Business management

SME Tools: eight ways to extend your social reach

A strong online presence can create meaningful opportunities for your business, from boosting profits to enhancing your brand, but successful social media needs an audience to work.

That’s a vast number of potential clients and customers. So how do you ensure they follow your business?

Most people running a business these days know they have to have an active online presence. But far too many businesses don’t realise this needs to be an integral part of their overall strategy, not an add-on.

Kate Rose
Client director at Rose McGrory Social Media

Effective social media needs to be targeted, monitored and managed

1. Know your market

“Take time to map out exactly who you want to reach and what you want to achieve,” says Rose. This means, first, even establishing if social media is right for you.

“If you’re, say, selling billion-pound flats and only 20 people in the country can afford them, social media is pointless. But if you’re selling quality chocolates, it can bring you millions of customers. Does social media make sense in the context of your business environment? Take into account what you’re selling, who you’re selling to and where to find them. Create a mood board of your audience: what are their interests, where do they hang out on the web? Think in clusters – if you’re selling health food, your clients are also likely to be into nutrition, say, or sport, exercise classes. Build up a clear picture, then put the mood board on your wall so you can come back to it in the coming months to ensure you’re keeping your focus. Set out and understand your aims, and then you can start to build your social media audience.”

2. Choose your platform(s)

Social media sites are so varied that relatively few businesses will be able to use all of them successfully – most thrive in just one or two platforms that are relevant to their product and their audience.

“Facebook, for instance, isn’t primarily about selling,” says marketing executive Katrina Scotchbrook. “It’s more about portraying your business in a friendly way and creating a community around it. LinkedIn is great for business connections and conversations, while Instagram is not – but it is fantastic for selling something visual, such as photography, floristry or property.”

3. Provide value

Wherever your social media presence, give your audience something engaging, says Rose. “Don’t use it for corporate press releases or awards ceremonies,” she adds. “You want your readers or viewers to think: ‘This is worth my time.’ Whether it’s a tweet or a YouTube video, this value could be in the form of entertainment, help, advice.

Be sparing with your communication so you can ensure it’s always good quality

Kate Rose
Co-founder of Rose McGrory Social Media

“Create something original – and don’t simply repost someone else’s content unless you have an individual, valuable addition to make it your own. Creating such content takes time, effort and in most cases money to do properly, but to stand out, you need to invest. This is your company’s future.”

And if you’re on more than one platform, tailor your content accordingly, says Rose. “Don’t put the same content out everywhere, because it will work better on some platforms, and on others may not work at all.”

4. Don’t sell!

Social media is rarely a direct marketplace – people tend not to go on it to buy. But quality content does mean business by building your profile and your brand.

“Consumers don’t want to follow a social media account that is used to push sales,” says award-winning tech entrepreneur Ben Towers. “Instead, use your social accounts to drive conversation. The saying ‘content is king’ is so true. Social networks care way more about your content and the engagement than who you are.”

5. Less is more

“Be sparing with your communication so you can ensure it’s always good quality,” says Rose. “No one ever got unfollowed because they didn’t post anything – but lots of businesses suffer for posting too much.

“You might tweet two things that are interesting, but if you’ve already sent out another 18 uninteresting or irrelevant tweets that day, no one’s going to remain interested when you send the good ones – and they’re likely to unfollow you. You have to commit to the quality.”

6. Get a helping hand

“Aim to post and engage with influencers and hashtags,” says Towers.

“Social media influencers can be a great way of growing your social network. Send your posts directly to them – they may share your content to their larger audience, which will help drive your reach. And hashtags are great, especially on platforms such as Instagram, where you can’t easily share content.

7. Flash the cash

“It used to be a case of ‘build it and they will come’,” says Rose. “Not any more.

“All sites now have paid-for targeting options, which can work extremely well in getting your messages to the right people. This isn’t a luxury any more – you need to allocate a budget.”

8. Combine virtual and reality

“This is probably the single most effective way to increase your followers,” says Rose. “Tie up the real world with your online business. Offer simple incentives for people to follow you. The best example I ever saw of this was at a yogurt store in the US – outside, where people queued, there was a sign that said ‘Like us on Facebook by the time you get to the till and get 10% off.’ Simple and brilliant.

“If you’re a bricks-and-mortar business and not hoovering up 50% of your customers to follow you online, you’re doing something wrong,” adds Rose.

Five factors to get right

Know your market: understand who you’re selling to.

Choose the right platform: what works for one type of business could be a waste of time for another.

Content is king: you can entertain, advise, help, whatever you want. But be original, relevant and valuable enough to make your clients think: “I’m glad I saw that.”

Invest: with time, thought and money. Social media is a fundamental part of business communication and needs a budget to match.

Make online meet offline: linking up your virtual and real-world businesses will make your follower numbers soar.

This article was originally published on 19 December 2017.

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