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Social media for small businesses

What is social media marketing?

Social media platforms have become useful resources for small business owners in recent years.

Before channels such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn were accessible for businesses, business-critical tasks like connecting with customers, raising your business's profile, and making sales could be both time consuming and costly.

But now all of these activities can all be undertaken at a much lower cost through making use of social media – welcome news to businesses growing on a budget!

There are a number of different ways that businesses can make use of social media platforms, from using them solely as a communication channel to customers, through to sales. The platform itself can even be the basis for the entire business!

Whichever way you look at it, social media is now a key enabler to starting and growing a successful business. So let's take a look at some of the channels available to you, and how to use them effectively.

Using social media for a small business

Social media is all about having a conversation and engaging with existing and potential customers. Once a community of interested fans and followers trust you, the sales will follow.

So when it comes to making the most of social media for your small business, I would suggest that you avoid 'selling'. Instead, use them to have conversations with your customers on your area of expertise.

A good rule of thumb would be to spend roughly half your time on sharing useful resources that will interest followers and position you as an expert.

You can then follow this up by spending time answering questions that your followers may have and commenting on other people's posts, images, and points of view.

Social media platforms

Choosing a social media platform can be a difficult process. With so many channels now available, it can be difficult to know which ones will be a good fit for you business.

Here are my five favourite social media platforms for small businesses, and some tips on how to make the most of their features.

  • Twitter – create a profile for free and get tweeting! Also known as micro-blogging, tweets are less than 140 characters so posting doesn't take up huge amounts of time. Tweets with images are more likely to be seen and shared, and this is an ideal platform for communicating with customers (both existing and potential) and sharing company news, expert views, pictures of the team and useful links. Tip: To raise your business's profile, try searching the #journorequest hashtag. This could help you to find journalists who might be looking for a story like yours.
  • Instagram – a haven for businesses with a more visual side, Instagram is ideal for food, fashion, beauty, homewares and the creative sectors. Tip: Make the most of the recently launched Business Profile feature which enables you to show that you're a business to users. This in turn allows them to connect with your brand directly and buy from the platform itself.
  • Facebook – with over 2 billion people on this platform, you can be fairly certain that some of your customers will be hanging out here. Tip: Facebook ads can be a great way to help your business reach a wider audience. This tool allows you to set a budget, outline the types of users that you want to reach, and run an advertising campaign for as little as £10 per day.
  • LinkedIn – now part of the Microsoft family of companies, LinkedIn is a platform that tends to attract more corporate businesses. There are two key ways that smaller businesses can leverage the platform though: form a group around your specialist area to attract interested individuals, or use this outlet to search for retail buyers or corporate clients. Tip: Make sure to go for a more professional look on LinkedIn than the other major social media platforms, where you can be a little more casual!
  • YouTube – with 300 hours of video uploaded to YouTube every minute, this is where you want to be when it comes to sharing your business's videos. Start by creating video using your phone and then potentially upgrade to hiring a professional if the stats start to add up. Tip: Including client testimonials, video summaries of events you're attending, and tips from you and other experts in your field can be a great way keep your audience interested in your YouTube channel.

When it comes to deciding which social media platform to focus on, I would suggest trying a little activity across all of the channels that are relevant to your business and measure what works.

By doing this you can make sure that you're investing your time and energy on the platforms where your customers are most engaged.

Social media tools for businesses

As social media has grown in importance, so have the tools available to measure impact and save on time.

Management tools like Hootsuite and Buffer allow you to pre-schedule tweets and posts, so you can turn your attention to other business activities.

And tools like TweetReach and Sprout Social can help you to measure the how many people your posts have reached.

When starting out in business, you're likely to be running all the social media activity yourself. But as your enterprise grows, you may choose to outsource management of your social media channels to a professional.

If you're looking for someone to take over the management of your business's social media presence, online workplaces like Upwork or the Enterprise Nation marketplace can be a great place to start. You could also try asking other businesses in your sector if they would recommend any social media freelancers for you to work with.

Emma Jones is founder of Enterprise Nation

The company's social media profiles go across all platforms!

For more information on starting and running your own business, head over to our business Knowledge Centre.

Small Business Insurance Emma Jones
Emma Jones

Emma Jones
Last Updated: 11 Nov 2016