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An Introduction to Social Media for Business

Despite the growing popularity, social media for business is still put on the back burner for a lot of organizations. There’s skepticism around its effectiveness for local or small businesses because we see huge brands like Coca-Cola, Nike and Starbucks get all the success.

However, social media can benefit businesses of any size. Many small- and medium-sized companies see growth in brand awareness, site traffic, shares and customer engagement when there’s a plan in place.

Social Media for Business by the Numbers

Social media allows smaller companies to compete against some of the larger businesses to reach more customers. One of the biggest advantages of social media marketing is it’s less reliant on a large budget. Being successful with social media for business comes down to creativity and engagement. The lower barrier to entry make it possible for any business to compete.

Just in case you’re not completely sold on social–or have to convince higher-ups it’s worth it–here are some statistics that make it more than evident that social media is the way to go:

duplass graphic

Social media for business is a necessity just like paid ads, flyers and other traditional marketing efforts. In order to compete, businesses can’t afford to be inactive on social media.

The Benefits of Social Media for Business

Despite all of these stats, some businesses still aren’t sold on social media as a marketing tool. In fact, one in three small businesses don’t think social media is important for their business.

deloitte graphic

One of the primary reasons for this is because organizations don’t realize all of the benefits it has to offer yet. And this is partially understandable due to the nature of social media. It’s used as a way to build brand awareness, fuel content marketing and other important aspects that aren’t as measurable as what small businesses on social media are used to.

It’s time to do away with the old mindset and outdated views of marketing. The internet has completely changed the way your business has to look at marketing. And social media is the perfect example of this shift. Here are some of the benefits of social media for businesses.

Get to Know Your Customers With Social Media

When is the last time you filled out a customer survey? If you’re like most people, it has probably been months or even years. The old ways of finding out information about consumers aren’t as effective today. People have grown to hate unsolicited messages from marketers. Social media gives you the opportunity to find out about your customers in a completely non-intrusive way.

Knowing the age, gender and psychographics of your audience allows you to create and share more targeted content. There are a couple ways to find additional information on your audience. For one, you can manually search through your followers.

Browse your list of followers and get a sense of who they are. Some users put a lot of helpful information in their bios, which often gets overlooked by social businesses.

Admittedly this is a long and tedious process. Luckily there are easier ways to get the information. For instance, Sprout Social gives you insight into your audience’s demographics.

twitter demographics

In addition to demographics, you should also pay attention to what your customers share on social media. Do they Tweet links to industry news? Do they post quotes on Instagram? If they’re sharing it, you can trust it’s the type of content they enjoy.

All of this information lets you dig deeper into who your customers are and what they like/dislike. Before social media you’d have to pay thousands of dollars to put together focus groups and send surveys. But now it’s all at your finger tips.

Know What Customers Really Think

People aren’t afraid to voice their opinions on social media. It makes social networks a great place to get honest and raw feedback of what people think about your products, services and brand. You can monitor what’s being said about your business and resolve issues right away which is a huge advantage.

In the past, if a customer was unhappy with the service at your business, they would just go home and tell their friends. Then they’d never come back. Not only do you lose them as a customer, but you’re also losing referral business without ever knowing.

In the age of social media, when people don’t like your products and services they Tweet about it publicly. That might seem like a bad thing since other people will hear about the bad experiences. But it’s only negative to your business if you ignore their feedback or respond inappropriately. Use social media to rectify customer issues and improve your business.

If you’re monitoring mentions of your company on social media, you’ll can see it in real time and fix the issue. This could save you from losing customers.

You can manually monitor all your mentions, or use a tool with social media monitoring features. Social media monitoring allows you to track specific keywords and mentions of your brand on social media. Don’t limit your keywords to just “Brand Name.” Include variations like #brandname and other potential ways someone would mention your brand on social media.

Social Media Monitoring

Engage With Your Customers

People don’t only Tweet negative things about companies. Social media has done an amazing job of breaking down the wall that used to exist between businesses and customers. People post Instagram pictures of themselves enjoying their favorite brands, check in on Facebook when they go out to local bars and restaurants and happily show off their brand loyalty. User-generated content is one of the best parts about using social media for business.

When companies promote their own products and services, it can easily come off as spammy. But when people see photos on Facebook or Instagram of their friends wearing a company’s t-shirt or bragging about how much they love a certain product, it’s more genuine and effective. Consumer reviews are 12 times more trusted than product descriptions made by the company itself.

Send More Traffic to Your Website

Traffic is something all business owners want, but struggle to get organically. While search engine optimization is usually the first thing that comes to mind when it comes to traffic generation, social media can be just as effective. For instance, 75% of Buzzfeed’s traffic comes from social media.

Social media traffic is on the rise. In 2014 social media accounted for 31.24% of overall online traffic, up from 22.71% in the previous year.

Social Media Referral Traffic

Sharing your blog posts and other content from your website on social media is an easy way to get more visitors. Just make sure you’re not only Tweeting your own content. Curate content from other sites in your industry, share images and other types of media.

Generate Leads

One of the biggest misconceptions about social media is that it doesn’t generate leads. However, that couldn’t be further from the truth.

Not only can you generate leads through social media, but you can also get a nice ROI.

Generating leads on social media is a bit different than other platforms because selling isn’t the primary goal. A majority of the content you share should be non-promotional. Instead of blatantly asking people to buy your product, look for people talking about problems your product solves. Then give them the solution.

An easy way to do this is through Twitter Advanced Search.

Enter some phrases people would use to describe a problem your products or services solve. Then check the question box at the bottom.

Twitter Advanced Search

You’ll see the latest Tweets from people using your keywords and asking a question. Then you can reply to them with a solution. You can reply offering a free trial of your product or share a link to a blog post you made that walks them through the solution.

It’s a good idea to save searches for questions that are frequently asked. Twitter doesn’t allow you to save your searches, but you can do it in Sprout.

Save Twitter Search Sprout Social

When you want to look for some new people to interact with you can just go to your saved searches and see the most recent Tweets. You can also see who you’ve engaged with before, which is a nice added benefit. It’s much more convenient than manually doing new searches every time.

The New Players in Social Media

We’ve seen the rise of a lot of new social networking sites in recent years. Unlike a lot of failed platforms in the past, these new players have really started to solidify themselves and become real contenders. Part of using social media for business is having the ability to pivot to the new networks your audience is using.

Some of the top new social media apps/sites we’ve seen recently are:

  • Snapchat
  • Periscope
  • Instagram

The interesting thing about all of these is unlike Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or Google+, they are mobile first. All you have to do is download the app and you’re set to go.

The great advantage of these new apps is even though they have large audiences, they’re not as competitive as major social networks like Facebook and Twitter. This is because many businesses have been slow to adopt newer social media channels.

Creative campaigns tend to generate a lot of attention and have a greater chance of going viral. Plenty of brands do a great job standing out on platforms like Instagram and Snapchat instead of limiting themselves to only Facebook and Twitter.

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A photo posted by Soylent (@soylent) on

While visuals are an important aspect of being successful on Google+, Facebook and Twitter, images and video are the primary focus of these new apps. The trend toward visual marketing is growing thanks to all of these apps. And it’s time for your business to start taking action to be successful with social media.

How to Be Successful With Social Media

Each social network has its own quirks and best practices. But there are also some general tips for success no matter which platform your company is focusing on. Here are some tips for using social media for business growth:

Define Your Audience

We’ve established that social media is one of the best ways to reach your target audience. But before you can begin connecting with those people, you have to start by figuring out who they are. Defining your audience or customer avatar is going to help you:

  • Choose which social networks to dedicate your time to.
  • Choose a voice that connects with them.
  • Determine what type of content to share.
  • Develop a strong social media marketing plan around them.

Don’t just talk about who are your ideal customers, write it down. Include things like:

  • Age
  • Income level
  • Career/profession
  • Location
  • Hobbies
  • Education level

Here’s a great example from RyanBattles.com

customer avatar ryan battles

The more you’re able to define your avatar, the more targeted your social media approach will be. After you’ve put together your avatar, ask yourself what are their struggles? How can you add the most value to them? Then you’ll have a strong foundation to build on.

Don’t Get in Over Your Head

Where most businesses fail with social media is trying to take on too much too quickly. As tempting as it is to jump on every hot social network, it could end up doing more harm than good. Social media marketing isn’t about just blasting out your new blog post across 20 different sites. It’s about establishing a real presence and adding value.

Unless your business has a dedicated social media team, it’s extremely difficult to build your audience on seven different social networks at the same time, so we recommend starting with two to three maximum.

Take a look at this social media demographics post to see the findings of the top social media sites. Compare that information with the avatar you created and that will help you determine which site to focus on.

The second issue businesses run into is inconsistency. The fun and excitement of sending out Tweets and taking pictures for Instagram can start to fade away if you’re not gaining any traction, and then you get burned out.

A good way to combat this is to just dedicate a small portion of every day strictly to social media marketing. Around 30-45 minutes a day is a good place to start. Use that time to find new content to share, reply to any relevant social media posts and keep your finger on the pulse of what’s going on.

Breaking social media marketing into smaller bite-sized pieces will make sure you don’t get overwhelmed and give up too soon.

Don’t Spam

This tip can’t be shared enough. People don’t want to follow businesses on social media that only publish promotional content. If every other Tweet is about your newest product or a 10% off sale, you’re not offering any real value to your audience.

According to a study by Buzzstream and Fractl, the most common reason people unfollow brands is because their content is too boring or repetitive. Promotional posts tend to fall into that category.

Reasons Users Unfollow Brands on Social Media

Instead, focus on sharing content that’s helpful or entertaining. People use Vine, Pinterest and Facebook as a way to get a break during the day, not to be bombarded by advertisements. A good way to judge how promotional your brand is on social media is by looking through and asking yourself if you’d follow your accounts if it wasn’t your business.

Take a Unified Approach

Do you have consistent branding across all of your social media platforms? If your Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages all look like they’re for different companies, it’s time to reevaluate. Each profile doesn’t have to look completely identical, but your company’s core message should be evident in each one.

Sweet Frog Social Media Branding

Aside from just aesthetics, you should also take advantage of the ability to connect different social platforms. For instance, you should be sharing all of your YouTube videos to Google+. And Vine is owned by Twitter so the two integrate very nicely. All of these different connections make it easier to publish content across multiple channels.

Also consider the role your website plays in your social media marketing plan. As the home base of your business, it’s very important to have all your social media profiles prominently displayed on every page of your site. Make it as easy as possible for people to connect with you. To help spread your content across social media, you should also consider having social sharing buttons on your blog posts.

sprout social media share buttons

Don’t Be Afraid to Connect

If you want to use social media for business growth, you have to engage and connect with other users. Unfortunately, the only time a lot of businesses interact with people on social media is when:

  1. They’ve been mentioned
  2. Someone shares a link to their content

Instead of being on the defense, how about going on the offense? When you see someone share a good piece of content that’s not yours, reply. If you see someone post something funny on Google+, give it a +1 and comment. Follow some new people on Instagram, participate in Twitter chats and really dive in head first. If you’re sitting around waiting for everyone to follow you and share your content, you’re going to wait a long time.

Pro Tip: The companies that get the most love on social media are the ones that are the most active and engaging.

Social Media Management Tools Are No Longer Optional

There was a time when social media management tools were seen as something that only large corporations needed. That’s not the case at all, especially today. There are so many tasks associated with social media marketing that trying to juggle them all using native apps can become a mess.

Social media management tools like Sprout Social make it easy to share content across multiple social networks, track brand mentions, get detailed reports and a host of other crucial tasks that every business needs.

Social media scheduling

The Secret to Social Media for Business

The secret is work. You may be looking around at your competitors and wondering what you have to do to achieve the same level of success as they’re having on social media. We’ve outlined all the steps for you in this guide, but the most important step is putting it all into action. Here’s a recap of the most important things to keep in mind:

  • Don’t believe the myth that social media marketing isn’t effective for businesses.
  • Define your target audience.
  • Start small and focus on three social networks at the most.
  • Add value by sharing amazing content, not just your own.
  • Be consistent.
  • Engage and interact.
  • Stay organized with a social media management tool.

If you can do this, your work will pay off. Social media marketing is here to stay, and it’s proven to be one of the most effective tools for business growth.

How are you using social media to grow your business? Let us know in the comments!

This post An Introduction to Social Media for Business originally appeared on Sprout Social.

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About Daniel Rodgers

A lot of news that you will not see in the paper. A lot of technology that is coming out that will not see in the paper.

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