Social media marketing: SME secrets

Social media can be a powerful marketing tool if you know how to use it properly. Here, SME owners and experts give us their insight to help you get ahead online.

It’s estimated that 45 million people in the UK actively use social media regularly, making it an ideal place for small businesses to find and engage with new and existing customers. But with so many brands already fighting for attention, getting noticed can be hard work – especially if you’re not sure what you’re doing.

Thankfully, there are ways to streamline your social media strategy. Below are five SME- and expert-endorsed tips to help you cut through the noise and get big results from your next campaign.

1. Pick your platforms carefully

The two thirds of the UK population using social media are spread across numerous different platforms, and many people have profiles on more than one – but that’s not a reason to start signing up to everything.

“Avoid the instinctive rush to create a handle for every platform,” says Kelly Newcomb, digital marketing specialist at e-learning web developer Plume. “Instead, take the time to research where your audience is and evaluate the brand experience you can project. If you can’t make it work, don’t force it.”

Facebook and Twitter will most likely come to mind first, but don’t forget about the less-obvious platforms. For Karolina Cala, digital marketing manager for footwear brand Calla, Pinterest has been invaluable. “It’s great for brand awareness, especially if you’re running a product-based business,” she says. “It also takes less time to ‘build up’ your presence on there than on any other platform, and as an added benefit, it doesn’t cut organic reach like Facebook and Instagram do.”

2. Post with honesty and authenticity

Tone of voice, according to digital and social content specialist and founder of Juni Digital, Paul Hankey, is something too many businesses overlook when using social media for marketing.

“We always encourage our clients to consider the tone of their messaging on social media, to think carefully about how they come across in the language they use,” he says. “It’s important that your voice is authentic, and that it makes sense to your target audience. Start using industry buzzwords, for example, and you’ll almost certainly alienate some of the people you want to reach.

“Don’t be afraid to show your brand’s personality – and not every post has to be a direct sales pitch for your products. The trust you build by being honest and authentic over time will be much more valuable than the odd sale you might get from publishing characterless sales spiel.”

3. Get involved in (and even create) groups

Industry groups on Facebook and LinkedIn are great places to establish contact with peers, suppliers and even prospective customers.

“We always encourage our clients to consider the tone of their messaging on social media, to think carefully about how they come across in the language they use”Paul Hankey, founder, Juni Digital

“Industry groups on Facebook have helped me find the right suppliers for certain projects, which in turn allows me to provide a better, faster service for my clients,” says Alina Cincan, MD of Inbox Translation. “And it’s a two-way thing – being part of this community means we also get referrals back from other translators who need our help.”

If you want to go a step further, consider starting your own group. Claire Winter, founder of marketing consultancy the Cracking Content Club, did exactly that two years ago and now has a refined network of more than 1,000 relevant peers and prospective customers ready to read her posts, answer questions and provide referrals.

“Hosting a free Facebook group can be a great way to attract your ideal customer,” she says. “Just be very clear about why you have the group and what kinds of products and services you can offer.”

4. Post at the right times

Content quality might be the most important consideration on social media, but timing is just as important – post randomly and you risk missing your audience completely.

“I started my business many years ago and have always been reliant on social media as it’s so cost-effective, but I’ve got better at using it,” says Melita Latham, whose namesake company produces luxury travel accessories. “Early on, I didn’t pay enough attention to the timings of my posts. If I liked a photo I had taken of my products, I would just share it there and then and hope for the best.

“That was a small but vital mistake to make because I wasn’t getting any engagement. My spare five minutes would perhaps be when the bulk of my audience was sleeping, for example.

“Engagement improved when I started to post around lunchtime, and before or after standard working hours. I also avoided doing anything too late when people were perhaps relaxing or heading to bed. Think carefully about what your audience might be up to and schedule accordingly.”

5. Use other voices to spread your message

Consider trying to boost your message with the help of influential people in your industry. That could be a respected publication, a relevant expert or just someone familiar to your audience – as long as they have a bigger reach than you, their endorsement could be valuable.

“Our strategy as a business is to get consumers to question their lunchtime ‘grab-and-go’ choices, and to consider our product – the AirWrap – as a healthier and tastier option,” says Anishya Kumar, CEO of Zinda Foods. “We do as much as we can by publishing on our own platforms but also work with food bloggers and journalists to get our message out to the largest audience possible. Social media has been vital in connecting us with these people. If you’re not sure where to start, try looking through the #journorequest hashtag on Twitter for relevant questions.”

Straight from the experts: social media dos and don’ts

Do…

  • show personality in the content you post
  • consider which platforms your audience uses most
  • pay attention to the timing of your posts
  • use a third-party tool to schedule your posts

Don’t

  • exclusively publish sales-driven messages
  • assume you need to be on every platform – you won’t have the time
  • ignore interaction from your followers
  • use language your audience won’t immediately understand

Credit: NatWest

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