Social media has changed the nature of how many businesses interact with customers, and customers with the businesses they frequent. It can provide countless opportunities for merchants to develop better service, explore new opportunities, and foster relationships with customers far beyond their traditional local footprint.
But just like with anything in business, it takes a little creativity, an investment of time and effort, and a little know-how to make social media truly work for SMBs.
Below, we offer several tips to improve your small business’ social media planning, creation, and workflow.
1. Before you speak, listen — Because of the semi-anonymous nature of the internet, customers will speak quite candidly about what they love about your business, what their needs are, and what things you could improve on social media.
Use this increased level of candor to really listen to your customers. Respond to their questions, make sure they know their concerns are heard. Ask questions of your own to learn what it is they’re truly after from your business.
The insight provided can help you improve your business along a number of fronts, and provide you with guidance on how to execute on the other half of the social media equation.
2. Make your customers the focus of your content — Many a small business owner has made the mistake in thinking that social media is just a place to post free ads rather than another venue from which to serve your customers.
Use the insight gained about your customers from your active social media listening to create a sustainable content plan that focuses on presenting your customers with the answers to the questions they have.
While creating enough content to maintain an active and healthy conversation might seem like a lot of effort, an engaged community can be created around your social media accounts by following this ratio: post 80% other people’s content, and 20% your own.
Your customers will actually appreciate you pointing them to other smart viewpoints, and you can use the original content you create to occasionally slip in a mention or a link back to your business.
Remember, focus on their needs over your own when it comes to content—otherwise you’re just another ad for them to ignore.
3. Streamline your social workflow — While you should only maintain social media accounts where your customer base actually congregates (each site tends to have certain demographic tendencies), chances are you’ll still need to manage posts on several accounts.
This is where applications like Hootsuite and Buffer can help.
Hootsuite is a powerful, highly customizable social media dashboard that allows multiple users (teams) to monitor social analytics, post, schedule future posts, and even manage social advertising.
Buffer is a lighter, easy-to-use social media scheduling application that also provides performance metrics and makes scheduling many posts at a time simple.
Both have their strengths and weaknesses (complexity, cost, number of accounts and users, etc.), but one of the biggest advantages both share is the ability to do all of your social media posts in advance.
4. Maximize your social impressions by knowing when — The key to making the most of a scheduling app is knowing when to post.
Hootsuite will automatically suggest the best times of day to post, and Buffer provides an optimal scheduling tool that looks at a number of factors like past performance and similar profiles to suggest when is best.
But if you’re just doing a one-off or are choosing to schedule your posts manually, make sure to schedule according to the best times and days for that particular social media site. For details on many of the most popular sites, check out this infographic from Hubspot.
5. Automate your creativity — Creating professional-looking social media posts is a skill in itself, but there are a number of apps available that can help you automate the creation process, giving your photo and video posts the slick polish to really improve your image.
Ripl takes your photo(s) and text, and in a couple steps, allows you to choose great, professional looking layouts that combine cool fonts and animation to make your posts really stick out from the pack.
Magisto does a similar magic trick, but with video, advanced editing techniques, custom branding, and licensed music to make your video posts look like you hired a professional agency.
Both have free functionality, but if you’re looking to take your social videos and photos to the next level, the paid versions are worth every penny.
Clover is sold by leading U.S. banks including Bank of America, BBVA, Citi, PNC, Sun Trust and Wells Fargo. You’ll also find Clover at our trusted partners including Ignite Payments, Restaurant Depot, and Sam’s Club. For more information, visit us at clover.com.