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Social Media Basics for Small Businesses

Making the initial connection with a potential customer can be the hardest part about your job. You’ve asked begged your friends and family for referrals, stumbled through the early morning networking circuits and you might have even tried placing ads in the Yellow Pages or your local newspaper. These are all great places to start, but to stay competitive in today’s digital landscape, you NEED to be utilizing social media in your marketing efforts.

Social media marketing is a serious tool for small businesses. According to a recent article in Forbes, social media is the number 1 driver of all website referral traffic. On top of driving eyeballs to your website, the use of social media allows you to connect with customers and build trusted, real-time relationships.

Still on the fence? No problem. We’ve done the research and spent hours scouring the internet to find heavy hitting numbers that might just sway you to get started with social media marketing. For example, there are 3.3 million posts every minute on Facebook alone  AND 20% of Americans check social media for home improvement ideas. Don’t worry, we’ve outlined all the basics you’ll need to get started below.

 

Getting Started

You probably started advertising in the newspaper or Yellow Pages because that’s where your customers used to go to find things, but now the likes of search engines (Google) and social media behemoths like Facebook have replaced those traditional mediums. For most small businesses, traditional marketing can be a drain on your bank account. Social media marketing, on the other hand, is low-cost and gives you a direct line to current and prospective customers. While you will save up front in actual dollars, you will need to invest a good amount of time to be effective in your efforts. You have to be smart and efficient with the resources you have and make an actionable plan to achieve the results you need.

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Identify Goals and Purpose

Before diving into getting your accounts set up, let’s explore some potential goals and use cases for investing time (and potentially money) into social media marketing. Before plotting a map to have 1 million followers on Twitter or even 100,000 fans on Facebook, let’s evaluate HOW to set your goals. To get started let’s dive into setting a couple S.M.A.R.T. goals. S.M.A.R.T. goals are:

S – Specific: The more specific you can be with writing your objectives, the easier it will be to clearly see what it is you need to accomplish. This is important, answer the five “W” questions – Who, What, Where, Why, and Which to help get specific.

M – Measurable: Can your goal be measured? The really nice thing about social media marketing is that almost everything can be tracked (vs trying to estimate how many people saw your print ad). We’ll get to the specifics of tracking data and using analytics later in this guide.

A – Attainable: How realistic or possible is it to achieve your goal? Set the bar high to challenge yourself, but keep it within reason.

R – Relevant: What is the impact to your overall business objectives, vision or values? If it doesn’t align, refine to make it more complimentary to your business.

T – Time-bound: Put a deadline on your goal. This will help keep you on track, even when you might get busy, doing other things (like running your business).

Social media management tool Hootsuite has put together a really user-friendly “Social Media Goals Template” that you can download here. Let’s start simple (and SMART) and build some valuable and consistent habits. Here are a few example goals (create your own) to get started:

  1. Post 3 updates to my business Facebook page every week for the next 4 weeks.
  2. Get 5 followers (on any platform) to share or re-share any of my content in the next 2 weeks.  

Note, while it is important to build a following, amassing meaningless followers won’t help your business. Sure, it’d be cool to say you have 10,000 fans on Facebook but what does that really mean in terms of your business? Here’s a great article from Ignite Social Media that explains why “Engagement” is more important than “Impressions.” As you start, value quality vs quantity.

Create a test posting schedule

Now that we’ve identified your goals, let’s save some time and plan out a weekly posting schedule. Since you’re just getting started, let’s keep this light and manageable, without creating too much extra work for yourself. Make a weekly posting schedule to stick to for a month. Assess what posts are getting engagement (likes, comments, shares) and which are not. Pay attention to the time of day you’re posting as well, keeping in mind you’re a user too! When do you check your social media accounts? Odds are it’s probably when others do, so post during those times.

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When in doubt, check out this great resource Hubspot put together, detailing the best times and days to post on each social media platform.

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When sharing a photo or video use Instagram and you can post to Facebook and Twitter instantly!

Identify Your Purpose

The last step in the planning process is the identify what you’d like to use each social media platform for, based on the goals and objectives you’ve identified from above. Perhaps you’re hiring and you’d like to use Linkedin to find a new employee? Facebook is great at driving referrals from your friends, family and especially previous customers. Let’s take a deep dive into each platform to find out how they work and what you should be using them for.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Getting to Know Some Popular Social Media Platforms

Facebook

What is it?

Facebook has solidified itself as the most widely-used of all the social media platforms. From connecting with friends and family, to bridging the gap between brands and communities, Facebook has disrupted the way we communicate online (and in person).

Who’s using it?

In a word, everyone. Quite literally. However, in recent years an older generation has taken over, while millennials and younger have ventured out to other, “cooler” platforms. 65% of users are over the age of 35, making this shift in users ripe for marketing your small business.

How are people using it?

In addition to sharing and “liking” baby and cat photos, users spend time on Facebook (lots of time) connecting through different groups, events, brand pages (your small business) and private messaging.

How should I use it for my business?

Your Facebook page can be a “hub” or destination for your social media presence. Share pictures (and videos if you have them) of jobs, ask customers to share reviews and testimonials, give some love to your favorite brands or other community focused small businesses you support (using “@business name” to mention them). Post things that give them a reason to keep coming back. Be creative, share tips, ask questions, showcase your work and your knowledge as an industry expert. In general, add value for your fans (get used to this theme).

Make sure you’re following up and have actual conversations. Approach your fan engagement like you would in person. If someone posts on your page or mentions your business (saying hello or a nice/negative thing)…reply! If someone told you thanks for doing a great job on my kitchen, you’d be grateful and appreciative. Reciprocate this idea when navigating the social media landscape.

Who’s doing it well?

ESPN, Squarespace, Zappo’s and Lowe’s all do incredible jobs with their Facebook pages. Granted, they probably have a few more resources than you, but you can at least get a sense of what works.

Getting Started

To get your business Facebook page up and running, you’ll first need to login to your personal Facebook account at facebook.com. If you don’t have an account set up, now’s the time to put on those water wings, swim cap, ear plugs and dive in!

Once logged in either go to https://www.facebook.com//pages/create or from the left hand side of your Home page, select “Create a Page.” From there, follow the on-screen prompts and fill in your small business information and fill out your page profile (photos, description, etc…).

Watch this brief step-by-step tutorial in getting you set up.

Twitter

What is it?

Twitter allows open access to the things people need or want to know. Through it’s 140 character limit, messages are short, direct and immediate. From celebrities and athletes to politicians and small businesses, the platform allows complete strangers to come together over a common interest or idea and participate in conversations.

Who’s using it?

37% of Twitter users range from the ages 18-29 (the largest percentage group) with 80% of all active users coming from their mobile devices. Due to the brevity of the platform, those on the go (in transit, waiting in line, etc…) take advantage of the immediacy and chance to quickly catch up what’s happening or to get answers to questions.

How are people using it?

Twitter really is the platform that provides anyone with a voice or an idea to share it with the world, in a 140 character limit of course. Users follow interesting people or brands, sharing their content or directly connecting with them through “Retweets” and “@mentions,” (alerting the user their being talked to or about). The Moments section within the mobile app is essentially an aggregate of the top stories shared across the platform. From news to entertainment and everything in between, it’s a great place for users to catch up with what’s happening around them. Direct messages also provide a line of communication for users to connect with brands or people privately.

How should I use it for my business?

Most brands use Twitter to drive traffic directly to their websites (or relatable – value add content across the web). Users look for these links, photos and videos under specific topics they’re interested in. An approach being adopted quickly by industry PROs is to use Twitter as a platform for lead generation. Through conversations in hashtags, (#interiordesign for example) brands can directly connect with people interested in a certain topic and start a conversation from there. From a customer service standpoint, brands are also using Twitter as a monitoring tool to discover what people are saying about them, with the opportunity to quickly respond. Try both of these methods to get started, focusing on your specific small business.

Who’s doing it well?

Dollar Shave Club, Whole Foods Oreo Cookies and Amazon understand and utilize the platform to the fullest. Interior Design Magazine is a great source to check out and be sure to tune in and follow the Kitchen and Bath Industry Twitter Chat.

Getting Started

Unlike Facebook, you do not need a personal account to get started using Twitter. Simply head to twitter.com and enter your info, following the on screen prompts. You’ll be tweeting in no time!

Watch this brief step-by-step tutorial in getting you set up.

Linkedin

What is it?

Linkedin connects business colleagues and employees with each other and with companies. Through community development and content sharing, Linkedin has become the world’s largest professional social network.

Who’s using it?

Professionals, job seekers, companies, recruiters and students make up a majority of the users on Linkedin. As of 2015, 79% of users are over the age of 35 and male, but there are over 40 million students and recent graduates using Linkedin, making that demographic the fastest growing segment on the platform.

How are people using it?

Profiles on Linkedin differ than that of Facebook or Twitter because a majority of the fields are business focused, showcasing your background, resume and skillset. Better yet, friends are able to assign you skills versus you sharing what you’re good at. You can connect with people you work with or friends and colleagues at other companies. You can recommend, (and get recommended) share content and like or comment on your friend’s work history, anniversaries and more. Recruiters and companies looking for talent, use Linkedin for finding new employees, evaluating profiles, skills and recommendations. There’s a ton of benefit to having a full Linkedin profile, in addition to actually getting your small business page set up.

How should I use it for my business?

Traditionally business-to-business transactions are the most common exchange on Linkedin. However, having great recommendations from customers (who are also business professionals) is an awesome way to validate your work. We also recommend checking in on potential new hires to see if they have a portfolio of their work or what others say about them. To dig a little deeper, you can also see what your competition is up to, who they’re hiring and what kind of content they’re sharing. You should post content from your business page and build out a full business profile, but most of the engagement and work should be done from your personal account (representing the company).

Who’s doing it well?

IBM, Coca-Cola, Microsoft and Adobe have all carved a path for the rest of the business world to follow. Atlanta based Mailchimp also does a great job managing their Linkedin page and provides a great look into how your small business can utilize the platform.

Watch this brief step-by-step video to get setup.

Instagram

What is it?

Instagram is a mobile app that allows users to take, upload, edit and share photos and videos.

What do people use it for?

Instagram is so much more than an app to take selfies! With their intuitive and user friendly filters and editing features, users can take an average photo and turn it into a work of art. The discoverability and inspirational aspect of Instagram is a huge draw. Hashtags are a big deal on Instagram. They allow a photo the chance to be viewed and liked – resulting to more followers – from users who wouldn’t normally have seen it. For example, attaching #kitchen to a post (regardless of the photo itself) will add it to this group of photos with the same tag.

How should I use it for my business?

Similar to the way Twitter works, you do not need a personal account to activate a business account. Most business accounts that perform well on Instagram actually tap into their personal lives from time to time, showcasing that there’s a person on the other side of the phone. Tapping into the appropriate hashtags for your business, as mentioned above, is a great starting point to see what and who is out there in the areas specifically related to your small business. Like and comment within the hashtags to help boost your following. Share “Before and After” photos and behind the scenes shots to show off your work. Here’s a great resource for getting the most out of using Instagram for business.

Who’s doing it well?

Hershel Supply, Charity Water and Mailchimp all do an awesome job on Instagram and can provide some inspiration to help get you started.

Check out how SUPPLY.com PROs Right Meets Left Design and Ella Design Group are using the platform.

PRO Tip: If you want to upload a photo or video to Twitter and Facebook, start inside Instagram and with a single swipe you can share to all 3 networks at once!

Bonus: Pinterest and Houzz

Pinterest

What is it?

For PROs, Pinterest is an awesome social media platform that should get some attention. Users share or “pin” images or videos to “boards” (collection of pins, organized by various categories) usually from a website, driving more traffic to sites than Twitter and Linkedin combined!

Who’s using it?

DIYers looking to remodel or update their homes, crafters, makers, those looking to inspire and be inspired and the businesses that appeal to these groups make up the users on Pinterest. Older millennials, specifically women dominate the user base, making up just over 70% of the total users. This article from Sprout Social’s blog also points out that 93% of “pinners” shop online.

How are people using it?

Instead of Google, people are using Pinterest as a search platform to find things like recipes, arts and crafts projects, “how to” articles and inspiration. Inspiration being a big factor, whether it be for style and fashion or for home improvement ideas, “pinners” share, explore and contribute to various boards.

How should I use it for my business?

Pinterest is a huge platform for interior designers and remodelers. They share their work, the work that inspires them, business and industry trends and more. They create boards for specific themed projects (think: Organization Tips for Your Kitchen, Modern Bathrooms, etc…) and continuously update them. Start by creating a few specific boards and “pin” some of your work, discover and like, re-pin some work that inspires you and go from there! Be careful, hours can go by without you even blinking!

Who’s doing it well?

Lowe’s, Etsy, Apartment Therapy and West Elm are all great brands to follow and learn from.

Pro Tip: You can simply follow a board rather than an account on Pinterest. Check out and follow one of these “Modern Bathroom Vanity” boards or one of these boards featuring “Kitchen Ideas.”


Houzz

What is it?

Houzz is an online community that combines elements of Pinterest, Instagram and Linkedin – focusing on design, decor, landscape and general home improvement, all while connecting contractors directly to homeowners and remodelers.

Who’s using it?

If you’re an interior designer, builder or contractor, you need to be on Houzz. Chances are pretty good that your competition and potential customers already are. This niche social media platform has been gaining steam and now with over 1 million local professionals using the site and 90% of users being homeowners, now’s the time to get start.

How are people using it?

Homeowners use Houzz to find inspiration for renovation projects, find a PRO, browse company profiles and can even do some shopping. PROs like you can show off your work, create idea books for users to browse, connect with potential customers and  using their forum give feedback and insight to homeowner questions. Here’s a great step-by-step guide to get your business set up.

How should I use it for my business?

Houzz has put together a really easy to follow tutorial for using their platform for your small business. To walk you through the steps, first start uploading your high resolution job photos, tag the products in the photos (they’ve got a really handy tool that helps you), create projects for your photos (think of a project as a Pinterest board or photo album) and then create some idea books to showcase products you recommend or install. Once you’ve finished making your profile look great, then hop into the discussions (lending your professional expertise), build your community and get some customer reviews!

Who’s doing it well?

SUPPLY.com

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Add the Houzz badge to your website so potential customers can read your reviews. Check out our page to see how impactful some great reviews can be!

Best Practices

-Start small

You’re going to want to just dive in and sign up for all the platforms we listed. Don’t do that! Where are your customers? Start with one or two, make it a habit and part of your weekly schedule, get comfortable with just one or two and add from there. Keep the accounts active, not having an account on a platform is often better than having an inactive account.

SocialMediaBuzzwords-Know how the platforms work

Get to know the terms on that Social Media Buzzwords infographic. Know how each platform works and what you can do on each that’s unique to the others. For a couple examples:

-when you post a link on Facebook, your followers will see a preview (then edit to your liking)

-on Instagram you can’t use hyperlinks in your content (so don’t include them)

-you only have 140 characters on Twitter, but you can add up to 4 photos per post.

-Incorporate across business

Make sure to include your new social media profiles on your website, business cards, contracts and anywhere else someone might see your name or logo. Is your site built on WordPress? Check out this cool plugin that seamlessly integrates social media into your site. You never know what will resonate with people and we’d recommend being safe and just putting them everywhere.

-Stay on brand

Try to keep some consistency among your name across the platforms. It might seem like a no brainer, but it’s not always the easiest thing to do. For example, if your business name is Super Awesome Contracting, you’ll have a hard time making that work with character limits on platforms like Twitter. So if you shorten to something, we recommend shortening everywhere.

-Start by listening more and talking less

Before diving into the social media world talking about how great you are, listen to what people are saying, especially as you search specific hashtags. Join conversations rather than starting them.

-Add value and be helpful

Think before posting something and ask yourself if it adds any value. Give your followers a reason to share or engage with your post or content you share. Be strategic and helpful to your followers by showing you’re a subject matter expert and eventually, if helpful enough, when it’s time to make a purchase, you’ll be more likely to get that call.

Posting with 80/20 Rule

-This is a fairly common practice when sharing content from a business or brand on social media: only 20% should be about your business with a call to action (call me today, email us, learn more…) while 80% is about building the relationship with your followers. Re-share interesting posts and things you like, engage influencers (respected industry leaders with a big following) and share their content, ask questions, share your knowledge and experience by answering questions. Not every photo or post needs to be related to work or your business (we’d avoid religious or political posts), but nothing wrong with a Happy 4th of July or Happy New Year post.

-Be authentic

This is important. Don’t fake it. People generally do business with people and businesses that they like, which usually means they feel like they know the real you.

-Be timely

Social media is fast and following up or responding to followers is important. So important in fact that Facebook now posts “Response times” to customer questions or posts on your page. Set up your alerts and notifications so you don’t miss anything.  

Tools and resources

We mentioned at the beginning of this guide that what you’ll get in free marketing, you’ll give up in time. If you use some of these tools and resources below and allocate just 3 hours per week, you can really make an impact with your social media marketing efforts.

Through researching sites and gathering information for this guide, we came across a few really great resources for you to check out. Moz published an incredible Beginners Guide to Social Media and Hubspot has countless articles on their blog that go into specific use cases for just about every social media platform that exists. Download these super helpful guides to get you more acclimated to each platform, maximizing your new social media marketing for small business initiatives.

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Posting/Listening

Buffer

This is one of our favorite tools and one we use everyday. Connect your Facebook page, Linkedin and Twitter accounts to Buffer, set up a weekly schedule and add posts to your queue. In just a few minutes time you can have a week’s worth of engaging content, spread across 3 of your social networks, ready to fire (with analytics and stats to back it up). Remember when we created that weekly post schedule earlier in this guide? Buffer does that for you with their calendar view. Then, all you need to do is follow up and respond to your followers. Get started with a free account, then upgrade to Buffer for Business once you’ve got the hang of it. Check out their handy mobile app to schedule posts on the go and their browser plugins and extensions to add any web page or image from a site to your queue.

Tweetdeck

A free, official Twitter app, Tweetdeck is the ultimate tool for listening. Open streams with relevant hashtags or competitors, create specific industry lists and follow the conversations. Quickly post tweets, respond and react to mentions, direct messages and more. Heads up, Tweetdeck is a desktop app only, but there are several solid paid and free options for mobile devices.

IFTTT

You’ll have some fun and put your apps and the internet to work for you with IFTTT (If This Then That). Connect your social media accounts, add some triggers and watch the magic happen. Post an Instagram photo and automatically add to a Pinterest board, share your Instagram photos directly to Twitter (without a link), update your Facebook and Twitter profile picture at the same time and tons more. Check out their guide to streamline your social media accounts here.

Creative/Design

Canva

Not sure how big to make your Facebook or Twitter cover photo or what the optimal size of a photo to share on Twitter is? Canva is the perfect solution to creating great looking social media graphics, and it’s free! They’ve got a ton of templates ready for you to start editing and quickly download and share. You can also make posters, marketing materials and more.

Pablo

Quickly find great looking, free stock photos, add text and filters and share across your social media platforms. Pablo is a product of Buffer, so you can easily add images to your queue or give a plain text update a little flair.

Fiverr

Maybe you’re too busy to be spending time creating DIY graphics, and that’s where Fiverr comes in. For as little as $5, you can get professionally designed, great looking social media assets delivered to your inbox. This is a great option for cover and profile images.

Measuring/Tracking

Native platform analytics

Facebook and Twitter both have really rich and intuitive analytics for business pages. On your Facebook page, find the Insights tab and view standard statistics like reach (impressions) and engagement (clicks, likes, shares and comments). You can also measure fan growth and demographics of your audience.

Twitter’s analytics is a little more difficult to find, but provides another great source for you to measure your posts on. Head to ads.twitter.com, sign in, then select Analytics from the tab across the top. From here you’ll get a month by month breakdown of your tweet performance, follower growth and overall impressions.

Buffer

Going back to our favorite tool, Buffer, you can get a post by post breakdown of impressions and engagement – quickly being able to re-buffer popular content with one click. Analytics are part of their paid packages starting at $10/mo. You’re not going to discover much more than what posts, when, are working, but they’ve done a great job making it simple and easy to analyze your efforts. They even packaged a quick and easy view through their weekly digest functionality. Quick note, only posts shared from Buffer will be measured.

Start with these options and you can dive deep into analytics once you have some substance to report on.

Simply Measured

While the free tools are limited, Simply Measured does provide a handful of pretty nice reports. Get an analysis of your Twitter, Instagram and Facebook followers, quickly measure how a competitor’s Facebook page stacks up to yours and even see how your social media efforts are driving traffic to your site.

What’s Next

Now that you know the platforms and the basics of how to use each, you’ve got some tools and resources to leverage your efforts and you’re seeing some initial traction from your followers, (learning, you should be learning a lot) the next step is to optimize. Put a social media marketing strategy and plan together, similar to what you’ve already done, just adding more posts, specific content and perhaps add another platform or two to manage. Then you can really start growing your impact and efforts (after you experienced some traction) and start promoting your posts and start an advertising campaign across a few of the platforms.

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