social-media Image: Yoel Ben-Avraham/Flickr

Social media is a simple yet effective means of communication. There are a variety of ways small businesses can use this tool to their advantage, to market their brand, talk to customers and build business networks.

There are two parts to success on social media. Firstly - build a significant following, and secondly - and arguably most importantly - retain your following.

But how do you do that? Well, here are a few handy tips.

1. Build a significant following

  • Choose the correct audience to target. You can target people based on where they live, or their age, gender or language. Making the right choice is vital to ensure you are targeting the right people.
  • Focus on what people are interested in. There are many ways that Facebook, for example, can find out what users are interested in. This information can then be shared with advertisers and means you can tailor your message to customers based on what they like.
  • Use “Connections.” You should also target the followers of those people who have shown interest. People talk about the brands they like. There’s a significant chance that if you’re doing the right things then your fans will have mentioned your brand. So when your ad is seen by your fans’ friends, they’re already receptive to your message.
  • Use Facebook to target those who are regularly visiting your website. Targeting people who have visited you before is a highly successful way to make sales. This group is already warm to your brand. You can also target existing customers, or people who haven’t yet bought from you, or even those who looked like they were going to buy, but didn’t. All these groups are worth trying.
  • Use people’s email addresses. People tend to sign up to everything with the same email address, so the chances are that they’ve signed up to Facebook / other social media sites, with the same email they gave you, when they bought from you or signed up to your newsletter.
  • Target digital lookalikes of any of these groups of people. You can target lookalikes of your existing customers, the ones whose email addresses you uploaded as a ‘custom audience’. Facebook automatically selects those whose behaviour, preferences, interests and locations match those of your current customers so take advantage of this.
2. Retain your following
  • Avoid spamming. Don’t post the same message again and again. There’s nothing wrong with posting the same message, but do it in a different way each time that you do. If you’re posting on different social media channels, say it in a way that is tailored to the audience across each channel.
  • Embrace criticism. The whole point of social media is to listen and engage with your audience, so if people say bad things online about your brand, it’s far better to engage with them so that they can see that there is a person behind the brand and that you’re listening to them. Also, don’t be scared of being a little controversial. You will stick out in people’s minds and its’ so much better to give your brand a personality rather than just be another brand that doesn’t mean anything to anyone.
  • Keep your social platforms active. If you’re going to make a leap into using social media of any kind, the worst thing that you could do is to make that leap and then to leave it. A vacant social media channel speaks negative volumes about your brand. So don’t neglect your social channels.
  • Research your followers and their followers. Take an interest in who are following you, what they are tweeting about and the type of content that they’re posting links to. Use Facebook and Twitter analytics to these to learn which topics your followers are interested in as a whole so the content you post can be tailored in order to make it really interesting for them.
  • Be passionate about your channels. You’re not on social media to be meek, if you don’t talk your brand up, who is going to? You need to come across as someone that loves what you do, that loves your business and gets a real kick out of being on social media. So talk your business up, engage with new customers, engage with new followers and keep your channels up to date with news about your company. Show some passion!
  • Add value with unique content about your brand. Don’t just regurgitate another viewpoint, instead, create unique content on your blog, on your website and then share that with your followers. If you do have to re-tweet a news story come up with a unique angle, something that no one has thought of before. Don’t just blend in the background, be someone that’s just taking part, but try to be unique and try to be memorable!
Follow these steps and you’ll soon see how social media can help grow and expand your business: build, retain and flourish.

By Nick Leech, marketing director at 123 Reg