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Using social media to grow your business

Social media should be part of your marketing mix as it can be a cheap, effective and easy-to-use marketing channel.

Some of the benefits include:

  • Unlike traditional face-to-face media, social media allows you to communicate with a large number of people in a short space of time, with a few taps on the keyboard or your phone
  • You can listen to what customers are saying about your business, your competitors and your industry
  • With social media, you can ask questions, respond to comments and build a better relationship with your customers
  • It can be a highly cost effective compared with traditional marketing channels
  • It provides a means to publicize your business culture, staff and successes

Social media is also accessible for business of all shapes and sizes across almost every industry, where the cost to participate is the same for everyone. This levelling of the playing field helps smaller businesses compete against larger competition.

The cost of social media

Although it doesn’t cost anything to set up, don’t make the mistake of thinking that social media’s completely free. If you or one of your staff is spending time updating social media channels, responding to posts and participating in group discussions, that’s time not spent doing other things. Check the time spent on social media is worth the return on investment.

And it’s not just the resource cost you’ll need to consider. Reaching a wider audience may mean paying for advertising or improving your posts.

Which social media should you use?

It makes sense to be active on the social media platforms your customers are in (rather than the ones you use). To identify the right channels, monitor which media provides the most traffic from your website analytics to give you a clue. Each platform also tends to have a primary function which can help you decide if it’s targeting the right audience and what type of content to post, for example:

  • Facebook to target consumers and for personal sharing of stories
  • LinkedIn to target businesses and to educate or offer business insights
  • Twitter for microblogging and instant news
  • YouTube, Instagram and Flickr for visual images and to showcase or demonstrate.

Every industry will have its own characteristics, so identify which social media platforms tend to be used by your customers the most and work out what they are doing (looking, listening, posting, participating, inventing, leading, following). Then join in.

What should I post on social media?

Your posts need to be attention-grabbing and relevant. Here are the top tips and a few common taboos when writing for social media:

  • Don’t go for the ‘hard sell’ as people generally have less time for disruptive methods that push a sales agenda
  • Showcase your products with photos, profiling popular products for the month, mentioning a current offer, or giving a behind-the-scenes look into your company
  • Attract followers by offering incentives such as competitions, special offers and free samples
  • Comment on other topics of interest to your audience and follow industry thought leaders
  • Avoid commenting on controversial current events or politics

Make meaningful connections to build trust with your audience. Ask them questions and find out what makes them tick. They’re more likely to become regulars if they know you’re there to genuinely listen.

Paid advertising on social media

If you can afford it, paid advertising using social media is a great way to attract your target audience. Boosting some of your most popular posts, will help reach a greater audience than people who follow your business profile.

How do I know if it’s working?

You’ll be able to measure the effectiveness of your social media posts through feedback about the number of people who saw the post (the reach) and the number of clicks, likes, re-tweets and other engagements your posts get. Facebook Insights lets you track interaction on your Facebook page while LinkedIn has an analytics tab with metrics and trends about your company page, as well data on the various interactions.

Each of the social media platforms has their own measurement metrics you can follow.

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