In my early years of attending webinars offered by the large social media companies, I often left a little disgruntled. The guest speakers and case studies always came from companies with billions in sales, some nearing or surpassing one century in existence, and many with multiple marketing departments. The social media tips shared with participants rarely addressed the concerns of small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs).
It’s hard to sustain a social media plan that requires you to post twice a day on three platforms while also engaging with those who comment.
In this blog post, we’ll cover the SMB way to tackle social media. We won’t promise that these are “three easy steps” (or its sibling, “three simple steps”), but these ideas will help you reduce the amount of time you spend on social until you understand what works for you.
Tip 1: Find Out Where Your Audience Is
This may sound obvious, but we’ve spoken to many SMB owners who don’t think of this step: they heard that [name a platform] is really hot right now, so they want to start there. Or worse, they want to expand to the new hot digital location even though their performance on other platforms has been poor all this time.
A little anecdote to illustrate: when I talked to one of my teenage kids, they said that none of their friends hangs out on Facebook. It’s Snapchat, even though Facebook tried to rope in the younger generation via Facebook Kids Messenger.
However, if you need to reach their parents, then Facebook might be the ideal platform for you.
Many factors can cause poor performance, so unless you’ve done an appropriate analysis of the situation, you won’t know if it’s worth your time to expand to another platform.
If you believe your target market hangs out on several platforms, and you’re strapped for time, pick one and get started. Sometimes you won’t know what works until you try.
Tip 2: Make the Post Fit the Platform
It can be tempting to create one post and share it across several platforms to try to save yourself money. Although we don’t believe it’s necessary to create posts completely from scratch for each platform, for our second social media tip, we do advise some rewriting.
Here’s why: each platform offers a different format and way to get readers’ attention.
Instagram, for example, emphasizes visuals, but copy also helps. Visuals need to engage scrollers to stop and look. Then you have maybe 8-10 words to tantalize that visitor enough that they click on “more.”
Facebook is the opposite: as people scroll through their feed, they see your post copy first, not to mention more of it at first glance. A word in the middle may grab their attention before your first sentence does. You have a little more space to begin with a friendly opening, but don’t ramble.
Furthermore, the platforms value hashtags in different ways. We analyzed one business’s hashtag use on Facebook and found a weak but negative correlation between hashtag count and link clicks. (This means that as the number of hashtags in a post increased, link clicks sometimes decreased.)
Another client whose target audience was on LinkedIn experienced the same phenomenon.
A third client, also on Facebook, found similar results for hashtags and link clicks, but a slightly positive correlation with the number of hashtags and post clicks (i.e., people click to read more, see photos, etc.). Upon further digging, the sweet spot for hashtags appeared to be 3-5, but there was one outlier: a post with seven hashtags that advertised a product of high interest that would be sold at an event.
All this to say: it’s important to find what works for you. We’re not a company that crunches millions and millions of data points, but we can focus on what works for your business.
Tip 3: Short Isn’t Always Best. Test, Test, Test
We might write a Dr. Seuss book some time in the future, but until then, follow this social media tip. Decide on one variable, such as post length, and focus on writing a healthy mix of short and long posts while keeping the number of hashtags relatively consistent.
Then analyze your data to see what you’ve learned. Calculating correlations will give you interesting information, but you can also use pivot tables to see a few figures.
At the bare minimum, pick the 5 or 10 top performing posts, look at the word count, click-through rate, and engagement rate. Then perform the same quick analysis with the 5 or 10 lowest performing posts. Do you notice any patterns you could further test?
Write this information down before you forget it.
To those mathematically inclined, we may not be emphasizing the hardcore arithmetic here. But we’re looking at what’s realistic to SMB owners and marketing teams who feel overwhelmed with all the data available to them.
Sometimes, you just need a place to start. Once you’ve made some inroads on your own with improving social media engagement, you can hire a reputable company that specializes in social media data and see what else you can learn.
The point of testing is to give you direction. You shouldn’t set up testing conditions that overwhelm you to the point where you just give up and go willy-nilly through social media again.
Keep it small until you have the resources to expand.
Social Media for SMBs Should Remain Reasonable
Data is important to every business. It helps you understand your return on investment for any initiatives you undertake. Don’t leave your social media plan in the ditch because you believe that analyzing the data has to be overwhelming to help you.Especially if you’re just starting with social media or are completely revamping your strategy and want to ensure it’s working, keeping it small to help you focus on one important variable at a time can make all the difference to creating something sustainable and personalized to your business’s situation.