Social media is often heralded as the answer to all our commercial problems, “spend enough time on Twitter and your profits will soar” right? Well… no, unfortunately!

Although neglecting social media is practically seen as a crime, the truth is that many business owners are confused about what social media can and can’t do for them.

Let’s start with the what social media won’t be able to help you with, it can’t:

  • Drive lots of free traffic to your site
  • Dramatically increase your sales

But it can help you to:

  • Communicate with a new target market
  • Increase your SEO
  • Listen to what people are saying about your business
  • Be seen as a specialist in your field
  • Improve your customer service

In Christmas 2013, only 2% of sales were directly attributed to social media, but 36% of sales were influenced by it. So, broadly speaking, social media should be seen as a tool for improving SEO and customer service rather than a direct line to income generation. If you understand this and you’re still interested in using social media in your business, then read on!

Which social channels should you use?

This will, of course, depend on your audience. Broadly speaking you should focus on the following big platforms, depending on whether your business operates as B2B or B2C:

  • B2B:
    Google+
    LinkedIn
    Twitter
  • B2C:
    Facebook
    Google+
    Instagram
    Pinterest
    Twitter

Google+ is the black sheep of the big social media platforms. Before its much anticipated launch back in 2011 it promised so much, and yet now it is considered by many to be a let down. It is certainly used a lot less than its counterparts, (a mere 8.8 million UK users to Facebook’s 40 million) but this does not mean it should be overlooked. Google+ contains one very important element which is key to SEO – the name Google! As it is owned by the king of search itself, Google+ usage has more impact on SEO than it is often given credit for.

Pinterest is also considered somewhat of a social media afterthought. Although Facebook has more users and drives more site traffic, Pinterest actually drives more sales. Pinterest features  ‘product pins’, allowing users to buy products directly via the platform, which makes it so perfect for the consumer market.

What To Say on Social Media

As with onsite content, this will depend on your objectives and your audience. Generally news relevant to your company or sector is a good place to start, along with latest products, events and useful information, including ‘how to’ guides and expert advice. You can check sites such as Buzzsumo to find out the top ranking content for different topic areas. It’s a good idea to let your blog lead your social media activity, so you can write the bulk of what you want to say on your site, and then promote it via social media, with links back to the original content. This is a form of outreach and is a great way to improve your SEO, but of course it can also help to generate some traffic to your site too. Social media posts will disappear from timelines relatively quickly, but your onsite content will continually enhance your SEO and your brand, so this is where the majority of your information should be based.

How to Plan Your Social Media Use

There’s no getting away from the fact that social media can be very time consuming. Social media management is a full time job in itself and big brands do employ people to exclusively maintain their platforms. However, for SMEs this sort of investment isn’t very realistic. As we have seen, social media does not produce a good financial return on investment, so if your primary and short term objective is making money, then your time is probably going to be better spent elsewhere within your business. That being said, this doesn’t mean that can’t have a presence on social media with limited resources – consider using a scheduling platform, such as Hootsuite or Buffer to allow you to program in updates without having to post them in real time, that way you’ll still be able to enhance your SEO and to make your business more accessible to customers without spending hours at a time just maintaining your profiles.

How to Analyse Your Social Media Data

For this you’ll need analytics tools – you can make use of Google Analytics to measure social referrals to your site, and use tools such as SproutSocial or Klout to measure the reach and impact of your posts.

Social media is no gold ticket to business success – but, when used in the right way, it can be a help rather than a hindrance. If you’d like to find out more about how to build a successful social media strategy, please get in touch with us today.

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