Your ultimate guide to small business social media

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How to create a winning social media strategy, from content planning to optimising for success


There’s little doubt that social media can be game-changing for small businesses.


From finding new customers to building brand equity, selling products and growing subscriber lists, social media offers a raft of benefits for small businesses, and has become a vital part of the marketing mix.  


So, how can you create a winning social media strategy?


We’ve created a step-by-step guide to creating an effective strategy, below. But you can also navigate straight to stories offering 7 standout social media examples, social media tips for bricks-and-mortar businesses, and an explainer on the rise of social commerce.


Research: your audience


Before you start posting – or creating a strategy - it’s important to get to grips with your target audience. “You need to build up a wealth of insights and understanding about your audience before you even start on the strategy side of things,” says Matt Kendall of digital marketing agency fromm.


Consider attributes such as:




Social media usage (including which platforms they’re on)


If your social media channels are already live, look at your analytics to find out what’s resonating with them (and what’s not).


Next, focus on your competitors’ pages: what are they doing well? And poorly? Where do you see opportunities?


Think: audience first


While it’s tempting to focus solely on what you want to achieve from your social media platforms, it’s important to first consider social media from your customers’ perspective. “Social media is all about the audience. With [traditional] advertising, it’s all about the message [a brand] wants to get across. But with social media you need to take a step back and flip the focus. Your starting point needs to be the audience,” says Kendall.


Digital strategist Jordan Lomax of The Social Lab agrees. “Try to think about your customers’ pain points, and what will engage them, first. Or ask yourself: what knowledge do we have [as a brand] that our audience might want?”


For example, a jeans brand might determine that their audience wants to know how to style or customise jeans. Perhaps they want to find out more about how jeans are made or about the brand itself. Alternatively, they may be interested in hearing from influential people or designers who are associated with the brand.


Find: your social media purpose


Once you’ve established what type of content is likely to resonate with your audience, the next step is matching this with the brand messages you want to convey. This will help establish your social media purpose.


That purpose will depend on your brand and industry, says Kendall. For example, a beauty brand might decide that its purpose is to make beauty accessible and fun. (Go-To skincare is an excellent example of this approach.) A fashion brand might focus on inspiring customers with beautiful imagery of its products and the lifestyle associated with it. (Will & Bear achieves this with its outdoorsy photography.)


“A social media purpose provides a filter so you can determine what is and isn’t good content for your channels, and what’s on strategy,” says Kendall.


Think: long-term


While social media can be a sales tool – especially with the rise of social commerce [link to story] – it’s also a long-term way to build affinity with your brand, says Lomax. “You have to treat social media as a really big content marketing play, where everything that you’re sharing helps tell your brand’s story. Because when they buy into your brand, they’re more likely to eventually buy from you.”


Don’t be afraid of reinforcing your brand messages, says Karen P’ng. “Sometimes, when you stick to your ‘content pillars’ it can feel like you’re repeating yourself, but you’re not. You’re just reinforcing your messaging.”


Do: Mix up your content


“I always like to say, ‘Don’t push what you want to sell on to people, pull them in with what they want to know,” says Lomax.


In other words, as well as sales content – promoting your products or services – create and deliver content that’s educational, inspirational or inspiring.


A content calendar, which features key dates like public holidays and anniversaries, as well as seasonal launches, sales and other brand-related events and dates, will help you plan and diversify your content.


Do: Decide which platforms are right for you


It’s important to decide which social media channels make sense for your brand – and this will depend on your product and audience. Visual brands, for example, might be better suited to Instagram and Pinterest, while corporate brands may find more success on LinkedIn.


“It’s pretty common for small to medium sized businesses to spread themselves too thin across too many channels,” says P’ng. “They develop FOMO [fear of missing out] and want to be on all the channels, but then they struggle to create good experiences.”


Do: create ‘thumb-stopping’ content


To stand out on social media, it’s vital to create content that will stop users in their tracks. Whether you’re creating video, photography, infographics or memes, it’s crucial that the content is eye-catching, and ideally showcases a unique visual aesthetic or tone of voice.


“Don’t just post content for content’s sake,” says Lomax. “A few years ago, the advice was to simply post every day, but now we say that it’s more important to simply be consistent, rather than filling your feed with memes.”


Kendall agrees, adding that most social media platforms will penalise your page for posting poor-quality content that doesn’t engage your audience. “You’re better off not posting something, than posting content that’s substandard.”


Do: measure and report


Lastly, don’t forget to report. One of the advantages of social media is that feedback is instant, and it’s easy to identify which posts succeed and which content fails. A weekly report should note your overall reach and engagement on each channel, as well as which posts received the most and least engagement. These will offer vital clues into how to adjust your content strategy.


Anna Saunders is a journalist and the co-founder of Studio PRIMER.  


The rise of social commerce

6 Standout social media examples to inspire you

How to use social media for bricks-and-mortar stores


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