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  • Writer's pictureNat Sharp

How to win on social media as a small business

Updated: Nov 3, 2021

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A small business guide to creating a successful social media strategy

Starting out

If you're just starting out on social media and recently launched a business, it can be an absolute minefield knowing where to start.

Social media marketing for businesses is very different to using social media for personal pleasure. Be warned it is much harder. For starters, it is difficult for your organic posts to be seen, in fact, did you know that just 10% of your followers see your posts, and it can be more challenging creating the content.

Start off small and focus on one platform. Begin by listening and watching before participating. Don’t just dive in as you could be making the wrong choices particularly in terms of platform choice. Ideally, you would always start by creating a social media strategy or find an expert to develop one for you.

"Random social media tactics lead to random results." Stephanie Sammons

8 steps to success

Here are our 8 steps to building and implementing a successful social media strategy for your business.

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1. Undertake a competitor audit

Look at what your competitors are doing. Take note of what platforms they're using, how much engagement they get, who their followers are and what they're posting. Identify common trends and key learnings and develop a best practice checklist.

2. Create customer personas

There is absolutely no point starting out on social media until you know who you're targeting. The more specific you can be the better. If you’re not sure then do some research to identify who your target market should be and check to see what platforms they use.

Look at where there is most demand for your product or service and who has the greatest need for it and look at your audience’s social media usage. Capture this in the form of a persona detailing your ideal customer motivations and barriers to purchase, what life stage they are at and what interests they have. You can depict this pictorially too and even give a name to your ‘ideal customer’. You may end up with three to five different personas.

3. Agree your objectives

Agree on what you want to achieve from social media and put some metrics in place. This is crucial if you have a team or external agency managing your social media to ensure everyone is working to the same agenda.

Typically, objectives start with generating brand awareness and over time, you may add customer service and eventually lead generation. A word of caution, it takes years to build brand awareness and typically build up a strong following, so don’t expect to generate sales from the very outset.

4. Develop a content plan

You can’t just post a few times on social media and hope for the best. You need a constant stream of content and will ideally need to post daily. This means you’ll need enough content for approximately 20 to 30 posts a month.

A content plan will allow you to take a bird's eye view month to month to ensure you have the right mix of content and being more strategic about it. About 50% of your social media activity should be curated, shared content. Another 30% should be original content that you've created yourself. And for the final 20%, this is more brand and self-promotional content.

5. Offer value or spark a conversation

Offer your followers content of genuine value – advice, tips, anything that will help them with their lives or undertake their jobs. Alternatively, sparking a conversation can really work. For example, asking people to vote and tap into trending topics. As a general rule, you should avoid politics and religion though.

6. Agree an escalation policy

Formalise a policy of how you will treat customer service related queries. You can save a lot of time and improve the outcome using query response templates. Never shy away from negative comments. Read the tips we've provided in First Voice Magazine published by the Federation of Small Businesses.

7. Consider outsourcing

You can’t do everything yourself. Running a business is hard enough and social media is labour intensive. You could easily spend a day a week on social media. A good rule of thumb is to allow approximately half a day per platform. Remember this doesn't just include creating and scheduling content, but also community engagement and social media listening and analytics. This is why outsourcing to a specialist social media manager could be more cost-effective in the long run. Sharp Thinking has helped many clients recruit specialist freelancers and it can cost under £5,000 a year so be far more cost-effective than recruiting.

8. Set aside some budget to 'pay to play’

As platforms evolve and grow commercially, so do the algorithms. You can only go so far organically and some sectors/brands will find it easier to get engagement organically so setting aside a small media budget can help. We’ve had some major success with clients on as little spend as £500 using Facebook Ads to boost organic posts giving access to thousands of our target audience that we wouldn’t have achieved organically so build in a media budget into your plans. There is both science and art to social media advertising so ensure you research this before committing a large budget and running any ads.

Pitfalls to avoid

  • Don’t use social media to just sell – remember social media isn’t called social media for nothing. You need to be social on it and that means sales pitches need to be toned down and kept to a minimum.

  • Don’t start posting every day and then go quiet for six months. Social media requires momentum and consistency. If you work really hard on it for three months, but then stop posting for half the year, you will undo the good work you’ve started to build up.

  • Content needs to be adapted for social media and specific platforms. Sadly one size doesn't fit all. You can’t expect success from reposting the same content to multiple platforms. It needs to be tailored.

  • Prospective customers won’t engage with you if you’re not engaging with them. You should be spending approximately one-third of your time engaging with your followers.

And so to close

A social media strategy is of huge value and it is worth investing in this to bring structure and focus and be in the very chance of success.

Avoid common pitfalls. Plan, plan and plan. Consider outsourcing your social media. Once your business is up and running and if you feel that writing isn't your greatest strength, then it could be one of the best decisions you make.

There is no question of the power of social media and it is an absolute must for any business. But getting it right is key, otherwise, you’ll go down a rabbit hole.

Photo credit

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