Social Media For Small Business – An Overview

Is social media for small business really worth the time and effort? Does it deliver tangible results that matter such as sales, or at the very least enquiries?

It seems every conference and exhibition has a 30-minute slot allocated to a speaker promoting the benefits of social media. Their standard pitch tends to be posting regularly on social media will secure more content views and more followers. This, in turn, will ultimately lead to more engagement and more sales leads.

The above may be a valid process in theory but it assumes:

  • Sufficient potential customers are active on social media.
  • Interesting, quality content is available in enough quantity.
  • The business has the time and resources to publish and engage consistently.
  • The business can project an appropriate brand image/voice.

What’s The Plan?

Before allocating any effort to social media it is important to define objectives. Is it simply to raise awareness? Is it to help build backlinks to the website to help with SEO? Is it to generate enquiries? Or is it to build the business owners profile?

Whatever the objective may be it is important to define what success will look like and measure progress towards that goal. How much time and resources will be required and will that resource generate an appropriate return?

Is Anybody There?

For a local business with a limited potential customer base, the first step is to consider if potential customers are active on social media. If they are active what is their preferred channel? Is it Facebook (most likely), Twitter, Instagram or something else?

In a B2B environment, it may be LinkedIn. If the product or service is aimed at those in their early teens it may be Snapchat. If the product or service is best promoted visually then Pinterest may be best. The challenge is to choose the most appropriate channel and not to spread effort too thinly.

Social Media Content

To generate any reasonable return on social media activity requires content. That content needs to be of value to the target customer base, engaging and of high quality. The content itself can take many different forms.

As discussed elsewhere on this blog content is important to any small business marketing process. It is the fuel for social media activity. The social media plan must dovetail with the content plan to avoid duplicating effort.

Time And Resources

The reality of the situation became clear to me recently when an old business contact became active on Twitter. It was easy to spot the enthusiasm in her early tweets (and yes, she did mention that social media course she had attended!). A minimum of a tweet per day appeared in my feed during the first week.

Fourteen weeks later the tweet rate has dropped to less than one every other week with less than 50 tweets delivered in total. She has secured only 38 followers in that time. Perhaps she jumped in without a plan. Or she may have struggled for content. There are many abandoned social media accounts across the web. The warnings are clear, without a plan and solid commitment it may be best to avoid social media. It may be possible to generate a better return elsewhere.

Voice

Voice is difficult to explain or quantify. The content on some social media accounts just feels wrong. It may be dry and lacking any personality. It may not be engaging in any way.

Content published on social media needs to be social (the clue is in the name). It needs to have some humanity and needs to engage. Both text and images can improve engagement but social media success depends to an extent on the personality of who writes the content.

Organic Reach vs Paid

Finally, it is important to appreciate that organic reach on social media channels is decreasing. This means content (posts) will not be displayed on followers News Feeds as often as they once were.

A paid model rather than an organic model may be more appropriate. That mean sponsoring (paying for distribution) of content. In general, the costs of sponsoring content are not significant.

In conclusion, social media can be effective for some small businesses and a complete waste of time and resources for others. Take time to consider the issues, measure the right outcomes and beware of false expectations.

Google+ Local Vs Google My Business

Have you heard about Google my Business and are you worried about what impact it may have on your existing Google+ Local listing? In short, there is no major need for concern but if you want to know more about Google my business vs Google + Local and the advantages (and disadvantages) of one over the other then read on.

The history behind the changes of Google places to Google+ local to Google my business is long and complex. If you want the detail it is available in this excellent post from WrightIMC so I don’t intend to cover it here. All I cover are the key features of Google my business and how it differs from Google+ Local.

For any business with a local customer base Google My Business is a powerful promotional tool. You can read more about its benefits here but in summary it offers:

– A presence on Page 1 Google (location based).

– A products and services showcase.

– Increased credibility.

Often a small local business can dispense with the need for a business website altogether. All they need is a Google My Business page.

The major change is to the dashboard. It is now much easier to update the primary company contact information. The addition of an Insight, Reviews, Analytics, You Tube and Adwords box delivers all key data in one place.

The new Insights box allows you to track engagement with your Google My Business page by visibility, engagement and audience in some detail. However, the reviews box is perhaps even more powerful for any business with a local customer base. Reviews and testimonials are a powerful promotional tool when trying to distinguish a business from the competition in a crowded marketplace.

The reviews box shows you your Google reviews and where other reviews for your business have originated from around the web. The analytics show the number of reviews and (crucially) the average rating on Google. Potential customers may quickly use this rating to check your business against the competition in the 7 pack. It is also thought to influence Google on their decision to display your listing (or not)

The other boxes are optional to an extent. If enabled, the key stats from the Google Analytics account attached to your website will display in the analytics box. The stats from your You Tube account, if enabled, will show in the next box, followed by the key stats from the Adwords account associated with your website, if you have one.

The move to Google Your Business then has simply tidied up some of the long standing mess associated with the move from Google Places to Google+ local and delivered a more user friendly dashboard. The long standing benefits of a Google My Business account to small business with a local customer base remains unchanged.

How To Get More From Twitter

Are you struggling to generate any return on your Twitter activity? We review what is wrong with the standard approach and how to get more from Twitter.

The reason many businesses fail to secure the ROI they expect from social media activity are false expectations and a failure to measure the correct outcomes. As a result, Twitter is often abandoned after only a few weeks. A quick click on the Twitter button on many websites will show the Twitter feed was abandoned long ago.

Twitter Marketing – The Standard Approach

Twitter - A key social media channelIt seems every conference and exhibition has a 30 minute slot allocated to a speaker on the virtues of social media. The standard logic appears to be that by posting regularly on twitter and following selectively you can build an army of followers. The theory goes more followers equals more content views which leads to more engagement, more leads and finally more enquiries.

A valid process in theory, however, it assumes:

  • Interesting, quality content is available in sufficient quantity.
  • Sufficient potential customers are active on Twitter.
  • There are sufficient relevant contacts to follow in relevant geographic areas.
  • The business has time available to engage on Twitter.

The Most Common Twitter Problems

The key issue is content (more on that later) but the standard approach to Twitter, outlined above, actually collapses for most businesses at the engagement level. There tends to be insufficient active potential customers in the required geographic area to build the required following (and engagement). There are many tools to build a relevant Twitter following (as this great post from Jon Barrett suggests) but to achieve the required numbers remains a major challenge.

The reality of the situation became clear to me recently when an old business contact became active on Twitter. It was easy to spot the enthusiasm in her early tweets (and yes she did mention that social media course she had just attended!) and a minimum of a tweet per day appeared in my feed during the first week. Fourteen weeks later the tweet rate has dropped to less than one every other week with less than 50 tweets delivered in total. She has secured only 42 followers in that time period.

If we take a giant leap and assume a business can build a follower base of 1000 contacts, in the geographic area of interest, with at least some potential interest in the business products or services. If we then assume the business Tweets twice per day then what proportion of the followers are likely to observe the Tweet in their timeline? Negligible I suggest.  So for engagement, and ultimately enquiries, both a minimum number of Tweets spread throughout a day (absolute minimum of 5) and a large number of followers is required.

The Importance Of Twitter Content

build engagement on Twitter using contentTo generate a reasonable number of Tweets and to secure an appropriate number of Twitter followers requires content. That content needs to be of value to the target customer base, engaging and of high quality. The content itself can take many different forms (many of which are listed in this post from Quick Sprout). Once this reality is appreciated it is possible to come at how to get more from Twitter (and social media in general) from an entirely different angle and overcome many of the obstacles listed above.

As creating content will need both a solid plan and a considerable amount of time and effort then why not use that content elsewhere? The content marketing process comes first and twitter comes second – not the other way round.

Although the problem with numbers of available contacts remains, with content in place the other major benefits of Twitter (and other social media) may be exploited. That is, engaging with other thought leaders in whatever industry and learning best practice from the content they publish. If employing an inbound marketing process, of which content marketing will be a major part, then content views (from wherever they may be) builds links and the profile of the business website.

True, building a content marketing process takes time and effort and it is unlikely to produce results overnight but using Twitter (and other key social media tools) as content delivery channels makes lots more sense than trying to use them in isolation to generate sales leads. The thought process should not be how to get more from Twitter but how to get more from content marketing.