People often talk about social media marketing as if it’s this easy thing that any small business owner can do immediately – just sign up for a Twitter account or a Facebook page and start posting, and watch the new customers come to you. But the truth is more complicated. Many small business owners want to get involved with social media, only to discover that there’s a bit of a learning curve – they often struggle to integrate social media marketing into their daily business operations in a way that is time-efficient and cost-effective.
We talked with several small business owners who overcame some initial difficulties and are now successfully utilizing social media. Listen to their ideas and insights on how to make social media work for your business:
Mark Ferguson, Realtor, real estate investor, author and creator of InvestFourMore.com
When I first started my real estate blog and real estate sales team websites and Facebook accounts, the biggest challenge in the beginning was finding the time to create a following and post. We tried to post as much as possible, but we always got distracted by day-to-day activities in the business. It was tough to create a following since we were being inconsistent. We also had problems getting engagement when we posted things about our business.
We hired a company to post for us with no results. They were posting multiple times a day, but the posts were not getting engagement either. Then I read “Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook,” by Gary Vaynerchuk, a great book on social media and how to build an audience. It taught that you cannot simply promote your business; instead you have to post interesting things that your audience cares about. The posts do not need to have anything to do with your business. I started posting more personal things about me, about what I was doing in the business and interesting stories regarding the business. Our engagement took off and followers increased as well. I once again tried to hire a company to take our social media to the next level and again that was a huge failure. They were spamming people and creating a horrible image for us. If you hire someone for social media, make sure you keep an eye on what they are posting.
I realized that I know my business and audience best and it is tough to hire a third party to do it for you. Once you figure out a plan and a system, you should be able to delegate that to an assistant. I post things multiple times a day, try to get as much engagement as possible and always respond to comments. With Facebook, the more engagement you get, the more people see your posts. If you are posting junk that nobody likes or clicks on, it will hurt you more than it helps you.
I would also recommend experimenting with boosting posts and advertising. I also promote some pages to get more likes. I have found some pages do much better than others and are worth promoting for $5 to $20 a day. I would also recommend re-targeting ads if you are going to create advertisements. Re-targeting will show ads to people who have already been on your site.
Jeanne Kelly, Founder and Credit Coach, ReadyforGoodCredit.com
Since I started my company in 2000, I never had to do any social media. Once I got on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram I realized I could learn to build more business. The scary thing was what to post and how to focus my time. Time is money, and since social media was to help save me money with building an audience, I dove right in and had to learn from mistakes to grow.
I will admit to buying the book, Social Media Marketing for Dummies. I also tried to follow other people I respected to see how they were doing it, and we cheered each other on.
My advice is simple: dive in! Social media is not going anywhere so you want to be part of it. You also have to be your own voice. Posts are so fabulous to share with your customers, friends, followers and the larger social media world. Make it count!
Brittany Nettles, Sweet Note Bagels
In the beginning, we had a social media identity struggle. We did not have a voice, we did not have consistency and we did not understand our demographic. We were active, but we did not generate the amount of engagement that we wanted. Over time, we figured out the social media recipe and began to grow our reach organically. We sink money into sponsored Facebook posts when necessary, but other than that, we use social media as our form of free marketing. It’s one of our most effective tools, aside from brand presence in the market.
I am a blogger by night and have the opportunity to engage with successful brands and bloggers often. I learn a lot from them and have a front-row seat to social media trends. I identify with our online audience, so it is easy for me to understand what will and what won’t be successful. We utilize resources such as Facebook Insights and Google Analytics. These things are all very valuable.
Our Director of Marketing also contributes to high-level campaigns and helps position us. We do not outsource social media. It’s important to be transparent. Be real. Be engaging! Jump in on conversations. Ask for feedback. It’s all about having an identity and interacting with others. Sure, social media is there to aid with branding. However, you brand naturally and grow organically the more that you are in-tune with your community.
Matthew Mercuri, Dupray
We sell high-quality, European-made residential and commercial steam cleaners to people around the world. We have very active Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts, and we even went viral in South Korea in November 2015.
Obviously the most difficult initial social media struggle is getting people to follow you. Very few people will come to you directly. You need to go get them. Get your client list out and start trying to correlate your clients to their social media. You need to be two things to get a following on social media: ACTIVE and DIFFERENT. You need to be active in your milieu. Interact positively with anyone who is talking about your products, your industry or even something a little bit off-topic.
You also need to be different. You need to fill a niche. People do not want to follow another company who just publishes content that lists all the great things about their products. Humor sells. So does personality. You just need to have the motivation and originality to be consistently present on social media. That’s when you get to a point where you start using social media for other things, such as customer service, sales, celebrity engagement and more.
Nick Leffler, Your Brand By Nick Leffler
When I first started on social media, one of the biggest challenges was figuring out what to post about. The initial hang-up is usually that you don’t have nearly enough content to share, self-promoting constantly feels too self-serving and there’s not enough time in the day to create good content to share.
I came to the realization that it’s not about posting all original content or self-promoting, it’s about creating value. You can create value simply by sharing other people’s content and adding some value to it with a comment. Even when promoting something from yourself, it should add value to the user. People on social media want to see something interesting or useful – that’s your job. I now share about 80 percent content from other sources with some value-added commentary, and only about 20 percent content from myself – such as new or previous blog posts, pictures and quotes.
Be active and be relevant. Your audience is following you or wants to follow you for a specific reason. It’s your job to figure out that specific reason and then cater your content to that. I help businesses create an amazing brand online so the content I share relates to this. I share content that could help my followers with specific tasks in building their brand online. This, in turn, builds trust with them. They now know that I’m a trustworthy source and that I may be a good business partner in the future when they are looking.
Liz Lockard, Liz Lockard Marketing Consulting
I’m an analytics nut so I definitely struggled seeing for a fact that social media wasn’t working. The biggest struggle I had when I started with social media was just how much time it was taking me to get very little results (which I could see inside my Google Analytics). Posting to crickets, struggling to build a following – it was an incredibly frustrating experience.
I think the biggest piece besides social media training that helped me overcome the social media struggle was getting to know my actual prospective customer a lot better. Knowing more about what they were thinking and the struggles they were having helped me start to post more engaging content. It also helped to find a platform that “clicked” for me – I spend most of my time on Twitter and Instagram these days. And that’s still way less time than I was spending in the early days.
Besides focusing on getting to know my ideal client more, I think the biggest piece that helped guide my decision of which platform to focus on was using Google Analytics. As an analytics consultant, of course I’m a huge advocate of it – but using actual analytics to help evaluate which platform is sending you leads and customers and which platform is sending you nada can really help you get more bang for your social media buck. Nothing beats what the numbers are telling you.
Another thing that can help is finding people (not necessarily in your niche) who are doing really well on the platforms you want to be on – how are they using the platform in ways you can replicate for your audience? Two people who really inspire my social media presence (and are killing it) are Tara Gentile and Hilary Rushford. Both have an amazingly intuitive understanding of who they’re talking to, and it shows.
Dayne Shuda, Ghost Blog Writers
Our initial struggle was using too many social channels for our business, Ghost Blog Writers. The initial thought was that we needed to be on all the social media channels to be successful and that each channel had to be unique. That seemed to spread our already tight resources too thin.
So to overcome that, we did the obvious and stopped focusing on so many channels. We cut it back to just Twitter and a little focus on LinkedIn. And it’s really just my personal account. Even focusing on one for the business and one for me was too much – small business owners are busy! That focus has allowed us to get more followers and interaction from that one channel instead of getting little to no interaction from a lot of effort spread out across too many channels.
That would be my advice for others: cut back and focus on one channel. It could be the channel where you’re getting the most engagement now. Cut out the rest and put all efforts into what’s working.
Do you have any social media success stories (or cautionary examples) to share from your business? Leave a comment and let us know.