Last fall, we gave a virtual talk to our local Chamber of Commerce members on this topic (you can listen to it here). We had a lot to say – our focus was on getting small and medium-size business owners to think about what they wanted to achieve with their social media accounts, what their target audience wanted to hear, and how to develop a workable system for creating and posting strong social media content week-after-week.
We have so much to say on this topic that we’ve divided this month’s newsletter into two parts. This week, we’ll lay the groundwork with some practical advice about creating value, setting goals, how often to post, and how to organize your content into buckets that will help you meet your marketing objectives. Next week, we’ll show you how to create a simple social media content calendar, along with tips for creating strong social content.
Strong social media content begins with a strong social media plan
Most businesses know that they need to engage with their customers on social media – particularly during the pandemic, when social media may be the primary place they’re engaging with customers, promoting products, and answering questions.
For most small businesses, difficulties with social media centre around the issues of how to create engaging content week-after-week, and how to judge if their efforts are working (“likes” don’t necessarily equal sales).
Social media for businesses isn’t the “post when you feel like it” experience of your personal pages; it only produces results when it’s approached with intention, effort, and consistency. Strong content is all about planning.
Only post to as many social media platforms as you can manage well
The first step in your plan is to find out where your target audience is hanging out, and choose one or two of those platforms to focus on: Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, TikTok, Snapchat…new channels pop up all the time.
Only pick as many platforms as you have time to manage well – If you try to show up everywhere, you’re likely to burn out after a couple of months. And only commit to posting as often as you can provide valuable content. It’s better to post two strong items a week, than two weak pieces a day. Your audience will quickly drop off if your content doesn’t engage them.
Planning great content takes time and commitment – as does analyzing your results, and adjusting your approach based on those results. Long-term success on social media is a slow build, not a fast sprint.
Choosing your platforms
Some quick online research into the demographics of each platform’s audience will show you where your target market is spending its time.
Instagram is a great place to start for most businesses, due to its visual aspect and the ability to use hashtags to reach a wider audience. Facebook is a slower build, but it’s also a platform that most businesses use as it’s the most popular globally, and has a fairly even spread of users across most age groups.
If you have a process, project, service, or product that you can promote using video, YouTube is a great addition to your Facebook and Instagram accounts – you can promote your YouTube videos on those platforms.
TikTok and Snapchat target a younger demographic (Gen Z dominates) and allow you to share short videos. For TikTok, the focus is on authentic, often humorous, moments and creative content that’s aesthetically appealing. You can use it to show how something is made, or to provide behind-the-scenes looks at your business and the people who are part of it – just make sure you do it in an interesting way if you want to engage this audience.
Create social media content that has value for your target audience
Social media isn’t the hard sell that your other marketing channels are; it’s a casual conversation between you and your target audience. In fact, if all you do on your channels is sell, your audience may drop off.
This isn’t the same as saying “don’t market your products and services” – many small businesses have been using social media as a way to make some online sales during the pandemic – it’s just that the way you go about it is more relationship-based. Offer behind-the-scenes looks, educational/motivational takeaways, staff introductions, shots and videos of your product in use or your service in action – in addition to news about sales. You’re looking to connect and talk “to” your audience, not “at” them.
The first step in creating strong social content is determining what your audience wants, or needs, to know. You need to think like your customer and ask yourself our favourite question, “What’s in it for them?” Then, you need to align that knowledge with your brand values and your unique selling points – the things you stand for and the things that make you special. Why is your target audience choosing you?
You should also know who your competition is and what they’re doing on social media. Not only is it a great source of ideas, but it also lets you know how to position yourself and where the opportunities lie.
Be aware that content that works for one type of business, may not work for another. For example, educational posts get a great response on the Instagram account of one of our clients who is a home builder, but not on our design studio account – it’s not what our followers want to see.
Establish the business goals that will drive your social media content plan
At the same time as you are figuring out what your audience wants, you need to get clear on what you want from your social media activity. “Likes” are nice, but if they don’t in some way advance your business or organizational goals, your time might be better spent on other types of marketing.
Do you want to drive people to your website, increase awareness about your organization, attract donors, or get followers to visit your store, purchase your product online, or call you?
Create Content Pillars
Your goals – along with the needs and wants of your target audience – will affect the type and mix of content you produce. You’ll use them to create “Content Pillars” – these are the categories of posts you’ll be creating throughout the month. Assigning your posts to categories ensures that you achieve your social media marketing goals each month, that each post has purpose, and that you present a balanced range of interesting content.
If you own a local retail store, for example, your business goals for social media might be to build a strong, community brand, to be known for the kinds of products you carry, and to drive followers to your store, (where you can make the sale).
Those goals, in combination with your target audience’s needs, might result in five Content Pillars: Sales and Store Events, How-to’s (How-to-wear, how-to use, how-to-do), New Products, Community News/Events, and Behind-the-Scenes-Looks.
The next step
Take some time to think about your brand, your audience, and your business goals, and then use that information to create meaningful Content Pillars. In an upcoming post, we’ll show you how to use those Content Pillars in a simple social media content calendar to create a consistent and well-balanced posting schedule with strong content!