Social media isn't just a place for sharing funny memes, it’s also a powerful lead-generation tool for those who know how to use it. In this post, we’ll explore how anyone can use social media marketing to promote their small business and find success even amid challenging economic times.
When times are tough, it's time to get social
Businesses of all sizes face an uncertain future due to tough economic conditions and talk of a recession. The brutal combination of rising interest rates, climbing inflation, slowing economic growth, congested supply chains and ongoing labour shortages is increasing the strain on every sector.
When times are tough and money is tight, it's natural to look for areas in which you can cut back.
This includes a squeeze on marketing budgets, along with marketing software tools.
Despite these pressures, savvy business owners understand why social media marketing is essential, now more than ever.
Amid adverse economic conditions, it can be tough to hang onto your existing customers, let alone find new ones. Staying active on social media can keep existing customers engaged and reach new buyers.
Rather than pulling back, challenging times can be the right time to go on the front foot so you can come back strong when economic conditions improve.
Nearly a quarter (23.5%) of Australian SMBs are leaning into marketing, according to LinkedIn.
These businesses feel companies that recover faster following periods of economic uncertainty are the ones that maintained or increased their marketing efforts during a downturn.
Despite today's challenges, only 5% of Australian small to medium-sized businesses plan to reduce their marketing budgets in the next 12 months.
- More than a third (34%) of Australian SMBs have shifted their marketing spend towards more digital solutions, compared to five years ago.
- Three in 10 (30%) agree that creative solutions are very important to their marketing strategy.
- One quarter (26%) agree that investing in building their brand will help ensure long term growth.
In 2023, the top priorities of Australian SMBs are to expand their customer base (40%), nurture existing customer relationships (39%), build brand loyalty and increase business revenue and market share (30% respectively).
Brand awareness and loyalty are important, but today's buyers listen to real people, not just faceless brands. They value authenticity, trusting more in the real-world experiences of their peers and others in their community, than what they read in advertisements.
By maintaining an active social media presence, you give satisfied customers a place to share their joy.
All sales are about people
Even if your customers are other businesses, those relationships are still based on people. Social media channels are an indispensable tool for fostering and nurturing those B2B (business to business) relationships.
B2B commerce is more than transactional. Customer-centric B2B shopping sites are shifting the sales teams into a consultative role, with observant sales representatives watching customer data to step in when needed, according to Ernst & Young.
The lack of in-person events and face-to-face conversations during the pandemic made social media more important than ever for B2B relationships. Going forward, it still has a key role to play in forging strong B2B bonds.
The opportunity is significant. For example, 81% of B2B buyers say they share business-related content with their LinkedIn network, according to a DemandGen's 2020 Content Preferences Study.
Social media is a two-way street so be ready to interact
Whatever products or services your business offers, and whoever you offer them to, chances are your customers are out there on social media.
Services like Facebook and Twitter make it easy to reach millions of potential customers, whether they’re across the road or across the world. Beyond these two social media giants, you can also find success on the likes of YouTube, Instagram, LinkedIn and TikTok.
These platforms are where people congregate not just to swap memes but also to:
- Share ideas
- Get advice
- Answer other's questions
- Provide resources
- Support each other
Those who lead the way become influencers, thought leaders and subject matter experts with the ability to sway buying decisions. As your social media strategy becomes more nuanced, you may want to consider one or more partnerships with these people. (More on influencer marketing here.)
Amid the current economic turmoil, businesses and consumers alike are looking for advice on easing the squeeze and doing more with less. This gives you the perfect opportunity to present your business as a trusted advisor looking to help customers, not just shift more units.
Remember, these communities are driven by people, not brands.
This is why you need to pair your social media marketing strategy with a brand advocacy program centred on your employees and customers.
Through the voice of their employees, businesses like yours can further extend their reach.
- Every employee has a personal network, spread across multiple social communities
- Each network has potentially hundreds of contacts
- Each of those people is connected to hundreds of other people
The aim is to have employee and customer advocates associated with your business leading social media conversations. You’ll need to make an effort to get brand advocates to build and guide these social media communities.
The social media marketing plan decoded
Before you dive into social media, you’ll want to identify the people most likely to buy from you. Define your intended audience demographics, perhaps creating customer personas. This includes things like:
- Where your likely customers live
- Which languages they speak
- How much they make
- Which social networks they prefer
If you have an existing customer base, take a close look at the people who are already buying from you to gain a better understanding of who they are. This, in turn, will help you hone in on the right audiences on social media.
You’ll also want to define the various subsets of your audience, as it’s often possible to target your efforts to very specific types of consumers.
Set a few goals
Next define your goals for your social media marketing. This makes it easier to decide:
- What you should post online
- Where you should post it
- Which numbers you should watch to measure your success
Goals might include building general awareness of your business, directing people to a particular page on your website or making sales. Social media is also a great place to casually engage with existing customers and forge closer relationships, perhaps establishing yourself as a trusted advisor.
You’ll also need to decide whether you want to use social media as a customer support channel.
If the answer is yes, someone will need to keep a close eye on the social networks you use and respond to questions or complaints promptly. Done well, this can improve customer retention and turn customers into advocates.
Create a social media marketing plan that aligns with your wider business goals, ensuring that your goals are S.M.A.R.T: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound.
Some of the most common social media marketing goals include:
- Increasing brand awareness
- Generating leads
- Increasing followers
- Boosting engagement (e.g., clicks, Likes)
- An uptick in your website traffic
It's best to pick just one or two, so as to avoid losing focus.
Choose your social platforms
Different social media platforms attract different kinds of followers. You might choose to use several, but take the time to appreciate the differences between the likes of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the rest.
The idea is to be active on the networks your target customers use.
Services like Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat lend themselves to short, punchy communications and tend to be very visually focused. You’ll want to add eye-catching images to every post.
Meanwhile, Facebook and LinkedIn lend themselves to more long-form content, with the latter more likely to reach business professionals.
Make sure you study the details of how each service works, such as how to use Twitter hashtags and the difference between Facebook profiles, pages and groups.
Read Help! Which social media platforms are best for my business? to learn more on choosing the networks to focus on.
Put controls in place
It's generally not a good idea to wing it on social media. When businesses get themselves into trouble, it's often because they've fired off an off-the-cuff remark without thinking it through or considering the consequences.
You’ll want to decide who exactly:
- Will have access to your social media accounts
- Is authorised to post content on behalf of the business
- Will sign off on posts before they go live
Some social media services include workflows that let different staff members access your account. There’s also a wide range of business-friendly tools to handle this.
4 pro social media management tips
It helps to plan your social media posts in advance, sticking with the process you’ve established to ensure they have a consistent look and feel.
Favour quality over quantity
Instead, tailor the frequency of your posts to what's appropriate for the platform. If you're a public company or in a tightly-regulated industry, you should know your obligations when it comes to making public statements.
Remember, social media is a two-way street so make sure your policies cover replying to messages and engaging in ongoing conversations.
Services like Hootsuite allow you to schedule posts in advance, so you can create several weeks’ worth of posts at once.
Editor’s note: Create scroll-stopping social media ads, logos and stories with GoDaddy Studio — try it free!
Find your voice
It's important to establish the right tone for your particular target audience.
Your social media plan should include a section on brand voice, describing your character, tone, language and purpose. Your tone should match the way your target customers speak.
A fashion brand might take on a friendly character, personal tone and whimsical language with the purpose of engaging followers.
Meanwhile, a financial services provider might lean towards more of an authoritative character, matter-of-fact tone and simple language for the purpose of educating.
It’s good to mix things up, alternating informative posts with entertaining ones. You don’t want followers to become bored or they’ll stop clicking.
If you're not sure where to start, it's worth doing some market research to see which players in your sector are finding success on social media, both in Australia and overseas.
- Who is doing it right
- What tactics they’re using (i.e., contests, polls)
- How they are tailoring their strategy across different social platforms
Also look at who has stumbled on social media and how you can learn from their mistakes.
The 80-20 rule makes a good starting point. The idea is that 80% of the content you post should be focused on entertaining, informing, and educating your audience. The other 20% should be focused on directly promoting your products or services.
Editor's note: Need help getting started with AI? This free library of AI prompts for small business owners should be your first stop.
Learn how to advertise and boost posts
At a certain point, you'll be ready for the finer points of social media management.
Some social networks give you the option of paying to run advertisements or put your posts in front of more people. It's important to understand how these work, and how to measure the results to ensure that you're getting value for money.
All the social networks track and report metrics such as number of:
The more likes and shares you get, the more your followers enjoy what you’ve posted. The different social media platforms use complex algorithms to decide who sees what you've posted. But, as a general rule, the more people engage with your posts, the more likely they will be seen by even more people.
Greater engagement also means more people taking the desired action, whether that’s requesting a quote or signing up for a free drawing.
Many social media platforms offer different ways to integrate a Call-to-Action into your page or individual post. You'll want to understand your options and which best align with your business goals.
While some metrics are raw numbers, sentiment gets more complicated.
It reflects how people feel when they see or interact with your social media content, and whether they respond in a positive or negative way. Some more advanced social media analytics tools are able to track this.
When you establish your metrics for measurement, make sure that they align directly with your goals. For example, if your goal is to increase brand awareness, you'll want focus on measuring reach through impressions and shares.
Be ready to act on sales leads
If one of your social media goals is to bring in new customers, then you need to have a plan in place to turn those leads into paying customers. This might include integrating your social media efforts with your customer relationship management platform, as well as creating website landing pages for different types of leads.
When evaluating the effectiveness of your social media campaign, you'll also want to examine the quality of leads generated to determine whether your efforts are worth the money.
Facebook and LinkedIn make it easy to gather leads through their built-in forms.
Once you have a lead, be sure to act on it. Nothing kills interest like getting no response to an email sign up.
Dos and don'ts for all social media platforms
Every social media community has its rules and etiquette and you’ll want to make a good first impression.
1. Be genuine and honest
Regardless of the social platform, one of the most critical things is to be authentic.
Authenticity builds trust, while coming across as inauthentic and insincere can do lasting damage to your business and your relationships.
If you’re not an expert on something, don’t say that you are. People will call you out if you misrepresent your products, services or area of expertise.
2. Listen for chances to be helpful
Social platforms are not simply arenas for spruiking your wares. They are about two-way conversations, which means you need to be a good listener. Listening also helps you understand the conversations surrounding your products and services.
If someone has a question related to your expertise, answer it.
People will appreciate it and hopefully remember you.
Listening becomes even more important when you consider Google's plans to scrap Chrome's support for third-party tracking cookies.
For many years, third-party tracking cookies have helped marketers to get more bang for their buck, by ensuring they serve up ads to their target demographics. Going forward, two-way conversations on social media offer an effective way to gain insights and data.
Don't simply use social media like an advertising channel to publish blatant plugs for your business. That kind of approach tends to put people off. Instead, aim for a mix of posts.
In the interest of goodwill, it's also a good idea to repost others' comments. Reposting is done by taking a screenshot of the post and reuploading it, or using the site's built-in repost feature.
The general idea is to be authentic, informative and invested in the conversation, giving a face to your business while also establishing yourself as a trusted source of industry-relevant advice.
3. Set a schedule and stick to it
Sticking to a posting schedule ensures you retain complete control of your social media strategy. It also helps you remain consistent without losing track of your other marketing activities.
To begin with, experiment with posting at various times of day. Then see what time gets the most Likes, clicks and comments. Going forward, set that as the time you post.
A deep dive into the major players
While some advice is universal, you can't take a one-size fits all approach across all social media platforms. Here are some dos and don'ts for different services as you navigate the social media landscape.
While the early days of Facebook posts were primarily text-based, it has become a more of a visual medium – partly in response to the rise of visually-orientated platforms like Instagram and Pinterest.
Attention-grabbing visuals such as images, infographics, videos and link previews are a great way to reach people.
Make good use of all the space on your Facebook page. For example, you could use your cover photo as a billboard, to promote things such as new products and promotions. Integrating shopping directly into your page helps drive engagement and reduce purchasing friction.
For the best results on Facebook, don't make the mistake of targeting too broadly. Use tools such as the Facebook Insights dashboard to learn about how your posts, campaigns and ads are performing.
Remember, social media is most effective as a two-way conversation. Posing questions to your audience is a great way to kick off those conversations. Make sure you are quick to respond or engage.
Promoting your most successful posts after you publish them by boosting them is another key way to increase engagement and results. Keep in mind, you don't want to bombard people, so don't over-post and don't over-promote yourself.
The importance and impact of video in marketing continues to grow, and YouTube is the world's largest video-sharing platform.
A good approach is to focus your videos on the people behind your business. It's tempting to put yourself front and centre, but workers who interact with customers can have greater impact.
Don't make it all about sales pitches, it's more about showing, demonstrating, explaining, teaching and chatting.
For example, you could make videos that show:
- How your products are used or cared for
- Styling ideas (for retail clothing)
- Easy fixes for common problems related to your product or service
- How/where your products are made
Also take advantage of the fact that YouTube makes it easy to insert calls-to-action and links into your videos. These make it easy for viewers to take concrete actions like clicking through to your website to see colour options for the featured item.
Adding a transcript makes it easier for people to find your videos through your YouTube channel or through Google searches. YouTube generates a transcript by default, but make sure you edit it to catch and fix any errors.
Don't try to record everything in one take, instead record in segments, as these are easier to work with and edit. Check out this Complete guide on how to make a video on a budget for start to finish instructions.
Instagram is all about visuals, so plan your social media content with care. Its minimalist approach can make it difficult to convey a lot of written information, so it's important to make the most of what you can do.
Keep in mind that you can't include links in posts – the only clickable link is in the Bio section right under your name – so make the most of this and update this link often. Learn how here
The link doesn't necessarily need to be to the homepage of your website. You can vary it to:
- Promote particular products
- Encourage purchases
- Drive event registrations
- Boost app downloads
Likewise, you can regularly change your bio to promote specific products, launches and campaigns.
Instagram marketing company Curalate analysed millions of Instagram images to help pin down the winning formula when it comes to Insta posts:
- Lighter images receive 24% more Likes than darker ones.
- Background space is important, as busy visuals get 29% fewer Likes
- Having one colour dominate an image prompts 17% more likes than images that have a busier colour palette
Twitter can seem like a speeding freight train, but there are ways to help cut through the noise.
Mastering the art of the thread is one of them. Twitter threads allow you to share a stream of tweets in order, resulting in posts that are longer than the standard 280 characters.
Threads are valuable for storytelling on Twitter — and most effective if you add a link to them.
Twitter doesn’t offer as many creative engagement options as other social media platforms, so it's worth making the most of Twitter polls. They let you pose questions and offer up to four answers to choose from.
When creating your profile, remember to include a pinned tweet that you want to showcase. Pinning a tweet ensures that it constantly sits at the top of your Twitter profile, offering a great opportunity to show people who you are and what you're about. This can also be used to highlight any viral tweets.
LinkedIn is more sophisticated than those social media services that rely heavily on visuals, making it a great place to reach a whole new audience of potential customers, suppliers and partners.
More than other social media platforms, it is important to add value when creating content for LinkedIn. Rather than going heavy with the sales pitch, adding value is more about educating people as to who you are and what problems you can solve for them.
Along with written content, that can also be in the form of images and graphics, as well as videos.
Building an audience on LinkedIn is not just about numbers, but more about creating meaningful connections.
There are limits on how many connections you can add per week (LinkedIn’s effort to reduce spam). Focus on people who are relevant to your industry or interests. Be intentional with who you're adding and make sure to interact with them in a genuine way.
At first glance, TikTok is so different from other social platforms that it can seem quite daunting. Thankfully, many of the same concepts apply when it comes to finding success.
Centring your content creation strategy around people is important. For example, don't just post videos of your products and services, post videos of people showing them in use.
That said, don't feel pressure to look too polished. While aesthetics are everything on services like Instagram, TikTok’s audience loves off-the-cuff content. They value humour and creative edits over high production values.
Don't be afraid to experiment with different types of content, such as:
- Life hacks
- “Come shopping with me" videos
It also pays to keep your finger on the pulse of the latest trends.
As always, don't come across as too salesy. Remember to add value and be authentic.
Social media marketing in summary
Social media can be a powerful business-building and lead-generation tool, but don't dive in headlong. Take the time to plan your approach, identify your audience and determine how you'll measure success to ensure that your efforts pay off.
Now go socialise!
Frequently Asked Questions
What is social media marketing?
A form of digital marketing that uses popular social media networks to achieve your marketing and branding goals.
What are the 6 types of social media marketing?
- Media sharing networks
- Review networks
- Social networks
- Discussion networks
- Blogging and publishing networks
- Sharing economy networks
What is social media marketing with examples?
Social media marketing is any activity that uses social platforms like Facebook and Instagram for brand promotion, target audience growth, driving website traffic and increasing sales.
Dove's #DetoxYourFeed is one example of the most successful social media marketing campaigns. They partnered with diverse influencers to raise awareness of the thousands of toxic messages and microaggressions experienced online every day when it comes to body image.
Apple's #ShotOniPhone campaign took advantage of user-generated content to activate their community and showcase their products. The hashtag has been used more than 16 million times on Instagram alone.
What is the difference between social media marketing and social media strategy?
As with most efforts, strategy comes first. A social media strategy is a plan that outlines your social media goals, the tactics you'll use to achieve them and metrics you'll track to measure success.
Social media marketing is putting that plan into action. It is a form of digital marketing which uses social media to achieve your marketing and branding goals.