Let’s imagine for a moment that you are a small business owner interested in using social media as a marketing tool. “Sites like Facebook seem to hold a lot of promise,” you think to yourself. “Plus, I already use Facebook in my personal life, so I basically know what I’m doing. How hard can it be?”
You start by setting up your Facebook page, post for about a week, and then stop. A few weeks later you try again. The posts are somewhat random…sometimes you take a picture of your office and post that, and other times you just put up a comment about loving your day. Again, though, you don’t get the response from your audience that you hoped for, and you stop posting.
Sound familiar? Don’t worry – this is a scenario that happens all the time. Small business hear from the world around them that they need to be using social media, but when it comes to strategy it can be hard to know the best way to move forward and engage current and potential clients. One of the biggest keys to successfully using social media as a marketing tool is consistency, both in posting and your message.
But what does that even mean?!? Let’s take a closer look and consistency and what it means for social media success.
If you spend any time at all on marketing or design websites, you have likely come across discussions on how important your company’s “brand” is for marketing. But “brand” can seem a little nebulous – what exactly does it consist of? Well, think about larger companies like Coke. What makes something recognizable as being a Coke product? It’s a combination of colors, fonts, and styles of packaging, and those colors and styles are used on cans, bottles, boxes, print advertisement, social media – wherever the company wants their audience to look and see “Coke.”
It’s not just visual, though. Think about all of the commercials you see for Coke products and the messages they send. The commercials usually focus on people (or animals) being together, being happy, and sharing the experience of drinking a Coke. They are creating a brand message of warmth, and who wouldn’t want to participate in that? That message is the bottom line of all of their marketing, and they stay consistent so that their audience recognizes language and tone used by the company. It’s almost like the company develops a personality that the audience can relate to and identify with.
These visual and messaging aspects are what create the brand of a company.
As a small business, it can take a little bit of time to sort out your brand, but having some idea of what you want to get across to your audience will be invaluable when starting on your path towards using social media to grow your business.
- Start by identifying your audience – Who are you speaking to? “General Public” is not an audience. Be specific…are you an interior design company? Maybe your audience is something like, “Women in their 30s-50s with a household income greater than $100,000. She is looking for a beautiful space to come home to after a long day of work.” Write down ideas of who you want to attract, and you can start planning from there.
- Define your message – What are you trying to convey to your specific audience? How do you want your audience to relate to your company? Should they see you as an authority figure? Are you a friend offering helpful advice? Are you someone who is there to entertain? This is another area that requires some brainstorming, so write down your ideas about the message you want to send and refine, refine, refine!
- Take a look at your visuals – Do you have a website and logo created? Take an inventory of the colors, shapes, styles, and fonts used on your website and carry them over to your social media sites. Make sure your social media headers visually match your website. If you create other visual content for social media for posts, make sure it ties into the inventory of design elements you created for marketing purposes.
- Take a look at your tone – Tone can be one of the hardest marketing concepts to grasp. In a nutshell, it’s essentially how your company is speaking to your audience. Your website is a good place to start when it comes to tone…language-wise, how is the site presenting information to your audience? Is it whimsical? Maybe it carries a tone of authority. Maybe it’s more informational. Whatever it is, try to define the tone and then carry it over into social media posts, in order to keep the language consistent.
Once you have established your brand and how you will carry it over consistently throughout your marketing material, it is time to focus on posting consistency. While brand consistency is difficult to sort out mentally, getting in the routine of regularly posting content is difficult to master in terms of scheduling. For a lot of small businesses, owners give up on trying to use social media simply because they can’t find the time to add content to their accounts.
The first step of posting consistency is determining the type of content you want to post. “Content” refers to any material you plan on posting to your social media accounts. You definitely are not obligated to post 100% original content 100% of the time – no small business owner has time for that. What you can do instead is think about your current work schedule and determine what you have the time to commit to. While it is a good idea to share original content like blog posts, you can also add content like photos, quotes, curated articles and shared posts to your accounts. Curated content can be especially powerful, as it provides valuable information to your audience, but also gives you time to focus on your business instead of creating content from scratch.
The second step to posting consistency has to do with scheduling. If you think that you don’t need to have a schedule for posting content, then you very likely will not succeed in using social media successfully for your business. Posting to accounts whenever you feel like it is risky, because it can mean huge gaps in time in between posts, leaving an audience to wonder if you have disappeared entirely.
This is where a content calendar and scheduling tools come in handy. A content calendar will allow you to plan and create posts ahead of time, as well as making sure you are making the most of holidays and other timely events when you are putting together content. A scheduling tool allows you to schedule your content for posting ahead of time, so you don’t have to spend every day focusing on social media.
- Think about your content – Now that you know your audience and message, what kind of content can you post to support these concepts? If you have a blog (which you should), what type of posts can you write that would be of interest? What sources do you know of (blogs, websites, magazines, news sites) that might provide good curated content? Are you planning on adding original visual materials? Make sure your visual brand can carry over in this area.
- Use a content calendar – Here is a handy excel template for creating a yearly content calendar for 2017. Of course you can always make your own! There is no set rule for creating a content calendar, other than it allowing you to see what content you plan to post over a given period of time. Many marketers like to do them on a monthly basis, but it really depends on what works for you.
- Use a scheduler – Hootsuite and Buffer are two options that are extremely popular. Both have free options available, as well as paid options that aren’t overly expensive. They will both go a long way towards taking daily posting off your plate, as well as providing handy tools to analyze the success of your posts or provide information on the best posting times for your social media accounts.
Start Small + Grow
Another major issue that small businesses run into with social media marketing is taking on too much too fast, especially if your business is currently an army of one. A few months back I wrote a post on which social media accounts are best for certain businesses. It is absolutely unnecessary for you to be on every single social media platform that is out there. I assure you, if you are new to social media marketing and you try to load content onto too many accounts, you will burn out quickly!
There is nothing wrong with starting slow, focusing your energy on one or two accounts, and then growing from a strong starting point. It will work out better when you have strong, consistent accounts with amazing content rather than spreading yourself too thin and creating a handful of mediocre accounts.