There was a time, and it’s not too long ago for many of us to remember, that the options for a new or fledgling business looking to reach new customers were pretty limited.  
There was the local press, commercial radio, outdoor advertising and word of mouth. With the exception of the last one on the list, all could be pretty expensive and all offered a particularly finite range of choice – there was likely to be just one local newspaper, one local radio station and a limited number of bus shelters with the right footfall to get your message out there. 
The world wide web changed that, not quite overnight, but it didn’t take long. Suddenly, every business, small or otherwise, had their own platform that they could share with not just their local marketplace, but across the globe. 
But things didn’t end there. A social revolution followed and the world is now undeniably gripped by the power of social media marketing. The truth is if you run or plan to run a small business, you are putting yourself at a great disadvantage if you don’t recognise the value of social media and how powerful it can be as a marketing tool. 
If you have grown up with social media as part of your life, it will be almost second nature to you, while for older generations, some acclimatisation is required. Whichever camp you fall in, there are some simple steps you can take to make your social media platforms a business-generating buddy delivering a very healthy return on investment (ROI). 
A wise man once said, “social media should be social”. This is a central truth of social media marketing, but what does being “social” mean in the context of your business? Essentially the answer is that the content that you place on your chosen social media feeds should be engaging and interesting to your key audience. The content needs to be regular enough for followers to expect up to date content, but also interesting enough that they look forward to the next post. 
Your posts are the ‘story’ of your business. The highlights, and perhaps even occasional lowlights, that make your business stand out from the crowd in real life, will help you stand out from the crowd in the virtual world too. One key thing to remember however is that each of your social media platforms is an extension of your brand. Never post anything that you wouldn’t be happy to see your company logo next to and try to make sure everything you do post is consistent with the values you hold dear at the heart of your business. 
Thus far we have just talked broadly about social media platforms, but of course there are many key players in this arena – and a constantly changing picture too. It’s advisable to conduct a simple social media audit. You can do this whatever your level of experience on social media, just by starting to analyse what is going on. 
Either use your own existing platforms, a competitor’s platforms or just some brands that you particularly admire and are in tune with your business objectives. Start to consider, what is working well and what isn’t? What level of engagement do different platforms get, and different types of posts on those platforms? In what ways are your target audience using social media? Armed with this information, you can start to create a vision of which platforms you should prioritise and what type of content you want to use on those platforms. 
With this research in hand, you can generate a more structured idea of which platforms will work best for you. Don’t feel compelled to cover all the different social media feeds, but instead have a considered approach of what each one might deliver for your business. 
Also, think about not just which platforms, but also how the profiles you create on those platforms will reflect your brand. When you set up your profiles, be sure to fill out all of the fields required to give as much information as possible. Make sure your branding is consistent within your profile and across your platforms, using high-quality images that follow the recommended dimensions for each platform. 
Once set up, you should produce a monthly content plan which details what you plan to post where and when. This plan will enable you to gather good quality content in advance and improve the impact of your posts. The beauty of social media is that it doesn’t just end there. Through the engagement you see via social media you can continue to monitor who is interacting with your business most. 
Do these people fit into your target audience, or does your perceived target audience actually need tweaking in your own mind? What types of online engagement are leading to converted sales? Through social media you can build an accurate picture of who your existing and potential customers really are; understanding where they live, how old they are and what other interests they have. The better you know them, the easier it will be to attract new customers to your business. 
Depending on the platforms you are using, the next step might be to invest more to increase your reach, and drive conversions, through social media advertising campaigns. These can be prescriptively designed to target your ideal audience based on contemporary data, and speak to them at a time when they are most likely to be looking to engage with you. 
Through social media, suddenly you have a way to share the voice of your business with the world, and equally a way in which the world can communicate with you too. Social media can be a vehicle for two-way conversation with your audience, and even be utilised for aspects of customer service or market research. 
Whether you are already embedded in the social media space or for you this is a step into a brave new world, always remember to align your social media to the needs and ambitions of your business. If you do that, this is a resource you will very quickly find becomes an invaluable asset. 
To learn more about Social Media and how it can help your business, join one of Colbea’s fully funded Digital Skills workshops click here to read more. 
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