Social Media Marketing 101 For Business
The explosion of social media platforms in recent years has dramatically transformed the way that businesses and organizations interact with their customers and clients.
In this highly-competitive global marketplace, companies not using social media platforms to reach out to customers and clients are at a distinct disadvantage.
Traditional advertising and marketing media strategies tend to use a broad-based approach in reaching out to potential clients and customers, whereas platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, TikTok, Reddit, YouTube and Pinterest can allow business owners to target specific demographic groups, while at the same time providing instant feedback.
While many other platforms are finding their own piece of the social media marketplace, Facebook remains one of the most popular with an estimated 24 million Canadians actively using the platform each month.
And of those, 19 million are using Facebook’s mobile apps. Also, 79% of Facebook users in Canada are connected to a small/medium business, or common Internet file interest, which allows shared access to Internet files on a network, according to Facebook Canada.
Social media platforms allow businesses to develop a brand image, curate content from different platforms, manage their marketing and advertising initiatives, and develop original content allied with their products.
Retail businesses can promote sales and display products; restaurants can post menus and photos of their food; and bars can advertise upcoming events and concerts, all while targeting their specific demographic.
While it can be time-consuming for many small businesses, it’s imperative they use these platforms, which for the most part are free, to market their businesses in an ever-changing competitive marketplace.
But, before any business owners contemplate a social media campaign, they should develop a plan that includes what they are looking to achieve, who their audience is and what message they are hoping to spread.
Social media campaigns (paid sponsor ads can be done as well) and posts, can also drive customers and clients to your website where they can access more information about your business.
In order to help business owners navigate their way through some of the pros and cons, pitfalls and challenges involved with using social media platforms, Biz X magazine reached out to the local business community to interview some of the experts and users across the Windsor Essex area.
Advantages Of Social Media
It’s critically important for any business to have a presence on one or more of the various social media platforms, especially at a time when competition is so fierce across all sectors.
“It’s really important for any business hoping to reach out to customers that they have a consistent and updated presence on social media,” says Nichole Howson, Owner of Aim Social Media Marketing . “It is absolutely one of the best ways to get your company’s information out there to a different audience.”
One of the main advantages is that by selecting which platform to use whether it be Facebook, TicToc, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube or Instagram, a business owner can tailor his or her message to the demographic they are trying to reach.
Cynthia Ballard of CB Marketing believes that for businesses trying to reach females between the ages of 35 to 45, Facebook is the place to be, while LinkedIn is more for business-to-business contacts.
“Instagram has a wide range of followers, both male and female, and it’s a very visual site similar to TicToc, so it’s important you determine who you are trying to reach and focus on that demographic,” says Ballard.
Andy Kale, a partner at Red Piston, a social media management and web development company, believes every company needs a presence on Facebook because that platform is still where most people go to find information.
“But, you also need a presence on one or more of the others depending upon who your target audience is and whether it’s 20 to 30 year olds or 18 to 25 year olds,” says Kale.
Scott Briscoe has been an instructor in the advertising program at St. Clair College for 10 years and the explosion of social media platforms and usage has had a huge impact.“In a digital marketing age, social media is fantastic because it’s low-cost, it’s efficient and very effective so long as you know what you are doing, what message you’re sending and what demographic you are hoping to reach,” he points out.
Briscoe adds that, unlike print and broadcast campaigns, it’s easy to fine-tune that message overnight if you realize it is not reaching your target audience.
“The beauty of social media is that collectively it is all things to all people,” he expresses.
For Steven Spencler of Spencler Creative, the immediacy of responses from clients and customers sets social media apart from traditional advertising and marketing tools.
“Many of the platforms provide analytics, so you can tell at a glance how many hits and how many responses you are generating,” says Spencler. “It helps you determine whether or not what you are doing is working or whether you need to step up your game.”
To Post Or Not To Post — That Is The Question
Posting on social media can be time consuming, especially for small businesses that don’t have a social media department, or even a person whose sole responsibility is to interact with potential customers on a myriad of platforms. Ensure your time is well spent.
Ballard figures it can take between four and six hours a month to stay current and consistent, which is also very important.
“I suggest to clients they plan out in advance what they want to say and what they want to post, so when they sit down, they can be as efficient as possible so it’s not as time-consuming,” she explains.
Ballard adds that if you commit to a schedule — say three days a week and stick to it — that’s when people will expect to see what you have posted.
Spencler recommends his clients post once a day, providing they can generate enough original content.
“Depending upon the business, finding that content can be pretty easy, but it can be a challenge for others,” admits Spencler. “The key is to be consistent and make sure the branding message remains the same throughout the posts.”
For Howson, posting daily is the best strategy, but certainly she suggests her clients post no less than weekly.
“It’s so easy to post on social media and for small businesses it’s more efficient than trying to update a website, especially if you have to deal with a web developer who set up the site in the first place,” she remarks.
But, Howson adds, make sure you create fresh content and have a consistent presence so customers know when and where to look for information about your business.
“My suggestion to clients is to sit down and create a month’s worth of content at one sitting, which makes posting weekly or daily so much more efficient,” she explains.
Arms Bumanlag and his wife Kerri launched littleheart social, a social media management company, last July and ramped up the company’s offerings in September.
He’s a firm believer in posting original content on a daily basis and if that becomes too time-consuming for small business owners, they need to hire someone to handle it.
“You have to make your content relatable to your customers and clients and do it in a warmer, more personal manner,” says Bumanlag, a former broadcast journalist who is now Director of Communications and Public Relations for Erie Shores Healthcare.
“You absolutely need to be on social media today no matter how you manage it,” he stresses.
Red Piston, meanwhile, provides a full array of services, seeking to engage clients and customers on social media.
“We start by determining where they need to be and then we set up an editorial planning calendar on a three month basis, while at the same time keeping in mind there are seasonal posts they need to consider,” notes Kale.
Once that’s done, Red Piston’s creative side kicks in and clients are encouraged to post fresh content consistently while staying true to their brand.
“It’s not so much about frequency as it is about consistency,” says Kale.
Pitfalls And How To Avoid Them
Largely anonymous social media platforms can make it much easier for people to spread negative comments about experiences they’ve had with a business and it’s important for the company to respond — but professionally.
Windsor Chef Steve Meehan now runs a consulting company that provides chef training and cooking demonstrations. He feels it’s always a bad idea to ignore negative feedback (perhaps about food served or customer service, for example).
“I advise clients to resist being defensive because that can make it worse,” he says. “You should try and engage with the person making the negative comments and try to reach a common ground about what happened and how they feel.”
Reaching out to the unhappy customer is a good way to deal with the bad review.
“Most people just want their issues to be acknowledged and if you do that, they will come away with a greater understanding of what happened,” believes Meehan.
Kale advises Red Piston clients to take a measured approach to posted complaints.