If you have a business, you likely spend a lot of your time trying to dig up the latest social media marketing tips. And for good reason.
There are now 4.2 billion active social media users—almost twice as many as there were just five years ago. Those users spend an average of 2 hours and 25 minutes on social channels every single day.
some essential social media tips for business
Start with a plan
It’s easy to get started using social media for business purposes. We all use social media in our day-to-day lives, so there’s a level of comfort with the tools.
It doesn’t cost anything to create a Facebook Page for your business or start posting on Instagram, or create a presence on Twitter.
But before you leap in feet first, remember: every good business strategy starts with a good plan. Yes, you can use social tools for free. But the time and effort involved still represent an investment in your business.
Without a plan, you have no clear goal for what you’re trying to achieve. That means there’s no way to know if you’re getting a return on that investment.
Take the time to create a social media plan upfront. This ensures all your social efforts support specific business goals.
Here are some strategic social media tips from our guide to creating a social media marketing plan:
Set social media goals and objectives
Create goals that follow the SMART framework. They should be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely.
Base your goals on metrics that will have a real impact on your business. For example, you could aim to acquire customers or raise your conversion rate, rather than simply racking up likes.
Research the competition
How are your competitors using social media? While you don’t want to copy them, learning from what others have done is a great way to reduce your learning curve.
Competitive analysis can help you learn what’s working and what’s not for other businesses like yours.
Conduct a social media audit
If you’re already using social media, now’s the time to take a step back and evaluate your existing efforts.
We’ve got an easy-to-use social media audit template to walk you through the process.
You’ve looked at what your competitors are doing online, but what about other businesses? Take inspiration from the success of businesses in all industries.
Where can you find these success stories? Head to the business section of most social networks’ websites and you’ll find useful case studies.
This blog can also be a great source of inspiration since we always include lots of examples. And just pay attention to what your favorite brands are doing. What makes you want to click or follow or buy?
Create a social media calendar
A social media calendar helps you post the right content to the right social channels at the right time. It should include a plan for your content mix.
Try starting with the 80-20 rule. Use 80% of your content to inform, educate, or entertain your audience. Use the other 20% to promote your brand or sell your products.
Decide which platforms are right for you
Don’t make assumptions about where your audience spends their time online.
Your instinct might tell you that if you’re targeting Gen Z, you should skip Facebook and focus on Instagram and TikTok. But the data shows that nearly a quarter of Facebook users are aged 18 to 24.
Profile of Facebook’s advertising audience
If you’re selling to baby boomers, social might not seem like a top priority. But it should be. Facebook and Pinterest are the top social networks for boomers. Adults over age 65 are Facebook’s fastest-growing audience segment.
Maybe you think TikTok marketing is not the right fit for your brand. But even well-established brands with an audience well outside Gen Z are experimenting with this platform.
Keep in mind that TikTok saw 56 million new app downloads in December 2020 alone.
We’ve compiled demographic information for all of the major social networks. Use it to help gauge where your audience spends their time online. But remember that these demographics are just an overview.
To make sure you’re using social media for business effectively, you’ll need to conduct some research of your own. This will help you to understand how your specific audience spends their time online.
Choosing your platforms doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing approach. You can use different social channels to reach different audiences or to meet different business goals.
The average internet user has 8.4 social media accounts, so you can connect with them on different platforms for different purposes.
For example, you could use Facebook to build your audience and generate leads, and Twitter for customer service.
Know your audience
One reason using social media for business is so effective is that you can micro-target your audience. But first, you need to understand who your audience is.
Once you’ve defined your audience, you can create buyer personas, which will help you understand the best ways to speak to your audience. We’ve got a free buyer persona template to help you get started.
Expand your audience
Once you have a clear picture of who your audience is, you can revisit your social media plan. It’s time to look for ways to reach more people just like them.
For example, when lockdown measures meant more people were looking for ways to fill their time at home, The Great Courses Plus switched up its Facebook advertising strategy to expand its audience quickly.
They created an extended free trial offer and advertised it to a broad audience in the United States. They then used lookalike audiences to reach new audiences in Canada, the UK, and Australia who were similar to their best existing customers.
The Great Courses Facebook advertising strategy
This expanded audience strategy saw a more than 10 times increase in total average monthly subscriptions generated.
You can also use social media to expand the audience for your local business. For example, Hootsuite geo-search streams can help you monitor and respond to local conversations about your business. You can then reach new potential customers who are already in your geographic area.
The unique benefit of social media marketing for small businesses is that it allows you to talk directly to customers and followers. You can build relationships over time, rather than asking for a sale upfront.
That said, you certainly can use social to get a sale upfront, as we explain in Tip 7.
More than 44% of internet users use social networks to research brands. Part of that discovery is getting to know who you are as a brand and what you stand for.
When people engage with your organic content or ads, it’s a great idea to engage back. This helps to build trust and form a loyal following. As fans share and like your content, you rise in the social algorithms and gain new, free, exposure.
For most Facebook users, there are more than 1,000 potential Newsfeed posts at any one time. Engagement is one of the signals Facebook uses to help predict which of those posts users are likely to see. When you establish relationships with your followers, they are more likely to see your posts.
Nurturing relationships can also help you build a loyal community that will lead to ongoing sales over time. New customer acquisition is great, but don’t downplay the value of customer retention.
In Hootsuite’s Social Transformation survey, 69% of respondents said social media helped maintain customer relationships during the very different marketing era of COVID-19. And Twitter data shows 70% of people say it’s important for bands to help boost positivity right now.
So how do you build relationships, beyond responding to follower comments on your posts? Try these strategies:
Create a Facebook Group
Facebook Groups are another great way to build community and brand loyalty.
For example, the New York Times Podcast Club Facebook Group is “a book club for podcasts.” With more than 37,000 members, the group establishes the NYT as a go-to source for information beyond breaking news.
It also motivates members to listen to the selected podcasts each week, helping to prevent listener drop-off.
Connect with other entrepreneurs and influencers in your niche
Think your business is too small to work with influencers? Micro-influencers and nano-influencers with as few as 1,000 dedicated followers can be effective in establishing brand trust.
As a bonus, they are often well within the budget range of smaller brands.
The lingerie brand Lively partnered with influencers, including those with a small targeted following, to promote their bralettes and skincare products.
Using analytics-based testing, the company found that ad creatives from influencers promoted on their profiles had a 75% higher conversion rate and a 50% higher return on ad spend.
Mention followers in your posts and Stories
Collecting user-generated content through contests and branded hashtags is a great way to source quality material for your social feed. UGC is also a powerful source of social proof.
Even better, sharing your followers’ content on your social channels (and tagging them, of course), helps you establish relationships with some of your biggest fans.
“We are a brand that is built on strong 1:1 relationships with our customers,” said Kelli Nicholson, Panera Bread’s Director of Brand Marketing. She told Twitter the campaign was an important way to evaluate whether the coffee subscription program was something customers would value.
Pay attention to trends
We’re not saying you should leap on every meme that goes viral. (Please don’t leap on every meme that goes viral.)
But it is a good idea to pay attention to trends in social media, so you understand what people are looking for when they sign into their social channels. This helps you create appropriate content that resonates over time.
State Farm Insurance has an ongoing Pinterest campaign that provides informative content tied to major life changes like buying a car or having a child. Since these moments tend to impact insurance needs, it’s an obvious fit that has helped the insurance giant connect with millennials and Gen X.
Bonus: Get a free social media strategy template to quickly and easily plan your strategy. Also use it to track results and present the plan to your boss, teammates, and clients.
Get the template now!
Last spring, as travel changed from a worldwide affair to a much more local experience, road trips were a hot topic of online research. State Farm created a series of Pins about road trips and how the company helped protect its customers in uncertain times.
The top five reasons people use social media now are:
To stay up-to-date with news and current events
To find funny or entertaining content
To fill up spare time
To stay in touch with friends
To share photos or videos with others
January 2021 reasons for using social media
Always keep your audience’s current needs in mind. What worked last year might not work today.
Social listening is a highly valuable information-gathering tool, helping you understand what your audience (and potential audience) might want to hear from your brand.
That’s one reason why two-thirds of respondents to the Hootsuite Social Media Trends survey said social listening increased in value in 2020.
Sell your stuff with social commerce
Social media marketing has evolved in recent years to include social commerce: the ability to sell your products directly from social channels. And business is booming, with a global market value of $89.4 billion in 2020.
By June 2020, 18.3% of U.S. adults had purchased via Facebook, and another 11.1% via Instagram.
adults in the U.S. who have purchased via select social media platforms
You can now use social shopping tools to sell your products and services even without a website.
We break down all the details in individual posts explaining how to use Instagram Shopping, how to sell with Facebook Shops, and the best ways to use Instagram Live Shopping.
Mix up your formats
Make sure to switch up your social post formats from time to time. If you usually post GIFs, try a JPG. If you normally post still images, try a video.
And take advantage of all the formats within each social network, like Stories, or Reels, or Live videos.
For one thing, this helps you learn which formats work best for different types of content (more on that below) and different social networks.
For example, the conventional wisdom is that posts with images always fare better. But Hootsuite recently ran an experiment in which plain text Tweets outperformed those with an image or GIF.
This was not true a couple of years ago, and Hootsuite would never have made this discovery if every Tweet contained an image.
When you do want to use images and don’t have a great photo library of your own, stock photo sites are a great source of free, high-quality photos to use in your social posts. Don’t use random images you find online. That is not okay and can get you in some serious trouble.
Finally, be sure all your posts, regardless of the format, are inclusive and accessible. For a start: Add alt text to images and make sure videos have captions. And make sure your audience is fully represented in the images you share.