Simple Social Media Guide for Small Businesses

It's hard to escape the interest, activity and advantages of social media. Platforms are either constantly evolving. With the changing dynamics of the digital communication space, it's important to get back to the basics. The key is to remember that social media is at its core a dialogue and conversation. Small businesses can leverage different platforms for a variety of reasons to either expand visibility, increase sales, or inform their audience.

Whether you've been active or considering a brand refresh, focus on a few best practices when approaching social media.

Sometimes, less is more. Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest. The list goes on. Managing social media – from the content to the execution–takes effort and time. If you do not have the resources to managing multiple accounts, think wisely in which ones you will invest in. Depending on the size, location and industry of your business you might focus on more visual platforms like Instagram, Snapchat and Pinterest. Get creative in showcasing behind-the-scenes snaps of your restaurant or interview clips with the craftsman building your next project. If your business relies heavily on sales and is in a very professional line of work, using LinkedIn would be appropriate.

Timing matters. In 2012, Oreo got it right during the National Football League's biggest game when it aptly time tweeted, “you can still dunk in the dark”. Earlier this year, when Beyonc√© released a new song and video with a mention of Red Lobster, the brand wasn't as timely. These social media cases are incidents of timing and how you a business, big or small, has to be ready to respond. Staying ahead of the curveball means knowing what type of content and stories to react to, maintaining a social media plan in the event of a communications crisis or an opportune moment and having a staff person and/or software to monitor social activity. You never know when opportunity strikes–timing is everything.

Check the numbers. Social media is a two-way street and therefore social marketing is not simply broadcasting products and services. When testing new marketing ideas and campaigns, review platform analytics. Facebook Insights and Twitter Analytics, to name a few, have built-in data to show you information such as the audience demographics and the highest engaging content. Cross reference your tactics and plan with analytics and adjust accordingly. If you decide to incorporate paid posts or other advertising, it will be essential to determine and analyze your benchmarks, metrics and outcomes.

Get organized by developing an editorial calendar. Make note of important holidays like Thanksgiving or seasonal changes like the first day of summer and have content ready to share with your audiences. You could have a contest, free merchandise to giveaway or a special announcement to share if you've planned a coordinated effort in advance. Additionally, you can pitch stories to outlets and magazines about your upcoming events and promotions if it ties into their brand and editorial themes for the year.

Social media does not have to be complicated. Keep it simple by investing in a few platforms that aim to engage your audience and customers while positively representing your brand. Remember that timing, engagement and an organized process of developing and sharing content is important. Lastly, don't take yourself too seriously, have a little fun!

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