Social Media Marketing Tips for Small Business

Small business can struggle to strategically use social media marketing to get their message out. In fact at times social media can feel a bit overwhelming. The top 10 social network sites, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Google+, Tumblr, Instagram, VK, Flickr, Vine and a host of other niche networks generate huge audience participation for a business to market themselves to.  But where does one start, which social network suits best and what are the best methods to market a small business using social media?

Here is a list of tips to help any small business to better use social media to get their message in front of their target audience.

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Create a social media marketing plan. Plan out what you want to achieve, how you are going to achieve it and what resources you need prior to kick starting any social campaign. Too many businesses just dive in and start plastering links on LinkedIn, posting images on a Facebook page or tweeting messages without first considering how social media activity can help drive their business. The reality is that to do social media in a meaningful matter requires committing resources (content creation, social selling, and social conversations) and people (content seeding, managing social profiles, community engagement) to the task. Effective social presence means constantly updating, sharing and posting to keep everything fresh to attract potential customers. Old, outdated and “infrequent” activity will just not cut it. The plan should map out a schedule that works best for the business based on resources or budgets. Social media should be viewed as a strategy investment with goals and then needs to be prioritised with clear ROI on the planned activity.

Create a buyer persona to define your target audience. Not all social media platforms work for every business, B2B is different from B2C, are you looking to sell online generate traffic or do lead generation? If you’re trying to reach B2B buyers then LinkedIn maybe your best bet or if teenagers are your target audience then Instagram could be the way to go. If the marketing or creative community is on your radar then Google+ communities is worth targeting. Also consider when this audience is most active and then plan out the posting schedule accordingly to maximise your results.

If your potential customers are teenagers then schedule social shares during the evening when they check their profiles. A good tip is start with one network and get skilled at doing it well. Then add in other networks over time.

The 3 C’s of a social media plan. Content, content and content. Content (your own and 3rd party shares) is what powers social media. Always have a fresh supply of content and make it current to the topics, season, conversations or news. A few blog posts of 1000 words plus is a good starting point. A thousand words might seem long but as a small business you need to become a subject matter expert for your industry. Share stories, insights, tips, lessons and learning’s in a friendly tone.

Use content/images/videos/guides/insights from complimentary 3rd party sources to build up your content library. In fact readers value quality content regardless of the source and recognise the person posting it as a valued contributor to the community.

Social media is multimedia. While article content is the main tool for social promotion, video is fast becoming the engagement channel among certain demographics. Video is getting easy to shoot and share. Customer interview videos with detailed discussion can be powerful. Also use imagery, pictures and infographics that showcase your company’s products.

Social media platforms are for engagement. As with social selling, all your activity should strive to drive engagement not pushing out blatant sales promotions . Follow the steps – Awareness, Consideration, Nurture and Develop. Selling comes later once you have developed a relationship. Social media is the channel for potential customers and buyers to become aware of you, to get to know you, to understand what value your can bring and to learn what your company stands for so be authentic and share content that brings value to the reader.

Become a thought influencer and source of quality information, this will attract customers to notice you and in time they become receptive to buying from you. So share quality content that reflects your own personal brand and watch as people joins you in your journey.

Stay engaged on conversations and comments. Don’t just share and disappear, stay on top of discussions and your postings. If a customer leaves a comment about something you posted (positive or negative) then don’t over react, just reply back. Buyers need to know you are listening, responsive and can engage with discussions. Listening and replying to social media conversations requires time so ensure you have planned for this activity.

The social media road should lead to your website. As you generate more awareness and consideration amongst buyers then over time they will end up visiting your website to learn more about you. So ensure you have your website in ship shape order including newsletter sign-ups, landing pages and contact us points before starting social media activities

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Your activity and content should reflect your brand. It is important to plan out so that all your social media channels, blogs, content and website reflect your brand. People want to engage with real and genuine businesses. Your content should mirror your own voice and match the topics or relevancy of your content to your business. For example, if a business is selling a HR solution, then the content needs to be factual in nature with a business tone.

If a business is selling a lifestyle product, then energetic or inspirational tones might work better. Where possible use real customer stories and always uses real testimonials on web pages.

Share to receive. Social media is not about you, it is about your customers or prospects. Study and research the language your target audience uses to talk about your industry. What topics interest them and what social conversations they engage with? Then engage them with content and insights that match these terms. The use of hashtags is a great way to join in on conversations on social media. Also optimise your content, blog and website with the keyword terms that will help you get found in web search results.

Another tip is as people do allot of question type searches (“how do polish my car?”), so a business selling car care related products will need to use this type of language in the content they publish on their blog.

Mobile is a must. Now most Facebook posts and tweets on Twitter are being done on mobile devices. Social platforms will gradually deliver a mobile first experience so your site and blog should be mobile optimised to provide a great browsing and shopping experience.

There you have it, a few social media marketing tips that might help you get the word out about your business and get the attention of the buyers you want to sell to.

Social Selling using Data

Business loves the concept of social selling, tapping into the social networks combined with big data to lower the cost per lead and to speed up the sales and marketing process like never before is appealing. The good news for sales and marketing leaders who want to use social selling as a sales tactic is that “Big Data” is now a commodity. The sheer volume of data available to marketers today is staggering including social media insights, CRM data, sales records and web traffic alongside a multitude of other online sources. The adoption of social media by consumers and business buyers alike to buy and build our lives means the quantity of data is growing on a massive scale. To put it into perspective, social media currently accounts for over fifty two Trillion words shared every single day.

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But big data is as valuable to a buyer as it is to a seller. Data is no longer the secret art of the marketing department as access to social data is there for everyone (buyers and sellers) with a few clicks of a mouse. Every minute of everyday companies share content and buyers share purchasing intent. The result in the past few years has seen a major disruption to the whole buyer-supplier relationship. Today potential customers can educate themselves on your products, your company, and people’s perception of you and even compare what the competition is offering without ever having to engage with you. They are doing this on social media forums and many other online sources without speaking to a sales person. Armed with the knowledge that data and social media has changed the way things are bought and sold, marketing and sales management have to utilise two very effective tools, “Big Data” and “Social Selling” to capture more revenue in an ever changing landscape.

Social Selling: Learn to Listen

A wider social selling strategy involves using big data to listen to what the markets are talking about and then share content that will grab their attention. Even basic social selling activity needs to tap into social conversations and content to understand buyer’s motivations. It may seem like a huge task to begin a data listening program but it is easier than you think. A few Google searches will throw up lots of free and paid marketing analytic tools to help you identify potential customers via social media.

Larger companies now use a whole raft of analytical software for data crunching, to get insights into customer behaviour analysis and buyer profiles so that marketing departments can discover answers to questions about the type of buyer who might consider buying from them. Smaller companies can use tools like Hootsuite Free, Socialmention, Twazzup or Addict-O-Matic amongst others to gain deep insights into keyword driven conversations.

Even without software tools, sales and marketing can gleam valuable information via social media conversations, online reviews and forums and then use this to help build connections with potential customers. Tools such as Socialbro, Rivaliq, ripjar and Connectors Marketplace allows sales people or marketing teams to trawl through blogs, social networks,, forums, news and reviews for brand, product or company mentions right down to  specific keywords.

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Big Data Insights for Improved Social Selling

Regardless of whether you are using software or digging around manually, there is no limit to the amount of information that can be gleaned using Big Data as part of your analytic tasks into identifying buyer sets that narrow down your prospect target list. Sales and marketing teams should be looking to gain the following insights from listening to social conversations and the social chatter.

Who is your Buyer: Prospective customers may be spread wide and deep but it is vital a business tries to condense them into “buyer persona’s”. Creating a typical customer with characteristics helps sales and marketing teams to identify, understand, and target. A point to note is buying behaviours varies by category on social media. For example 25% of Facebook and 34% of Twitter users reported buying tech tools or electronic devices after seeing recommendations or shares posted on these social network sites while 75% of B2B buyers now use social media to be more informed on vendors.

 Target Specific Networks: Monitor what your prospects or buyer persona’s are talking about including mentions on your competitors. When it comes to social media, not all platforms are created equal or suit both B2C and B2B. Some social network sites produce higher leads and conversion rates than others. Even if you produce great content and follow all the best guidelines depending on your product or business, some will not perform. Focus in on where you can get higher sales conversions from specific networks as opposed to trying to cover off every one.

Identify Buyer’s Pain Points or Needs: To be successful at social selling you need to use data to discover what needs or product features are trending plus what questions/interests buyers are engaging with online. Part of your content strategy has to mirror these needs, plus when reaching out to potential customers using social selling, remember 90% of buyers never respond to cold calling (because no need has been identified)

What Type of Content do Buyers Engage with: Analyse the networks and data to see what type of content and from what sources do buyers like/read/interact with. It’s all figuring out what content and which information will influence their engagement with vendors

Map the Buyer’s Journey: The buyer’s journey is not changing, it HAS changed. More than any of the other insights that marketing leaders can provide to sales is mapping out the steps a buyer takes from awareness to consideration to purchase. Having the insight into how buyers gather information, what type of content, how they consider vendors, how they like to establish connections and take decisions is the critical data that makes social selling successful.

Using the insights from Big Data and Social Conversations, marketing team can now provide sales with the information, behaviours and likely interest triggers for the buyer persona. Then make social selling work by providing highly relevant content that matches these insights. Also a social selling training should be developed so that sales agents learn how, where, and when to connect with buyers and prospects on the various platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr and other relevant social media channels.

It is the ability for sales to reach buyers in a highly personalised way with the right content, with the right context and at the right moment is the key to social selling in the era of Big Data.

Inbound Marketing Guide

There is allot of talk around “inbound marketing” and as a guide to what it means to a business. Social media marketing agencies and practitioners seem to have developed a language of their own as digital marketing has become the dominant channel. Terms such as marketing automation, marketing qualified leads, social selling and lead nurturing are now common place words in the quest for business to find more customers. Here we will try to help you understand some of this vocabulary.

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To start with, most inbound marketing plans would focus on five key stages

Attracting visitors/web traffic to a site,

Converting visitors to leads,

Convert those leads to paying customers,

Turn the customers into repeat purchasers,

Analyse KPI’s and metrics to improve results,

Some reasons that have boosted inbound as a marketing tactic would include the fact that companies with a content driven strategy have 50% more website visitors than those that don’t and

leads captured from inbound marketing cost 60% less traditional forms of lead generation.

The reality is that an inbound marketing strategy has more or less the same goals as outbound marketing so the difference between them is not what any company wants from the marketing effort but how it goes about getting it. Inbound marketing is focused on attracting IN buyers to consider a brand usually with content as the bait (articles, videos, images, whitepapers etc) while outbound marketing employs diversion tactics (online ads, direct mail, cold calling) to get buyers attention. Most businesses would use a mixture of inbound and outbound marketing. A worrying trend is that some effective outbound activities like prospecting and lead generation via sales people is becoming dormant as too many start-ups or small businesses rely exclusively on inbound marketing to deliver leads and sales.

For a whole host of reasons, inbound marketing is now the primary channel deployed to engage buyers when considering a purchase due to the more non-interruption nature of inbound marketing.

Below are a list of activities and terms relating to inbound marketing, so next time a social media marketing agency speaks about how to put in place a plan then you will be well prepared to talk about it. While content is the rock upon which inbound marketing is built there is more to this strategy than articles, it also includes the use of social selling, targeting long tail keywords, interest sharing, engaging in social network conversations, attracting social media influencers and managing multi platform social channels.

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So here are some inbound buzzwords to improve your marketing speak.

 Inbound Marketing Plan;

The inbound marketing plan is basically a publishing calendar of activities including goals and targets covering blogging, content themes, articles, and whitepapers, landing pages, social networks engagement, social selling, lead generation, traffic and engagement in social media conversations.

Growth Hacking;

A recent term added to the marketing vocabulary. Mainly a tactic employed by start-ups in the App or SaaS space, growth hacking works on out of the box thinking blended with technology to try to achieve massive growth in numbers in a short pace of time. The sole focus of using this as a strategy is to grow big (web traffic, social media followers etc but not revenue) quick so every action is designed to drive that growth.

Viral Marketing;

This is about taking a marketing campaign, seeding it to other people and hoping the content appeals on a large enough scale to make the campaign grow rapidly. It is the multi level marketing of the digital age. Think “Ice Bucket Challenge”. Lots of marketing people go to bed at night dreaming about their image, video or article going viral. However the reality is there is little control when it comes to what will go viral. To try and make viral marketing work the key is to create some unusual content that will get lots of people to promote it for you. The more people who share your content will lead to increased brand exposure. It boils down to encouraging people to plug you to their social media audiences.

A/B Testing;

This refers to the testing of two different versions of the same email template, landing page or call to action (CTA) to figure out which version delivers the best results. A/B testing is something all marketers should do. Examples would be to take a call to action and test it with different strap lines, colours, text, and or with a different image. This allows you to determine which call to action performed better. So don’t guess as different messaging works to different audiences and even geo-locations. Always be testing as even a small percentage increase in leads or traffic can have a huge impact on sales (depending on your average order value).

Content Marketing;

Content marketing is the seed that will grow to capture future opportunities for web traffic, leads and customers. It is the bedrock upon which inbound marketing was formed and still powers. It involves the creating and distribution of valuable, relevant content on a consistent basis (daily, weekly) to attract buyers with the goal of getting the customer to take some predetermined actions. The content created is heavily keyword/SEO orientated the majority of time for a start-up and a high percentage of the time for companies with larger databases.

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Marketing Automation;

 Marketing automation is software that is used to automate large parts of the marketing process like lead nurturing, content publishing to social media or auto-responder emails. This software usually appeals to mid-sized upwards companies with larger databases or well trafficked sites.  Marketing automation is mostly used to improve the nurturing, conversion and closing stages of the sales funnel and is not a one fit fits all solution. The hard work of getting traffic and creating content is still yours to complete.

Social Selling;

Social selling is a great inbound tactic, despite its name it is not focused on sales but rather selling oneself or a brand to raise awareness to buyers of what you offer. It is a subtle and patient tactic where time is spent building up trust or “emotional lodgements”. It works on the premise that social media accounts are a fantastic broadcast channel while also a place to gradually build relationships and make connections. The key is to share content from other sources (not just your own), like other articles, participate in social conversations and provide regular updates. Social selling can be used as the key to unlock sales calls if used correctly, otherwise you are seen as a smash and grab merchant.

Lead Nurturing;

This is the marketing or sales process that is set in motion after someone downloads or fills in a form (newsletter, white paper) on your website. In the B2B sales environment it could be a series of emails together will social selling and direct sales contract. In B2C it usually involves a series of emails. The skill here is that when someone downloads a piece of content from your site, you ask (and give reasons) for them to provide their email address. Now with the verified and opted-in email address, you can implement a series of emails to be sent to them in the next days, week or month after they first signed up to downloaded something. Lead nurturing is important as it reduces your cost of customer acquisition and allows you to build a relationship as you know what they are interested in from your offerings. Be careful not to over expect the speed of developing the relationship or put too much urgency into the nurturing as their initial sign-up could only be a top of the funnel action.

Long Tail Keywords;

This term usually applies to your content marketing efforts and is the SEO keywords you have selected to target. These keywords are normally three plus words such as “social media marketing in Ireland” and are not as competitive in Google as a one word keyword such as “marketing.” Google also auto suggests long tail keywords so research these as part of your content strategy. Can I target hot or one word keyword, you ask? Sure as lots of people are probably searching on that word daily but on the flipside your competitors are targeting these keywords too. It could take years to even get on page 5 of Google for a heavily trafficked keyword. Ten or twenty well indexed long tail keywords when combined will deliver just as much traffic in the medium term as a single keyword. So when creating content titles and web URL’s, choose longer, more detailed keywords. If you research your buyer profiles well enough you will get clicks and views from potential buyers from your target market faster than you think.

The above is not a complete list of phrases as new words and terms come into play all the time around inbound marketing but hopefully by the time you have read this article, some of them are still relevant. Thanks for reading.