Small business marketing on the cheap: Social media

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By Asif Ismail

How do you communicate with existing and potential customers? Getting your voice heard in the increasingly crowded marketplace is a challenge all businesses face, and one that can be especially difficult for small- and medium-sized businesses. Traditional marketing can be expensive. Social media marketing, however, can be an effective advertising tool that doesn’t break the bank. In today’s economy, using social media is no longer optional.

Identify relevant platforms

With so many social media sites out there, choosing the right ones can seem overwhelming. The most important aspect in choosing the right platform is knowing your audience. Each channel attracts a specific use-type and knowing where to go to find your target customer is key. Focus on demographics such as age, gender, or profession to help guide your efforts.

Facebook and Twitter are two channels that every business should be using. Facebook is the biggest social media network on the Internet, and according to smallbiztrends.com, more than one million small- and medium-sized businesses use Facebook to advertise. Twitter reports more than 300 million active monthly users.

Both Facebook and Twitter offer a number of paid advertising options, allowing you to target ads by zip code, gender, shopping behavior and other characteristics. However, before investing dollars into paid advertising, take some time to track what’s been working thus far so you can make informed decisions if you chose to purchase ads. Which of your channels has the most active users? What messages are getting the most engagement? Use this information to create a cohesive strategy so you can make the most of your investment.

Other popular sites include Google+, YouTube, Instagram and Pinterest. Again, these channels have users with specific demographics, so choose wisely. For example, Instagram is popular with millennials, whereas Pinterest tends to be most popular with women (although an increasing number of men are now joining the site, as well).

While there are many social media channels to choose from, remember to start small. Don’t spread yourself too thin by trying to be everywhere, all the time. It’s much better to have a strong, engaged presence on one or two platforms than having a haphazard, “throw it out there and see what sticks” approach.

Create compelling content

Once you’ve identified the key social media channels that make the most sense for your business, spend time creating content that will align with your marketing goals and resonate with your audience. Are you looking to generate more traffic to your website?  Your content should be focused on a call to action that drives users to your site. Are you looking to increase your social media following? Your content should focus on topics your target audience wants to talk about.

The use of hashtags in your social media posts, particularly on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, is a great way to encourage your visitors to share what you are posting. It’s not always easy to include your URL in a post, but a relevant hashtag you’ve created makes it much easier for your users to engage and share your content.

Infographics and other visuals are also important in creating compelling content. A study by Quicksprout reveals that online content with images gets 94% more views than content with no visuals. Keep in mind that the majority of on-line visitors are viewing your sites via a mobile device, so develop content that translates well on a mobile platform.

Post content frequently, including breaking news updates relevant to your industry. Be sure to engage with your audience and respond to comments quickly. One of the key benefits of social media marketing is that you can develop a more personal, interactive relationship with your customers than you can through traditional marketing.

Monitor results and adjust as needed

There are a number of free, easy-to-use tools that can help you monitor activity and tell you what’s working and what’s not. Google Analytics is a valuable resource that can help you track the impact your social media accounts is having on your website. Facebook, Twitter and other social media channels have analytics that analyze audience growth, engagement, reach and activity.

Use this information to guide you in making changes to what’s not working and devoting more effort toward what is working. With just a little effort, you can make a lot of progress without breaking the bank.

Asif Ismail is Chief Marketing Officer of Inspired Global Marketing, Inc. www.inspiredgm.com

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