The Ultimate Guide To Social Media For Businesses

Here's What You'll Learn in This Guide

 

Why Do I Need Social Media for My Small Business?

How to Identify the Right Social Media Platforms for Your Business

What Small Businesses Need to Know About Social Media Advertising

Industry Tips: Social Media for Restaurants

Industry Tips: Social Media for Retailers

Industry Tips: Social Media for Service Providers

The Social Media Metrics That Matter - And How to Use Them

 

Why Do I Need Social Media for My Small Business?

When you think of the cost to market your business, it can add up quickly: advertising in your local papers, direct mailing coupons or other offers, search advertising, local offers like Groupon, and more. Some small business owners might not have the budget or time to create their own website. On the other hand, social media is a relatively low cost marketing opportunity—all it takes is a bit of your time—and it can give you a digital presence whether or not you have a website.

I know what you’re thinking, “But I don’t have much time as it is.”

With some diligence and a clear strategy, you can add a social media to your business marketing mix with little effort, and see results! Here’s how to get started.

Define Your Goals

Do you want repeat business? Do you want new business? Do you need a place for people to find your business? The answer is probably a little bit of all of those things.

Knowing your goal will help you understand how you should promote your social media presence. If you want repeat business, tell your customers when they place their orders either in your restaurant or on the phone, that you have a Facebook page and you offer specials there from time to time. If you want new business, consider advertising or “promoting” your posts with a small budget to your target audience within your geographic coverage. And if you don’t have a website and will be using social media for your online presence, have the URL listed on your materials (i.e. take out menus, pizza boxes, business cards or email signatures), and ask your customers to give you a review on your Facebook page.

   Define Your Audience

Who is your ideal customer? That’s who you’ll want to target on social media too.

Write down who your ideal customer is. What’s their profession or family situation? What is their age and gender? What problems can you help them solve? How would you communicate your solution?

Let’s say you own a pizza shop in a suburban area. Your ideal customer might be a family who orders delivery a couple times a week. Who usually calls in the order? Is it the mother of the household? If so, how old is she? Maybe 30 – 45 years old? What problem are you helping her solve? Maybe you helped her put dinner on the table during a busy weeknight when she’s had to juggle getting the kids to and from school, her own job and after school sports activities. Maybe she wants something quick and easy, but also healthy, which is why you serve family-size salads and whole grain breads.

When you look at all those factors, you already know a lot about this customer. You know she’s:

  • Family oriented
  • Busy
  • Health-conscious
  • Wants convenience

That not only gives you an arsenal of appropriate topics that would be of interest to her (more on this later), it also gives you a better understanding of where she will be on social media and when she will be the most active. In this example, she’s probably on Facebook, maybe sites like Instagram and Pinterest, and likely visits these sites in the evening after the kids are in bed and the hectic day is out of the way.

Decide Where and When You Want to Invest Your Time

Now that you know who your target audience is and you have an idea of where that person is on social media, you’ll need to look at your own schedule and how much time you can commit. If it’s 30 minutes a day, you might want to choose one social media channel, and you’ll want to be sure it’s the most popular.

In our example, you would choose Facebook, and you would likely want to actively post sometime between 8 – 10 pm.

Decide What You Want to Communicate

Here’s where knowing your ideal customer really comes in handy. In our example, we understood that our pizza shop’s ideal customer was a mother, age 30 – 45 who is busy, health-conscious and wants convenience. To engage this person, you’ll want to post content that appeals to her needs. Do a quick search on the Internet each night for time-saving family organization tips or healthy family recipes and post links to the articles you find.

And because you’ve defined your goals, you’ll know if you also want to post specials for the next day or the week, daily deals (mention Facebook Friday when you call to get $2 off your order) and more info that is specific to your business with the goal of increasing sales.

   Listen to Your Followers and Fans and Engage

If you get a new review, be sure to post a response. Thank your audience for their time and business. Take a few photos of your customers on a regular basis, upload them to your page and (when you ask to take their picture) encourage your customers to tag themselves and share.

Repeat It All Again

Once you know who you’re talking to, what you want to say, when you want to say it and where you should be saying it, you’ve got your routine. Set aside the designated time each day to check in, answer questions, respond to comments and post interesting articles you find. It doesn’t have to be long—30 minutes a day should be sufficient—and once it becomes part of your routine, you’ll be disciplined about giving your business an edge with your most valuable customers, and hopefully increasing business in return.

 

 

 

How to Identify the Right Social Media Platforms for Your Business

Let’s take a look at some of the most used social media platforms available today, including their demographical usage stats and the usability of each site. From here, you can decide which platform is the most relevant to your target audience—or your most valuable customer—and which offers the features to help drive your goals. It also helps to see where your competitors are already present.

 

   Facebook

Facebook is undoubtedly the most widely used social media platform out there. It allows users to create profiles, upload photos and videos, post and send messages, and keep up with friends, colleagues, celebrities and brands.

With more than 1.7 billion global users, chances are, your target audience is there. Pew Research said in 2015, 62% of the entire adult population used Facebook. Upon further breakdown, 89% of online adults aged 18 – 29 use Facebook, along with 79% of those ages 30 to 49, 64% of those ages 50 to 64 and 48% of those 65 and older.

When you set up a page for your business on Facebook, you can request your own URL (facebook.com/yourcompany) which, if you have limited resources, can be used in your advertising as a replacement for a standalone business website. You can use your page to display your address, phone number, information about the products or services you provide, customer reviews, and updates.

Facebook is an easy way to engage your customers. Learn how to create a Facebook page here.                   

 

   YouTube

YouTube, owned by Google, is a video platform used to connect people around the globe through user and brand generated content.

It has more than 1 billion global users—according to comScore data, that includes more than 81% of U.S. Internet users—and reaches more 18-49 year olds than any cable network in the U.S. On mobile devices, the average viewing session is now more than 40 minutes.

YouTube attracts an even split of women and men, however, men spend more than 44% more time on the site per month. People look to YouTube for content that will instruct, inform or entertain, so it’s a great place for you to show off your expertise. Own a restaurant? You can show your audience how to make your favorite dish. Are you a plumbing contractor? Show them how to fix a clogged drain. You get the idea.

When you create a YouTube “channel” for your business, you’ll automatically create a Google+ page at the same time. Two for one! YouTube contains an “About” tab where you can type in all your important contact information within the channel description. If you work with partners who have their own channel, YouTube allows you to add them using the “add channels” function.

In the Creators Studio, you can manage and edit your videos, created right from your phone, if you don’t have access to professional quality equipment. The best part is, your videos can be posted or shared on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, or even when you send out emails to your customers.

Click here for more information on how to create a YouTube channel for your business.

 

   Pinterest

Pinterest is an image-based social media site that allows users to share and save content in collections called “boards”. Content does not live on this site, but rather, it acts as an aggregate from other sources. Users can create boards for anything from parenting advice to wedding planning, and speaker system upgrade ideas to fitness tips.

According to Pew Research, 26% of the entire adult population is on Pinterest. Women continue to be the dominating demographic on this social media platform—44% of online women vs just 16% of online men use the site. Additionally, those under 50 years old are most likely to use the site.

As a business owner, you could curate content that is interesting to your target audience by category. If you have a blog, you can also promote your own content here.

For more information on setting up a business page on Pinterest and to get helpful tips on content, click here.

 

   Instagram

Instagram is a mobile photo-sharing and video-sharing social media site, dominated by a younger audience. Users upload images and share them publically or privately, straight from the mobile app. It’s an ideal platform for businesses that sell tangible goods, like restaurants and retailers.

In the same report, Pew Research says a slightly lower portion of the adult population—24%—is using Instagram. It’s popular with non-whites (47% of African Americans and 38% of Hispanics use the site). Additionally, women are more likely to use the site than me (31% vs 24%) although the percentage of male Instagram users is still much higher than males using Pinterest.

Instagram is an entirely mobile, visual, photo sharing experience. If you want to participate on Instagram, be prepared to do so from your mobile device, not your desktop. You can add your phone number, email and/or location so customers can reach you directly from your profile. Although the demographic age is younger than most social media platforms, engagement is also much higher.

You can choose to show product images, images of your store or employees or anything you think will entice customers to do business with your brand. Commonly, brands will use a hashtag with their business name on each post, think #yourbusiness. You can encourage your customers to post their own photos using your hashtag too.  This is a great way to build followers

You are allowed a 150 character bio along with your website URL.

Click here to learn more about setting up a business page on Instagram.

 

   LinkedIn

If you provide services to businesses or professionals, LinkedIn is a great place to be. LinkedIn is the world’s largest professional network which aims to help professionals become more productive and successful. 22% of the entire adult population is on LinkedIn, according to Pew Research it’s most popular with working-aged adults and those with relatively high household incomes—so even if you don’t provide business services, this might be a good place to be if you are in the luxury product and service space. LinkedIn is the only social media site that has higher usage rates among 30 – 49 year olds compared to 18 – 29 year olds.

LinkedIn allows you to have a pretty robust description of your business. In addition to the staples like website URL, email address and physical address, you can add a 2,000 character description and your list of specialties.

You can join groups on LinkedIn based on a particular topic that’s relative to your business, answering questions or posing some of your own. The point here is to become a resource for your target audience and build relationships online. It’s a bit more time consuming, sure, but it’s also more personal.

Like other social media platforms, you’ll want to curate relevant articles and blog posts here by sharing an update with a link. You’ll also want to share your own content here if you have it posted somewhere like your website or a blog.

For more information on creating a company page, click here.

 

   Twitter

Twitter, is a social network that allows users to send and read 140 character messages called “Tweets”. Although less popular than Facebook at 284 million users, is still a good way to communicate with your customers. According to Pew Research, that’s 20% of the entire adult population. Internet users in urban areas are more likely to use Twitter than those in suburban or rural areas. This site is also more popular with younger adults, under the age of 50.

Compared to Facebook, you are more limited in the amount of information you can display and post. Your page can advertise your website URL if you have one, your city location without street address and a 160 character description of what you do or bio.

Tweets are limited to 140 characters and have a short shelf life, so you’ll need to post more often on this platform. You can share photos and videos and of course, curate interesting content, like posting links to articles and blogs that your target audience would find of interest. Again, you’ll also want to post your original content here too, if you have it.

Because of the strict character limit on your posts, many people use link shortening services like bit.ly to help keep their text within limits.

Click here for access to information about how to set up a business page on Twitter and here or here for tips on the basics.

 

 

   What Small Businesses Need to Know About Social Media Advertising

Social media has become that restaurant that doubles its prices and cuts its portions once everyone knows they’re popular.

What was once the greatest form of free advertising ever created has caught on to its business utility, and now wants you to pay to get promoted. And while large corporations don’t have a problem ponying up the cash for big Facebook campaigns, for a small business the decision to advertise on social media can be a large one.

But by and large, small businesses are still doing it. A report from BIA/Kelsey showed that social media is now the largest single source of media spending by small businesses, supplanting print and outdoor for the first time.  Twenty percent of a small business’ ad budget now goes to social media, and even though calculating the ROI is tough, it’s still more popular than ever.

But even with a small ad budget, you need to make the most of your social media ads.

Here’s how a few different platforms work, and if it might be right for you.

 

Facebook

Facebook is the biggest dog on the social media block, and they know it. They have 1.7 billion worldwide users. More than any other social network.

They offer ads in two places:

  1. In feed – you can specify desktop or mobile, or both
  2. In the right column – outside of the users newsfeed

The types of ads available vary from multi product carousels that allow you to feature several product images, to video ads and dynamic product ads that allow you to retarget users who have already been on your website and looked at a particular product. An easy to understand guide to each of the ad types available today can be accessed here.


While the temptation to jump right on the Facebook ad bandwagon might be seductive, you need to think about a few things.

First, is your business the type that could benefit from Facebook ads? The sheer volume of its audience means the answer is probably yes, but the usability of images and ability to create specific events and RSVPs lends itself better to visual businesses (think photography, restaurants and hair salons) and event-driven businesses.

Second, you need to think about what your Facebook advertising objective is. Are you looking to drive sales to your company’s website? Or are you looking to add Facebook “likes” so you can convert those into eventual customers?

This will be the key factor in deciding what kind of Facebook ads to buy, and how much you’ll pay. Facebook allows you to pay by click or by “like,” or per thousand impressions, and how much you pay depends on competition in your targeted demographic.

So thirdly, you’ll need to think about exactly who you’re trying to target, and how much that will cost. Perhaps there are more cost-effective ways for you to reach a high-dollar demographic, and you may opt to use Facebook to reach a group that you don’t have in other arenas. Click here for a comprehensive step-by-step guide to Facebook Ads.

   Twitter

Twitter, with its 284 million worldwide users, offers an even-more targeted approach to social media advertising. Your ads can be promoted to people who search for or tweet using specific keywords or terms. Or you can target people who follow specific trends, industries, celebrities or other major accounts who might share interest with your demographic.


The two types of Twitter advertising are Promoted Tweets and Promoted Accounts. Promoted Tweets are tweets from your company account that show up in someone’s Twitter feed to raise their awareness.

A promoted account is placed on the left-hand sidebar of a user’s Twitter page (or under their first few Tweets on a mobile app) and suggests your business as someone a user might want to follow.

Promoted Tweets are best if you have a product, campaign or other specific content you want to promote. A Promoted Account is best if you’re trying to gain followers as you’ll only pay when people follow you.

They also offer a promoted trend option, but that’s not available to small business at this point.

If you deal primarily in B2B, Twitter may be your go-to option for social media advertising. According to wordstream.com, 85% of B2B marketers use Twitter, as business accounts on the microblogging site continue to grow.

 

LinkedIn

LinkedIn – the professional social media networking site – actually ranked second in popularity among small and medium sized businesses in that BIA/Kelsey study with 30.1% advertising there. And while the people who conducted that study admit that number may be skewed by ads aimed at recruiting personnel, it still makes LinkedIn a major player in social media advertising for your small business.

LinkedIn has 450 million users, with two people joining the network every second, so growth potential here is huge. They offer two ad formats that are pretty similar to those offered by Facebook and Twitter:

  1. Sponsored update – this appears in users’ feeds along with other stories and appears just like a normal post.
  2. Text ads – these ads appear to the right of a user’s news feed and includes a thumbnail image and text.

If you’re a B2B, LinkedIn’s format can be especially beneficial since you can essentially market yourself as a resource to other businesses, much like a potential job seeker might. And 65% of B2B companies have acquired a new customer via LinkedIn, according to Wordstream.

But be forewarned - the cost of advertising here isn’t cheap. The cost per click is currently about $3.50, and don’t expect that figure to drop with LinkedIn’s growing audience.

 

   YouTube

In June of 2016, Google, who owns YouTube, announced the YouTube Director app, which makes it easy for small businesses to create video ads on their own. It includes templates, music and editing tools—and best of all, it’s free.

With YouTube ads, you pay when someone engages with your commercial. If they skip it before 30 seconds, there’s no fee. You can target by age, gender, location and interests, among other options.

Running an ad can ensure your target audience finds your content, even when they are unfamiliar with your brand.

There are two types of video ads available:

  1. In-display: These ads appear in YouTube search results as related videos. These ads will also appear on the Google Display Network, meaning if a website is part of the network and running video ads, your ad could appear there as well.
  2. In-stream: These are ads that appear prior to someone watching the video he or she has selected. The skip function appears five seconds into the ad. You can include a call to action overlay that directs viewers to a specific URL, like your website, or another video. These ads are also a part of the Google Display Network.

For more information on how to set up your YouTube ad, click here.

Whatever your strategy, social media is yet another in the vast array of ways you can pay to get your business known. Yeah, they know they’ve got something great and are going to charge you for it, but you must think if your business can afford NOT to. In the increasingly phone-addicted, social media driven world, the answer will likely be no.

 

Industry Tips: Social Media for Restaurants

Social media is an excellent tool for restauranteurs who want to create more awareness about their brand and generate engagement with your food. Ultimately, social media can help you get more diners in the door.

 

The Basics

Be sure your address and hours are posted on each of your social media platforms. If there’s not a place for you to do so (like on Twitter and Instagram) be sure you fit it in your bio.

For your website URL, if you have one, consider sending your audience directly to your menu page, or to a place where they can find your menu on sites like Yelp or Zomato.

   Create your own hashtag, like #yourrestaurant, and use it religiously. Advertise your hashtag on your napkins or menus and encourage patrons to use it and post about their experience.

 

Know Your Audience

It’s worth repeating… when you know who your ideal customer is, you know where their head is, which means you know how to talk to them.

Do you provide casual fare to families in your community, or are you an upscale restaurant known for your intimate setting and excellent cuisine?

Who comes to your restaurant most often? Is it the family down the street with three children who know they can visit your establishment for a quick, no fuss meal that even their picky toddler will enjoy? Or is it the couple who had their first date at your restaurant and return once a month to try your latest dish and connect.

Knowing your audience is knowing the difference between what type of content will appeal to your best customer and what won’t.

 

Post Appealing, Actionable Content

We recommend the 80/20 rule when it comes to posting engaging content. Twenty percent can be about you, i.e. new menu items, today’s special or deals and offers, while eighty percent should be about your audience.

For example, to create engagement, you can share a favorite recipe that your audience can print and create at home. Invite them to post a photo of their version of your dish in response. Or, give your audience a behind-the-scenes look and an opportunity to shape your restaurant. Trying to decide between a few items for the menu? Post photos of the test dishes (and your staff preparing them) and let your fans decide for you.

Consider social media to be an online extension of how you would treat your guests in your restaurant. You’re a person, not a machine, so let that personality shine through.

Pay attention to what kinds of posts get the most likes and shares. This is the content that your audience wants to see more of.

 

Engage and Respond

When you receive a shout out or an awesome review from a fan, don’t let it go unnoticed. Thank them, just like you would if they told you in person. Make sure you do it right away too. You want the experience to be fresh in their mind if you’re going to engage a conversation.

That goes for negative comments too. Think of it as an opportunity to show that you truly care about your customers’ experience. Apologize quickly and offer a solution, again, just like you would if the complaint came from a patron while in your restaurant. Think about how you can get them back in the door for a do-over. Can you offer them a free appetizer or dessert?

   Offer Exclusives and Keep Track of Trends

Try giving your social media fans a code to use next time they’re in your restaurant for a special deal. Or make a special discount offer when you reach certain milestones, like 1,000 followers or 10 shares on a particular post.

If you notice a food-related trend happening on social media, take advantage. #TacoTuesday is huge, if you serve tacos, post a photo of them. Or if you serve wings, post a photo for them on #SuperbowlSunday along with your recipe for the tastiest Buffalo Sauce.

Live video is huge right now on Facebook. You could try livestreaming the bar on a busy night and ask your fans to come join the fun. Or, you could livestream a video of how to properly shuck an oyster on Memorial Day weekend.

 

Just Do It

However you decide to use social media, the point is to give it a try. If something is working, do more of that. If something isn’t, stop and move on.

Participating on social media is like putting a sign on your restaurant. Today, most people are using social media for all types of activities. Increasingly, social media platforms are becoming the go-to place to search for restaurants as well. So if you’re not on social media, you might as well be hiding from your customers. And why would you want to do that?

To find out how to execute the perfect social media strategy, click here. Or for more food industry social media tips, click here.


 

Industry Tips: Social Media for Retailers

Social media for businesses is more than seeing how many likes or followers you can get. It’s about joining quality conversations within relevant online communities.

As a retail business owner, it’s important for you to understand what needs to be done behind the scenes of your social media efforts and when you’re face-to-face with consumers. Here are a few social media tips for your retail business.

 

   Evaluate

First things first, you need to take a look at your business from a bird’s eye view. What is your retail store selling? Who are you selling to? What is the need for your product or service? Once you figure out the answers to these questions, you ask, how are we already reaching customers and what other ways do we want to communicate with them? You’ll also need to determine how you’re going to quantify and measure the success of your social media marketing initiatives. If possible, try to focus on finding a direct link between conversations and key performance indicators like traffic, leads and sales, rather than just likes and follows.

 

 

Listen

When your retail store and products are being talked about online (because it will happen), listen to what people are saying. Even if bad things are being said about you or your business, online communities are your best tool to identify the strengths and weaknesses that are important to current and potential customers. Many business owners might not realize the actual benefit of online discussions surrounding their company. This is free insight into the minds of your customers. They are telling you what they like and what they don’t like. It’s up to you to pay attention to what they’re saying. Monitor social mentions of your business and listen to what consumers are saying about products and retailers within your market, in general.

 

   Engage

One of the top factors in the consumer’s decision and purchase process is a shopper’s experience. Take the time to listen to your customers. If you see that they have complaints about a particular product or service, send them a personal response letting them know that you are working to resolve the issue. Integrate your responses with existing channels and utilize the most appropriate channel for execution. For example, Twitter and Facebook users are people who tend to expect immediate results. They update in real time and want updates in real time.

 

Personalize

While social platforms that contain dashboards are great monitoring and organizing tools, you want to make sure you decentralize your interactions. Engage with consumers directly, rather than always “broadcasting” generic posts to the public. Be sure that your team is able to communicate with others in an acceptable way. Language is important and so is customization. Learn what your customers are upset about and what their preferences are and cater to their needs as much as you can.

 

Educate

Running successful digital marketing campaigns is not just about shoving products in people’s faces via social media or other digital channels. It’s about providing information that fills a need and engaging with your customers. Stay up-to-date on what’s happening in the world and, more specifically, in your market and field. You want to give customers a reason to follow and engage with you on social media. Providing them with relevant, useful information can be a great way to gain and maintain a solid customer base.

 

   Measure ROI

A lot of times, social media doesn’t directly equal revenue. This makes it difficult for stakeholders to understand the value of social media efforts. If you link social with the organizational and department goals, you may be able to tie it to the big picture. You can track likes, follows, mentions, etc., but dig deeper than just that. Measure every social action, traffic from social media sites and track on-site conversions. Identify how many customer service interactions actually improve relationships or solve issues.

As a business owner, it’s important for you to stay informed on the latest technology trends affecting the retail industry. Embracing social media for your retail business allows you to get a better understanding of what your customers and market want and need. It’s about listening, engaging, personalizing and educating your followers. Determine what social media tools best fit your business goals and make the investment to join the online conversation.

 

 

Industry Tips: Social Media for Service Providers

If you’re in the service industry, whether consumer-facing like a hair salon or dentist or business-facing like a construction company or IT services provider, it’s more important than ever to be on social media, where your customers are likely already talking about you. You’ll want to drive visibility to your business and ensure the conversation remains positive.

If you have a website, it’s important to note, social media may help increase your site’s reach and visibility which may lead to an increase in traffic.

Here are some other great things you can use social media for.

 

   Manage Your Reputation

Third party online reviews can make or break your business. Social media offers you a greater degree of control over these reviews, offering you an opportunity to respond to negative experiences and offer a solution that not only that particular disgruntled client will appreciate, but also those simply assessing your business before signing up for your services. It also allows you to thank those who made it a point to write something nice about their experience.

 

   Reach Far and Wide

In most cases, an ad is viewed by one person. On social media, if someone posts something about you, likes something you’ve posted or decides to share it, their friends will see it too.

 

Showcase Your Expertise

With social media, you now have a platform to share your knowledge and the knowledge of those you respect—outside of a classroom setting. Associating yourself with a renowned provider in your industry (who provides services outside your coverage area) showcases your own expertise by default. It’s the easiest way to show your customers that you stay on top of the trends that make you the community expert for your industry.

 

Communicate Your Success

You can feature work you’ve done and clients you’ve helped using project photos and customer testimonials. Social media is the perfect place for you to tell your audience exactly what makes you the best, without having to say it yourself.

 

Engage Your Customers

Create buzz around your current project. Have you just purchased equipment that will make your projects better? Here’s your opportunity to showcase it. Before and after pictures work just as well in hair salons as they do for landscapers and construction contractors. Use social media to get people talking about your most exciting projects.

Respond to their questions and use social media as a networking opportunity. Become a resource for your customers and you’re sure to get repeat business.

 

Ask For What You Want

If you want people to engage, the best way to do that is to ask them for it. Do you want to know what people like best about your current project? Ask them. Do you want people to share their experiences with your business? Ask them. Do you want opinions about a new service you’re thinking of introducing? Ask them.

Overall, you’re looking to build your brand and business profile on social media, so the key is to be active. With engaging posts, you’ll likely gain new customers and keep them coming back for more.

 

 

The Social Media Metrics That Matter - And How to Use Them

After you’re up and running on social media, you’ll want to be sure you have the appropriate metrics in place too.

Social media analytics involves three broad steps:

  1. Gathering data from blogs and social media websites
  2. Analyzing the data
  3. Using the data to make informed business decisions

While many small businesses have some type of analytics in place, they still may not be fully maximizing the value of the data gathered. Or, they may not have a mechanism in place for actually using the data in decision making.

But, most using social media are also covering the most common form of social media analytics: Using customer comments and feedback to help guide their marketing and customer service efforts.

This leads to an important point: The particular data you’re gathering and analyzing needs to tie to a specific business goal or goals —increasing revenue, reducing costs, improving perception or getting feedback on a product or service. Then you need to define KPIs (key performance indicators) for how you’re going to evaluate the data. For example, measuring tweets and retweets and mentions is a fairly simple way to gauge how engaged your customers are. And for this kind of unstructured data, there are a lot of software choices out there for analyzing it.

Social media analytics aren’t one-size-fits-all. In fact, says Social Snap CEO Nan Dawkins, who has also developed a social media measurement platform, there' no "cookbook" for social media analytics that works for every business. Only some of the massive amounts of social media data available will be applicable and useful to your business. It’s a little overwhelming to small business owners trying to find their way (in a way that makes sense) through the social media analytics jungle! Dawkins cautions against falling prey to three big problem areas:

  1. Trying to sort through data to somehow find the useful bits. (Don’t even try—it just can’t be done.)
  2. “Paralysis analysis” – So much data, so little time! While continuing to mull over the right analytics, nothing is moving forward.
  3. Mindless reporting. The opposite effect is trying to measure everything, which means that most of the information is irrelevant and never used.

To help you stay focused, Dawkins breaks down an approach to measurement into three steps that will ensure that your program is actionable, customized and effective.

  1. Document the function social media serves, the intended audience and your corresponding business goals for every situation or campaign, because each will be different. To stay focused and specific, create a spreadsheet that documents and pulls all this together.
  2. Identify action drivers. What are you going to do with the data? Prioritize which metrics would cause you to take action that might move the needle on something with potentially major impact on your business.
  3. Connect data sources. This one isn’t necessarily easy. But Dawkins says because good, useful data comes from a variety of sources, those must somehow be connected. Start with the easiest ones. There are tools and resources available, but one by itself may not do the whole job. You can still make good progress and take on more in phases.

Wherever you are in your social media analytics program, make sure you’re continuing to evaluate at regular intervals so that you’re getting the most valuable information—and the most bang for your buck. Meghan Keaney Anderson shares examples of social media metrics that Hubspot focuses on for achieving its objectives:

  • Channel reports: Are we spending our time and money in the right places?
  • ROI data: Is social media generating leads and customers?
  • Customer response rates: Are we doing a good job of responding to customers via social media?
  • Opportunity response rates: Are sales people (or others who generate leads) finding and responding to opportunities in social media?
  • Reach and “viral-ability”: Has social media helped extend our reach?

It’s worth taking a few minutes to read through Anderson’s helpful narrative for each of these points.

Social analytics can give you insight into more than customers. Datify CEO Ben Harper says that while he believes it’s getting harder to be wildly successful on social media (a natural progression of social media channels and platforms), there are practical ways to use social media data to effectively analyze your competitors. Click here to find out how!

 

Highlights and Recap

We covered a lot of information and insights here, so let’s break it down to seven key takeaways from this guide to help you think about your social media strategy:

 

  1. Social media is a relatively low cost marketing opportunity—all it takes is a bit of your time—and it can give you a digital presence when you don’t have your own website.
  2. Knowing your goal will help you understand how you should promote your social media presence. And knowing your audience—or your best customer—will help you understand which social media platform to use and what content to post.
  3. Carve out a small amount of time each day that you can devote to posting content, answering questions from your followers and thanking those who engaged with you that day.
  4. Consider allocating a small budget to social media advertising to help build brand awareness and your audience.
  5. Although the content you post and offers you make on social media may vary by your industry, the overarching theme is to find what works for your audience by looking at likes, shares, comments, etc. Once you know what works, do more of that.
  6. Measure your results and tie them to your goals—for example, increasing revenue, reducing costs, improving perception or getting feedback on a product or service.
  7. And if all else fails, take a look at your competition and see what’s working for them.

Remember, done consistently, social media can help you grow your customer base and increase sales. It takes effort but it also pays off. And when you’re bootstrapped for advertising budget, social media can be the answer you need.