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Social Media Best Practices for Small Businesses

Social media is a big deal for small businesses. According to research from social media company Sprout, more than half (57.5%) of people are more likely to buy from a brand if they follow them on social media. However, social media is a complex and intricate area of marketing that demands its own expertise to execute well, and it’s easy to make basic mistakes. Here are a series of best practices that can help your business stick to proven tactics.

Start with a Plan

The first step with any successful social media campaign is to define the results you want. A haphazard approach to social media management is unlikely to produce successful outcomes. The planning phase should include setting goals that can be tracked via specific metrics, like increased traffic to your website or new customer acquisition. You’ll also want to review competitors’ behavior on social media. This will give you an idea of what you’re up against, while also giving you a look at what kind of content might engage your customer base.

Fit Your Social Media Use to Your Audience

Which social media platforms you use, and how you use them, depends entirely on your target audience. Clearly define the customer persona(s) you’re trying to reach via social media. Social media technology vendor Hootsuite has created a comprehensive guide to the predominant demographics for each major social media platform, so you can match your usage to your customer base. For example, Instagram and Snapchat are especially popular among younger users ages 18 to 24, and it’s an extremely international platform – 80% of the Instagram community live outside of the U.S.

Be Credible

People are more suspicious and skeptical of online content than ever before, and that applies to social media usage. Small businesses can inadvertently undercut their success if they come across as inauthentic and/or overly salesy. Your social media content should aim for quality, not numbers; and your plan should be geared to build relationships as much or more than to drive direct sales.

Use the Right Engagement Tactics

Different social media tactics are more or less likely to promote buying activity via social media. Sprout’s research found that certain brand actions – like “trash talking competing brands” – are not very likely to drive sales. By contrast, being responsive, offering promotions, and providing educational content are the top actions that prompt consumers to purchase. However, moderation is key. Sprout also found that too many promotional messages was the top reason – cited by 46% of survey respondents – why people would unfollow a brand on social media.

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