Much of the advice we gave on non-profit social media also applies to doing social media for small business. When you’re a small business owner, the temptation to treat your social media as your main venue for driving sales can be overwhelming. As we explain below, however, being too aggressive with sales language, posting inflammatory content, or slamming the competition on social media can be major traps and can actually hurt your sales in the long run.
To help you avoid these and other pitfalls, below we share 3 do’s and don’ts for doing social media for small business.
Social Media for Small Business in a Nutshell
Small business clients sometimes come to us with the following misconceptions about marketing their businesses over social media:
- The goal of social media is to “go viral” by getting thousands of interactions very quickly
- The best way to “win” at sales over social media is to make every post about selling a product or service
- Customers use social media to learn about what to buy
For small businesses, these mindsets can get in the way of being effective with social media marketing. Here are slightly different ways of thinking about social media that we recommend to all our small business clients:
- The goal of social media is to start and maintain an ongoing conversation with existing and potential customers
- The best way to “win” at sales over social media is to make most of your posts about sharing useful, interesting information
- Customers use social media to learn about how good a product or service is before buying it
Essentially: when doing social media, you want to think about serving useful, interesting content to potential and existing customers in order to stay in the top of their minds the next time they make a purchase. You don’t want to overwhelm them with sales language, but you do want to inform them about deals and opportunities they may be interested in. Finally, you want to make sure that your business has a good presence on platforms in which people are talking about products or services like yours.
For more about how to create an effective social media strategy, check out our other article on this topic:
Do: Have Meaningful Interactions With Customers Over Social Media
The main thing you want to think about when doing social media for small business is starting a conversation with your customers. Social media is best used as a channel for generating brand awareness and for getting people talking about your business in a positive way. Try not to be too pushy with sales language. Instead: think about the types of posts you like to see from the brands you love and imitate them.
Don’t: Try to Go Viral by Posting Inflammatory Content
Some small business owners will try to be pushy, annoying, or shocking to try to generate more interest in their organization. With social media, there is such a thing as good and bad attention, however. Brand sentiment, or the overall feeling people have about your business, can turn at the drop of a hat if you’re not careful. You want to get attention through your social media, but you want to get the right kind of attention.
Do: Use the 80/20 Rule For Sales
The best rule of thumb for how much you should post about sales when doing social media for small business is the 80/20 rule. 80% of the time you should focus on providing valuable content to your audience about topics they care about that also relate to your business. 20% of the time you should post about sales. This provides a nice mix so your audience doesn’t get overwhelmed with sales language and lose interest.
Don’t: Try to Strong-Arm People Into Buying Something
Modern day consumers have a lot of choices when looking for businesses to buy from. The worst thing you can do is try to hit your social media connections over the head with sales language or try to coerce them into buying something they’ll later regret. These kinds of tactics work for unethical companies such as pyramid schemes trying to make a quick buck. Small businesses need to think about the long-term, however, and should thus focus on building relationships over social media rather than on generating immediate profits.
Do: Tell Your Customers What Differentiates You From the Competition
Social media is the new word-of-mouth advertising. Consumers go online to learn about brands before they buy. They look at customer reviews. They look at company websites. They’re very discerning and careful about their purchases. To take advantage of this behavior: you should definitely toot your own horn by telling them what makes you special. What do you provide that no one else does?
This can be:
- Exceptional customer service
- Competitive pricing
- Up-front information
- The best product or service for the price
- Being one of the few purveyors of your product or service in your service area
- Deals or specials that no one else offers
You want to think about telling people why they should consider buying from you, because that’s what they’re trying to decide when they go online.
Don’t: Slam the Competition
Modern day consumers in the middle of their decision-making process also react poorly to negative branding: trying to convince consumers that your competition is worse than you will probably backfire. Remember what we said above about brand sentiment over social media: it can change at the drop of a hat. Trying to create a negative sentiment about another brand can make you come off as desperate for sales, or even worse: as a predatory business looking to take advantage of the unwary consumer.
The Best Advice: Have Fun
Social media is supposed to be fun. That’s why people use it. Think about what attracts you to social media and try to create those experiences for your customers. Be funny. Be charming. Be interesting. And then let them know what you’re selling.