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I like to keep social media simple – that’s what I always tell my clients as soon as we start discussing this form of marketing. It’s easy to complicate social media marketing, but the people who visit my workshops and use my scheduling software soon realise they can undertake the work required in a reasonable time and in a way that actually helps the business.

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I’d been helping businesses grow via social media on a freelancing basis for around four years, and setting up 2Motiv8 was an obvious next step. That’s when I developed the scheduling tool, which allows people to schedule and publish posts to all of their social media platforms from one screen. This saves a huge amount of time each week, and makes the process of managing your presence on social media so much easier.

The scheduler was picked up by a number of businesses, many of whom started to ask if I could provide social media training. After a bit of encouragement from my husband, I went for it, and the business has grown from there.

Traditional networking and social media: intrinsically linked

For me, social media is largely about networking. When you’re starting a new business, it’s easy to spend lots of money on a fancy website, Google AdWords campaigns or search engine optimisation (SEO), but social media is a free tool!

If you’re a small business you need to get out and network both traditionally, but also digitally. Few start-ups have big marketing budgets – many don’t even start with a penny behind them – so you need to exploit the channels that don’t require you to dip into your bank account to make the most of them.

I’m a big advocate of traditional networking, but few businesses realise that’s where your social media journey should start. You only get to meet these people perhaps five or six times a year, but if you can connect with them on social media after the event, you gain an opportunity to continue promoting yourself and the business without having to wait for the next gathering.

Your personal profile is just as important as the business page

I haven’t paid for any advertising while I’ve been building 2Motiv8. All I’ve done is get my name out at networking events, connect to the people I meet on social media and nurture those relationships.

This has resulted in direct business from social media and plenty of recommendations. It’s not something that’s happened by accident, though – and I think smaller businesses often miss a trick with social media.

It’s vital that you brand both the business and yourself on social media. Having a  beautifully set up business page for your company is obviously important, but if you don’t carry some of that branding through to your personal profile where all your friends and family are, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity to spread the word.

LinkedIn is also often misused. People see it as a digital CV where you can boast about what you’ve achieved and appeal to recruiters, but it’s so much more than that. It’s a community in which you can promote your business and your own strengths. Just like Facebook, it should be used to demonstrate how you can help people.

If you’re a high street retailer, you have about three seconds to catch the eye of passing trade, and it’s no different on social media!

Which social platforms for your business? All of them!

I strongly believe you can use every social media platform, no matter what industry you’re in. They all have different audiences, features and creative ways by which to promote your business.

Small businesses are often put off using multiple social media platforms because of the time involved in creating separate posts for each one every day. In reality, if you can find a post that works on Facebook, you can use it on Twitter and Instagram, too, just with some minor tweaks.

Facebook is a great place to tell stories and be a little more light-hearted by using visual elements like emojis, while Instagram can share the image you used on Facebook, but tell a shorter story with judicious use of hashtags. LinkedIn is obviously a little more professional, but you can still use a version of the Facebook post (perhaps minus the emojis!) to avoid having to come up with a completely different post.

How to grow an audience

It can be a bit demoralising as a start-up to watch as the number of followers and likes you have on social media barely moves from zero.

The answer is consistency and working on your social media presence every day. When I first started out, I had 172 friends and a business page with zero likes. In ten months, I’ve grown than to 3,000 likes and I now have just as many friends on my personal profile.

This came from spending time on my social media profiles. And I’m only talking around twenty minutes per day, posting, sending out friend requests to mutual friends and getting involved in groups. It’s just like growing your business; it takes a lot of time investment at first, but if you don’t work at it, the rewards simply won’t come later.

Growing followers organically is definitely the way to go. I always tell my clients to avoid buying Twitter followers or Facebook likes, no matter how tempting the option on the table might appear. The quality of your social media following is far more important than the quantity.

I’d rather have 100 people who are genuinely interested in my business and engaging with my posts than a thousand people who never interact with my brand. The latter might look good on paper, but dig deeper and there’s no substance; some social media platforms will even penalise you if it appears you’re gaining an unrealistic volume of followers in a short space of time. Don’t do it!

A note on social PPC

Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising on social media is a great way to promote your business. If you have the budget to do it in the early days, great, but what I always say to start-ups is to think realistically about the potential returns.

It’s easy to get lost in PPC campaigns and think you’re going to suddenly get loads of clicks through to your website. In reality, people rarely head to social media specifically to buy products and services. With that in mind, you need to think about social media PPC as you would billboard advertising; in that realm, you’d pay someone a set fee to display an advert for a given period of time, and you might need to renew it before you start to see any results.

It’s no different with PPC – you need to consistently target a specific audience over a period of time so that you work your way into their minds. It’s about brand awareness building gently – not an immediate bunch of clicks.

The trick lies in setting realistic budgets, and because PPC can be a little volatile, you need to set a figure you can spend each month that you’ll be comfortable losing if nothing comes back in the form of leads or sales. Think of it as advertising rather than guaranteed customers, and you won’t be disappointed.

The future of social media for business

I think we’re going to see some significant changes across most social media platforms in the short to medium term. For instance, following the Cambridge Analytical scandal, Facebook avoided becoming the next Myspace by making some great improvements. They’re now paying far more attention to businesses by building on the group functionality (from next year, you’ll be able to charge people a subscription to be a member of your group) and pushing the chatbots as a viable way to interact with customers.

LinkedIn has changed considerably, too. It’s no longer a place purely for recruiters, and I think its usefulness will continue to expand in the coming months – it’ll become more personable and lose some of the stuffy, business-like nature it’s had previously.

As for Instagram, if you’re not using it now to grow your business, you’re missing out, big time, and I can see more and more businesses treating this as a primary social channel.

My parting advice would be to not put all of your social media eggs in one basket. We’ve seen countless big brands disappear without trace, and the same can (and will) happen to social media platforms. Carry on building your brand across each channel, and you’ll set yourself up for a very bright future on social media.

This blog was produced by Samantha Cameron of 2Motiv8. 

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