Social Media love badgeThe pressure to use social media is great for every small business owner. After all, it’s free isn’t it?

Well it isn’t truly free as we all know, as it takes up a considerable amount of our time and the expectation to keep up with the business ‘Joneses’ can be overwhelming.

“Which social media channels should I be using?

“How do I get more people to follow me on Twitter?”

“What do I need to do to get people to Like my Facebook page?”

“What is this Pinterest thingy?”

“How do I get people to retweet my blog posts?”

“How the hell do I use Google+?”

“Why isn’t anyone watching my videos on YouTube?!”

These are just a handful of the typical social media questions I regularly get asked by my clients – questions that often leave them feeling confused and frustrated. Or result in them throwing in the social media towel before they have even started. Social media is just too time consuming and exhausting!

Get social media satisfaction!

With so many things to consider when using social media, I wanted to share three factors which I think make embracing social media much easier and rewarding for us small business owners. 🙂

1. Know your audience

As a marketer it was drummed into me at an early stage in my career that targeting and segmentation was a key stage in the marketing process and vital to success. Those trusty principles stand as true today, in our modern online and social age, as 20+ years ago when I first started out. Yes I know simply ages ago but I see it as a positive, honest! It’s called ‘experience’.

You cannot promote your product or service to everyone and there is simply no point in even trying.

You need to understand who your product or service best suits and more importantly, where it satisfies a need, pain, problem or desire, and target your messages to them and them alone. This laser-like precision and focus will help to sharpen your marketing and deliver better results.

Targeting is vital in using social media as there are millions of people on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, YouTube and Pinterest, but not everyone is interested or wants what your business has to offer.

As small businesses it is great that we have access to all of these potential customers in a very accessible and low-cost way but for social media to work for your business, you will have to work out which social media platforms are best for your audience. Where do they hang out online and where will they be receptive to your messages?

So many business to business firms like accountants for example (I’m not picking on them deliberately!) are keen to launch themselves onto Facebook with vigour but the reality is that it may not be where their audience wants to hear from them and it is highly likely that the type of content and messages that they are able to share will simple leave their audience cold. Sorry but it’s a harsh fact. Just as I feel that not everyone on Facebook wants to hear about marketing, so I don’t use it for my business.

Social media success will more often than not involve a blend of different channels not one alone. But each social media platform is different and shouldn’t be viewed as a broadcast platform to just send out your blog posts and messages on for free – identical content sent blandly to each one.

The techniques to find and engage your audience will need to be different. For example, Facebook is very visual and fun so sharing and commenting on photos and using contest can be more effective than simply feeding your blog posts through. The new Facebook Timeline for pages has created a much more visual layout and successful businesses on Facebook play to this strength to get their marketing messages across.

2. Why exactly am I doing this?

I mentioned about keeping up with the business ‘Joneses’ and I think this is a particular problem with social media. Every small business wants to be doing it but many don’t really know why.

The key thing to consider is your broader marketing objectives – be that brand awareness, website landing page visits, email sign ups, e-book downloads, product sales, workshop places, etc. Don’t forget what you are trying to achieve as a whole and then think about how each social media channel, be it Twitter, Facebook or YouTube etc, helps support these objectives and which one is best for your particular objectives.

For example, getting downloads of your e-book or email sign ups may work better on Twitter than on Facebook. If you are a lifestyle brand, it may be easier to raise your brand awareness and generate website visits from a Facebook page where you can share visual content and build interactive pages and contests using apps.

There are no hard and fast rules but if you know your audience it makes it easier to decide which channels to try out and what type of content will work best. Then you can build your content plan and start sharing.

3. Is all this effort really worth it?

Lastly, and often forgotten, is measuring the results you are getting and adapting your social media activity depending on what works for your business. As I said there are no silver bullets or hard and fast rules, so you need to test and refine what you do.

It is important to set social media Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) so you can measure the conversations you are generating and how engaged your audience is. It isn’t purely about the size of your audience – there are shortcuts to getting thousands of Twitter followers but if none of them are interested in what you are saying or interacting with you, it isn’t going to be productive towards your goals.

So it is more meaninful to measure not just Likes on Facebook, but shares and comments or not just Followers on Twitter but retweets and favourite clicks. Much better to monitor the conversations and interactions with your brand than collecting pure numbers for the sake of it.

A free tool that was recommended to me recently to assist with measuring your social media activity more easily is True Social Metrics. I tried it out myself and it is really useful. It enables you to create a dashboard of metrics across all of the social media channels you use and calculate the true value of the conversations and engagement levels you are achieving and show how that is translating into economic value for your business.

I think this is a really handy dashboard to make sense of all that time and activity. Go on, give it a go!

So don’t be exhausted – be focused and excited by your social media activity!