency throughout your board titles and pin descriptions.

Another thing to remember when using Pinterest for your business is to plan ahead. People use Pinterest for literally anything you can think of…buying gifts for people, finding dinner recipes, shopping for clothes, planning an event or a wedding, and so on. You have to remember that people (hopefully) aren’t planning their wedding or buying gifts the day before the event is happening. Because of this, plan to start posting your content months prior to when you are actually expecting people to buy. To extend your content’s reach even further than just your follower base, try promoting your pins.

Schedule, Post, Analyze, Repeat

Once you figure out your game plan, you’re going to want to decide on a social publishing software to help you schedule your posts and keep track of campaigns. I’ve collected a list of the best marketing tools that can help guide you to success.

Most content isn’t time-sensitive unless it’s specific to a holiday or event, so don’t worry about scheduling out your content to post more than once. I tend to tweet my different blog posts at least twice per month, and share them on Facebook every other month or so. After all, if you only post it once then you’re just limiting your reach.

Once your posts are live, use your analytics to determine engagement levels. Did you tweet the same blog twice using different hashtags and noticed that one tweet got twice as many “Likes” as the second one? Then repost the tweet using that hashtag. Doing A/B testing to determine what works and what doesn’t is the only way to know for sure.

Have Fun

At the end of the day, doing social media for your business should be fun, not stressful and overwhelming. Figure out your plan, and let your users guide your understanding of what content does well and what needs changing. If you have any further questions or need some guidance to get started, let me know!

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Posted by Ariel Valley

Web designer, writer, social media lover and inbound marketer at Catch22 Marketing. Also known as a professional coffee taster, shoe enthusiast and film buff. Connect with me on LinkedIn or follow me on Twitter @ariel_valley.

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