As a start-up, running a business in the most cost-effective way is crucial to success. The great thing about social media is that it doesn't really cost any money to make it work for your business. So how do you ensure that you're getting the most out of your social platforms?
Check out my 7 simple rules to make social media work for your small business...
1. Consider the right platforms for you
Ok so first thing's first, you need to think about which platforms are actually worth your time. Facebook and Twitter are a must for any business, because with over 1 billion active users on Facebook and over 90 million active users on Twitter alone, these two social giants offer the most potential for connecting with your audience.
Linkedin can be great for networking and finding potential clients or partners, and Google+ is perfect for small businesses because you can join communities to really help bring exposure to your brand.
So what about the others? Think about your audience and where they hang out. To show off your brand visually, try Instagram, Tumblr, Pinterest and Stumble Upon, and never underestimate the power of video -- sign up for a YouTube account and get creating videos!
Consider where you audience hangs out
Twitter and Facebook are a must
Don't dismiss the 'smaller' social channels
2. Be yourself and have some fun
Some people think they have to project a certain tone, to get the right engagement but when it comes to social, the rules are different. The best thing to do on social is to just do you. Let your personality shine though and people will love you for it! If you're struggling to be creative, try and get into the mindset of your customer. Find out what your customers like, what they like to read and who they like to follow.
Just look at brands like Innocent drinks, Tesco Mobile, Taco Bell, or even Charmin. They all like to have fun with their posts and the results are incredible. You don't need to try and constantly be funny, but the more shares you get, the more people will sit up and take notice of you.
Let your personality shine through
Get into the mindset of the customer
Check out other brands to see what they're doing
3. Run competitions
Competitions can really help small businesses start-up. The great thing about a competition is that everyone loves a freebie so you're more likely to see shares. You'll gain a bunch of contacts for your email marketing list too, plus you'll be giving someone a taster of your product and if you impress, they're bound to give you a great review.
The next step is to get your competition in front of the right people. Don't just take the easy route of coming up with a really simple question to answer. Think about your industry and why people like you. Then, use that as your basis to get your fans to do something to win. Also make sure that you get people to Like, Share, Retweet etc to enter, that way more people will see your brand.
Make sure you collect emails to build up your marketing list
Think outside the box to get people talking about your competition
To enter - get customers to Like, Share, Retweet your comp
4. Don't oversell
Let's be honest, no-one likes the hard sell and no-one will be interested in following you if all you're going to do is preach at them about how great your product is. You need to remember the 80/20 rule. 80% of your posts should be useful content that your audience will want to read and 20% can be promoting yourself.
Every month, take some time to work a posting schedule. It make take a bit of time at first, but in the long run it will mean you won't need to spend hours out of your day each day looking for things to post on your channels. Think about humour, sharing relevant blog posts, or posting industry news.
Post useful, shareable content that your customers want to read
Create a schedule each month to decide what, when and where you're going to post
Don't forget the 80/20 rule -- 80% fun content, 20% promotional content
5. Interact with your followers
You'll never get anywhere with your social if you don't interact with your followers. When people comment on your status, make sure you comment back. Creating discussions is what Google+ is all about and it doesn't have to be about you all the time to see results. Check out communities that are relevant to your customers and see what everyone else is talking about.
If you get followers on Twitter, make sure you follow them back! When people tweet you, be sure to reply. Even if you have a negative tweet, it's always best to act fast and respond, rather than ignore it completely. Try and offer personalisation with your replies, rather than sending a generic tweet to every disgruntled customer.
Always reply to your customers
Respond to negativity on social
Join in discussions, even if they aren't about you
6. Don't dismiss paid advertising
Advertising on social can be really effective and you don't have to spend loads on it either! Facebook lets you set up promoted posts so that more people see your ads -- and those people are carefully selected. Plus, it lets you set your own limit on how much you would like to spend. Twitter is similar in that it will target specific users depending on their browser history and you can pay for promoted tweets and trends.
Stumble Upon offers a cheap alternative to advertising with the lowest price being $0.05. It let's you target people based on interests, locations and demographics, and if your content is good enough to get likes, you will get free exposure!
Set a budget for your ads
Think outside the box to make them stand out
Test out your ads on low cost platforms like Stumble Upon
7. Create your own shareable content
Sharing respected content from the web can get you more followers, but it's also a great idea to come up with your own content. People like to share things like images, facts or quotes and shareasimage is the perfect tool to help you do this. You can create images and put quotes on them that people are bound to share!
As the most engaging way to interact with your customers, another great tool is to create a video. Explainer videos are ideal for showcasing what you do in just a few seconds. From animated to screen recorded videos, there's plenty of options available. Or if you have a very small budget, try using Vine to create a fun video!
Think about sharing images, quotes and facts
Create an explainer video to get your point across simply
Test out Vine for a cheap, fun way to create a video
So there you have it, 7 simple rules to make social media work for your business! My one last extra piece of advice is to use a tool like Hootsuite to combine all of your social platforms together so you can manage them all in one place! If you can think of any more great rules, I'd love to hear from you in the comments below :).