Estimated reading time: 7 minutes
We chatted with three experts from VistaCreate, a free tool that makes it fast and easy to create stand-out social content…no design skills needed. With VistaCreate, you can choose from thousands of templates for any social platform, then add photos, videos and graphics from an extensive media library to make each post unique to your business. Here, Sandra Iakovleva (Head of Content Marketing), Maria Petrova (Social Media Team Lead) and Oksana Tunikova (Brand Manager) share inside tips on getting the most out of social media.
Whether you’ve been a business owner for decades or just launched your first side hustle, social media is one of the most effective low-cost ways to market yourself. And while you may have been using personal accounts on Instagram or Facebook for years, it’s a totally different ball game using these same social channels to market your business.
You can use social media to meet several different objectives, such as building your brand, establishing credibility, generating good word of mouth or forming a stronger bond with existing customers. Or, you might just want to use social media to drive people to your website, where they’ll potentially convert to customers.
“Aside from using social media to post, remember to use it to interact with your audience. Be present, engaging and interactive with anyone who expresses interest in your brand”, Sandra says. In this article, we’ll provide social media tips for small business owners and give you some real-world examples. We hope these will be inspiring and help you generate engaging ideas, so your posts and updates have genuine appeal.
- Find the network that’s best for your small business.
- Grow your audience.
- Engage with your followers.
- Stay true to your brand.
- Turn to a template, if you need to.
- Pay attention to posting times.
- Connect with the rest of your small business community.
1. Find the network that’s best for your small business.
The major social networks each have different strengths, so it’s important for you to market your business on the platforms that are most suitable. “You might want to focus on one or two social platforms to devote more time to the most effective channels for your business”, Sandra advises. She says you can choose these channels based on where your target audience spends their time.
Here, get an overview of the major social channels — and decide which ones are best for your business.
- Twitter is best for short, written messages — think sharing links, starting conversations and responding to threads. It helps people stay in touch with your business and get updates about new offers, deals or changes to normal service.
- Instagram is a network for inspiring visuals, and can also be a shoppable platform — when you post a photo or video of a product, you can add a link to that product’s page on your website. All customers need to do is tap to shop! When you’re posting on Instagram, choose visuals that reinforce your brand or product, and connect with customers in the comments. You can also use Instagram Stories to give followers a more unfiltered look at your business — this is a great place to do a Q&A, give a tour of your studio or repost customer testimonials.
- Facebook does lots of the things other networks do, but in a single place. You can post pictures and videos, have conversations, provide updates about your business and share special offers and deals. Facebook is a great place to create buzz around your business — ask customers to leave reviews and ‘Like’ your page. This will give you exposure to their Facebook friends, and potentially send new clients your way. Planning an in-store or online event? Create a Facebook event to get the word out and collect RSVPs. You can also add a ‘Shop’ section on your page, and link to products on your website through Facebook posts.
- Pinterest is a highly visual platform. According to Shopify, over 90% of Pinterest users plan purchases using the platform. Many people flock to Pinterest for inspiration when redecorating a home, looking for new recipes, researching hair and beauty trends or planning a wedding — so if your business is relevant for any of these categories (caterers, florists, interior decorators, hair stylists), you should definitely start pinning.
- TikTok is a social platform that lets users get creative with videos, music and sound effects. If you want to give customers a behind-the-scenes look at your business or film a tutorial, TikTok could be the perfect platform for you.
If you think your business will benefit from a presence across multiple social channels, get the most out of each post you create. You can resize and repurpose your visual content for different channels in a matter of clicks when you use a tool like VistaCreate.
2. Grow your audience.
When you create a new social account, start by following your family and friends — and ask them to share your posts or accounts with their social circles. Maria also recommends asking clients to follow you and promote you on their own social page. “Always ask loyal clients to write a review about your brand and mention you in a post. Not all of them will do it, but some definitely will. You might be surprised, but people often do favours just because they really like a brand. That’s how you build a community.” You can also incentivise people to talk about your brand by offering a giveaway or a special offer — say, if they share your most recent Instagram post to their Stories and tag two friends, they’ll be entered to win.
Make sure to include links to your social accounts on your website or blog, and include your social handles on any communications you send out — email newsletters, postcards, takeaway menus and more. Maria also suggests using email marketing to grow your social following. “If you have a client email list, send them an invitation to follow your social pages. But remember — people value their time and they need a good reason to follow a brand.” So, whether it’s early access to your next sale or a code for free delivery, make sure you mention what they’ll gain by following you.
That being said, you should still prioritise quality content over follower count. “Long gone are the times when the number of followers was the key success criteria for social media”, Maria says. While it’s important to have followers on your social channels, Maria advises that it’s more important to focus on creating meaningful content that resonates and engages with your followers. “Doing this will typically lead to an increase in numbers, anyway.”
Another way to grow your following is to partner with other brands, influencers or opinion leaders. Oksana advises paying attention to the quality of a potential partner’s audiences, and choosing partnerships based on shared values. “Do your own background check on the brand prior to collaboration, too.” In addition to forming actual partnerships, it can be useful to seek out key accounts to follow. Engage with influencers who are prominent in your industry, businesses in your area or bloggers you admire. If these types of accounts follow you back, it can help grow your audience even more.
3. Engage with your followers.
When you’ve decided which platform works best for you, it’s important to keep the conversation going…and keep your followers engaged. After all, the simplest way to continue growing your following is to stay active. Create exciting updates, run giveaways and offer exclusive access or discounts to your followers. Ideally, your followers will like, share, retweet or repost content from your account, increasing your reach. Also consider asking questions and soliciting feedback from your audience — people love to participate in contests or polls and share their opinion.
Take Sally’s Cottages, for example. This holiday lettings company runs a ‘Cottage Giveaway’ on Facebook each month, offering a free stay in one of their cottages. To enter the giveaway, they ask followers to answer a question in the comments section, then randomly select a winner. A promotion like this keeps up the interest on their Facebook page and draws new followers to their business every month.
Sandra adds that staying on top of trends both attracts new followers and engages your existing ones. “You don’t always have to be ‘trendy’, but being familiar with current social media trends can go a long way in helping you create attention-grabbing posts.”
4. Stay true to your brand.
Your brand is unique…and your social posts should reflect that. To ensure all of your posts feel on-brand, Sandra recommends finding a visual style to stick to. “It’s tempting to always experiment with visuals to stand out, and you can try new things, but make sure there’s some consistency in style and tone of voice. Find that voice and find the aesthetics that fit your brand like a glove.”
One way to ensure your social assets feel true to your brand is to create a style guide for your small business. You might already have one for your brand (great!), so think about how you can translate it to social media. Maybe you can use the same font on your Instagram stories as you do in your marketing emails, or maybe you choose an illustration style that works across everything from social animations to website content.
If you use VistaCreate, the Brand Kit tool makes it easy to keep all of your brand elements at your fingertips. “This helps immensely with keeping consistency with logos, fonts and brand colours as you create your visuals”, Sandra says.
5. Turn to a template, if you need to.
One of Sandra’s biggest pieces of social media advice is to go visual. “You have more of a chance to catch someone’s attention with striking visuals when they’re scrolling through their feeds on any social platform. Thumb-stopping content is engaging, and these days, going visual is the only way forward.”
Of course, not every small business owner has experience in graphic design…and Sandra acknowledges that it can be overwhelming to learn how to make the most of all the tools and features of each social platform. Fortunately, templates are a great option for small business owners. With a platform like VistaCreate, you can choose a template for the social platform of your choice, and then customise it.
“The templates are made by professional designers…you just have to make them your own. It’s much easier to work with ready-made content”, says Sandra. Plus, VistaCreate has a wide range of photographs you can choose from to use in your design. “You’re covered, even if you’re not a professional designer or photographer.”
6. Pay attention to posting times.
Social media is only effective if your posting times are aligned with your audience’s platform activity. (Have you heard the famous quote, “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” Apply this rationale to your social posts!) If no one is online to see your posts, do they have an impact? They might, but you’re certainly leaving a lot of engagement and interaction up for grabs.
It’s not enough to post when you remember to, or when you have a spare minute. A social calendar should be part of your marketing plan, as posting frequency is almost as important as quality. So, aim for posting several times a week, and think about varying what you post. Why not mix in retweets alongside news about your business and general chatter with your customers?
Use your platform-specific analytics and insight tools to monitor when your audience is most active and tailor your posting schedule to those times. If new content is published when your followers are on the platform, they’re more likely to engage, comment, like or share than when they see it hours or days after its original publish date. Integrate these specific times into your social media editorial calendar and social media marketing tool to develop posting consistency.
Real-time updates are more exciting for followers, as they want to be the first ‘like’ or comment, or be the first to share an update within their network. Timing is everything for social media and paying attention to activity times will enhance your customer engagement.
7. Connect with the rest of the small business community.
One of the other great benefits of social media is how it can facilitate online networking — especially with LinkedIn. LinkedIn is aimed at professionals and it can be used to build contacts with other business owners. It’s also particularly useful for thought leadership, an approach that positions a business as a significant voice in its field. You can blog, create discussion groups and post updates that help establish you as an expert.
As with any social platform, think about the audience you want to connect with on LinkedIn and target them with information they’ll find useful and relevant — this will also reinforce your brand and position you as an expert. One of the great benefits of LinkedIn is that it lets you see where everyone works and their job title, so as you see who responds to the content you share, you’ll get a clearer picture of who’s engaging with you. These people can potentially make great business partners or customers.
So, now that you have a better idea about using social media to connect with customers and reinforce your brand, you’re ready to go! Remember, customer engagement is all about communication and showing your clients that you care about them, their time and their interests. Use your brand voice to attract and retain their attention, while sprinkling in thumb-stopping visuals to really bring your business to life and build long-term loyalty.