Social media provides a unique opportunity for your business to make meaningful connections with your target audience. It’s where you can post updates, share information about events and specials, and have actual conversations with your customers.
One of the best tips we have for running your business’ social media accounts is to start small. It’s better to have a handful of complete, regularly-updated accounts than it is to create accounts on all platforms only to leave them stagnant.
Using information about your industry and target market, you can make an informed decision about which accounts are most worth your efforts.
Step 1: Consider How Much Time You Have
Depending on the social media platform, experts recommend you that post anywhere between 1 and 5 times per day. To save yourself time, we recommend scheduling your posts in advance, either once per week or once per month.
So, if it takes you about five minutes to post one update, you can estimate that you’ll need about 25 minutes each week for each social media channel (1 update x 5 minutes x 5 days = 25 minutes). If you’re looking at monthly scheduling, this translates to about 1.5 hours per month per social media channel (25 minutes x 4 weeks = 100 minutes, or just over 1.5 hours).
Using this information, you can start to get an idea of how many social media channels you should manage. If 25 minutes each week already sounds like a lot, it may be best to start with one channel and evaluate over time. If you think you’ve got a solid 1 to 1.5 hours each week to dedicate to social media, you may find that 2-3 channels is a better fit. Check out the recommended post frequencies for popular social media channels:
We recommend sticking to no more than 3 — at least in the beginning. While it may be tempting to get your business up on every social media platform, it’s better to have no account at all than to have an inactive one.
Step 2: Consider Your Target Audience
In all your other marketing efforts, what kind of audience are you trying to reach? While platforms like Facebook tend to attract anyone and everyone, other platforms will provide you a more targeted approach.
For example, only 10% of internet users over 65 use Twitter, so this platform may be better if you have a younger target audience. Meanwhile, suburban women are much more likely to use Pinterest than are men, urban users, and rural users. Knowing this information can help you understand which platforms will help you create the most meaningful connections with your target audience. This information can also be telling of the quality of leads your business can gain from a particular social media channel.
Here’s the rundown on the types of users on each of the most popular social media channels:
Think about how your product or service fits into these different categories. As you can see, the popularity of the platform may not be the most important factor for your business. If your business naturally provides content that users on a particular platform want, that is a much more important consideration than the size of the platform. Quality over quantity is just as true on social media as it is with your other marketing efforts.
Step 3: Consider Your Industry (& Beyond)
We specifically saved this step for #3. While your initial instinct may be to look into what your competition is doing, it’s better to begin with the user and what they want rather than comparing yourself to the rest of your industry.
But industry-specific information is definitely useful and worth considering. The best way to dig into this information is to search around social media channels for yourself. Whether you have local competitors that you keep tabs on or you’re inspired by some of the greatest businesses in your industry, look up those brands on various social media channels.
Take note of which platforms these businesses use and check out how they’re using them. This step is especially worth completing because it can show you which kinds of content perform well on each channel within your industry. Use this information to your advantage.
For example, if all signs point to your business using Google+ but your competitors don’t receive high engagement on this channel, take note of why that may be. Perhaps they aren’t posting the right kinds of content, or maybe they’re blasting the channel too frequently. If all you can find is high-quality, visual content and it seems like their content should succeed, this may be a sign that this social media channel won’t pack as high of an ROI as you had expected.
Look Beyond Your Industry for Inspiration
Another crucial step here is to think beyond your own industry. As a consumer, you interact with tons of businesses every day. Think about the businesses that you believe do an excellent job of presenting themselves online, engaging with customers in their marketing, and generating consistent sales. Include them in your research to see what works for them and how they use each channel. Chances are you’ll pick up tons of marketing inspiration along the way.
Remember: It can be all too easy to only pay attention to what your competition is doing. But, by limiting yourself to your own industry, you miss opportunities to be inspired to be better than your industry.
If All Else Fails: Try a Recommended Formula
If your business naturally fits into the type of content that users on a particular platform expect, that makes the task of choosing an account much easier. But there are many businesses out there that don’t quite fit into these boxes.
Rather than spending hours analyzing your audience and industry, you could always try to just stick with a formula recommended by a marketing expert.
For example, there’s Neil Patel, co-founder of Kissmetrics, Quick Sprout, Crazy Egg, and Hello Bar. Forbes named him one of the top 10 online marketers, and President Obama named him a top entrepreneur under the age of 30. According to Neil, the social media accounts that really matter for your business are:
- The Big Four: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+. He says you should join them all.
- The Lesser Three: Pinterest, Instagram, and YouTube. He says you should join them all.
- Two of the Little Ones: Tumblr, StumbleUpon, and Reddit. He says you should join two of these three.
- One Niche Site: Untappd, Kaboodle, Behance, Care2, GoodReads, MeetPips, Ravelry, and Gentlemint. He says you should join one of them.
This formula makes it pretty easy to choose your business’ social media accounts. However, it does mean that you’d have to manage 10 accounts (so about 4 hours per week or 16 hours per month). He, of course, wrote that blog post with a huge audience in mind, so there’s not much there in terms of personalization. At the same time, it does give you an easy path for getting your feet wet without a ton of upfront strategy.
As for us? We think the best “formula” is to spend that initial time taking a strategic approach to your social media marketing. However, a great way to quickly get started (without juggling 10 accounts from the beginning) is to choose two of the six accounts we’ve featured in this post: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Pinterest, and Instagram.
In conjunction with blogging (which we do recommend for most industries), you can use two social media channels to amp up your marketing efforts. Do a bit of research on the best content types for those two platforms, and then set and stick to a posting schedule. Devote your efforts to these two accounts until you see a strong reason to branch out to more.
Social Media: A Powerful Piece of the Marketing Puzzle
In online marketing, it’s simply unrealistic to expect any one avenue to generate a fantastic boost in your sales. With your website as the foundation, online marketing can include everything from blogging and social media to email campaigns and white papers — and that’s, of course, the tip of the iceberg.
The best marketing involves a variety of platforms and is closely measured over time. Using the tips above, you can begin your social media marketing efforts on a strong note without using all your time to do it. Then, in conjunction with your other marketing efforts, you can see increased engagement with your business, a boost in sales, and even customer loyalty to your brand.