Over 230 million people in the United States (70% of the population) actively use social media. And we’re willing to bet some of those people might be interested in your products or services, depending on your industry! If it makes sense for your business, you should take advantage of these free social platforms to reach your customers and actively engage with them. In this ultimate guide, we explain everything you need to know about social media and how it can help your small business grow online.
Estimated reading time: 7 minutes
Table of contents
- Different social media platforms
- How to use social media
- Benefits of social media for local businesses
- Does using social media influence SEO?
- Social media can help every small business!
Different social media platforms
There are dozens of social networks you can tap into to help your local business grow. For a lot of people, having so many choices can be overwhelming. But it doesn’t have to be complicated. Below is a list of some of the more popular ones:
While there are countless other social networking sites you can look into, these are some of the most popular in the United States. Moreover, they are the ones most local businesses can benefit from online.
How many social profiles do I have to have?
From a holistic SEO perspective, having one or two active social profiles is better than having ten or twenty dead ones with little to no activity. We definitely recommend claiming your profiles on major platforms like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Instagram, even if you don’t plan on using them. This prevents others from creating an account and pretending to be your business.
Customers may look for you on these platforms, so make sure you have a profile on them. And if you decide not to be active on that profile, simply “pin” a post at the top of your page telling your customers where they can get in touch with you. That could be your website, your email newsletter, or a different social channel that you actively manage.
Which platform(s) should I choose?
One or two social accounts works well for most local businesses, but which ones should you choose? Ultimately, the social media channels you decide to use will depend on two things: your audience and your business goals.
First, find out how to reach the people who actually need and want to read your content. You could post the best content in your industry, but if you’re on the wrong networks, your content won’t get any attention. To prevent this from happening, you need to analyze your audience. Who are they, and where are they “hanging out” online? Take a look at some social media demographics to see which platforms fit your audience.
Next, you have to think about which platforms fit your business best. You have a brand, a mission and vision, a message you want to communicate to the world. Choose the platforms that will elevate your brand and allow you to accomplish your business goals.
Cross-check the social networks where your audience is with the ones that fit your business goals, and you have your match!
How to use social media
Knowing how to use social media correctly can make a huge difference for your business online. While each platform has its own design, features, and rules, there are a few general tips that can help you no matter which networks you decide to use for your social media strategy.
- Reserve time to post on social media
- Make sure your NAP details are accurate
- Use high quality, relevant images (Check out Hubspot’s guide for image sizes on different social platforms.)
- Post relevant content on a regular basis
- Diversify your content
- Engage with comments on your posts
Keep Reading: 7 Ways To Level Up Your Social Media Strategy »
Benefits of social media for local businesses
There are countless benefits you can enjoy from using social media for your business. Let’s take a quick look at a few of them:
1. Generate leads
In most local business cases, social media is the lead to a sale, not the sales effort itself. Social platforms like Facebook and Twitter allow you to advertise for a relatively small investment. With options including demographic information, geography, language, and even online behaviors, you can craft specific messages for different groups of customers. These boosts help you reach more people who are interested in your products or services.
You also have the ability to retarget customers who may have abandoned their shopping cart on your website. These customers are key, because they already know about your website and have browsed your products.
2. Promote your content and products
Posting on social media gives you a unique outlet for sharing and promoting your awesome products and services. You can post videos, photos, quotes, articles, and other links from your website. This gets your content right in front of your audience, in their favorite online space. Not only that, but you also benefit from the traffic this generates to your website, every time someone clicks one of those links!
3. Increase brand awareness
With so many people using social media, online is the perfect place for you to reach new (and highly targeted) potential customers. Social media users don’t just engage with brands they already know; they discover new brands and products, especially through visual networks like Instagram and Pinterest.
You can create awesome graphics that capture your brand and your message (or outsource this to someone who really knows what they’re doing), and use your social media to show these to the world. Let people see your brand and interact with it. Moreover, you should create real human connections with your customers by engaging with them in an authentic, professional way. Lastly, you can use these platforms to establish your brand as a thought leader, the go-to source for information in your industry and niche. All of this collectively makes people notice you and helps new customers to find you.
4. Manage your reputation
The last thing any business wants is bad PR. Proactively engaging with your customers on social media allows you to manage both positive and negative comments about your brand or products. If you don’t have a presence online, you cannot influence the conversation.
Keep reading: Responding To Comments On Social Media »
5. Learn about your customers
Most of the big social platforms (except Instagram) offer their own analytics that provide basic demographic information about the people interacting with your page or profile. This can help you make smarter decisions in your marketing efforts, so you can speak to your real audience.
Once you get to know them, you can then engage with them in more meaningful ways. Through social media, you and your brand can directly interact with a customer, and they can communicate directly with you. If you want them to be engaged and find value in your brand and the services you offer, make sure you engage in conversations with them.
6. Keep an eye on your competition
Having a presence on social media also allows you to keep an eye on other small businesses in your industry. If you invest in tracking mentions of your brand and your competitors’ brands, you may uncover some pain points with their products that you could use to differentiate yourself and win new customers. Additionally, this keeps you aware of new product releases and promotions your competitors may be running, so you can respond accordingly.
Does using social media influence SEO?
Google does not get good visibility into what’s happening on social platforms. So “being active” on social media doesn’t necessarily translate into higher local search rankings. However, some value does pass from the link to your website that you’ve added to your social profiles, which gives it additional authority in Google’s eyes.
In the future, Google may weigh social media activity more heavily in its algorithms. But for now, we recommend using social media to engage your customers with great content, increase brand awareness, and create brand ambassadors. Don’t treat it simply as a means for ranking better in search.
Social media can help every small business!
Whether you own a restaurant, a clothing store, or an antique shop, social media can help your small business. Take some time to do proper research about your audience and choose the social networks that will work best for you. Once you get your profiles started, you can begin to enjoy the benefits of having a social media presence. Like generating leads, promoting your products to more potential customers, learning about your customers, and increasing awareness of your brand. And don’t forget: having a presence on social media may indirectly have an effect on your rankings in the search results. So, get cracking!