Young people these days are confusing. They’re always glued to their devices and barely look up from them, laughing at a weird TikTok video or commenting on their friends’ latest Instagram photo. But as a business professional, do you really get the buzz around social media? And is it that important for your business?
Many put it down as a passing fad, even I thought the novelty would wear off, but these platforms continue to increase in number and often popularity. Social media, to many of us, seems irrelevant, but it can do great things for your small business.
If you are one of these business owners, frustrated with social media, thinking that it’s not a real way to get more customers, I’ve got a wake-up call for you: Unfortunately, this is no longer true.
Everything important is online, including your customers.
According to Deloitte Insights (15th edition), billions of people are plugged in and are living in the digital age, especially the younger generations like Millennials and Gen Z who are growing more fiscally responsible and whose purchasing power is only becoming stronger as they age.
Businesses that have adapted to the social media explosion have become smarter with their campaigns on platforms that require little or no cost. Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and even Twitter posts are free, affording business owners big exposure with minimal effort and expense, just so long as they’re smart about their posts, brand personality, and the way they run their platforms.
Those businesses that are reluctant to change and are failing to embrace social platforms need to catch up, as young people are relying more and more on social media for their purchases—and you’re falling behind.
Why Are Business Owners Scared of Using Social Media?
Maximising social media isn’t part of many business owners’ training and they’re afraid of how to use it. A lot of them are frustrated because they don’t know what to post on social media and have no ideas on how to deliver messages and keep them going consistently.
Some of it comes back to our personal lives as well. If you grew up on TV news and newspapers and that’s your go-to now (not on Twitter and Instagram) then you may be afraid of social media because it’s such alien territory for you. It’s definitely not something you’re used to, much less something you’ve mastered (and no, watching your child go through their Facebook feed isn’t experience).
If you don’t understand the platform you’re using it can be difficult to trust it or your own ability to release content online, especially with the frequency that social media demands. Because it’s so quick, saying the right thing in the right way is important, and the fear of social backlash for getting it wrong can leave some business owners paralysed into doing nothing. We’ve seen plenty of people taken down online by getting “cancelled” and it seems like too big of a risk to take.
It can also be hard to believe that social media converts customers because it’s “just” a tweet or a Facebook post. These are toys for fun, how are they supposed to do the work of experienced salespeople? Some business owners hesitate in using social platforms and investing their time and budget because they don’t understand how it benefits them as a marketing strategy. Even being aware of how many people are using devices and the success other businesses have campaigning on these platforms doesn’t change their tentativeness around it.
For those business owners who don’t believe in social media, you can guarantee they aren’t practising social listening. By spending time on social media listening in on conversations people are having about your industry, for (or against) your competitors and about your own products and services, you learn what your customers actually want or what they’re asking for online. This gives you insider knowledge of what to post on social media. When you ignore that you become disconnected from your customers and miss opportunities to grow your business and fill in gaps you find in products, services, and delivery.
How Social Media is Effective for Small Businesses’ Online Presence
It’s time to put prejudice aside and see the facts. Social media can work to enhance your brand and business performance.
According to Hootsuite, 4.48 billion people are active on social media—and my guess is that a good chunk of that 4.48 billion are at least a percentage of your target audience. This means that more than half the world’s population is plugged in. And I bet you want to be exposed to half the world, at the very least, through a strong online brand presence.
By having a successful social media platform you can increase:
- Your brand presence
- Customer loyalty
- Sales and conversions
Social media gives you multiple points to display your brand, even more so than traditional sales because branding is so important online, down to the logos, thumbnails colours, and fonts you use. Those multiple points give you incredible opportunities to increase your brand recognition, and the more people recognise your brand and remember what it stands for, the more likely it is that they’ll keep you front of mind and remember you for a future purchase.
5 Social Media Ideas to Set Your Brand Apart
For those who are at a loss for what to say, unsure of how to keep it going or scared of saying the wrong thing, here are five concrete social media campaigns that will position your brand as unique. You can use these as social media post ideas to set your brand apart and overcome your fear.
1. Share User-generated Content
Let’s face it: Most people love to be recognised. Whether it’s for their work or for something they’re proud of or passionate about, they want their 15 seconds of fame. This is why when a brand recognises them through regrams, shares, or retweets, they feel satisfied and happy, making a positive association with your brand.
Not only that, their excitement will lead them to share that recognition on their own social media, exposing more people to your brand.
One example of this is Glossier, a minimalist makeup brand that consistently posts content from its customers. Next to their perfectly curated feed, they show off how their customers use their products and how effective they are.
2. Run a Contest, Challenge, or Giveaway Related to Your Brand
People love free stuff. And what better way to coax them to your business than a promise of giveaways? By giving them the chance to win something for free through giveaways, contests, or challenges that they can do in order to be eligible to win, they’re more likely to interact with your brand and spread the word.
A lot of businesses that are social media-savvy use the “tag a friend” method where an interested party has to include someone in their entry, exposing the brand to a bigger audience. Others ask entrants to follow them on a number of platforms, making it more likely for them to hear about you and your future news.
A great example of this is the ALS ice bucket challenge. By creating a challenge where people challenged others, ALS was able to exponentially grow their research funding by 187% because of how many people were involved and became aware of their endeavor.
3. Create Consistent Content That Has Professionals Answering Different Questions About Their Profession
This is why the Ask Me Anything format on Reddit, an online platform that’s dedicated to discussing thousands of different topics, became so popular. It was a free-for-all forum that asked different professionals questions ranging from their personal to professional lives.
Popular Reddit AMAs include late actor Robin Williams, a McDonald’s employee who’s had to deal with the famous fast-food clown for five years, and NASA exoplanet experts who answered questions about space and everything around it.
By hosting Facebook lives, Twitter threads, or even Instagram stories that consistently feature an expert, you can attract people who are intrigued by these professions and what they do, getting in-depth answers in exchange.
4. Branded Hashtags
While branded hashtags don’t always take off, when they do, they can spread like wildfire. Witty hashtags or touching stories related to them can attract a lot of attention and spark interest, leading people to engage with them, use them, and increase your brand awareness.
Always’ #LikeAGirl campaign did this flawlessly, showing that femininity is strength and the phrase “like a girl” isn’t an insult.
5. Engage Directly With Polls, Questions, “Caption This” Posts, and This-or-thats
Audiences love to make their opinions and thoughts known, so having them interact with engaging content or answer thought-provoking questions can help you get a better pulse on what’s going on in their minds.
Challenges to caption photos or simple choices between “this or that” (posts where they choose one thing over another) can give you a better idea of their demands as your audience.
People are ready to deliver their own thoughts and see what others have to say. Polls are a great way to read the room and your audience (not necessarily their minds, we might have to wait a few more years for that kind of technology).
You get product feedback with minimal effort all while increasing engagement with your customers and inviting others to interact as well.
Being afraid of social media is a natural response. We fear the unknown and don’t want to approach it. But as business owners, it doesn’t have to be that way. You can learn to generate effective social media content and get to know and love the connection you create with your audience. Social media is not going away, it’s getting bigger and influencing more and more people every day. When you get on board with some unique and consistent online content you open your business up to influence how people view you and your brand.
If you’ve got ideas of your own, feel free to tag or email them to me to keep the discussion going. I’d also like to invite you to join our Facebook group to further the conversation.