Social Media Masterclass: 5 Steps to Success for SMEs in 2016

Social media is an essential and highly accessible way for small business owners to engage with their target audience.

Social Media Masterclass - A phone with popular social media apps, such as Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and InstagramA recent survey conducted by Constant Contact highlights a shift in SMEs attitudes to social media marketing, with 81% of people admitting to using social media to market their businesses.

Choose a Channel

As an SME, it is important to use one or two social media platforms to promote your business and concentrate your resources on doing the job really well. Trying to stretch your resources across multiple social channels will reap very little rewards and a limited return on investment. This is a common mistake that many small businesses make and where they fall at the first hurdle. Think carefully about your target audience when choosing your channels because each platform has a different demographic and purpose.

Build Relationships

Social media gives companies the opportunity to give their brand a voice and be very personable. Great marketing is about selling the next step and thinking about the mind-set of a potential customer. Human nature drives social media use. The ‘hard sell’ will not work on these platforms – the emphasis needs to be on what you can do for the end user and not what they can do for you. Pushy sales tactics will leave people feeling cold and clicking on the unfollow button. Every seventh post can mention products or services in a clever way but the other six must be focussed on interacting with your customers. SMEs need to think about how they can tap into their target audience’s emotions and engage with them on an individual and humanistic level.

“We use social media to talk to our customers and build a relationship,” says Matt Rogers, Head of Search at novelty gift online retailer toxicfox.co.uk. “Understanding how people interact with your brand and products will give you the insight you need to build a longer relationship with them. This not only helps with the bottom line in terms of customer retention but it gives us useful demographical data that we can use to align our other marketing efforts, ensuring we get maximum impact for our budgets,” he adds.

Be Different

Make a list of your top five competitors and analyse how they are using social media to promote their business, what channels they are on and the tone and style of their posts. Study them closely and note what they do well, how they interact with their followers and list the things they could do to improve. Learn from their mistakes but take all of their good characteristics and merge it with your own unique style and voice in line with your branding. Think about your USPs and what sets your SME apart from the competition and inject this into your social media offering. Writing how you speak in everyday life will help your SME find its voice. In real life you would have a conversation with someone rather than broadcasting your message to them or imparting your knowledge on them. Adopting a similar approach to social media will mean people are more likely to engage with you.

Match Your Brand

Every piece of content posted and shared across your company’s social platforms should support your brand image and keep in-line with your business ethos. “Our business toxicfox.co.uk sells thousands of gifts under the categories ‘LOL’, ‘OMG’ and ‘WTF’ and so content online is built to match this, often including humour and shock tactics which resonate with both the company and its consumers,” says Rogers.

Before posting an update on your social media accounts, think about how that information will be received by your audience and the implications this could have on your brand.

Measure Results

As with any experiment, you should monitor the results of your social media strategy closely in order to continuously develop your campaign. Look at what types of posts are encouraging the most engagement and what time of day your posts receive the most attention. You may find you’re losing or gaining followers after certain types of posts. This information will help you to shape your content and provide value whilst allowing you to gain valuable insight on your target audience.

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