Social Media - Social media marketing (SMM) is a form of Internet marketing that utilizes social networking websites as a marketing tool. The goal of social media marketing companies is to produce content that users will share with their social network to help a company increase brand exposure and broaden customer reach. This marketing strategy includes Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube.
Social media marketing is a popular tool for small business owners. In a recent Manta poll, 60% of small business owners said they use social media to promote their business. It’s easy to see why. Online platforms like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and others make it easy and affordable to connect directly with customers and build a following for your business.But social media marketing only works if you’re strategic about what you post and where you post it. In another poll, 48% of small business owners said they don’t feel they are getting a positive return on investment from social media ads.This guide will introduce you to the key principles behind successful social media marketing for your small business.
Social media marketing is digital marketing strategy businesses use to build awareness and engagement with customers by posting on popular online platforms life Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.“Social media marketing is how a small business owner builds their brand online,” said author and small business expert Melinda Emerson. “There are many social platforms to choose from, including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Pinterest, Instagram and Snapchat. When utilizing social media, a business should develop and share content that is helpful, engaging, and not too self-promotional.”
Social media marketing comes with many benefits. It can help build loyal customers and keep your business top of mind with them. It can also help you better understand your customers.“Through social media, a company can learn what clients want, what prospects are looking for, and how businesses can improve,” said Eve Mayer, CEO and owner of Social Media Delivered. “Years ago, businesses spent large amounts of money to engage focus groups to provide feedback about their products. Today, social media enables us to gather much of the same data for very little money and resources.”
Effective social media marketing starts with thinking about who you’re trying to attract and engage. When you post content, always ask whether it will help your customers in some way, and not just your business.“I view social media as an ongoing conversation with people who are interested in you and your business,” said John Paul Engel, lecturer of entrepreneurship for the University of Iowa. “You should start with an idea of the market you are targeting and archetypes for your customers.”Engaging in a conversation with your customers means sharing relevant posts, and not just promoting your business all the time.“Many businesses who have done social media well have figured out that it is not about broadcasting promotions, products or services. It’s about getting people to know, like and trust your brand while building real relationships,” said Shana Haynie, co-founder and creative director of Vulpine Interactive.Learn more about the basics behind social media marketing in this Manta webinar:
Knowing your audience is the first step to creating your social media marketing strategy. Setting clear business goals is the second. After all, you can’t measure the success of your social media marketing unless you know what you’re trying to achieve.“It’s easy to spend a ton of time posting, liking and commenting, and in return have little to show for it,” said Cyril Lemaire, managing director of digital marketing agency Traktek Partners. “Think about why you’re engaging in social media for your company.”Some examples of goals you achieve with social media marketing:
Once you set your goals, you can track whether your social media accounts are helping you to reach those goals.
“A social media marketing campaign is when you use a social media platform (like Twitter or LinkedIn) to reach a specific group of people during a defined time period with a specific business goal,” said Mayer.A social media marketing campaign is where you apply your knowledge about your target audience and your business goals into a specific plan you can monitor over a specific period of time, and then adjust as needed in your next campaign.
Brainstorming social media content doesn’t have to be hard, it just takes a little time and effort.“The easiest place for a business owner to find content ideas is to consider their customers,” said Emerson. “Why do they buy from you? Why do they need your product or service? What are your customer’s pain points? Once you answer those questions, you should have plenty of content ideas.”When you’re coming up with ideas, keep in mind that certain platforms are better for certain types of content. Perryn Olson, marketing director at My IT, shared the strategy his company follows.“At My IT, we use LinkedIn one to two times a day for thought leadership to clients, prospective clients, and potential partners. We tweet three to five times a day, and Twitter’s primary focus is SEO and content curation. We use Facebook as a scrapbook for the company,” he said.Looking for even more ideas? Watch this short video from Manta:
Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn are among the most popular sites, and all of them are good for small business. But choosing the platform depends on the type of business you own. Some are better suited to certain industries than others.“If you’re business-to-consumer and selling branded, aspirational products like fashion, consumer gadgets or cars, your business needs to be on Instagram,” said Min Fang, head of growth for Harper Partners. “If you’re a business-to-business company like us, LinkedIn is far and away the most important social media channel.”When choosing your social platforms, be selective. You’ll have more success that way, said social media expert Mari Smith. “Ideally, pick one or two and go deep. Facebook and Instagram is a great combo for most businesses.”
Facebook is one of the most popular social media platforms for businesses, and it’s easy to see why. According to the Pew Research Center, 68% of all U.S. adults are Facebook users, which makes it a great place to reach more customers online.But according to Smith, organic reach on Facebook—i.e., the exposure you get for free—is down to roughly 1% to 6%, which means businesses need to allocate a budget for paid posts in order to reach a large audience. “The good news is Facebook offers the widest array of ad products, plus incredible granular targeting and remarketing,” she added.Smith recommends creating a few pieces of long-form content for the blog on your website. “These should be educational, evergreen and highly shareable, if possible,” she said. Then, drive traffic to those posts using Facebook Ads. This can help you build your organic reach on Facebook by getting your target audience to engage with your content for free; you can then retarget these followers with paid ads.Don’t forget to install the Facebook pixel on your website so you can measure conversions, Smith said. Here’s more from Facebook on how to use the pixel.
“Twitter is my favorite platform by far,” said Ivana Taylor, small business influencer and publisher of DIY Marketers. “Twitter allows me to ‘gently’ connect with some of the most influential people in the small business space.”Taylor recommends using Twitter’s “lists” to network and gain exposure. Think of a snappy name (“Best SMB Media Outlets,” for example) and start adding people to that list. Users will be notified when you add them, and will often follow you. This is a better strategy than just following people.“Twitter is an insanely great way to build relationships and generate leads—just don’t sell immediately. Take the time to get to know people,” Taylor added.
LinkedIn is a great place to promote your business, especially if you own a business-to-business company.“LinkedIn is often overlooked for marketing because it is not considered as flashy or exciting as other social media platforms,” Mayer said. “However, its users have the highest income level of any demographic on any major social media platform.”If you want to market to high-income individuals, or other companies, you should consider LinkedIn. Non-profits looking for corporate support for volunteers and funding can also benefit from using LinkedIn as a fundraising tool.Use company pages, updates and ads to promote your business on LinkedIn, and don’t forget about your employees’ pages. “Harnessing your staff to spread your company message is very powerful, especially for business-to-business and nonprofit organizations,” Mayer added.
“Social media marketing can be free or cost millions of dollars,” Mayer said. “The cost of social media marketing varies widely depending on needs, budget, objective and business goals.”Some companies are on social media, but spend no money on social advertising. In that case, the only investment is time and labor. Meanwhile, some companies spend $100,000 or more because the audience is they want to reach is so large.It’s not likely that a small, local business would have to spend that much, but you should always keep an eye on your budget. “These wildly varying costs are another reason to set your business goals and budget before starting to do social media marketing, and to review these costs often,” Mayer said.
Most experts recommend that you start with a small social media marketing budget, and then increase it as needed.“I always recommend setting a $50 to $100 budget for your first campaign,” said Jason Parks, owner of The Media Captain, a digital marketing agency that works with small and medium-sized businesses. “You won’t necessarily get an order or a new client, but you will be able to gauge how long visitors are staying on your site and the type of interaction that is taking place.”How much you ultimately spend depends on your overall marketing budget and goals, but it’s important to always test your ads before spending a lot of your marketing budget on social media.“Do not spend a lot until you know what’s working. Start small, make some tweaks, and go from there,” said media relations consultant Christina Nicholson. “Even the best in the business switch things up and use trial and error to find the best results, whether with an ad or the audience being targeted.”
What if no one is liking or responding to your posts? That may be a sign you need to reevaluate your approach to social media marketing.“If you want to authentically engage your customers on social media, you must first become an expert listener,” said Brad Wilke of Smarthouse Creative.What does it mean to be an expert listener?
“If they’re complaining, address the complaints,” Fang advised. “If people are praising the company, encourage them to share their experience with their friends! Regular engagement can reinforce positive attitudes about a company and create customers for life.”
Hashtags—words and phrases preceded by the “#” symbol and used to organize information on social media networks—are a great way to gain more engagement on social media, but only if you use them correctly. While there’s no one-size-fits-all solution, there are guidelines for choosing good hashtags for your posts.“Get ahead with social media marketing by using hashtags—not just any hashtag, but hashtags that resonate with your audience, their interests, and problems they encounter,” said creative marketing consultant Michael Roach. “Business can also use hashtags to be part of a trending conversation or special event.”For example, Roach said a small bakery or café could utilize hashtags based on the food items they sell, like #gingerbreadloaf, #lunchtime, #onthego, #thirsty or #quickbreakfast. Do some research to see which hashtags are popular—the more frequently they’re used, the more traffic you can capture.
Social media marketing can help increase sales, but it can take time to see positive effects.“Social marketing efforts that are done consistently over time will absolutely generate business, but it’s not an overnight thing,” said Emerson. “It takes at least seven and as many as 21 quality interactions to turn an online connection into a paying customer. Social media credibility must be built over time.”If you’re frustrated because you can’t tell whether social media is helping your business, then you need to set up tracking with tools like Google Analytics.“Make sure you understand what role your social efforts play in your customer’s path to purchase,” said Brian Jensen, CEO of Congruent Digital. “We’ve found that for many industries, social plays more of an assist role, or acting as a touch point during either the awareness or consideration phase.”
Perhaps you’ve also heard the buzzword “content marketing.” Content marketing refers to blogs, videos, photos and other kinds of content aimed at engaging and retaining customers with helpful or entertaining information. This kind if content is often posted on social media.So, what’s the difference between social media marketing and content marketing?“Social media marketing and content marketing are like two sides of the same coin,” said Taylor. “What distinguishes one from the other is where the conversation takes place.”According to Taylor, social media content is shared on a third-party platform, with the goal of generating awareness and engagement. Content marketing is hosted on your own website, with the goal of generating inbound interest and conversions.
Is it worth paying a digital marketing agency to help you with your social media marketing? That depends on how much you have to spend, how much time you have, and how comfortable you are with using social media yourself. But it doesn’t have to be an all or nothing decision.According to Taylor, it’s important to set your own goals and outline a strategy. But you can get help in implementing your strategy (especially when it comes to technical tasks, like setting up conversion tracking), and identify areas where you will be personally involved.“I think that too many small business owners think it’s an all or nothing game; either I do it all myself or I hire someone,” she added. “The real answer is that you can hire and automate specific administrative tasks so that you can focus on the most important work of all: build relationships.”
“Many businesses make the mistake of solely marketing their product or only posting info and photos about their product, business or service,” said John Surdakowski, founder of Avex Designs. “Another common mistake is that businesses will throw a ton of money at social ads, without having a marketing strategy or plan.”Aside from avoiding these common, big-picture mistakes, you should also take care when posting not to do anything that will make your business look unprofessional. Roach shared the following tips to avoid losing followers:
What happens if you do make a mistake and anger your customers? Don’t downplay the problem, but don’t overact, either.“Be honest and open when mistakes happen, apologize and move on,” Emerson said. “The beautiful thing about social media is that it moves quickly and people do not often recall mishaps unless you are a major celebrity.”To learn more about social media marketing for your small business, download the Manta ebook, “Succeed With Social Media.”
If you’re dutifully posting content on social media sites but you still aren’t making much headway, you might be accidentally hamstringing all your hard work. Your isn’t to post lots of content or even get lots of likes—your goal is to build engagement and turn followers into paying customers.Are you making one or more of these common social media marketing mistakes?
For more great advice, read Manta’s complete guide, “Social Media Marketing: Everything You Need to Know to Win More Customers.”
Small business owners can’t afford to ignore online reviews. With this expert advice, you can turn customer reviews into a powerful marketing tool. Of all the components of digital marketing, online reviews cause the most confusion and frustration among small business owners. How are you supposed to know where customers are leaving reviews? Should you respond to them? How important are reviews to your business’ reputation? These are all important questions to answer. Although it takes some time and effort to create a strategy for handling online reviews, if you’re proactive you can turn reviews from a hassle into a powerful tool for building trust, winning new customers and improving your search engine ranking.
1. What Are Online Reviews? Online reviews are just what they sound like: feedback left by customers on websites like Google, Facebook, Yelp and others. When a customer leaves a review, the comment (often accompanied by a star rating) is posted publicly on the business’ profile. Online reviews also appear in Google search results and Google Maps when customers look for a business.
2. What is My Online Reputation? “It’s the collective impression of the brand, but it’s made up of many elements: trustworthy content, third-party reviews, testimonials, case studies, social proof, and more,” said John Jantsch, author and founder of Duct Tape Marketing. “Collectively, these are the elements a business needs to manage.” Naturally, all your business reviews from across the web and on your social media pages are a big part of your online reputation because they come from customers. Your online reputation is an important way for you to distinguish your business from the competition. “How does a window cleaner differentiate itself from another one?” said Moréa Pollet, marketing specialist for Piedmont Avenue Consulting. “Well, thanks to online reviews you get a better idea of their customer service, the time they took to respond to your inquiries, how fast the job was done, and so on.”
3. Why Do Online Reviews Matter? Online reviews can be a powerful marketing tool. Customers will see them whether you like it or not, so it’s worth your time and effort to encourage good reviews and capitalize on the results to gain the trust of new customers. “Instead of viewing customer service as a necessary chore, treat it as a marketing strategy,” said David Mercer, founder of SME Pals. “Customers who have a positive service experience are often happy to send on ‘goodwill’ recommendations and reviews, making them a valuable inbound marketing channel. Word-of-mouth reviews lead to high-converting traffic and leads.” Online reviews also give you valuable information you can use to improve your business. “Online reviews, over time, will address nearly every aspect of your branch including service, hours, cleanliness, courtesy and salespeople,” said Chris Campbell, CEO of ReviewTrackers. “It’s a worthwhile exercise to take a step back and be honest with yourself about what is and what isn’t working.” Why Do Online Reviews Matter?
4. How Influential Are Online Reviews With Customers? The short answer is online reviews are very influential with customers. In fact, they can make the difference between winning or losing a sale. According to BrightLocal’s 2016 Local Consumer Review Survey, most people (91%) regularly or occasionally read online reviews. What’s even more striking is that 84% of people said they trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation. Online reviews have become the new word-of-mouth marketing.
5. What Are the Best Online Review Sites? The best site for you may depend on the type of business you own. These sites are important for just about every small business owner: ◾Google ◾Facebook ◾Bing Places ◾Yellow Pages ◾Better Business Bureau ◾Trustpilot ◾Manta If you run a service-based business, these sites are important to know about: ◾Angie’s List (contractors) ◾HomeAdvisor (contractors) ◾Kudzu (contractors) ◾Yelp (restaurants and retail) ◾OpenTable (restaurants) ◾TripAdvisor (travel and hospitality) ◾Healthgrades (medical) ◾RateMDs (medical) ◾Avvo (lawyers) What Are the Best Online Review Sites?
6. Google Reviews for Small Business Before you start asking customers to leave a review of your business on Google, be sure to claim your Google My Business profile. When you claim your business on Google, you can receive notifications when a customer leaves a review, and respond to each review individually. These reviews and the accompanying star rating will show up when customers see your business on search results pages and Google Maps.
7. Facebook Reviews for Small Business Facebook’s ratings and reviews feature is automatically enabled when your page is categorized as a local business with a physical address. You do have the option to disable reviews on your Facebook Business Page, but then you won’t receive the benefit of positive reviews from customers and the boost in your search ranking from having reviews on Facebook. Be sure to track and respond to all your reviews on Facebook, just like you would on any other platform.
8. Yelp Reviews for Small Business Out of all the online review platforms out there, Yelp tends to cause the most frustration among small business owners. “Yelp’s filter is a big headache for businesses because it can often hide some of their best five-star reviews,” said Ryan Erskine, senior brand strategist at Brand Yourself. “It’s frustrating for sure, but it’s important to know that the filter is fluid, meaning that a hidden review can resurface again.” It’s better to play by the rules and try to get as many positive reviews as possible. “I strongly recommend companies put a Yelp strategy in place to use it to their advantage, otherwise they may find themselves dragged along for an unpleasant ride,” Erskine added. Here are some of Erskine’s tips for working with Yelp: ◾Do not purchase reviews for your business. Yelp has a sophisticated algorithm and is far too smart for this behavior. Yelp filters these purchased reviews from your customers and it can even result in your profile being flagged. ◾Do not solicit reviews at your working establishment. Yelp knows if reviews are coming from a single IP address. (Yelp discourages business owners from asking directly for customer reviews.)
9. Do Online Reviews Affect Search Engine Optimization? “The impact of reviews on ranking is highly debated among search experts,” said George Freitag, local search evangelist for Moz. “Businesses with many online reviews and photos tend to show up more prominently in local search results. Whether the number of reviews is what causes a business to rank or if it is simply a result of the business being so visible remains unclear.” However, Freitag added that having reviews does increase clicks and interactions with your business from search results, and that increase in interaction does have a positive effect on your website’s search engine optimization (SEO). Do Online Reviews Affect Search Engine Optimization?
10. Can I Ask Customers to Leave Online Reviews? Yes! In fact, you should make a habit of asking customers for reviews. It’s one of the best ways to get more of them. (The exception is Yelp; see the section above.) “I recommend a review strategy to almost every single client,” said Kristin Ferguson, an account director for The Markey Group. “It is important to continually ask for feedback in more ways than one.” Here are her pointers to help you craft a review strategy: ◾Where do you want reviews? Google? Facebook? Yelp? Be explicit and provide directions when offering customers a link where they can post a review. ◾When will the suggestion for a review happen? Is it before they convert or after? ◾How will you help your customers understand the benefit to leaving you a review? Make sure you communicate that to them. ◾Who will respond? Have a response strategy, and not just a canned response. Customers want to engage with real people.
11. Should I Ask Customers to Leave Reviews on One Site or All of Them? It’s best to target a few review sites rather than just one. You want to make sure positive reviews appear in as many places online as possible. But you also want to stay focused so you don’t get overwhelmed monitoring and posting responses (and so that you don’t overwhelm your customers with requests!). If you don’t have any reviews, try starting with one site and then move on to others as you gain more feedback. “Because of Google’s major prominence at a search engine, it’s the main place we recommend our clients get reviews,” said Hailey Vasquez, project manager at Odd Dog Media. “However, for bars and restaurants, Yelp and Facebook can also be very important. For doctors, it’s Healthgrades. For lawyers, it’s Avvo. These industry-specific review sites can also help your Google rankings because they have high domain authority.” 12. What If I Don’t Have Time to Ask for Reviews? Asking for reviews doesn’t have to eat up that much of your time. With some preparation, you can add just a few seconds to your regular interactions with customers. “Have customer feedback cards printed that give customers very simple instructions on how they can give you a review online,” said David Erickson, vice president of the PR firm Karwoski & Courage. Include a link to your business profile on your preferred site (such as your Facebook page or Google My Business profile). Then you can hand out the card at the end of a project or after a sale with a quick, polite request. You can also include this info in any automated emails you send to customers after a transaction. What If I Don’t Have Time to Ask for Reviews? 13. How Do I Track Online Reviews? “There are online software solutions as well as service solutions. It will really depend on how much work the business owner wants to do themselves or how much they want to outsource the work,” said Ari Gunzburg, founder of Mikkomi, a digital presence management company. “You need to know when people are leaving reviews so that you can monitor what is being said about your company and, most importantly, if someone posts something negative, you can respond quickly.” “Many digital marketing companies, if they’re full-service, will offer some form of reputation management and monitoring,” said Kameron Jenkins, director of marketing strategy at Scorpion Internet Marketing. “If you’re a do-it-yourself marketer for your small business, there are other ways to take control of your online presence.” Jenkins recommended two free ways to track online reviews: ◾Google Alerts allows you to set up alerts for branded queries (usually your business name, unique product names, or individual employee names). You’ll be notified whenever Google picks up a mention of your business online. ◾Social Mention allows you to scour the web for mentions of your business. It’s free. Simply pop in the keywords you want to monitor (such as your business name). You can also set up email alerts. 14. How Should I Handle Negative Reviews? “You must respond to negative reviews,” said Gunzburg. “A response from a representative at the company actually can help mitigate the damage caused by a negative review. Ignoring a bad review is never a good idea, as it demonstrates to people that the business either doesn’t care or doesn’t know what is being said. In our connected world, this is not a good connotation in either direction.” Of course, how you respond matters, too. Do not write anything defensive or argumentative—you will only alienate the customer even more. Instead, try to resolve the customer’s complaint. Nathan Miller, founder of Rentec Direct, has these suggestions: ◾First, reach out to the customer by phone or email and see if you can resolve their issue. If you are able to solve the problem, ask them if they would be willing update the review. Many will. ◾If you fail to solve the problem or cannot reach the customer, some review sites allow vendor responses. Go ahead and respond, but maintain a positive and professional tone. ◾Finally, bury the negative review in positive reviews. One negative review doesn’t hurt if there are five or 10 glowing five-star reviews posted above it. “This might sound obvious, but make your company easy to contact,” Miller added. “Put your phone number and support email address on your website and make it easy to find. You’d be surprised how many bad reviews come from customers just having trouble finding contact information for a company.” 15. Should I Respond to Positive Reviews? It’s just as important to respond to positive reviews as it is negative ones. Thank happy customers for their business and for taking the time to leave a review. “You have to make sure that you’re engaging with your customers by responding to reviews, both good and bad,” said Jenkins. “Thank people for positive reviews. The more engagement, the better!” That engagement helps you grow your good reputation and develop more loyal customers. Should I Respond to Positive Reviews?
16. Should I Ever Pay for Positive Reviews? Paying for or otherwise bribing customers to leave reviews is a bad idea. Don’t fall for companies offering to get you good reviews for a fee. Customers have an expectation that online reviews are unbiased, which means that paying for reviews will destroy your credibility if you are found out (and most customers can tell when a review isn’t genuine).
17. Can I Review My Own Business? No. Not only is this unethical, you’re likely to get caught. Customers are sensitive to this, and will not respond well to fake reviews from friends or family members. Even trying to influence customers can be bad. “Asking past customers to leave a positive review can be one of the fastest ways to damage your brand in the eyes of your strongest advocates,” said Pat Ahern, director of traffic generation at Junto Digital. “Instead, encourage past customers to share honest feedback about their experience with your company to help you continue to improve your customer experience over time.”
18. How Do I Remove Bad Reviews? In most cases, it’s impossible to remove reviews. Trying to silence customers typically backfires, and the review hosting site will know that. However, in some cases you may be able to appeal to the site to have a review taken down. “Small business owners should know that reviews online are allowed to have negative opinions, but they cannot offer facts that are false in their review,” said Mark Aselstine, founder of Uncorked Ventures. You might also be able to have a review taken down if it’s downright abusive or irrelevant to your business.
19. What Should I Do About Bad Reviews from Former Employees or Competitors? This is a tricky situation for any business owner. You can do your best to have false or abusive reviews taken down. Otherwise, it’s best to try to outweigh the bad review with lots of good ones. “I have an former affiliate who has patently false information out there about my company. It’s frustrating on a few levels, especially because this person doesn’t respond to emails, phone calls or social media messages asking them to get the review updated,” said Aselstine. “I’ve found that making a page on your own site does help to control the conversation a bit. It also ranks extremely well in search.”
20. What Are the Biggest Mistakes Small Businesses Make With Online Reviews? “There are two big mistakes business owners make related to reviews,” said Freitag. “The first is ignoring them completely. Second, you need to monitor your online reviews. Negative reviews happen, but responding to them is a great way to not only smooth things over, but show future customers that you really do care about their experience.”