According to a recent study by Smart Insights, over 3.4 billion people are active social media users. To put that massive number in perspective, there are 7.6 billion people in the world.
So, yes, nearly half of the world population now uses social media on a regular basis. People are spending more time on social media than ever before. And they’re increasingly looking to social media channels to help with purchase decisions.
But how do you take advantage of that? Most of us know how to use social media to keep up with what our friends are up to. But how do use social media for business?
How To Use Social Media For Business
1. Know Your Target Audience
Having great products and services doesn’t necessarily guarantee that you’re going to do well on social.
If you want your social media campaigns to succeed you need to know exactly the kind of person that you want to gear your posts and paid ads towards. Is your target audience:
- a teen, middle-aged adult, or senior citizen?
- male or female?
- someone who has kids?
- someone with an average income or someone making 6-figures?
- a business owner or an employee?
These are the kind of questions you want to ask yourself before you begin your social media campaign.
You can create beautiful artwork and thoughtful posts. But it won’t do any good if they’re not going to reach the people that will help your business grow.
2. Engage With Your Audience
One of the best ways to build a community around your business is to interact with your followers on social media. One of the ways you can do this is by using your posts to ask questions.
- If you’re a financial advisor, perhaps you could ask your audience by what age they hope to retire.
- Or if your business makes custom slings for moms to carry their babies, you could ask your audience to “share their craziest birth story” or “their biggest mom wins from the past week.”
As people respond, try to carry on a back-and-forth conversation with them when possible. But one of the best ways you can engage with your audience, though, is just by responding quickly to questions and complaints. Later, we’ll dive deeper into how to engage with your audience.
3. Be Authentic
People are savvier than ever when it comes to social media. And they can quickly spot “canned” social media content.
But your audience isn’t looking for airbrushed perfection. Often, they just want to know that there’s a real person behind the brand.
Sometimes being authentic means being able to poke a little fun at yourself and admit that you have room to improve. This is a strategy that Dominos took recently during their “Pizza Turnaround” campaign.
Other times, being authentic might mean throwing around a little snark and sarcasm at competitors. Wendy’s has been known to do that from time to time on their social accounts.
You’ll obviously have to tow a fine line if you pick that kind of a strategy. But the overall point is that you want your audience to connect with “you.”
That “you” may really be you or it may be a social media manager. But, nevertheless, you want your brand to develop its own personality over time.
You want people to know what you stand for. And if you over-sanitize and Photoshop everything you post, it makes it harder for your audience to figure out what that is.
If you’re looking for more inspiration on how to run authentic social media campaigns, check out 30 Brands With Excellent Social Media Strategies from EConsultancy.
4. Choose Your Post Times Wisely
You want to schedule your posts for times that you’ll have the most eyes staring at their phone and computer screens. You don’t want your post to get buried under newer content before it ever has a chance to be seen.
“When’s the perfect time to post on social media” is an incredibly difficult and complicated question to answer. And you can get super granular with this question by giving a different answer for each social media platform.
But here are three general time frames that tend to work well on most platforms:
- Morning: 8-9 am
- Mid-day: 11am-Noon
- End of Work Day: 5-6pm
It’s pretty simple to see the logic behind these post times. You’re simply trying to follow the natural schedule of people’s lives. When do “most” people check social media? When they first get up (or on the way to work), during their lunch break, and on the way home.
If you have a business-to-consumer company, you may also want to consider an even post around 8-9 pm when people are settling down on their couches for some Netflix time.
Here’s an article from Social Sprout that goes into much more detail about when to post on the various social media channels.
5. Take Advantage Of Hashtags And Seasonal Topics
The general rule of social media campaigns is that you want to be where the eyeballs are.
So if there’s a specific hashtag that’s trending on social media, try to use that to your advantage. See if you can come up with a post that will someway relate to the hashtag in addition to promoting your business.
Check out how Tax Audit found a way to connect #NationalVideoGame day with their business.
Pretty smart, right? You can also take advantage of seasonal holidays like Christmas, Thanksgiving, Halloween, and Valentine’s Day.
This strategy works especially well on Pinterest. Let’s say you owned a travel blog. You could consider creating a separate “best vacation spots” pin for each holiday of the year.
Smart ideas like this can help you leverage the attention that certain topics are already receiving. You get to just ride the wave.
6. Create A Social Media Calendar
I hope it’s becoming clear to you that a successful social media campaign can’t be run “by the seat of your pants.” If you’re going to do things like posting at ideal times and taking advantage of upcoming events and holidays, it’s going to require some planning.
That’s where a social media calendar can help. It helps you make sure that all of your upcoming posts are helping you achieve your overall marketing strategy.
A social media calendar can be as simple as written notes on a handwritten desk calendar or “appointments” on whatever online calendar you prefer.
But if you’re wanting to take your social media for business to the next level, you may want to consider paying for a social media scheduling tool. With these tools, you can set all of your posts for every social media channel a month or more ahead of time (we’ll talk more about these later).
Related: Creating A Content Marketing Plan
Choosing Your Business’s Social Media Goals
It’s hard to know how well your social media campaign is performing if you don’t know what your goals are. Depending on your situation, you may have one or more of the following social media goals.
1. Brand Awareness
Brand awareness is one of the main reasons that most businesses want to be on social media.
Your target customer may never search for your company’s name on Google. But with one viral social media post, thousands or millions of people could suddenly discover that you exist.
And if you really hit a nerve with a social media post, it can spread fast. With every person that shares or retweets your post, a whole new group of people is exposed to your company and the services that you offer.
If you want to track your brand awareness over time, some of the tools that we’ll discuss later can help with that. But no matter which tool you use, you’ll want to track things like followers, reach (per day, week, and month), shares, retweets, and mentions.
As we discussed earlier, engagement should play a role in every social media strategy. But for some businesses, this may be your primary goal. You may look at social media as your way of keeping your thumb on the pulse of your audience.
If engagement is your primary goal, you’ll want to make sure that you’re asking lots of questions. Ask your followers what they love most about your company and which services or products they’d love to see you add.
Make sure to respond to any comments. And when followers share or retweet your posts, consider sending them a quick message just to say thanks. The idea is to do everything you can to initiate discussions and conversations with your audience.
3. Lead Generation
If lead generation is the primary goal of your social media campaign, you’re going to need an objective way to track your performance. Google Analytics is a powerful and popular tool. But there are social media-specific tools that you may want to consider using as well.
Regardless of which tool you use, here are a few things you may want to track:
- Contact info: Email addresses (or other personal information) that you’ve collected through social media
- Clicks: On social media posts specifically designed for lead generation.
- Conversions: Of your social media leads into actual sales
If social media is higher up on your sales funnel, you may focus more on the number of names that you’re able to add to your email list from social media.
But if social media is closer to the bottom of your sales funnel, you’ll want to take a closer look at conversions. This will also give you an idea of how well your social media leads perform when compared to leads generated from other sources.
4. Customer Support
People are increasingly turning to social media for customer support. They’ve learned that it’s way easier to leave a message on a company’s Twitter page than to go through the hassle of a customer service phone call.
Plus, customers know that if the company doesn’t help them out, it’ll be out there for the whole world to see. They’ll be a public disgrace.
For all these reasons, customer support may need to be one of your primary uses of social media…especially if you have a large business. If customer support is your main focus, you’ll want to make sure that you’re responding to questions promptly.
And don’t just point refer to a troubleshooting page. Do your best to fix the actual problem as often possible.
Related: 6 For Building A Focused Company
Which Social Media Platforms Are Best For Businesses?
There is no “ultimate” social platform for business (although, as we’ll see, Facebook would be the closest to fitting that bill).
Perhaps the better question would be “What’s the best social media platform for my target audience?” It’s important to know where your audience is hanging out.
The Pew Research Center has done some great research on the demographics of each social media platform. Here are a few things they discovered that could help you decide which platform to focus on.
- Facebook is still the most popular platform overall, with 68% of Americans saying they use it. Other than YouTube, no other site is used by more than 35% of Americans.
- Other than Facebook, Snapchat is most popular with adults aged 18-24 with 78% of adults in this age group saying they use it. They’re followed closely in this demographic by Instagram, at 71%. Snapchat and Instagram are tied for being the most popular with adults aged 25-29, at 54% each.
- Pinterest is much more popular with women than men.
- LinkedIn is very popular with college graduates and households that make more than $75,000 a year.
The data above is very interesting and could be helpful.
But the Center’s study also found that the median American uses three social channels. And around three-quarters of both Twitter (73%) and Snapchat (77%) users also use Instagram. So using multiple social channels for your business is probably the best choice.
That said, it’s better to do one platform well than to do three not-so-well. So if dominating three social media platforms seems daunting, pick the one that works best for you and your customers and focus there. Add in other platforms when you feel comfortable.
Social Media For Business Tools
Hootsuite is one of the most popular social media scheduling tools on the market today. From your Hootsuite dashboard, you can schedule hundreds of social media posts across all social media platforms.
With Hootsuite, you can search your posts by hashtag or keyword to see what people are saying about your company. Hootsuite also offers in-depth analytic tools to track the performance of your posts.
And if you plan to develop a social media team, their collaboration tools make it easy for several people to work together.
Tailwind is the go-to tool for Pinterest pros. With Tailwind, you can schedule Pinterest pins far in advance. And you can also use their SmartLoop feature to repin your most popular pins on a consistent basis. This helps you gain fresh traffic for your pins over and over again.
Although Tailwind is probably best known for its Pinterest features, it can help with scheduling Instagram posts as well.
3. Sprout Social
Sprout Social is very similar to Hootsuite in what they have to offer. With Sprout, you can plan out your entire social media calendar for every platform in one place.
Sprout Social also has powerful built-in analytics tools. They’re able to show their customers post-level stats on clicks, reach, impressions, and more. And, as an added bonus, they have some of the highest customer service ratings in the industry.
Other Social Media for Business Tools Worth Checking Out
Here are a few more social media tools that could be worth a look:
- Buffer: Affordable for small social media teams
- CoSchedule: Good for blogs and other content creators
- Sprinklr: Good for large companies and social media teams
- BuzzSumo: Although this isn’t a social media scheduling tool, BuzzSumo could help you find what content performs best around your topic or product category.
The best social media tools are the ones that you’ll actually use.
It doesn’t matter how many bells and whistles that a social media tool includes if you find it too complicated. You may want to try two or more of these tools out until you find the one that’s the best fit.
Whether you’re just trying to raise brand awareness or hoping to increase sales, social media could help your business grow.
But you’ll need an effective strategy. By identifying your target audience, setting clear goals, and taking advantage of the available tools, you’ll be able to rise above the competition.