Welcome to the third and final installment of the SOAR Innovation Client Engagement blog series. We’ve been sharing a variety of strategies to form lasting, valuable customer relationships for small businesses in Eastern Kentucky.
Past discussions covered customer engagement programs and content marketing. This post concludes the series with a deep dive into social media.
The SOAR Innovation team receives more questions about launching and managing social media than just about any other topic. It seems that professional social media management is unfamiliar territory for many.
We get it — you’re already stretched for time as a busy entrepreneur. But social media is an important pillar of a complete marketing strategy. You can’t let it fall to the wayside.
The good news is that you don’t need to be active on every channel, especially when you’re just getting started. And if you feel strongly about keeping your private life off the internet, that’s perfectly okay. Your content will focus on your company, not you.
If executed well, social media can open you up to a whole new customer base. You’ll no longer be competing with your neighbors on Main Street. You’ll be going after customers across the globe.
The SOAR Innovation team put together this guide to make social media marketing as painless as possible. Follow these tips and tricks to select the right channels, create purposeful content, and meaningfully connect with customers — no matter your skill level.
Social media marketing 101: How to select a channel
The quickest “shortcut” to social media success is curating the right channels to maintain an active presence for your business.
You don’t need an active presence on every social channel.
If you’re a social media beginner, you’ll want to start with the fewest channels possible and strive for excellence. As we discussed in our content marketing guide: it’s all about quality over quantity and consistency over frequency. Always.
Consistency is important to social media algorithms. Over time, your content will be displayed more often in user feeds if you post regularly.
Quality is important to your audience. You can only expect to build strong customer relationships through social media if the content resonates with them.
Let’s review the social media channels you should consider for your marketing strategy. Which one resonates most with your business model, skills, and customers?
Instagram is a visually-driven channel and the most popular among the largest range of user types.
It’s best for B2C, e-commerce brands, and brick-and-mortar retail with an e-commerce presence.
To be successful on Instagram, you’ll need to develop (or source talent for) the following skills:
- Video recording and editing
- Short-form copywriting
We recommend you build up to the following posting frequency for Instagram:
- Feed: a few times per month.
- Stories: several times per week.
- Reels: once or twice per month.
The Shop feature is growing quickly as Instagram evolves into a direct-to-consumer marketplace. If it fits your business strategy, consider listing products for sale here.
The Instagram Reels function has also gained traction recently. 91% of active users watch Reels content at least weekly.
These days, the algorithm prioritizes showing video content over photos. If Instagram is the right channel for your business, you’ll want to commit to improving your video creation skills. Or, hire a social media video specialist to accelerate the process.
TikTok is a short-form video channel that skews heavily toward Gen Z. Like Instagram, it’s best for B2C, e-commerce brands, and brick-and-mortar retail with an e-commerce presence.
TikTok is a unique channel that features posting trends for content creators. And these trends move fast. It’s all about capturing the moment in a way that ties back to your brand.
On TikTok, you’ll discover choreographed group dances, pop culture voiceovers, recipes, personal styling, health advice, activism, and much more.
While the videos are short, creating content for this channel is more involved than you might expect. Relevant skills include:
- Video recording
- Video editing
If TikTok is the right channel for you, start by posting a few times per month. Eventually, you can build up to posting weekly.
LinkedIn is a professional network for job seekers and businesses building their employer brand.
It’s also useful to B2B businesses seeking to build strong connections with current and future customers.
A LinkedIn marketing strategy should focus on establishing thought leadership. Your content must demonstrate your mastery of a subject related to your business. For example, a sales email automation startup should post about leveraging email automation to improve lead conversions.
Required skills include:
- Graphic design
Plan to post 2-3 times weekly to gain traction with the algorithm.
When Twitter first emerged as a leading social media channel, it was a source of breaking news and a place where communities organize themselves. This is true, but today, companies also use it as a brand-building channel.
Twitter is best suited for companies with a strong voice — and a capacity to participate in current events commentary in a way that effectively establishes a connection to their brand.
You have only 280 characters per tweet. Both B2B and B2C brands can leverage Twitter. Posting best practices start a few times per week, but daily content should be an eventual goal.
Social media marketing 101: Rules to follow
After selecting 1-2 social media channels, follow these guidelines to create engaging content. Your objectives will include:
- Increasing content views: Be patient. It’ll take time for the algorithm to work you into the rotation.
- Growing post engagement: Consistency will help you reach this goal. Ask friends and family to like and share content to give you a boost.
- Translating engagement into website traffic: The end goal is to increase sales, so be sure your posts link to your website to make it easy for social media engagements to turn into site visits and sales.
Rule #1: Be consistent
Social media algorithms are fickle. If you only post a few times a year, they will rarely, if ever, display your content in user feeds.
The more frequently and consistently you post, the more likely an algorithm will serve it to your audience.
Your content may have little to no engagement at first. This is normal. Consistency is how you overcome this initial hurdle and build momentum.
Rule #2: Be interesting
People engage with social content that they find enjoyable.
Your target audience likely uses social media for entertainment, so your content should include more than just sales and promotions. Provide education, offer tips and advice, and shout out to your audience members. Use your sense of humor if it aligns with your brand.
Strike a balance of 80% them, 20% you.
These days, video content should be your priority. More than half of marketers say it’s the most valuable format. 93% of companies have acquired new customer(s) through video.
Most platforms have features that help the least-skilled users create and post video content.
If you’re not comfortable with video yet, that’s okay. You should still commit to giving it a try: once a quarter, then once a month, then more often as you gain confidence.
Once you observe higher levels of engagement from your video content — including which topics perform best — it should be the boost you need to keep learning and growing.
Rule #3: Be authentic
Social media is a cultural forum. Where relevant, you should participate in conversations that matter to your customers.
Consumers want to see brands taking a stand for what’s right. 82% of consumers want a brand’s values to align with their own.
But be careful of alienating customers: 75% of consumers have stopped buying from a brand due to a values mismatch.
For example: Say you run an outdoor gear shop. You observe a conversation about a trail rehabilitation project that will enhance local recreation opportunities.
Voicing support for the project on social media could benefit your brand by signaling that you care about your customers’ passions. It’s always best to back your promises with actions. Social media users will call out brands that align themselves with causes and social movements without making tangible contributions.
In this instance, you might contribute by organizing a volunteer trail-building effort to see the project through.
Authenticity doesn’t mean using business accounts to target individual commenters who don’t align with your point of view. Threads can quickly devolve into heated discussions. It will harm your brand to get involved with negative exchanges. Make it a rule to avoid this practice.
Rule #4: Be informative
Share helpful information on your social channels to make it easy for customers to find the information they need.
Tips for serving useful information to followers include:
- Featuring a link to your company website, location, hours, and contact information in your bio.
- Using a free tool like Linktree to feature multiple URLs in your bio, such as for promotions, product pages, blogs, event RSVPs, and contact forms.
- Pinning timely posts to the top of your feed or in your highlights (Instagram).
- Sharing upcoming store closures and holiday shipping deadlines.
- Posting links to recently restocked, high-demand products.
Now that you have these core 4 rules in mind, it’s time to pull it together with a plan to help you be consistent and build your audience.
Social media Marketing 101: How to make a social media plan
A social media plan will help you create engaging, relevant content on a schedule.
Build your content calendar
A content calendar plots out what you’ll post for the next 2-3+ months at a time. It considers sale seasons, holidays, anniversaries, cultural events, and other relevant milestones to help you generate engaging social media content.
Your motivations behind creating content depend on your industry, business type, and channel:
- B2B businesses strive to generate engagement with eBooks, blog posts, and other educational content resources.
- B2C businesses should feature products, customer stories, sales, and promotions.
- Nonprofits will announce fundraisers, tell stories about organizational impact, advocate for causes, and raise awareness of legislation and current events.
Refer to Part 2: Content Marketing for advice on strategically filling out your content calendar.
Use a free project management tool like Asana to keep yourself organized. Consider a social media scheduling tool, like Sprout Social, to plan and post content across your social media channels with just a few clicks.
Optimize posting days and times
Every audience and their relationship to your business/industry is different. You’ll discover your optimal posting times by closely monitoring your channel metrics.
Follow these posting recommendations from the American Marketing Association as a starting point:
- Instagram: 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Tuesday and at 11 a.m. on Monday through Friday.
- TikTok: Timing is less important. Content and participation in trending topics matter most.
- LinkedIn: 9 a.m. on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
- Twitter: early in the morning on weekdays, ideally 8 a.m. on Mondays and Thursdays.
Use your common sense, too. Consider when your customers will likely be online and try posting then. Compare the results to these recommendations.
Social media marketing 101: How to measure and optimize results
You’re doing the hard work of creating and posting content. Naturally, you’ll want to understand which decisions have been most effective.
Follow your curiosity. Ask yourself these questions to find out what is and isn’t working:
- Which posts did well, and why? Was it the time of day, the message, or the content?
- Is my audience growing? When did I see spikes in follower counts, and which posts went live around those times?
- Is my social media content driving traffic to my website?
Regularly check in on channel analytics to find the answers to these questions. Each social media channel features a reporting dashboard. Get comfortable with how they work, and plan to generate monthly or quarterly reports to observe changes over time.
Also, set up Google Analytics on your website to understand what percentage of your traffic is coming from social media.
These insights will help you continually fine-tune your social media presence. After a few months, you’ll learn whether your investment in new skills, such as video editing, is paying off.
Consider these insights as you plan your content calendar. Continue enhancing your captions, graphics, photos, and storytelling capabilities. Over time, you’ll get better, faster, and more confident.
Soon you have deeper expertise and a backlog of engaging content ideas. From here, you can expand your posting schedule, open new channels, and count on strong customer business relationships to power your business forward.
Local social media success story: A1 Implements
In Winchester, A1 Implements offers innovative farm equipment, produced through local manufacturer 4C Innovations.
A1 Implements got their start with a product that solved a tangible need for farmers: a weeder that speeds up the process and reduces costs per acre. From there, the business skyrocketed.
A1 Implements leveraged TikTok and other popular channels to expand their customer base outside of Kentucky. The platform enabled them to tap into an active farmer community on social media and showcase how their product can make weeding easier for them.
According to co-founder Cody Arvin, about 90% of their new business comes from TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook.
Connect with SOAR Innovation’s team of small business experts
The SOAR Innovation team made a difference in 2022 with:
- 781 startups served
- 190 startups referred
- 57 startups advanced
- 19 new business created/attracted
- 64 new jobs created
- 31 events hosted with 3,739 attendees
- 27 startups funded
- $130M+ in startup investment
Are you growing a small business in Eastern Kentucky? SOAR Innovation provides free direct services, a Complete Guide to Entrepreneurship, and 1:1 consultations. Reach out to the team to learn more.