How can SMEs use social media to boost their business? working from home with laptop

How can startups and SMEs use social media to boost their busineses?

We recently joined forces for a second Twitter Q&A, following our first in August on small business insurance. This time, Enterprise Nation took the hot seat to answer questions about social media for start-ups and small businesses, running through the different platforms and how to develop a social media strategy.

In case you didn’t catch it, we’ve outlined the key highlights here. For the full Q&A, check out our Storify thread.

Building on that Q&A, we’ve outlined some responses to some common questions around social media use.

How can people decide which social channels to use?

Test a little on all social channels, measure what works and then invest more time and energy in the channel that delivered the results you are looking for.

LinkedIn is a brilliant platform for B2B companies, whilst Facebook is great for small or local consumer businesses. Twitter is great if you’ve got a lot to say and can dedicate time to updating it at least three times a day.

More visual platforms such as Instagram, Pinterest and Snapchat are particularly powerful for fashion, lifestyle or gift businesses - a great example is the Lucky Dip Club.

Which platforms are best for what?

Facebook is a good starting point for a small business, as it can be used to share updates, pictures, videos, and company information including address and summary of the business. The best way to use the platform is to create a Company Page, ask your friends and family to like it (and their friends too), and upload pictures.

Twitter is best for short-form, more visual updates, as well as other forms of posts such as polls. It is also an excellent medium for engaging with other users in a fast-paced dialogue, for monitoring comments around your brand and establishing good customer service.

LinkedIn is the best place for establishing authority, whether through blog posts, participation in groups, or the sharing of relevant and informative updates.

Pinterest is a visual platform, where users can ‘pin’ your content for inspiration or to make a potential purchase. You can also create your own boards for others to make use of and therefore build a loyal audience on the network.

Instagram works best if you share frequent images and videos, including hashtags to engage in specific conversations. Since its algorithm update, it is also important to post regular, relevant pictures, as increased user engagement means you are more likely to appear in your followers’ feeds. It’s important to stay relevant!

How much time does a small business owner need to dedicate to social media to do a decent job?

Not much! Small businesses should try and dedicate around 30 minutes every day, and use tools such as Hootsuite and Buffer to schedule posts in advance so that there isn’t a lack of content when you’re on holiday or away from the office.

The best way to get people to engage with your social media presence is to be yourself, share useful information, and don’t push the sales message too hard! It is also important, as a small business, to show both your professional and personal side - offer your followers expertise as well as personal shots of your office and behind-the-scenes pictures.

How many times a day do small businesses need to post on their social media channels?

Post little and often, so you can share two to three posts every day when you are starting out - this is ideal to build your profile and help maintain interest as people will stop following accounts that don’t post.

How does a small business go about finding the right influencers?

You can do this by following the top experts in your particular industry and see who they interact with as well as searching on Google. Sites such as ‘Klear’ can also help you identify key social influencers within a number of industries. A good way to help engagement with them is to create lists – which allow you to check out the activity of a select group of people rather than having them diluted within your main news feed.

Once you’ve found the right influencers, it’s key to engage with their content in an authentic manner (it’s no use just liking all their posts) and once you’ve established a relationship, you can suggest tie-ups and guests blogs on each other’s sites.

It is necessary for start-up owners to use paid promotion on social media platforms?

As organic reach is much harder to achieve than it was ten years ago, advertising can certainly help drive engagement and followers. Facebook ads work really well as they are incredibly targeted and can be run on a budget.

What benchmarking options are there, and how can people tell if they are doing well?

Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook all have incredibly good analytics functions which can help you understand how much engagement your posts are seeing.

You can also use Google Analytics to see if your fans and followers are moving to your site, and changing from browsing to buying.

Is it worth hiring a social media manager?

When you are a start-up, it is best to manage your own social media as you can set the tone. Once your business is growing you should consider hiring or outsourcing (especially if you no longer have the time), but you must make sure you stay true to your original tone.

Enterprise Nation is the UK's most active small business network.

@e_nation

@emmaljones

Emma Jones
Emma Jones

Emma Jones
Last Updated: 11 Nov 2016