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Social media may be the last thing on your mind after a long day of managing employees, interacting with customers, ordering inventory and keeping an eye on your finances. But it’s an important tool that can help you market your business and engage with customers.
“If you engage in social media marketing smartly, it will be the most cost-effective marketing tool you can have,” says Peter LaMotte, chief of digital engagement at Levick, a Washington, D.C.-based strategic communications group.
More than a third of small businesses have increased the amount of time they spend on social media in the last year, according to a 2015 survey of 540 company owners by business directory Manta, which has promotional tools and forums to help companies raise their online profiles. To save time for busy small-business owners, we’ve compiled a list of ways to optimize your social media presence.
1. Set goals
You can’t create a Twitter account and call it a day. You need to set goals so you can measure whether your social media strategy is effective, LaMotte says.
Your goals don’t have to be huge; you can aim to increase your number of followers or engagement with customers, or to get a few sales leads directly through social media. Remember, LaMotte says, social media is just a tool; it’s not your entire marketing strategy.
2. Focus your efforts
Choose one social media platform, whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram or Youtube, and master it. Don’t pick your platform arbitrarily, however; you want to be where your customers are. For example, LaMotte recommends restaurants have a strong presence on Yelp, while professional organizations and business-to-business firms should focus on LinkedIn. Although Facebook is a popular platform, LaMotte warns against selling your business too strongly on it.
“People prefer not to be sold to on Facebook,” he says.
Additionally, small-business expert Melinda Emerson suggests using targeted keywords to strategically choose which social media platform to focus on. Use tools such as Google AdWords Keyword Planner or Wordtracker to pinpoint the keywords that drive people to your website, and find the social media platforms where people are talking about those keywords most, she says.
3. Have a good website
Your social media accounts don’t exist in a bubble. They’ll draw users to your website if you use them effectively, so it’s important to have a website that reflects your brand and is updated with your most current products and services.
Your website is “the welcome mat to your whole business,” Emerson says.
Make sure all of your social media accounts include a link to your website and vice versa. LaMotte also suggests including a field on your website that asks customers, “How did you find out about us?” Include specific social media sites as possible answers so you can track the traffic they drive to your website.
4. Share content
Social media is about more than just selling your products and services; it’s a chance to engage with your customers and establish your business as an industry expert. Sharing content — whether it’s original articles, aggregated articles, photos or videos — is a way to engage with your customers, LaMotte says.
“People are looking for something authentic,” he says. “They want to know the real you.”
If you’re a mechanic, for example, share information about cars that’s not directly related to your business, LaMotte says. If you run a sushi restaurant, share photos of Japan or fun facts about Japanese culture. If you own a bakery, post Instagram photos of your staff frosting cupcakes behind the scenes.
On a similar note, Emerson suggests sharing before selling. Share four links to others’ work for every post in which you promote yourself or your business, she says.
5. Consider an intern
If you’re strapped for time, hiring an intern to be your social media manager can be a low-cost way to get some extra help managing your social accounts. But, LaMotte says, make sure you create a broad social media strategy first before enlisting an intern to execute it. Keep a close eye on what he or she is posting to make sure it’s consistent with the message you want to send online.