2020 has been incredibly challenging for small businesses.
Repeated lockdowns have forced businesses to close or, at the very least, adjust their offerings in some way.
The pandemic hasn’t made it easy, and businesses of all sizes have had to adapt quickly to keep up with the ups and downs.
For many, it’s been a devastating year for revenue.
Research shows that COVID-19 could cost small businesses up to £69 billion in total, while 234,000 small businesses have already stopped trading.
But it’s not all doom and gloom.
Let’s take a look at how you can do it.
The good news
Looking at the stats, there’s never been a better time to ramp up your social media efforts to reach consumers that are staying safe at home. After all, social media is the next best thing to doing business in person.
Social media usage is up across the board - Facebook users are spending 23% more time on-site compared to the same time period in 2019 and Twitter has seen a 45% increase in usage. But it’s Instagram that’s materialised as the UK’s top social platform during lockdown.
The platforms themselves are well aware of the struggle small businesses are up against, and they’re doing everything they can to help. Take Instagram’s new sticker feature for small businesses, for example.
It’s clear that social media will continue to provide a connective platform for small businesses to reach their audiences on.
So, if you haven’t already, now’s the time to start working on your social media presence.
Social media for small business: before you get started
It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the sheer amount of social media “advice” out there, especially when you’re trying to be everywhere at once (spoiler: this is only going to make you burn out!).
To get the best results, it’s important that you plan ahead rather than go for the good old scattergun approach (again, this will lead to burnout).
- Know your Audience: start by determining who your customers are. Dig into any purchase history you have, identify the most common demographics, and create customer personas that you can draw from
- Choose the right platform: don’t try and be everywhere at once. Cherry-pick two or three social channels to focus on (these will depend on your business and audience). For example, Instagram has a much younger audience than Facebook
- Make the most of your niche: the social media presence of a fashion brand is going to be very different to the strategy of a bakery that does deliveries. Tap into the USPs of your niche and use these to drive your social media strategy
- Research your competition: knowing who’s doing what on which social media channels can help you find gaps in the market. Look at what your competitors are doing well, what they’re not doing well, and what’s getting them the most traction
Social media strategy for small business
Once you’ve got the foundations in place (like the platforms you’re going to focus on and who you’re targeting), you can move on to defining your social media strategy.
This will drive your efforts and help you create a social media presence that suits your business and resonates with your buyers.
- Establish goals
Think about what you want to achieve with your social media strategy.
For example, by having a strong presence on social media, are you hoping to achieve better brand awareness, generate more leads or build a community of followers?
Once you’ve decided on your wider goals, break them up into more manageable milestones. Use specific numbers and timelines where possible, like “reach 10,000 Instagram followers in the next six months” or “increase Facebook engagement by 5% each month”.
- Set up a social media calendar
Map out what you’ll share and how often you’ll share it to ensure your strategy is consistent. Using a social media calendar can help you plan for holidays and special events, as well as make sure your whole team is on the same page. It also provides an overview of what’s going to happen when and gives your strategy focus.
If your budget is tight, a simple Excel spreadsheet works well for mapping out dates and times you’re going to post. For something a bit more robust, you can use a tool like Sendible to help visualise your posting schedule.
- Run a social media audit
If you already have social channels, take a look at your top-performing posts and determine who your most engaged followers are. Look for patterns in content that gets the most likes, shares, and comments, and seek to share more of that.
Quick social media tips for successfully marketing a small business
1. Leverage hashtags
There are small business hashtags a-plenty out there - it’s just a case of finding the ones that work well for your brand.
Consider targeting hashtags that indicate:
- Your location (like #brightonandhove)
- Your audience (like #vegans)
- Your products (like #giftideas)
Don’t just throw a load of hashtags on your posts and hope for the best, though. Interact with other brands and consumers that are engaging with those hashtags; start conversations, or continue discussions that are already taking place.
Smoothie brand Innocent are pros at this. Just scroll through the replies tab on their Twitter account and you’ll see just how many customer conversations they’re taking part in.
The St Ives Co are an example of a small brand using hashtags to engage - and they do it with style. They cover a range of different hashtags, from location-specific ones to product-focused hashtags.
2. Use strong visuals
You want your posts to be scroll-stoppingly captivating. Social media is a crowded place and it’s easy to get lost in the noise.
But, with beautiful visuals that clearly show-off what you’re all about, you’ll stop scrollers in their tracks and demand attention. Research shows that posts with images generate 650% higher engagement levels than text-only posts.
Plus, it’s easier than ever to create eye-catching social media posts with free tools. Simply choose a template, whip up a design, and add it to your social media calendar.
The Salt Pig is a great example of a brand with strong visuals. They only post high-quality photographs of their products, their team, and relevant subjects.
3. Point out your location
Many small businesses are local treasures and are best-suited for an audience that’s close to home.
In this respect, it helps to shout about your location. Luckily, most social media platforms have the option to share your location with each post. This not only makes your content searchable on a map view, but it helps potential prospects see where you’re based. One study showed that posts with a location tagged received 79% more engagement than posts without any.
By identifying their location, Bumbles Coffee House can attract a local audience of coffee-lovers looking for their next caffeine fix.
4. Post user-generated content
Designing your own social media content day in and day out can be time-consuming and, let’s face it, downright exhausting.
Fortunately, there’s a well of content already out there that you can use to promote your business. It comes in the form of customer reviews, customer photos, and customer videos - a.k.a. user-generated content.
This kind of content is far more compelling than branded content. In fact, 92% of consumers trust UGC more than any other form of advertising, while 90% of shoppers say that UGC is the most influential part of their purchase decision.
Handpick customer reviews to share on social media, encourage customers to share photos of your products, or re-share social posts that include your brand and products like Nut and Noggin does.
5. Engage with your audience
21% of shoppers follow a brand on social media to communicate with them. They want to build a relationship with the people they’re buying from, especially now when human connection is more important than ever.
On top of this, customers that connect and engage with brands on social media are more likely to become loyal ambassadors.
The best part? Engaging with your audience is incredibly fun.
Not only do you get to forge deep connections with the people that love your brand the most, but you can learn more about your shoppers and their needs.
Fromie Gifts regularly responds to their customers’ comments on Instagram to engage them in conversation.
6. Make use of social features
Social media channels today are all-singing, all-dancing versions of their yesteryear counterparts.
Today, every platform has a suite of features for small businesses to tap into, ranging from 24-hour Stories and polls, to Reels and Shoppable posts. Leveraging these features provides a mixture of content for customers to browse and helps you connect with shoppers in different ways.
Eco store Coconut & Cotton are big on Instagram Stories, sharing their excitement at packaging up gifts and showing behind-the-scenes footage.
7. Mix up your content
Not all content is created equal. And as social media use has increased during lockdowns, so has the competition to get it seen.
As well as sharing standard posts and statuses, think about incorporating videos, infographics, and animations into the mix to inform and delight your audience.
In fact, research shows that videos are one of the most popular forms of content on social media so try and sprinkle them throughout your strategy where possible.
8. Constantly tweak and optimise
A solid social media presence doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time to mould it into a shape that fits your brand and resonates best with your buyers.
The secret lies in continuing to tweak, test, and experiment to determine what kind of content works best, what time of day your audience is most likely to interact, and how you can best drive results through your strategy and campaigns.
Top tip: check in monthly with your social stats to measure how you’re doing and use the results to outline your strategy moving forward.
9. Automate the process
It’s easy to get sucked in to social media for hours every day without producing anything of value.
Even better, you can map out your strategy on each of your chosen platforms all from one place to save the headache of logging in and out to multiple different channels every single day.
10. Share stories and behind-the-scenes
What connects consumers to a brand isn’t well-polished visuals and smart marketing spiel, it’s humans and their stories. This is how people have connected for centuries and it isn’t about to change anytime soon.
Build really solid relationships with buyers through brand storytelling and behind-the-scenes footage.
Consumers want to get to know the people behind a brand and they want to learn what makes it unique.
This quote from a recent Vogue Business article highlights it perfectly:
Today, people want to join a brand, not just buy from it. Conversation and interaction on digital platforms makes this type of one to one relationship possible, which is very powerful for both the consumer and brands.
Coworking brand 1 Mill Street do this well through their curated Instagram Stories. They regularly delve behind-the-scenes to show their followers the people behind the brand and the space’s unique personality.
Start crafting your social media presence today
With everything that’s happened this year, it’s never been more important to be empathic to shoppers, build deeper connections, and push a customer-focused strategy.
And, thanks to its connective nature (it was literally built for socialising), social media is the perfect tool to do this.
Not only will it help you attract customers that are fully invested in your business, but it will ensure you get your products in front of the right people in an organic way.