Trying to promote a small business can be a frustrating affair. It requires a high level of finesse to balance limited resources against a desired marketing impact, and traditional marketing channels are often ill suited to achieve this balance. Television and radio advertisements are largely priced out of the reach of small business owners. The drop off in readership and a preference towards digital outlets over the past decade has lessened the effectiveness of print advertisements.
So where does a small business owner turn? What promotional efforts provide that coveted mix of impact and cost-effectiveness?
Hit em’ where they live…
When it comes to promoting your small business, social media is king. More kinetic than print advertisements, more engaging than radio advertisements, and far less expensive than television advertisements, social media for small business advertising is the perfect low-cost, high-impact channel for small businesses.
More than 90% of Americans have a social media account and nearly 70% of them check it at least once a day. No other marketing platform affords engagement opportunities with that level of potential penetration; provided it is handled properly.
In essence, social media promotions provide a marketing outlet that does away with the traditional top-down communication tactics of other advertising channels. Marketing messages delivered via social media are more dialog than decree. They are laterally oriented, meaning that they are open to engagement, inspection, and rebuttal. While this means a lack of absolute control over your marketing messages, it also means that they are more ‘people oriented’ and interactive.
You can lead a horse to water…
Managing social media for small business is easier said than done. There are several companies that have succeeded admirably in this endeavor; companies like Whole Foods Market and American Express with active and tightly managed social media accounts across Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, Instagram, and a host of others.
But for every success story there are a hundred cautionary tales. Many companies flounder in their attempts to leverage social media, even big wigs with marketing budgets that dwarf the total earnings of most small businesses. These companies struggle to adapt their traditional, top-down marketing approaches to the much more interactive realm of social media. A large part of this struggle can be attributed to the fact that several of the strategies and schemas of traditional marketing prove to be ineffective, even counter-productive, when applied to social media.
The 80-20 rule
The biggest mistake companies make in their social media campaigns is overselling. While social media does make an excellent sales platform, sales messages must be carefully balanced against engagement messages at a disproportionate ratio.
Your social media efforts should entertain and engage much more often than they inform or promote. A good rule of thumb is the “80-20 Rule”, which holds that 80% of all social media messages should be of an engaging nature, while only 20% should be directly promotional in nature. Consumers are bombarded by advertisements at every turn, on billboards, on T.V., on the radio. The last thing they want is to be further bombarded when they turn to the refuge of their Facebook accounts. A steady stream of engaging content ensures that these ad-weary consumers aren’t turned off of your companies social media efforts entirely.
Does a ‘Like’ have a dollar value?
Owing to the highly kinetic, highly interactive nature of social media promotions, quantifying a definitive value for social media efforts is difficult. Even identifying the indicators of effective social media engagement provide unique challenges.
The base vital of your social media efforts is your engagement rate; the percentage of your social followers that like, share, retweet, comment on, or otherwise engage with your social media posts. A social engagement rate of about 5% is considered ‘good’, but calculating what a 5% engagement rate translates into in dollars and cents is a highly subjective matter.
Ain’t nobody got time for that!
Managing social media efforts in house can be a time-consuming and costly endeavor. Quality content for posts must be created or curated, posts must be scheduled based on peak engagement times (which vary based on platform), customer comments and complaints must me responded to, social trends need to be leveraged, affiliate opportunities must be sought out… the list goes on and on.
Despite the promotional opportunities offered to small businesses by social media, the investment of time and effort required to properly manage multiple social media account often scare small business owners away entirely, and understandably so. Most business owners count their free time in seconds and hiring an in house social media manager can be a significant expense.
But as any business owner knows, it takes money to make money and a properly handled and targeted marketing campaign is always a sound investment. For just this reason, more and more business owners are outsourcing their social media efforts to digital promotion firms or talented freelancers. A skilled digital marketing team has the time, resources, and know-how to build followers, generate engagement, and grow your customer base.
Small fish; big pond
For many business owners, social media for small business affords a modern, high-impact, and cost-effective promotional opportunity. Regardless of what product, good, or service your business offers, there is a social strategy out there that is perfect for you.
It isn’t easy being a small fish in a big pond, but through effective and skillful leverage of social media, you can still make a big splash!
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