A few years ago, you could get away with opening a bunch of social media accounts and publishing content occasionally. Today, building your social media presence on the fly is not possible.
The way brands use social networks has changed. They focus their social media content more on building stronger customer connections and bringing value to their followers.
This trend has changed users’ perceptions of social media. Studies show that about 30% of Millennials engage with brands on social networks at least once a month.
In other words, they expect you to continually update your profiles and provide them with timely deals and valuable content.
This builds trust with your local customers and helps you earn positive reviews. And, this is immensely important, given that 97% of consumers use online reviews to assess a local business.
But, how can relatively new local businesses get themselves noticed and rise above big players in their niche?
Here are a few social media tips every new local business owner can do.
1. Segment Your Target Audience
When starting off, you need to segment your target audiences. Consider as many details as possible, including their age group, location, education, shopping behavior, salary, marital status, and so on.
Based on the information you collect, try to understand who your major customers are, what groups they belong to, and what social networks they use.
Each social channel serves a different purpose and has different users. And, your goal is to find the one(s) your target customers use.
Let’s take Instagram and LinkedIn as an example. Research shows that most Instagram users are aged between 18 and 29, earn less than $30,000, and are urban-located.
On the other hand, 31% of LinkedIn users are men, earn more than $75,000, and most of them have at least a college degree.
2. Monitor Your Local Competitors
Knowing who your competitors target and where, when, what, and how they post on social networks will help you shape your own strategy. This is a great opportunity for you to uncover their most powerful social media efforts, as well as see the mistakes your rivals make, so you can avoid them when determining your social media tactics.
To stay on top of your competitor data, you can use tools like Ahrefs Content Explorer that shows you the number of shares of your competitors’ content across different social channels.
This is also where BuzzSumo can help. With this tool, you don’t have to analyze your competitors directly. Instead, you can try out different local keywords and see the most popular content from various domains.
Knowing what the viral topics in your niche are, you will be able to create better content on these topics and grow your social media reach.
3. Establish the Right Metrics
When building your social media presence for the first time, many inexperienced business owners focus on setting clear goals or choosing the right social networks. Unfortunately, most of them forget to set the right key performance indicators (KPIs) and track them regularly.
According to The 2017 Social Media Marketing Industry Report, almost 90% of digital marketers don’t know what their strongest social media practices are.
And, not tracking your social media metrics, you won’t be able to understand what practices work or don’t work for your social media presence.
Of course, your social media KPIs depend on your local business’ goals. For example, when just entering the waters of entrepreneurship, you will want to use social networks to increase your brand awareness, drive more traffic to your site, and increase sales.
In this case, it’s always a good idea to tie your social media metrics to other digital marketing KPIs to see how your social channels contribute to your brand exposure and bottom line.
You could use digital marketing reporting tools to combine widgets from multiple tools and monitor different digital marketing metrics on one KPI dashboard.
4. Collect Customer Feedback
To stay competitive, you need to track people’s experiences with your brand and understand what they think of it. Luckily, in the era of sophisticated marketing tools, collecting customer feedback has never been simpler.
Here are a few practices that may work for you:
Social media monitoring tools like Topsy, Social Mention, Buzzsumo, or TweetDeck let you track your direct and indirect brand/product mentions in real time and stay on top of customer discussions.
Surveys and Polls
You could start by creating a Facebook poll on your local business’ account. These answers are simple to collect and analyze. You can even post a survey on a major survey platform and ask your customers to answer questions and even share their answers with their friends on social.
Ask your customers to rate and review you on Facebook. This is a great way to see what they really think about you. Most importantly, customer reviews serve as social proof and build trust with your potential customers.
5. Be Responsive
Research says that the majority of your social media followers expect to see your answer within an hour. Still, many marketers don’t take social media feedback seriously and leave their questions and complaints unanswered.
However, this may hurt your brand, as 88% of these customers will choose not to buy from you and spread the negative word of mouth.
So, to boost social media users’ experience, you need to provide them with exceptional, real-time feedback. Use the social listening tools mentioned above to track their conversations and answer their questions in real time.
Make sure you respond to the negative feedback professionally. This is an awesome chance to help a dissatisfied customer solve a problem with your product and turn them into a returning customer or even a brand advocate.
You could also integrate a chatbot with your Messenger to handle repetitive customer conversations during your off-hours. Providing relevant and valuable feedback irrespective of the time of the day or your working hours will definitely set you apart from other local businesses in your niche.
6. Create Amazing Content
Why do people follow you on social networks? It’s a no-brainer. They want to learn more about your brand. They expect you to keep them informed about your business updates and best offers.
People want to learn more about your employees and your local company’s history, values, and mission. Above all, they want to see highly valuable content that educates them and helps them solve specific problems.
Therefore, when just entering the social media marketing waters, you need to be careful about what content you share.
Start by posting behind-the-scenes photos of your employees and customers to humanize your brand and build personal relationships. This is also where you should promote your best products or services.
For example, Instagram is perfect for high-quality gorgeous photos of your latest products, while Facebook will help you promote your hottest deals to wider audiences.
However, keep in mind that self-serving content shouldn’t dominate your social networks. For every branded piece of content you publish, you should post at least four valuable and engaging posts.
According to some recent stats, 46% of social media users emphasize they will probably unfollow a brand if they publish overly promotional content.
Build your content marketing strategy about the posts that are relevant to your local audiences. Write about the major events in your niche and make sure that your topics and writing style resonate with your local audiences.
Finally, experiment with the different types of content. For example, to engage your audiences, implement videos, quizzes, and infographics into your content creation strategy.
These are all highly interactive forms of content that encourage people to buy from you.
7. Conduct Contests and Incentivize Your Loyal Customers
Getting special deals and free stuff is one of the most common reasons why people follow you on social networks. For you, this is a great opportunity to prove you appreciate your customers’ loyalty, engage them in a contest, and strengthen your relationships with them.
Now, the type of the contest depends on the platform you choose.
For example, if you’re using Pinterest, you can leverage the so-called “Pin It to Win It” promotion. This is a great way to inspire your customers to create user-generated content (their own photos of your products) and use your dedicated hashtags.
On Twitter, you could inspire your fans to write brief, 140-character stories about your local business, why they love your products, and how they make their lives better.
Similarly to Pinterest, Instagram is ideal for visual content. You can use it to promote your giveaways. Of course, to enter the giveaway, a user needs to take a creative photo of themselves using your products, use your branded hashtag, and unlock their profile so you can share their photos on your account, too.
Running a giveaway on Facebook is a great opportunity to promote it to a larger follower base and increase your overall brand exposure and awareness.
8. Encourage Offline Customers to Follow You on Social Media
As a local small business owner, you have a great opportunity to build stronger relationships with your regular customers.
People who’re buying every day at your offline store will be more than glad to follow you on social networks, too. You just need to inform them about how to find you and encourage them to follow you.
For example, you could add QR codes to business cards and window decals to encourage your customers to scan them and start following you immediately.
A live Twitter wall at your offline store displaying your customers’ Tweets in real-time is another great way to encourage them to follow you and tweet about your local business.
The options are multiple and you just need to be creative to choose the right ones.
Over to You
Even though investing in social networks may seem confusing to you right now, don’t give up.
For small businesses, especially new ones, social media marketing is vital. It gives you the opportunity to promote your brand values and show the human side of your local business.
Most importantly, this is a powerful way to build real relationships and engagement with your local customers. And, I hope these tactics will serve as a great starting point.
Editor’s Note: This article is part of the startup tools blog series Start Your Business brought to you by the marketing team at UniTel Voice, the virtual phone system priced and designed for startups and small business owners, and Raul Harman, editor in chief at Technivorz.