The perceived return on value (ROI) of social media for small companies has been a hotly contested topic among entrepreneurs for a long time with many business owners refusing to invest any resources in building an online presence. But, it seems that the tide is turning. In a recent study by The Manifest, researchers found that 73% of companies now invest in social media and 95% planned to increase their investment in the following year.
Interestingly though, when we dug a little deeper into another study by American small business website, Manta we found that despite the majority of businesses now having an online presence, only 38% of those businesses chose to invest in promoted posts or social advertising, demonstrating that few business owners really believe that social media marketing can make a significant difference to their business’s bottom line.
It appears business leaders are missing out on a massive opportunity though with a reported 3.48 billion active social media users online in 2019, up 9% from 2018. And, as social media tools become more and more sophisticated, allowing marketers to speak to their exact audience, the opportunities seem boundless.
So, for of the SME’s who are struggling to see traction from their social media activities, what part of the equation are they missing and how can they tap into this huge market?
Lead with why
World-renowned entrepreneur, Simon Sinek was spot on when he said, ‘People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it. And what you do simply proves what you believe. We are drawn to leaders and organisations that are good at communicating what they believe. Their ability to make us feel like we belong, to make us feel special, safe and not alone is part of what gives them the ability to inspire us.”
Building a successful social media presence is much the same as building a skyscraper – you must first understand what you are building and why you are building before you can create a detailed layout of what the building will look like and how people will use it. Everything after that is just maintenance.
If you saw your social media pages, would you be inspired? When was the last time that you surveyed your customers to ask if they follow you on social media and, if not, why not?
If your social media efforts are failing to connect, go back the drawing board and define why your company exists and why people should care. Because, there is a lot of noise out there.
Define your brand
Steps 1 & 2 are pivotal because they give your customers something to buy into, to believe in and to keep coming back for. The idea of social media is not to talk to everyone in the room, it is to be a beacon for, ‘your kind of people’ – the people who will eventually be your customers and advocates.
Many people think of branding as simply the colours and fonts that you choose for your flyers, but it’s way more than that. If you were to cover up all the descriptions on your social media channels and show the content to a member of your community, would they be able to instantly recognise it as yours? Your brand needs to run through every touch point of your customer’s experience – to make them feel a certain way – just like you would hope your product or service does.
So, set aside some time to truly define your brand and make sure it shouts your ‘why’ from the roof tops. Yes, the colours and fonts are important, but also the style of the images you use on social media and the accompanying text – are all of your posts aligned with how you want people to think about your company. Unsure? Ask 20 other people to tell you what your social media presence communicates to them – you’ll soon get a clear picture.
Invest in planning & creating content
By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” Benjamin Franklin.
Most probably, if you have gotten to this stage, you are invested enough in your business success to take the required time and care to create quality content that your audience wants to see. But, if you are not a content creation wiz – please, please please find someone who is!
One of the biggest death tolls for a company’s social media is a boss with no digital expertise who decides that they can do it themselves, or throws the task at the office intern who has been with the company for a week. This is incredibly common and shows how easily the power of social media is misunderstood. Think of your social media channels as your platform to speak to the world, which they are, and now think whether you would allow the same 1-week old intern to get up on a real stage for you at a gala dinner and address your customers? Probably not..
Proper content creation takes planning and that must come from the management. Once the planning is done and the messages to be communicated are set, the rest can be delegated.
Connect with your audience & build authority
“If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? – George Berkeley
Now that you have your ‘why’ and you’re correctly communicating it to the masses, it’s time to start carving out your niche and building authority with your audience. This is the easy part now that you have your foundations in place, in fact, forget carving, your niche will most probably find you and fast!
Just as a side note, this is not the time to start defining your audience – you should already know exactly who your core audience are from step 1 and all of your planning and perfecting should have been for them. You may be surprised by one or two audience sub-categories that take a shine to your pages – but your core audience, should not be a surprise.
Social media is a team event
Finally, once all the excitement of initially getting your social media success on track has subsided, you must appoint a team coach who is responsible for setting new social media goals and motivating the entire company to achieve them. Your social media represents your entire company and it is critical they are all involved. It is not the responsibility of the 1-week old intern to carry the entire ship.
So, if you are one of the business owners who has reported that social media delivers no ROI, or impact on your bottom line – reflect on whether you have done everything necessary to make it a success. And, perhaps take a look at the thousands of companies who are successful on social media and ask yourself, ‘what are they doing that I’m not?’