Although in some ways technology has complicated life for small businesses, it’s also an extraordinary asset to them. Small businesses are started on social media everyday, and rely on it to keep their brands alive for many successive years. Social media is a norm in today’s society; most of us take our internet access, tech personalization, and multiple platforms for granted. But whatever your personal feelings about social media, it opens small businesses up to the world in an unprecedented way.
That said, advertising your brand on multiple social media platforms is virtually pointless without knowledge and strategy. Your focus should be guided by concrete business objectives, and your strategy depends on your business and niche. Although small business courses are constantly advertised on social media, the truth is that you really don’t need them. We suggest viewing social media itself as a small business. With the right combination of networking skills, strategizing, and creativity, you can essentially build your small business on social media.
Love What You Do, and Let It Show!
Enthusiasm is contagious. It goes without saying that passion fuels every other aspect of your small business’s success. Starting a small business requires innovation and entrepreneurship, so chances are, your heart is in it. “Love what you do” has become a trite piece of advice over the years, but it’s actually truer than ever. Right now, most small business marketing is shaped by the ideas behind experiential marketing. Current research consistently shows that the majority of millennials value experiences over material possessions. This was not always the case, as young people in the 80s and 90s were exponentially more materialistic.
Experiential marketing is fundamentally about making genuine connections. This is true when relating to potential customers or business contacts. That said, if you love what you do and want to share it with others, people will gravitate toward that energy. They’ll want to be a part of the experience your business creates.
The Influence of Experiential Marketing on Social Media, Technology, and Small Businesses
We millennials are dubious creatures, but what we want isn’t usually all that hard to understand- at least when we’re talking about social needs and small businesses (which, by the way, are inextricably tied). Millennials want to be known for who they are, not just for what they have. They want to stand out and be unique, so they value authenticity. Genuine sharing and doing work that is aligned with your inner happiness is more important to this generation than any previous ones. That’s why we created Plans, a social media app that cultivates experiences, not simply images. The events that populate your daily newsfeed are based on your shared interests, as well as the shared interests of friends you add. Plans is soon to launch, so look out for it!
But let’s get back to establishing objectives. We’ve stressed the importance of strategizing the use of social media for small businesses. If you’re wondering how exactly to do that, you’re not alone. In this age of technology, a considerable majority of small businesses still don’t know how to use social media to their ultimate advantage. This may be because they aren’t developing social media marketing strategies according to clear objectives. This is understandable. Consider the small business owners you know. Many people who are attracted to entrepreneurship are highly creative, innovative individuals. As enterprising as they might be, entrepreneurs often get somewhat lost in the excitement of sharing their business with the world. Yet without clear objectives, many businesses flop online, which so limits their reach that sometimes they fail altogether.
It can be overwhelming for even the most business-savvy millennials to thrive in competitive industries, especially in a world that is so reliant on technology. So how can you optimize your social media presence to support your business goals? The first step is to identify a few concrete objectives, or goals you plan to accomplish through the use of social media. You can do this at any stage of business ownership; you don’t have to be a beginner. The culture of small businesses is constantly shifting and evolving, so there is always the challenge of keeping up with your customer base. Maybe you’re trying to reach a new demographic. Clear goal-setting is one of the best ways to cultivate a niche audience.
Setting SMART Goals
We’re sure you’ve heard of SMART goals: Specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely. This is a great guideline to use- just keep in mind that some goals can be measured more exactly than others. For example, if you’ve just started your business, one of your objectives might be to make a certain amount of networking contacts on social media. It might be to connect with one influencer who has a moderate following, and have this person share one of your products or concisely share your business’s “story” on his/her Instagram profile. (We’ll go into more detail about storytelling on social media shortly). But these kinds of goals are still specific and measurable in a general way. They measure outcomes, which are obviously significant.
If you have goals that can be measured more specifically, such as generating a certain number of sales leads or increasing revenue by a set about, social media can be just as helpful. Just write down one to three objectives, and then begin using social media in a way that supports them. For example, if one of your goals is to reach a new niche audience, start marketing towards those people.
The Major Social Media Platforms as Business Models
Let’s start with Instagram. Despite its recent rumors that its algorithm only shows users 7 % of posts from accounts they follow, Instagram generally bases the posts you see on your own activity. (That’s as much information as they’ll give us, anyway). Instagram is an ideal platform for small business owners who are looking to build a niche audience. Once you know who you’re marketing to, your posts will show up more frequently to people whose activity implies shared interests with you.
As we’re sure you know, Instagram doesn’t do all the work for you. Let’s start with the basics. The most popular Instagram accounts have an intriguing bio that descriptively states a job title, and links to the company’s website. Naturally, you’ll want your profile picture to stand out, so make it one that people will remember. When you start following people, choose industry accounts that are either prominent with a moderate to large following, or closely aligned with your niche. Although you want your profile to be as unique as your business, there’s nothing wrong with gleaning inspiration from others.
Visit the brands and successful entrepreneurs in your industry, and follow their accounts. Here’s where the interactive part of experiential marketing comes in. Don’t sweat it if you don’t get a follow back from influencers in your industry- most of them follow a significantly smaller amount than the number of users who follow them. They’re so inundated with follows, messages, and requests for sponsorships that your follow might be lost in the midst. The upside is that following relevant industry accounts connects you with other small business owners similar to your own- and a whole new spectrum of potential customers whose needs and interests are aligned with your brand.
As with any social media platform, make your values known in your posts. For just one example, if you have a sustainable clothing line, emphasize that caring for the environment is part of your values system. Over time, your followers will see that your values as a person and business owner are aligned with theirs. Similar rules apply to all social media platforms. What you want to do is create your own unique hashtag for your business, and include it in each of your posts. It should stand out as catchy and memorable. Next, find the most popular hashtags in your industry on the platform you are using (which should ideally be all of them). Use those hashtags under every post as well. This way, your posts are suggested not only to others who use the same hashtags, but to their large followings.
Avoid making your messages overtly promotional. Instead, research a common need among your niche audience, and use your posts to convey how you can uniquely fulfill that particular need. You might want to describe a problem customers face that many other businesses have failed to solve. Then concisely let your followers and friends know how you’ve found a solution, and how it works to their advantage.
Many successful Instagram accounts host contests in which winners get shouted out and/or offered a free product or experience with brands. When you set up a contest and post about it, use visually attractive, standout images. You’ll definitely want to use not only your own hashtag, but the most locally and globally popular hashtags in your niche and industry. This will attract a significant amount of participants. Just be sure to place a link to the contest in your bio, and direct followers to it in each post.
Facebook is a little (okay, a lot) more challenging to experiential marketing. But because it’s so popular and widely used, it’s worth it to overlook its chaotic algorithms and newsfeed. The first thing you’ll want to do is create a Facebook business page. To optimize its benefits to you, be sure your tabs make it easy to find information about your business. For example, allow users to review your products or services by turning the review tab on. You can also add tabs that link to your other social media pages.
It’s just as important to create a community page on Facebook. Because the Facebook newsfeed is often overcrowded with ads and posts are based loosely on your interests, a community pages helps focus your audience. It gives you a clean space to build and maintain meaningful relationships with people who “like” your page. (People who click the “like” button at the top of a community page will now see all your posts).
Community pages also have the authenticity factor in their favor. When their newsfeeds suggest unfamiliar business pages, many people just click them away. With a community page, there’s now presumed advertising objective, and discussions can be more personal. You might also consider making your community page “invitation-only”. While that can initially limit your reach, it’s better for developing niche audiences. Being specifically selected also makes people feel special, as if they’re part of an exclusive experience.
LinkedIn is the third platform we want to mention. Perhaps because of its specific business focus, it’s sadly underrated and underused. But its focus on business development is exactly why you should be using it in addition to the more social platforms. LinkedIn was specifically designed to help build small businesses, and there are many benefits to using it.
The other reason people skip over LinkedIn is because they assume it’s only a hiring tool. In actuality, it’s also a sales and marketing platform with over 500 million users. LinkedIn features Company Pages, or company profiles that rank highly in search results. Users who view your profile immediately see data such as demographic information about your followers each time you post.
To benefit from LinkedIn’s full potential, develop your personal page authentically. Why should you do this when you already have several social pages? It’s simple: You want potential business contacts and clients to see you as a person, not just a business.
Last but not least, you’ve got Twitter. Because Twitter is largely focused on media, news, and celebrities, it can connect you with a broad range of users. A recent study facilitated by Twitter revealed an interesting tidbit: Compared to the general internet population, Twitter users are more open-minded and eager to try new things. Therefore, if you have fresh ideas and a new approach to your industry, you won’t want to skip over Twitter. This platform also has a broad demographic reach, which is significant because it helps your reach more people.
We could go on and on about countless other ways to benefit from using each social media platform. But let’s be realistic- small business owners hardly have hours to invest in social media each day. That’s why we picked the most important ones to give you some fresh ideas and a boost in the right direction.
The Experiential Value of Storytelling on Social Media
Storytelling is one of the best ways to harness the emotional power of experiential marketing. In order to capture viewer interest, they need to be both concise and original. Start out by briefly describing who you are, what you do, and what your values system is. If you’re having trouble finding a starting point, ask yourself what inspired you to start your business, and the rest should come naturally.
Stories let people know how your brand is unique and how it fills a common customer need. Even more importantly, they should feature a relatable factor that arouses emotion in viewers. Forgive this trite example, as it serves a purpose in this post: Consider a “rags to riches” story. Because so many entrepreneurs start with a small budget, many will immediately relate.
The best thing about storytelling is that it is not obviously promotional, which turns many people away. Like a picture, stories use imagery to convey emotions, touching people on more personal level than paid ads do.
We hope you enjoyed our guide to using social media as a small business! Using these tips to skyrocket your social media presence can boost your career exponentially. Every small business starts with a vision or a dream. With social media, you can shoot for the proverbial stars and unlock an unprecedented world of possibilities. The best part? Most of the best social media strategies are user-friendly and free.