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The Top 3 Mistakes Small Businesses Make With Social Media

I help businesses in the UK (mainly London and the South East) get visible and active on the right social media platforms for them.

This is not a social media strategy.

This is not a social media strategy.

Mistake 1: Not Setting a Strategy

Let's be honest: Nobody sets out to make a hash of their social media presence, but it does happen more than you might think. And nine times out of ten, it's because the business's social media has grown organically and piecemeal – Helen was mad about Facebook so she set up a page for the business, then a couple of years later Chris had heard that Instagram was the place to be and had set that up too. And so on.

Fast forward to today, and the business has a mishmash of Pages and accounts, some of which they've quite often lost ownership of or are duplicates. Nobody is quite sure why they have so many accounts, or what they're meant to be doing with them.

This is quite easily fixable, but you do need to take a step back, pretend that you're starting with a blank slate, and start to put together a strategy based on your own business objectives and/or challenges, and your customers' likes and needs.

Sometimes the answer isn't even in social media, at all; if you have a limited budget, a niche product and your priority is to find people looking for what you sell, then Google Adwords might be a better place to focus – it is the best way to directly connect someone looking for crocodile skin flipflops with the crocodile skin flipflops that you sell!

If on the other hand, you're providing a service or product which has created a band of vocal customer advocates who absolutely love what you do – even if they are relatively few in number – then social media is the absolute best place to capitalise on that and help those fans do some selling on your behalf.

So although small businesses often assume that their objectives are the same as everyone else's, in fact, nothing could be further from the truth. Figuring out where it can help your business is as individual as your business is, and is fundamental if you want your social media presence to feel like a tool in your toolbox rather than a chore on your to-do list.

Mistake 2: Not Understanding Your Objectives

Of course, this follows from Mistake 1. But it's also about having a good understanding of the social media sites themselves, and how their functions, and the way they're used, do or don't support what you want to achieve.

Again, the best way to understand this is with some examples. If you're setting up a gym in the City of London, catering to corporate schemes, thinking about who makes the buying decisions for those memberships might lead you to want to promote yourself on LinkedIn – because it's going to be HR directors signing the cheque, and only on LinkedIn can you identify those people. Now, that part of the logic is correct . . . BUT a gym, particularly in London, has a very local catchment area. People will only visit a gym that's within half a mile or so of where they live or work. So you'd be wasting money advertising to HR directors of companies who aren't within half a mile of your gym.

Which is all well and good . . . but the geographic targeting options on LinkedIn's Promoted Posts and Advertising functions are pretty poor, plus you need a minimum "target pool" of a thousand qualifying users in order to run the promotion.

Whereas on Facebook, there are hyperlocal targeting options available that not only will allow you but will actively help you to target people who live or work within that magic half-mile radius. Now, they might not be signing the cheque, but if enough of them get interested, then you can come up with your own creative way of using that to engage with their HR director.

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So in the example above, the objective was very specifically to target people living and working within half a mile of your premises. That is the key thing – not necessarily interest in fitness. Regardless of how interested in fitness they are, Joe Bloggs isn't going to visit your gym if he lives 20 miles away.

Recognising what your objectives are, and which parts are the most crucial, requires a good understanding of both your business and social media. If you don't have all that knowledge in house, then your task is to do a great job of communicating the former to a social media consultant, and theirs is to match it up with their indepth understanding of how social media works and direct your focus accordingly!

Mistake 3: Choosing the Wrong Platforms

AKA, "All the kids are on Instagram".

Yes, possibly they are.

  • First question: Are you selling to the kids? If you are, then,
  • Second question: Are the kids buying anything through Instagram? They are? Then,
  • Third question: Are they going to buy YOUR thing through Instagram?

So, if you're selling high-end investment piece furniture, "the kids" may well not be in a position to buy it, at all – you'll get lots of likes and comments on your Instagram posts, but not much uptick in your sales. And if you're there to build a customer base for five or ten years' time, when those kids have settled down and have the disposable income to afford your product, then that's just fine.

On the other hand, Facebook is statistically more likely to be attracting the slightly older age group who are furnishing a house right now, so you might be better off being active there – despite the perceived relative "uncoolness" of the site!

If you're in the Business to Business market, life is even trickier. As the only B2B platform, it's tempting to assume that LinkedIn is going to be a great place for you. But it's also the platform where people make the most incorrect assumptions about how others use it. Yes, there are a proportion of users who are on LinkedIn regularly - but a small proportion, and usually the folk who are using it as a sales tool themselves. In other words, they're there to sell rather than be sold to. There's another big chunk of the user base who don't touch it from year to year unless they need to find a new job.

Finally, there are those who are using it to actively network and as a source of information, and they are what's left for you to target; definitely there, but perhaps a smaller group than you may have initially assumed.

Getting It Right

Setting the right strategy isn't a five-minute job, and it certainly isn't as easy as "yes, our social media strategy is to use YouTube and Twitter to increase our sales".

It's even harder if you're selling to a very niche group, or don't have much experience with using social media in your team.

You need to really understand your own business and how it differs from others and your competitors. Then you need to understand what the opportunities are that the different social media sites offer, and spot the golden places where those two things intersect. Do that, and you'll have a great strategy that will be effective AND feel easy to execute.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

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