Maximizing Your Marketing Strategy with Social Media for SMBs
Why is social media important for business?
With a whopping 4.48 billion people globally on at least one social media platform, it is of little surprise that social media has become a promising space for businesses to grow. The rapid growth of this phenomenon only illustrates the magnitude of this trend - having involved up to 4.48 billion people in 2023 right up from 2.07 billion in 2015, social media, undeniably, is powerful.
Why is social media important in digital marketing for small businesses?
Marketing is especially key for the survival of small-to-medium businesses, and this is where a social media presence can be vital. In the initial stages of a company’s development, the name of the brand can be largely established online, through the busy pages of social media. If done well, solidly-planned social media marketing can stimulate a small-to-medium business to grow its client base exponentially.
Social media tools for you to use
When faced with the question of which social media tools to use, the global big names in tech – such as Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, TikTok, Snapchat, Reddit, Pinterest, and Twitter – often spring to mind.
With these options in hand, however, it is necessary to always bear in mind that not all tools are created for the same purpose. Although Instagram does account for more than one billion monthly users, over 60% of its audience are between the ages of 18 and 34. Geography plays a significant role as well; while Snapchat is hugely popular among the American youth, it is actively used in India as well, which can be valuable information if part of your market lies in that area of the world. Knowing your target client base (i.e., their preferences for social media from an age and geography point of view) can help you craft your strategy more wisely.
How can you come up with a social media strategy?
The primary goals of social media are twofold: to raise awareness of your brand, and to turn that awareness into revenue. Any measures taken on your social media page should be planned to reach either one of these two results.
Some people may carry the illusion that social media takes mostly just ‘common sense’ to maintain. Whether it be posting images of products, writing captions under posts, or responding to clients’ questions, these may seem like tasks that can be accomplished ‘intuitively’ on the surface.
In reality, to come up with a solid social media strategy, one needs to be trained in a variety of areas. Since social media strategies are a relatively recent concept in marketing, businesses around the world are still continuously learning and concocting innovative ways to boost sales through social media.
The points below illustrate potential social media marketing strategies for your business:
1) Engaging with the audience with small contests, giveaways, or ‘friend-tagging’
On social media, the goal is to attract as much attention as possible. Through small contests (e.g., ‘the best caption for this photo wins a free jumper’), giveaways (‘share this post and you will be considered for a lucky draw’’), or friend-tagging (‘tag a friend who may enjoy this sundae this weekend’), businesses may be able to attract more traffic onto their sites.
2) Using social media management tools and analytics to the fullest
Social media management tools are key when it comes to marketing. Analytics can help you understand the demography of your follower base. This allows you to understand whether your social media page is indeed attracting the intended type of consumers.
3) Working with influencers
With influencers attracting a lot of attention on the internet, it can sometimes be beneficial to approach them to promote your product (e.g., inviting them to review your products or asking them to announce a discount code to their followers). However, it is important to choose influencers whose values and styles align with yours. Carefully analyze each potential influencer's follower base - are they the target consumers for your product? - before initiating contact. The size of an influencer's following is also an important consideration, as a larger follower count typically implies a higher chance of sales. However, larger influencers tend to be more expensive to work with, so it's essential to budget and evaluate wisely beforehand.
4) Seasonal strategies
Social media pages are a highly efficient way to advertise your promotions and seasonal strategies are often seen on businesses’ social media. This can often be reflected by an increased wave of posts around Black Friday or Singles’ Day deals in November. Many businesses would also adapt their products to the season at hand, using social media as a tool to get potential consumers to try the new products (e.g., for coffee shops, pumpkin spiced lattes in October)
5) Working with other brands
Social media also allows you to work effectively with other brands (assuming they are not your competitor, of course). For example, if your SMB sells wine, it may be a good idea to do a promotion post with another SMB that sells cheese.
6) Using social media for paid advertisements
Given the public's attention on social media, it serves as an excellent platform for marketing your products. Social media advertisements can help boost your business's outreach, and algorithms can assist in reaching your target market more efficiently. There are businesses that do not have a social media page but still opt for paid advertisements using social media platforms.
Adding on to the above, also mention-worthy is the creative and artistic aspect of social media planning (that is, the ‘appeal’). There is an entire realm of knowledge surrounding things such as ‘techniques to take “Instagrammable” shots of your product,’ or ‘how to make a multi-photo collage grid for your Instagram page.’ Writing attention-grabbing or memorable captions for an online audience also requires skill and long-term understanding of how an audience reacts to posts. As marketing largely concerns the visual sense, investing effort into the more artistic side of your social media page can really level up your game in the long run.
Has my social media strategy worked?
With social media becoming increasingly powerful in commerce worldwide, a critical question for businesses to ask is whether their strategies worked. Social media, after all, takes up time, skill, and effort - it imposes an extra cost on manpower, and it is therefore important to evaluate the revenue it brings along the way.
The tricky part, however, is that there aren’t any hard-and-fast ways to determine whether a particular strategy has worked in a company’s favor, and, if so, how much. The following are certain pointers that may provide the illusion of a brand growing, but more caution is needed to determine its validity in the longer term.
Followers and subscribers: With ‘followers’ or ‘subscribers’ being a buzzword, it is one of the indicators of the success of a social media page. However, followers on your page don’t always bring in the revenue you expect. Followers may visit your page solely to enjoy your content as a form of entertainment or to benefit from any free information you provide. Interestingly, it is often the case that followers do not end up purchasing what you have to offer.
Social traffic: Social traffic is where a potential client gets directed to your company’s website via social media. While this may seem like progress, traffic does not always result in the desired commercial outcome if visitors don’t end up purchasing anything or doing anything meaningful on your page. If the above are not always reliable milestones, then what benchmarks can you use to evaluate the outcome of your social media strategy? Here are some ideas:
Speed of growth: Try a social media tactic in a given period of time (e.g., interactions with followers on stories or ‘tag-a-friend giveaways’) and observe the growth of your page during that period. If your sales tend to rise exponentially after a certain strategy is put into place, then something may be working for you.
Coupon codes: When running promotional events on social media (e.g., having an influencer promote your product or sharing a limited-time promotion on an Instagram reel), coupon codes can suggest the results of such an approach. This helps your business understand more concretely what works and what doesn’t.
Engagements: While a high number of followers is not always meaningful, engagements (i.e., shares, likes, comments, verified reviews) can actually help build a name for your brand. How engaged is the public with your products? The whole point of social media, after all, is to ‘communicate’ your business to the public, and that needs to be a two-way street.
Visitor on-site behavior: Attracting more visitors to your company’s website? Great! But are they taking your products seriously when exploring your website? If the visitors you attract tend to bounce after clicking on merely a couple of links, then that may be a sign that your social media strategy is not attracting the most ideal group of people
Conversions: These are analytics that can help track how many visitors to your page actually end up in ‘meaningful’ commercial action. Such action can be sales revenue, or meaningful inquiries from potential customers, although it is ultimately upon you how a ‘meaningful’ action can be defined. Should your website traffic lead to an increased number of purchases, a helpful approach would be to understand, in a more ‘qualitative’ sense, how that happened (e.g., was it the first-time customer discount? The photography and marketing of the product?). At the end of the day, conversions are a highly practical benchmark and are probably the most practical way to evaluate whether your strategy worked.
Google Analytics and Google Console: For a more accurate and insightful understanding of your page's traffic, Google Search Console is an invaluable tool. Previously known as ‘Google Webmaster Tools’, Google Search Console helps users understand the interaction between search engines and their webpages. It provides a clearer picture of online traffic, such as your crawl rate (i.e., how many Google 'crawlers' scan your site) and keyword monitoring (e.g., what types of keywords lead people to your page and how you can adjust your site based on that). Google Analytics can also help you understand your potential customers by revealing information such as the demographics of your site visitors, their location, and how much time they spend viewing each product (i.e., 'engagement').
As entertaining as it is, it isn’t surprising that social media is here to stay in the long run. There is no one-size-fits-all social media strategy for any business, so it would be wise for SMBs to take social media seriously and experiment with as many strategies as financially possible.
Esme Lee is a science writer and editor in the UK, carrying a passion for tech copywriting. She has a background in educational neuroscience and holds a PhD from the University of Cambridge.