Striking the Critical Small Business Social Media Content Balance
I hate seeing the look of horror in my small business prospect’s eyes when I start chattering about how they can write up a recent client interaction, put it on the blog post and then shoot it out through the email newsletter and social media. My voice joins the sea of blog posts saying, “use UGC!” “Be funny!” or “Contribute your thoughts to a recent headline in your industry.” The conflicting advice, always cheery, mind you! rivals the craziness over Americans’ saturated fat intake. Please remember in the end that any small business or solopreneur must work the entire suite of internet marketing tools (email newsletter, social, blog (a.k.a. content/SEO) to win those leads and customers.
The good news: one piece of content fits every form. Avoiding one is just leaving opportunity on the table, particularly when social posting can be as low as $50 per month (pay to boost plus maybe a $10 Hootsuite social scheduling charge) and the email service costs only $25 per month. Of course, I’m leaving out the time it takes to create the content . . .
If you attend my webinar, “How Shrewd Small Businesses Catch Customers via Social Media,” on August 24, you’ll see that I am a firm believer that small businesses must use social media in conjunction with other digital or internet marketing tools to maximize ROI.
As Social Media Examiner’s 2016 Social Media Marketing Industry Report illuminates, the majority of small business owners aren’t connecting sales or ROI with social media spend and effort. While, conceivably, small businesses could use Google Analytics and even paid tools like Simply Measured, the likelihood owners go that direction is low. First, as simple as they try to make it, Google Analytics can be intimidating. Then, Simply Measured prices start at $500 per month . . . what the majority of small businesses can spend on their entire marketing program, offline and online.
Which brings us to the question: what to put up on social media channels, how often and when?
Many social media gurus stress that businesses must share articles, images and infographics that exist solely to enrich the life of followers. Traditionally, these consultants encourage business owners to use an 80/20 or 4/1 mix of four posts that only serve, educate or entertain to one post that drives prospects back to the website.
Sure, Coca Cola, Starbucks and the NFL with dedicated social media budgets of millions can use social just for brand awareness. But small business with an average $500 monthly marketing budget must get something concrete from social posts. The something they get should be visits to the website and email newsletter sign ups.
I advise small business clients to stick more to a 50/50 mix, utilizing just one to two channels, say Facebook and LinkedIn or Facebook and YouTube, depending on the client base. (With 1.71 billion users on Facebook several times each day, every business should have a presence there, particularly B2C businesses. B2B businesses do the best on LinkedIn.)
A total of 10 weekly posts breaks down into five entertaining, fun or helpful posts, typically related but non-competing articles, memes, videos, infographics using outside links. The other five are business related with links back to the company’s website product, service, testimonial, contact or other landing pages.
Sharing Others’ Social Content . . . A.K.A. Content Curation
Unlike global brands, small business owners and principals tend to be much closer to their customers and even prospects. The general populace even prefers to work with small businesses because of the ease in getting to the lead decision maker and creating a personal connection with him or her.
Year after year, surveys like this from Princeton and published in the Washington Post reveal that Americans perceive small business owners as more ethical and honest than corporate CEOs. Two-thirds report preferring to shop at small businesses than large companies. The survey found:
“Nearly half of Americans (47 percent) said small business owners have high ethical standards, compared with only six percent of those who say the same about CEOs of major companies,” the survey found. “Only seven percent say that small business owners have low ethics, compared with 48 percent who think the same of corporate CEOs.”
Small businesses can leverage this positive view by continuing to deliver to their customer base without no expectation of anything in return. Followers view (even unconsciously) the helpful or entertaining post that doesn’t sell or promote the business in any way as a gift. The ensuing gratitude creates a bond that boosts customer loyalty.
Therefore, as mentioned in the webinar, small businesses need to put up content with the sole aim of enriching, easing or entertaining a follower’s life. It even helps to keep one follower/client in mind when choosing the content to re-post. You can find great sharable articles that have already proven their ability to win eyeballs on BuzzSumo, UpWorthy and your own industry publications.
Another key is to go for emotional resonance. Before re-posting, ask yourself, “will this information, image or video make him or her [the envisioned client] gasp, laugh, tear-up, clutch his or her heart?”
Finally, when you repost, make sure to add value by including your perspective and personality. For instance,
- a veterinarian would say, “Parrot parents need to pay close attention to tip number 6 in this article.”
- an owner of a senior in-home care agency would say, “This article has all details on this weekend’s San Diego Walk for Alzheimer’s research. It’s this Saturday. Meet at 8:00 a.m. at the Embarcadero. Call if you want to walk with us. The more the merrier!”
- a vintage clothes shop owner may say, “Use this catalog for guidance on matching clothes and accessories to achieve the overall “Retro” style. I don’t agree with stripes and florals on p. 7 though.”
Most of all, don’t be afraid to show a little personality!
The era of formal, jargon-filled promotional copy has passed, especially on social media where customers want to connect on a one-to-one basis. Because users go to Facebook to connect with friends and feel social, the more a business owner can come across as a friend, the further he or she gets. While LinkedIn and Twitter are slightly more professional, those expressing some personality win more engagement on those channels as well.
It’s these primarily helpful posts that keep followers looking at and engaging in a business’s more promotional posts.
5 Social Post Types that Link to Landing Pages
This chart from eMarketer repeats what hundreds of studies and surveys have found: email and search engine optimization fuel the highest return on investment (ROI). That means getting prospects and current clients onto the email list and to the blog posts must be job one for social media (which doesn’t pull very well on its own.)
A couple of statistics will make this point clear.
You’ve probably heard that a content is now a huge part of effective search engine optimization. Google tells us that today’s shopper reviews 10.4 pieces of content before making a call to a store or service. To sell today, you must have content out there vying with competitors’ helpful information. Businesses get the most from their internet marketing efforts when they use the same content on their website (blog), email newsletter and social.
The email newsletter has a click through rate 50 times higher than the Facebook click-through rate and 100 times higher than the Twitter click-through rate. And yet, for credibility and customer service, every business today must have at least one active social media presence.
Use your remaining five weekly social posts to funnel people to your content (SEO) and the email list.
Create posts that link to (in order of importance):
- The Lead Magnet Landing Page The FREE trial, video, webinar, checklist, kit, ebook or infographic that offers so much valuable knowledge, prospects can’t help but turn over their email address to get it. It solves their biggest problem as related to your product, service or publication. With your email newsletter list building, you have a wider audience to market to regularly. The email newsletter gives you an excellent opportunity to convince prospects of your authority, value and indispensability. It also carries your seasonal offers.
In this example, Twitter analytics company SocialQuant offers a guide to getting more Twitter followers:
Here’s one from Instagram. Foundr magazine offers an Instagram Marketing 101 Issue in exchange for the email address:
Did you notice that both examples are pushing digital marketing services? Believe it or not, it’s still early in the internet marketing game. The companies most prevalent and successful on social media at this time are digital marketing agencies themselves. Still enterprise and even small business can follow their lead. Create your lead magnet, a post that promotes it and then pay to reach an audience beyond your current followers.
To understand more how a lead magnet works, read Digital Marketer’s “9 Lead Magnet Ideas and Examples.“
- To the Reviews / Testimonial Page OR Products or Services Pages
Why do promotions for blockbuster movies print mostly reviews with all the stars beside them from the reviewer? They could describe their film themselves, right?
Studios learned early that third parties have far more credibility than they do themselves. Similarly, companies can display to prospects just what their current customers have to say about them. Check out this one from HotSpringSpas:
While this post creates a link back to the company’s reviews page, it could just as easily say, “Read more about the XYZ spa here:” In other words, the company could send interested people to the product or service page or the reviews page.
Using reviews is a form of User Generated Content or UGC. Big companies with big budget sometimes run sweepstakes that encourage people to submit a review or photo of themselves using the product. Participants win the chance to win a gift basket, free product or hours of service. Another way to do this is sponsor an essay contest with rules stipulating that the business retains the right to use all or part of it. Of course, the essay topic should be, “Why I love my _____________________ (your product or service).”
- To Both New and Old Blog Posts As mentioned above, shoring up customer loyalty and goodwill can take giving them something of value while expecting nothing in return. The blog post fulfills this task. Today, life is complicated, and when a business owner blogs about recent changes in his or her industry or even how to use a product in a new way, the consumer is relieved for the value received. He or she also begins to offload the responsibility of managing this aspect of life to you.
In this social post or update, a lender entices a targeted audience to read a blog post that will help them avoid losing money. Always have a call to action when you broadcast your latest blog post on your social media channels. The call to action here is, “Know what you risk here:”
Remember, too, that there’s a good chance your old blog posts will become relevant again. You can always link to a blog post from the previous year or season when the same issues come up again.
- Event, Award or Other Success Public Relations Page From time to time, you can invite social media users to take a look at something you’ve done that you’re proud of, particularly if an awesome image or video is involved. Here, San Diego advertising agency Mirum invites its LinkedIn followers to take a look at their win for a Communication Arts WebPick.
Social media is ideal for public relations, but please, light-handed only, although more bragging occurs on LinkedIn that probably all of the other channels combined.
- The Contact Page All kinds of industries make the news from time to time. Remember when the dog food from China was contaminated? Anyone in the pet industry (veterinarians, groomers, walkers) could entice followers to ask questions on their contact page where (hopefully) a form lives. A CPA could go to town on the Hollywood stars that get in trouble with the IRS. “Hear about Wesley Snipes? Feel free to ask about what constitutes tax evasion on our contact page here!”
This eyebrow threading salon often puts up posts about different stars eyebrow shapes with the text, “Want Beyonce’s eyebrows but worried about pain or cost involved in regular threading? Ask your question here!” or “Do men get their eyebrows shaped? You bet! Ask us your question here!” The link leads to their contact page with plenty of space to ask a question. Fast answers turn leads into paying customers.
Make sure you have a robust contact form like this on your website. Put it to work when you watch the news headlines as pertains to your industry. “Newsjack” or springboard from a popular topic to win customers. This strategy can boost your traffic and rankings as well!
Now that you have 10 posts to put up this week, try to get the types into a social calendar. Linking to your testimonials page on Monday, a product/service page on Tuesday, a blog post on Wednesday, a lead magnet on Thursday helps keep your content, social media and email newsletter from overwhelming you. As for timing, remember that most people go to their social channels during the week during working hours as a distraction.
Get the Most from Your Social Channels by Integrating SEO and Email
Small business owners may want to believe that they really CAN “Get 100X ROI with Simple Social Strategies!” or “Quadruple Traffic with Smart Facebook Tips that Take 5 Minutes.” In my experience, small business that have managed to stay in business know hyperbole when they see it. They’re cautious and wisely so.
Most of the super successful examples out there focus on companies with huge marketing budgets like Red Bull, National Geographic and the digital marketing companies where the expertise is home-grown.
In reality, the average small business has just $500 to spend on marketing each month, and just 16% spend over $1,000 per month. The vast majority depend on word of mouth and networking, both effective strategies. Still, social media marketing, when implemented properly, can act as word of mouth, just online.