social media marketing

Is social media marketing working for your small business?

By Rieva Lesonsky

If you aren’t sure whether social media marketing is really worth all the effort, you’re not alone. According to a recent survey reported in LSA Insider, small and midsize business owners in the survey expressed concern about the ROI of social media marketing, at the same time as they recognize its importance.

Some 57% of small and midsize businesses say social media is one of their most important marketing channels; in fact, 30% say it is their most important marketing channel. However, two-thirds (66%) say they aren’t confident that they’re doing social media marketing right.

What’s Driving People Nuts About Social Media?

Here’s what survey respondents say about their frustrations with social media:

  • 39% say they know they need to be on social media, but there are too many platforms and confusing choices.
  • 36% say they can’t keep up with changing algorithms; as a result, tactics that used to work don’t work anymore.
  • 31% say they don’t understand social media; it’s too complicated.
  • 19% say they are getting lackluster results on social media but aren’t sure why.

How to Stop Wasting Time on Social Media

Social media marketing is important for your business — and it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Here are seven steps you should follow to get a grip on your social media marketing.

  1. Set goals for your social media presence. Decide on specific, business -related goals — not just “getting more likes.” Do you want to build awareness of your business among a certain target audience? Do you want to get people to go to your website or call your business? Do you want people to actually purchase something because of what they see on social media? Do you want to create stronger relationships with customers? All of those goals and more can be achieved by using social media.
  2. Do some reconnaissance. There are lots of social networks out there — but your business doesn’t need to be on all of them. If your store markets to teenagers, you probably need to be on Snapchat — but if you’re trying to sell IT consulting services to local businesses, Snapchat won’t be that useful. Start by looking at the social media sites your closest competitors have a presence on, and what they’re doing there. Next, dig into research about what types of customers tend to use which social media channels. Pew Research does regular studies on the subject; you can also get the latest news about social channels on Social Media Examiner and Social Media Explorer. Where are your target customers spending their time? You can’t be on every social media site, so you need to identify the ones that matter most to your customer base.
  3. Get attention with images. Graphics, photos and videos attract more attention on social media than plain text posts. No matter what type of business you run, find a way to add visuals to your posts. That’s easier for some businesses than others — if you own a pet grooming business, posting photos of your adorable clients is sure to attract eyeballs. But even an IT consultant could share photos or videos of their happy clients, infographics about tech topics, or creative stock photos to spice up their posts.
  4. Build community. Social media isn’t just about promoting your business — in fact, being overly promotional will turn followers off. Instead, aim to start a conversation that gets people talking about your business, sharing your posts and engaging online. You can create a sense of community by asking your followers questions, holding contests, or conducting surveys.
  5. Invest in social media advertising. It’s not your imagination: it has gotten more difficult to get attention on social media with organic posts. You will have greater success if you spend some money on social media advertising. The good news is that social media advertising is very affordable and allows you to specifically target customer audiences down to the smallest detail. For example, you could run a Facebook ad and choose to show it only to people who share similar characteristics, interests and social media habits with your existing customers, making these viewers more likely to buy what you sell.
  6. Get help. Social media apps to help you manage your business’s social media presence, such as HootSuite, Buffer and Sprout Social, can take a lot of the hassles of social media off your hands. Using these apps allows you to see all your social media interactions in one place so you don’t have to keep logging in and out of different social networks. They can also provide analytics tools, suggest the best times to post and more. In addition, keep up on social media trends and news.
  7. Assess your results. It’s easy to get so caught up in the fun of social media that you lose sight of that original goal you set. Don’t. All social media tools have analytics that business owners can use to see which posts are performing best and other key performance indicators. Check them on a regular basis to see if your social media efforts are working. It’s easy to change course as long as you pay attention to the feedback that analytics can give you.

Despite the frustrations they sometimes feel about social media, small and midsize businesses aren’t giving up on it. A whopping 86% plan to spend the same as, or more than, than they did on social media last year in the coming year.

People connecting and sharing social media stock photo from