Writer and communications strategist Claire Propsting gives advice on starting and maintaining a small business communications strategy in our four-part blog series
I talk to a lot of small business owners. They all came to entrepreneurship for different reasons. They each provide different services and products and have wildly varied brands. But inevitably, when it comes to marketing and communications, our conversation starts going in the same direction. They all have the sneaking suspicion that they’re missing something. That they could take their business to the next level if they could use their digital presence more effectively.
If you’re in a similar situation, you’ve come to the right place. I’m going to cover four of the basics of creating or strengthening a communications strategy in the digital age in this blog series.
First up: social media.
It’s hard to believe how far social media has come. Just a few years ago, my clients thought no one over the age of 25
would get brand information from social media. Now, it’s a cornerstone of every communications strategy, from the dinkiest startup to the most sophisticated luxury brands. To make it even more of an imperative, 70% of consumers are more likely to use a local business if it has information available on a social media site and a whopping 85% of consumers expect businesses to be active on social media. But before you get started, consider the following tips.
- Make sure you’re ready for the leap
Social media is not just a hobby anymore. If you’re going to launch a social media presence for your business, be prepared to update content at least a few times a week. Having a languishing, stale social media presence is worse than not having one at all.
Don’t believe me? Think about a potential customer hearing about your company. She looks you up on Facebook to learn more, but she finds that you haven’t updated your page in months. She assumes she got the name wrong or that your company has closed down. Before she heads to Google to investigate further, she notices that Facebook has listed a few other businesses under “Similar Places Nearby.” She clicks on the first one, likes what she sees, and you’ve just lost a customer.
- Choose your channels wisely
There are so many different social media channels that it may seem hard to keep up. Unless there’s a reason for you to target a specialized platform, my advice is to focus on the Big Seven. If you’re starting from scratch, or if you can’t hire someone to monitor and post to all six channels regularly, start with two and grow from there.
Facebook: If you can devote time to only one platform, make it Facebook. It is far and away the most utilized site for finding out about local businesses. Yes, the algorithm and newsfeed options seem to change on a monthly basis. Yes, your 16-year-old niece may have told you that Facebook isn’t cool anymore. But it is still the most popular social media channel by leaps and bounds and it would be foolish to ignore the 1.13 billion people who log in to Facebook every day.
LinkedIn: Depending on the type of business you run, LinkedIn may be an even more powerful tool than Facebook. Business-to-Business companies actually get more leads on LinkedIn over Facebook and 63% of B2B marketers consider it the most effective platform.
Twitter: I don’t know if it’s the hashtags, the @ tags, or the handful of people who show up in the headlines every year for offensive tweets, but Twitter is the platform that strikes fear into the hearts of many of my clients. If it makes you nervous, it’s OK to make Twitter part of a future phase of your company’s social media strategy.
Instagram: If you’re in the business of selling products, or if your target audience is under 35, your company should make Instagram a priority. In fact, 53% of all 18-29-year-olds are active on the channel. Brands that were virtually unknown, (Brandy Melville and Lorna Jane to name two) and even big national companies (ever heard of Coke and Staples?) are using Instagram to elevate their brands and target their customers in unique ways.
Pinterest: A lot of my clients forget about Pinterest. But consider this: it’s one of the least demanding platforms if you’re strapped for time. Other platforms require almost constant monitoring and fresh content several times a week. But on Pinterest, your posts live on and on, getting more eyeballs and more engagement the longer they’re up.
Snapchat: I won’t deny how fun Snapchat is, but I have yet to recommend Snapchat to a small business client. It’s time consuming and your content is gone right after you create it. To top it off, Instagram recently unveiled Stories, which sounds exactly like Snapchat and draws on your existing audience.
YouTube: Anyone can be their own TV producer these days. If video content is part of your marketing strategy (and it probably should be!), setting up a channel on YouTube can attract views and you can link your videos to all your other platforms as well.
- Get followers with authentic content
Now, let’s take a step back. Your brand is what sets you apart from your competitors. It’s how your customers feel when they hear about your company. The common question I ask when helping a client with content is: if your company were a person, what would he or she be like? Once you have the answer to that question, your social media strategy should be an extension of your brand. If you’re fun and quirky, convey that in your social presence. If you’re honest and knowledgeable, become a trusted resource of information for your followers.
I’ll discuss specific types of content in upcoming editions of this blog series, but the golden rule of content always applies: be yourself and stay true to your brand. That’s the only way to build a loyal following on any social network.
And don’t forget: once you have your social media pages up and running, link to them in your email signature, website, and email marketing. Put the icons on your business cards and let clients know on all your marketing material that you’re on social. You’ll have a solid audience in no time.
- Reduce, reuse, recycle…and re-post
You do have to devote some time every week (or preferably every day!) to your social media presence, but it doesn’t have to be the gargantuan effort that some people think it is.
Chances are, even your biggest fans won’t follow you on all your channels and check your website religiously. By re-posting your content for different audiences, you can reach even more people. Take a typical blog post: you can post it as an article on Facebook, add some thoughtful commentary on LinkedIn, tweet the link, and pull out some stats as an infographic for Instagram and Pinterest. This will drive people to your blog and website, where they can get more information about your company, leading to more customers and more revenue.
Stay tuned for the next edition in this series: creating great small business marketing content and how to leverage it.
Following stints in London, Edinburgh and Dubai, Claire Propsting now lives in Washington, D.C. and has been working as a writer, editor and communications strategist for the last seven years. Her work has appeared in The Times, Retail & Leisure International magazine and The Buzz magazine. Visit www.clairepropsting.com for more information.