Monday 23 September 2019

Top ten tips for small businesses looking to stand out - positively - on social media

Eimear McManus
Eimear McManus

Eimear McManus, founder of Digital Works

Navigating social media, and more importantly making your business stand out on social media, can be trickier than it looks.

Algorithms are constantly changing, new platforms and features are popping up every couple of months and small businesses often don’t have the time to dedicate to creating worthwhile content.

Here are top ten tips to help small business owners shape up on social media.


1. Don't rush - brand before presence

You might be a new business and yet to define your tone and brand identity - if that’s the case, you’re not yet ready for social media. First things first, hold a brainstorming session to figure out your brand’s personality, your key objectives for social media, your targets, etc.

This will help to shape your content strategy and make it easier to say yes or no to ideas. It will also help you to figure out which platforms are best for your brand. You don’t need to have a presence on all platforms but if you do, keep content relevant.


2. Plan, plan, plan and plan some more

Some of the best reactions and responses we see by brands on social media are shared in the moment, but most content you come across has been planned weeks in advance.

There are amazing tools online that will help you to create a calendar of events. I’d suggest creating a yearly events calendar that you can refer to each month as you define your content including opportunities relevant to your brand. National days, sporting events, news events such as State Exams or celebrity birthdays are a good place to start. As it’s coming up to the end of the year, it’s the perfect time to start a calendar for 2019 and keep adding to it as you go. 

Scheduling content in advance is an excellent time-saver too. I’d recommend Sprout Social. It’s an excellent and affordable scheduling tool that cater to the major social platforms.


3. Invest in visual - and don't forget to repurpose

It’s definitely worth investing in quality imagery! Whilst images from Shutterstock are better than no images, I’d recommend investing in your own images to show off your product. 

And, if a picture paints a thousand words, then video paints a million. Video offers great bang for your buck as it can be used as long-form or short-form content. For instance, why not use a 1 minute clip on Facebook but a shorter 15 second edit of the same video on Instagram?


4. Use advertising - but don't get disheartened if it doesn't work first time

It’s true that most brands spend on social media and we believe in this approach too - but only when it’s done right. If you’re new to advertising, my advice would be to have a clear idea on what you want a paid campaign to achieve. Campaigns with a clear objective work best so think website visits or page visits. 

Putting money behind a social media ad doesn’t guarantee success. Just as with advertising on a billboard or in a newspaper, the most engaging, creative ideas have the most impact. And, remember your logo - it’s surprising how many brands forget to include their identity. 

If you’re really unsure about what asset to use, Facebook offers split-testing which in-short, uses a small amount of your allocated spend to test a couple of advertising options over a short period to figure out which performs best. You can then put your remaining spend behind the better performer for the duration of the campaign. 

If you decide that paid partnerships are suitable for your brand then be sure the chosen influencer declares the content as paid so your followers can be informed and trust that your brand is transparent. Similarly, if the objective is sales via Instagram, it’s a good idea to give an influencer a discount code as part of the partnership - that way you can look at measurement outside of engagements, and know exactly how many people purchased as a result. 

Remember that social media advertising is measurable so if you’re not seeing a return after the first couple of month, re-group and try a different approach.



5. Don’t pay attention to vanity metrics

It’s always tough to see your competitors rising to the social media occasion time and time again but don’t be fooled by the numbers. Just because a brand’s following is increasing, it doesn’t mean their bottom line is. Engagement is much more beneficial to your objective than page likes or followers. 

Most platforms provide insights for you so be sure to pay attention to these on a weekly, fortnightly or monthly basis. This will allow you to pinpoint where you’re going right….and wrong. Online insights can often be used to support your offline strategy too.



6. Get inspired - become a social media sponge

If you want to succeed on social media, then you need to become a social media sponge. There are so many brilliant free resources to help you learn more about how social media can work for you. I listen to podcasts every day and it’s amazing how many new tips and ideas you pick up. I’d recommend The Janet Murray Show or The Social Media Marketing Podcast to start. 

We’ve actually set up the Digital Works Podcast Club - like a book club, just focused on podcasts. The team gets together at 2pm on a Friday to share new tips and insights they’ve learned.

In addition, go to local workshops, join LinkedIn groups, follow agencies and brands to absorb as much as you can as often as you can.


7. Collaborate and complement 

Collaborating with another brand, complementary to yours, is a great way to access a new audience. A great piece of content that includes both brands can be shared on both of your social media accounts increasing its footprint. If you own a hotel, consider partnering with a drinks brand you have a good relationship with to create a cocktail recipe video.

Alternatively, if you own a beauty brand, why not partner with a makeup artist or beauty salon to offer one person the chance to win a makeover? Cross-promotion is a key element to growing a brand.


8. Build a brand - retain a reputation

A brand’s reputation can take years to build but it can be destroyed in seconds. If you run into difficulty with a follower, don’t delete negative comments instead respond but take a moment before replying. Better yet, run your suggested response by a colleague before pushing reply to make sure you have your brand’s best foot forward at all times.


9. Concentrate on becoming mobile-friendly

Most content these days is absorbed on mobile so be mindful of how this might affect your content idea. If your video has dialogue, consider subtitles, better yet, ask yourself if dialogue is really needed?


10. Think about a helping hand 

Managing social media can quickly become a full-time job so if you can afford it, consider getting help. Depending on budget, you can hire an in-house social media expert, hire a specialised agency or work with a freelancer. You could consider working with an expert to help shape your strategy, rather than managing your content day-to-day or you could work with a freelancer over a key period rather than all year round.

Eimear McManus works with SMEs to help them master their online presence. She has worked her magic for brands such as Goldwell, BorrowFox, Swoop Funding, and River Medical in Dublin.

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