How to get started and stand out on social media

Estimated reading time:5 minutes

Lots of small businesses – or business owners – are on social media, but there’s a big difference between sharing pictures or chatting with friends and using social effectively for marketing – so, where do you start?

You can use social media to meet several different objectives, such as building your brand, generating good word-of-mouth, or forming a stronger bond with existing customers and/or other businesses. Or, you might just want to use social media to drive people to your website where you could then turn them into customers.

In this article, we’re going to go through some basic guidance on how you can use social media to promote your business. We’ll also provide a few examples we hope will be inspiring and help you generate good quality ideas so your posts and updates have genuine appeal.

How do you come up with good ideas?

On social media, a creative idea can carry the name of your business to more people than you might otherwise expect – but it needs to be a good idea. Bookshop-cum-café, The Wild Detectives, wanted to raise its profile so it took to Facebook with the idea of bringing awareness to the time people spend procrastinating with online reading and put this into perspective against all those great books we could otherwise be reading.

The plan was to post typical ‘clickbait’ headlines on Facebook but link them to thematically similar classic literature plots. So, ‘British guy dies after selfie gone wrong’ linked to a piece on Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Grey, while ‘Teenage girl tricked boyfriend into killing himself’ was about Romeo and Juliet.

The Wild Detectives used Facebook as the instrument to reach out to its audience then direct them to Medium, the blogging website where the articles lived.

The campaign launched last September for National Read a Book Day. At the time, it reached a good number, but last month the updates went viral and the shop saw a 600% increase in followers.

As Andrés de la Casa-Huertas, from The Wild Detectives, says: “ideas go further than money.”

Which network is best for you?

The major social networks each have different strengths, so it’s important for you to promote your business on those sites that are most suitable. Twitter, for instance, is best for short, written messages. It’s great for sharing links, creating and responding to conversations. It helps people stay in touch with your business, to know about offers, specials, or changes to normal service.

Instagram is a network for inspiring visuals. It isn’t useful for direct sales or promotions, it’s better for making people like your brand. Things like posting spontaneous pictures and promoting a lifestyle that fits neatly with your business.

Facebook does lots of things other networks do, but in a single place. You can post pictures, videos, have conversations, provide updates about your business and promotions. Its real strength, as we have seen, is in creating word of mouth. If someone ‘likes’ your page, your updates appear on their page, which their friends see.

Sally’s Cottages, a family-run holiday rentals business, uses Facebook to post pictures of its cottages and the Lake District in the hope that people share them. Sally’s Cottages also likes to get into conversations with customers to find out more about them. Doing this helped them to engage closely with people who might later come back and book holidays.

What about the business community?

One of the other great benefits of social media is how it can facilitate online networking. LinkedIn is aimed at professionals and it can be used to build contacts with other businesses. It’s also particularly useful for thought leadership, an approach that positions a business as a significant voice in its field. You can blog, create discussion groups, and post updates that help establish yourself as an expert in your field.

OnlyMarketingJobs is a niche career website. Initially, it used LinkedIn to promote jobs but over time it started to instead post a mixture of humorous and useful updates about job-seeking with the intention that these were likely to get shared. Articles like ‘Advice for Graduates: How to Work Your Way to The Top’ mixed with those like ‘25 Animal Memes for A Work Day’ encourage sharing across LinkedIn and have consequently helped OnlyMarketingJobs reach more people.

“You’ve got to know your audience, understand your niche, and take advantage of their sweet spots online,” says Laura Chetcuti, Content & Community Manager of OnlyMarketingJobs.

As with all social media, think about the people you want to connect with on LinkedIn and target them with information they’ll find useful and relevant – and which can also reinforce your brand and help position you as an expert. One of the great benefits of LinkedIn is that it lets you see where everyone works and their job title, so as you see who responds to the content you share, you’ll start to build a clearer picture of the types of people who might make strong business partners – or potential customers.

How do you attract your first followers?

If you’re starting from zero then go to friends and family first. Before you even get serious about your updates, get them to become followers you. You can then promote your social account on your website or blog with buttons that allow people to follow you with a single click.

If you have an email list, promote your social account on your newsletters. You can also add your social account details to your email signature.

How do you attract the next 150+ followers?

On social media, it’s important to think about the audience with which you want to connect and then target them with information they’ll find useful and/or appropriate.

Once you have a certain number of followers, the simplest way to continue growing is to create lively updates like those we have just mentioned. If they’re good, they’ll get ‘liked’ or retweeted by people that follow you and therefore seen by people who follow them.

Social media is a great way for you to build credibility with those that follow you and, therefore, create even more followers as your reputation grows online. Social media also allows you to know your audience better and find out what interests them. Not only can this help you become more responsive online, it can help you improve what you do more generally as a business.

It can also be useful to seek out key accounts to follow. People who are prominent in your area, other businesses, or people who are socially influential. Having these people follow you back can help grow your audience even more.

Find your voice, then keep talking.

When you feel you’ve found your ‘voice’ for social media – and which network or channel that works best for you – it’s important to keep up the conversation with your followers. It won’t be time-consuming once you’re into the swing of things.

It’s no good posting funny and interesting stuff once in a blue moon. Frequency is almost as important as quality. So, think about posting several times a week. Also, think about varying what you post. Why not mix in retweets alongside news about your business and general chatter with your customers?

At Sally’s Cottages, they run a Cottage Giveaway on Facebook each month. They offer a free stay in one of their cottages. All their followers need to do to be in with a chance of winning the free stay is to answer a question in the comments section. Sally’s then selects a winner at random. The giveaway keeps interest in its Facebook page strong and encourages new people to engage with the company every month.

An alternative is to ‘like’ other people’s Facebook posts rather than just posting about you all the time.

Hopefully, you’ll now have a good idea about using social media in a quick and easy way to stay in touch with your customers and get a few more people interested in your business.

When you’ve mastered the basics, you might want to try and build on this success. If you’re keen to progress to something more advanced, look at our marketing section or read about how Sally’s Cottages has mastered cheap, cheerful, and effective promotion. It could help you take your social knowledge to the next level!

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