What to do about your social media in 4 steps.
A few short years ago, social media was supposed to be the new holy grail of small business marketing.
The promises were great. Finally, small businesses could compete on a level playing field with the big brands! Social media advertising would let you maximize your advertising dollars by targeting exactly the right consumers at exactly the right time! Just by tapping out a few social media posts from your smartphone during a few spare minutes per day, you could generate revenue for your business!
Right? Maybe not…
In recent years, social media for small to mid-sized businesses (SMBs) has lost a bit of its luster. Even as the platforms — Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn to name a few — continue to grow, businesses are finding it ever-harder to successfully engage customers. And with the algorithm updates in 2018, everything has changed.
Is social media still a worthwhile investment for today’s SMBs, or is it just another time suck that you can’t afford? What are today’s SMBs supposed to do to be “good at social” anymore? How can you adapt to a social media world that keeps changing the rules?
Don’t feel bad if you’re feeling baffled by social media, or if your business is not getting the social media marketing results you want. Remember: it’s not you that’s the problem, it’s THEM. Facebook and other social media platforms have made life more difficult for people trying to market their business.
Facebook is the world’s biggest social media platform, and most SMBs have tried to at least set up a Facebook page and begin to build an audience there – but in recent years, Facebook has regularly altered their algorithm and their rules for social media advertising in ways that are often confusing and detrimental to small business owners.
Facebook has slashed “organic reach” (the percentage of your own followers who see your posts) to near zero, and they’re pushing Instagram in that direction, too. They now make you pay just to be able to reach your audience which you may have spent years building. And if you used to enjoy authentic success on social media, you might be noticing that the tactics that used to work are no longer generating results.
Professional social media managers around the world will tell you the same thing — last year’s playbook doesn’t apply anymore.
But hope survives. It’s not too late to make some adjustments to your social media strategy to get the results you deserve.
Here’s what you can do to greatly improve your social media marketing results:
- Commit to boosting posts strategically: You likely pay other services for advertising, and if you aren’t already, you should consider social media to be part of your marketing spend. You can’t depend entirely on organic reach; even small businesses need to be prepared to spend some money on sponsored posts and ads to reach more of the right people. Fortunately, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other platforms have excellent targeting features – so you can sort via geographic location, interests, demographics and other features to help build an audience for your business.
- Call people to action: Social media posts, especially paid posts, should include a link to your website or alternative landing destination, and an invitation for the audience to take action – such as “sign up for our email list,” or “register for a free webinar.” Try to get your audience to connect and engage with your company outside of the platform, as soon as possible, so you can own the relationship instead of renting it from Facebook.
- Test the timing: Timing is essential for success on social media – when you post is almost as important as what you post. A 2017 Facebook marketing study from BuzzSumo found that Facebook posts tend to get more engagement on Sundays and in the evenings, when there is less competition for people’s attention. At Sensai, our data shows that every audience is different, but yours likely has “hot spots” when they’re most likely to see your content.
- Invest your time instead of going for the “quick fix”: Social media marketing is like working on your health. “Get 10,000 followers fast” is about as realistic as “lose 10 pounds overnight.” Fake followers won’t do anything for your business, and the platforms may punish you for cheating. Social media requires sustained, steady effort. Your metrics will trend up over time. Start by baselining your performance and observe results after 60, 90 or 120 days. The goal should be to improve your authentic social reach and generate more valuable engagements of all kinds, including social shares, inquiries, referrals, signups, downloads, etc. – people talking about your business in a way that leads to new customers.
“More followers” is not necessarily the answer – instead, you need more of the RIGHT followers, and you need to get better at targeting them with relevant messages at the right time. Social media marketing is becoming more fragmented and complex, but it is still a valuable channel for SMB marketing if you’re willing to rethink your strategy and apply the right tools.
Eric Meyerson is Head of Marketing for Sensai, a new startup that gives businesses, creators, and artists the power to transform their online influence with the help of Artificial Intelligence (AI). Eric is an industry veteran in social media, marketing, and consumer technology, and a former marketing leader at Facebook and YouTube.