Nearly every small business owner out there knows how important social media is to the success of their company. What used to be a fun way to connect with friends is now the top choice of customer care channels, and roughly 30% of millennials (and 32% of Gen X’ers) interact with brands on social media each month.
But knowing that something is vital to your success isn’t the same thing as knowing how to use it successfully. And let’s be honest — most small businesses don’t have the spare hours to spend on a deep dive into social media best practices.
Lucky for you, we’ve already done that, and we’ve compiled some of the most effective ones here. If you want to know how to use social media more efficiently for your small business, keep reading.
There’s an old saying that, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” That’s especially true when it comes to your business’s social media.
The companies that regularly see the best results from their social media marketing have a strategy in place that outlines exactly who they want to reach and how they plan to do it. And if you want your social media to yield good results, you need to plan this, too.
Start by taking stock of your current social media situation, or conducting what marketers call a social media audit. The point of a social media audit is to provide a snapshot of your social media presence and its impact, so record:
Doing this helps you see gaps in your content or strategy and highlights opportunities for improvement.
Next, develop a marketing plan for how to address those problem areas, and use it to guide your social media marketing going forward. A robust marketing plan should include:
We recommend conducting a social media audit about once a year and adjusting your social media marketing plan as needed based on that audit.
One mistake we see many small businesses make is trying to be active on every possible social media platform. In theory, this helps get their content in front of a larger audience, which is great for bringing in plenty of new customers.
But in reality, most small businesses don’t have the time it takes to maintain that level of social media activity. They soon find themselves stretched thin, unable to keep up with all of their accounts. Without continued engagement, their brand presence suffers, and any audience they built starts to fall away.
Instead of this, choose 1-3 platforms to really focus on doing right. Instead of wasting time scrambling to post something in 10 different places, you can give each platform — and each audience — the attention it deserves.
One of the best ways to make your social media more effective is to post when your audience is online and looking. Each platform has its own unique behavior patterns, so what works on Facebook may not necessarily work for Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, or Pinterest.
Generally speaking, Facebook posts get the most interaction between 1-4 p.m., while Twitter posts perform better between 12-3 p.m. Instagram’s prime window is usually between 8 and 9 a.m., while LinkedIn posts get the most traction before and after business hours.
But since nobody really has the flexibility in their schedule to manually publish on all of those platforms at each of those times, we recommend using a social media scheduling tool like Hootsuite, Buffer, or CoSchedule to automatically post at the right time for your audience.
You can also use some scheduling tools to keep certain topics circulating on a regular basis — things like special promotions or discounts, top-performing blog posts, and more. RecurPost is great for this, though CoSchedule’s ReQueue feature gives many of the same benefits.
Another area where small businesses often struggle is the ability to generate enough content to keep their social media feeds going.
Not only is creating a new graphic for every social media post time-consuming and inefficient, but it also leads to creative burnout for your team member tasked with managing your social media profiles.
A better solution is to find creative ways to repurpose content that you already have. For instance, every image in your blog posts should be shared on social media with a link back to the original article. That means you automatically get that many more social posts from one blog than you did before. And if you highlighted statistics in your blog posts, these can easily be translated into engaging tweets.
You can even repurpose entire blog posts by converting them into Slideshares or Pulse stories on LinkedIn or importing them into Medium. And if your website includes engaging imagery, you can share screenshots of it with a link back to the relevant web page.
Think of how much time you’ll save by making the content you already have work even harder so that you can focus instead on servicing your new customers.
Hashtags are small businesses’ secret weapon when it comes to getting more followers and engagement — on Instagram, posts using at least 1 hashtag receive 12.6% more engagement than posts without hashtags, while Tweets with hashtags have 200% more engagement and 55% more retweets.
Hashtags act like a label on a folder, identifying what the content of that social media post is about. When people search for hashtags on social media, every post that includes that tag shows up. So for every hashtag you include in your social media posts, your chances of being discovered increase exponentially.
Just like each platform has its own best time to post, each has a different policy for using hashtags. Instagram is currently the most hashtag-friendly social media platform, allowing up to 30 hashtags per post.
Twitter doesn’t limit the number of hashtags you can include (only the number of characters in your tweets), but studies have found that engagement drops dramatically for Tweets that include more than 3 hashtags.
Facebook and LinkedIn are even less hashtag-friendly, with engagement dropping for posts that use more than 1-2 hashtags.
Choose your hashtags carefully. They should be relevant to your post and to your audience so that you attract people who could become customers. For instance, if you’re a dentist sharing your practice’s new root canal special, you might want to include #RootCanal or #EmergencyDentist, but steer clear of tags like #BTS or #NowPlaying, which are more popular but have nothing to do with the content of your post.
Businesses that use too many hashtags or tags that are irrelevant to their content and audience may be seen as spammy, and that’s not a reputation you want to build for your brand.
If you need help coming up with hashtags for your audience, you can use Hashtagify, a free tool to suggest and analyze popular tags in your niche.
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