Most businesses are more than aware of the importance of social media, but the reality of managing your social media accounts, posting consistently, and engaging with your growing following can be a bit overwhelming, particularly if you’re a small business.
You’ve got the accounts, you know who your target audience is, but how do you get them to engage with you?
We’ve put together some useful tips on how to create engaging social media content that you might find handy if you’re looking for a bit of inspiration on how to build your community online.
This might seem like a bit of a pain, especially if you’re a small business owner running your own social media platforms, but there are a few ways that you can post regularly without having to be online all the time.
Using scheduling software like Hootsuite, Later, Buffer, and even tools within each network, such as Facebook’s scheduling option, can really save you time. Using scheduling tools means that you can have content going out regularly without needing to be glued to a screen. If you’re adding to that with topical, reactive content and checking in to monitor comments and replies, then it can become a well organised process.
Creating a plan for your social media channels enables you to get organised weeks and months in advance, taking the headache out of having to come up with content ideas on the spot.
Imagine you’re in the same room
It’s easy to forget that you’re talking to real life people when you’re sitting in front of a screen, but a good way to judge whether your posts are engaging is to think about how you would discuss them with someone if you were in the same room.
Whether it’s a business contact you might engage with at a networking event or a regular customer, think about how you would communicate with them in real life and apply that to your conversations.
Short and sweet
If you’re posting on behalf of your business, remember that you’re trying to catch people’s attention as they’re scrolling through their feed. You want to try and keep your posts short and sharp; no-one wants to read a lengthy caption to try and find what they’re looking for. If you have a lot to say about a specific topic or product, then a blog is the perfect place to go into more detail.
A really useful way of reaching your intended audience, hashtags can help your content be seen by more people. The best way to work out which hashtags work for you is just to test them out, there’s no hard and fast rule when it comes to what to use, but there are a few best practice suggestions.
– Use hashtags that people will be looking for. More users will find a hashtag like #BirthdayCake than something really specific to your small business, especially if you’re new to the market
– Don’t use too many hashtags. You will be limited on Twitter to what you can include in the word count, but Instagram lets you use up to 30 hashtags on one post. That doesn’t mean you should though; again just try out a few relevant hashtags and see what works
– Whilst hashtags can be a great way to promote your brand, they’re also useful for taking part in wider conversations. If you’re taking part in an event or you want to join in the conversation about a popular topic, hashtags let people know that you’re involved.
Inform, educate and inspire
Even if you’re using social media as your business, you don’t have to create heaps of sales posts. Going back to what we said earlier, if you’re in the same room with someone would you talk *at* them, constantly trying to sell them something? Or would you have a conversation, find out what their interests are, and then work out whether your product was something they might be excited about?
Looking at your posts from a different angle might help to make them appeal to a wider audience. If you’re a bakery, instead of trying to sell cakes with every post, how about educating your followers about where your ingredients come from? Or share informative recipes so they can make their own bakery favourites in their own kitchen?
Think about how and why you use social media personally. What do you enjoy reading about in your own timeline? Chances are it’s not pushy sales posts and corporate business advice, so draw on that experience for your followers too.
If you’ve built up an audience on social media, they can be a really useful tool to understand more about how your business comes across to customers, and also to get feedback that enables your business to grow.
Asking your followers about their tastes, preferences, and for feedback on your current products or what they would like to see in the future can help you build ideas for your business. Not only is that useful for you, it shows your followers that you care about them.
Use your followers to increase visibility
Creating relationships with people who regularly engage with your posts can be a really useful way to create visibility for your business without a huge amount of investment.
Let’s go back to our bakery example again, if you have a customer with 300 followers who loves your cupcakes, giving them a new cupcake flavour to try for free could be a great way to generate a bit of publicity. They will post about it to their followers who are all potential new customers, and you will have made them feel like a really valued customer, which will ensure that they keep buying from you.
Take inspiration from other people
To be clear, we’re not saying you should directly copy other people’s social media content, but what we *are* saying is to take a look at other people and businesses to see if they inspire any ideas for your social media accounts. It could be a similar business on the other side of the world, or a completely different type of business, but they operate in the same local catchment areas as you. Take a look at what they’re up to in case it could translate to your business.