You wouldn’t engage in any kind of venture for your small business without having some sort of a game plan for what to do, how to do it, and how to measure the results. Social media marketing is no different. Just because you know how to use Facebook as an individual doesn’t mean that you can translate that into effective social media marketing. Before jumping in head first and risking your business’ reputation, there are at least five questions that you should be able to answer first.

What platforms should a small business concentrate on?

Creating a comprehensive list of networks where you should be active is an individual decision that has to be made based on what your business does and who your target audience is. However, almost any social media marketing strategy will include active accounts on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn at a minimum. Facebook is by far the widely used network (although it’s losing much of the younger generation) and has top-notch and laser-focused targeting tools to reach precisely the type of person you want to market to, and the advertising costs are more affordable than almost anywhere else.

Twitter leans more towards the technology minded and journalism, but they still have a broad audience and are a must-use for any business. LinkedIn is less of a marketing tool and more of an actual networking site for professionals, but their long form article feature and other aspects can garner you a good audience and help develop partnerships if nothing else. Beyond these, Instagram and Pinterest are close runner-ups and necessary if you can create good visual campaigns, and Google+ is necessary for an entirely different reason – it boosts your search engine ratings because it’s Google.

What types of posts will help me build my social media presence?

Even if it’s difficult for your niche, find a way to use visuals to their maximum. Images, videos, GIFs, and video streaming are far and away more popular than anything else and will gain the most engagement. Also use emotional headlines and wording, quizzes, polls, and other feedback-related posts to inspire engagement. Rule number 1? Don’t be a pushy salesman. It’s a conversation, not a billboard.

When should I post?

Knowing when your audience will actually see your posts is vital to your posting schedule. However, this will mostly depend on who your audience is. If you’re posting when your audience is asleep (because they live in a time zone halfway around the world, for example), you may as well be talking to a wall. Regardless of what any “study” may tell you, the best way to decide on a schedule is through research on your target audience and their social media habits.

How do I engage with current and potential clients/customers?

Refer to rule #1 – it’s a conversation. Does offering helpful advice and information get attention from people in the real world? Then include it in your social media posts. If someone asks you a question and you don’t respond, are they likely to want to talk to you? You see where this is going. Engage with people by being nice, being helpful, being humorous, being responsive. Fine-tune your strategy later, but never waver from this foundation. Again, use visuals liberally and occasionally offer a survey, poll, or quiz.

How do I measure ROI?

This is huge, because likes and shares don’t pay the bills. They do, however, help gain an audience that will pay the bills – it’s a fine line. The key thing to remember here is that you have to have a way to translate your engagement on social media into revenue, and that is easier said than done. If you’re going to try and do everything in-house, you’ll have to have good social media marketing software, and that doesn’t include the freeware that lets you post to Twitter and Facebook. It needs solid tracking and analytics at the very least. You’ll also need at least one full time social media manager to handle the job.

With most small businesses, the best option is to hire a social media marketing agency to handle your accounts. It can be daunting once you realize just how much time and effort can be involved in order to have a successful online presence with social media, but social media marketing companies are experts in what they do. If you want to know more about how and why it might be more cost effective to hire an agency, contact us.