These days, a strong social media presence is key for building a reliable brand, standing out, and gaining traction with potential customers. I recently learned that 43% of consumers always search a brick-and-mortar business online before visiting for the first time, that's a huge number. And while all companies can benefit from being on social media, it’s especially crucial for small businesses who typically don’t have the advantage of being a household name.
A strong social media presence, though, requires consistent content creation, which can take a lot of time. If you’re a smaller business or even a company of one, you may be wondering how you can compete alongside companies that have entire teams for social media. It's never going to be an even playing field but we've seen small businesses embrace what makes them unique and they shine on social media as a result, without needing to spend huge amounts on ad dollars or hire a whole social team.
Here are a few ideas that I’ve seen work for individuals and businesses over the years.
1. Learn From Your Customers (and the Data)
A good starting point is paying attention to what your potential customers are talking about. What are their pain points? What questions do they have in relation to your line of work? How do they feel about certain topics? This is all good material for content ideas like quick Q&As on Instagram or more in-depth instructional content on Facebook or LinkedIn.
To get inside your audiences’ heads, you can:
- Scroll through the comments section of your social media pages and those of other businesses and brands you admire. (We made a list of these lately, Twitter, Doist, and Ben & Jerry's were all mentioned.)
- Leverage the polls feature that’s available on most platforms, including Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn to ask your audience questions.
- Send out a more formal survey via your newsletter, I recommend making it a short one so folks answer.
- Use market research tools like AnswerThePublic or Google Trends to see what people are searching for.
You should also regularly assess which of your previous posts have performed best. Which resonated most with your audience? Which have more likes, comments, shares, retweets, and saves? Find the patterns among them, and you’ll quickly be able to tell what’s working. (Note: Using an analytics tool can help surface popular posts more easily.)
After you've gathered all of this information spend some time reviewing it. What does the best-performing content have in common? Does your audience prefer videos or memes? Are inspirational posts or actionable instructions more popular? Once you identify some patterns, lean into them and create new content that gives the people what they want.
2. Leverage the News and Your Own Stats
Being in the know about what’s happening in your industry is important for many reasons, not the least of which is that it can provide you with endless content inspiration.
I use Twitter lists to quickly get a handle on the topics the media is currently covering. Create your own lists, full of reporters, experts, news sites, and influencers in your space, and if you’re at a loss for content ideas, scroll along to see what they’re talking about. You can repost their takes on what’s happening or create your own.
You can also be part of the news by collecting your own data and sharing the findings with your community. For example, earlier this year we released our 2021 State of Remote Work, which we created by surveying customers and potential customers. Each data point (such as the fact that 98% of respondents want to continue working remotely) can be its own interesting, engaging social post. We’ve also used the report to create complementary content, like tips for managing remote teams, our favorite remote collaboration tools, and advice for unplugging when you work from home.
3. Go Behind the Scenes
Consumers love learning more about how a business works and the people behind the brand. Simply put, showing the humans who are running the show humanizes the business, and that can be a pretty powerful marketing tool.
Plus, showing how you’re developing your products or company (also known as building in public) can add a lot of value in the long run. In this episode of Buffer’s Small Business, Big Lessons podcast, Paynter Jacket Co. shares how their building in public and sharing behind-the-scenes footage has impacted their business for the better, they now have a devoted group of followers and sell out of their jackets within minutes of them becoming available.
Video, like Stories, Reels, and IGTV, is a great medium for behind-the-scenes content, and they don't have to be highly produced to grab someone's attention. It’s also easier to create since you’re filming elements of your regular operations. Consider sharing:
- A day-in-the-life of a teammate
- Steps of the manufacturing process of your product
- Tours of your workspace (this works even for remote teams!)
- AMA sessions with team members
- A happy customer using your product
4. Make it Easy for Yourself
Of course, coming up with unique ideas is great, but you can supplement your custom content by reposting things you see around the web. Sharing articles about industry trends, inspiring images that relate to your brand, or even relevant memes can add to your feed without taking valuable time out of your day.
Pro tip: If you stumble upon an article, an image, or another piece of content that you’d like to share, you can do so from right within your browser with the Buffer browser extension. Schedule it right then and there, and then get back to doing the rest of the things on your to-do list.
Putting together a solid social media plan as a small business can feel overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. Set aside 30 minutes or so a few times per week to focus on content, pick one or two of the tips above to start with, then keep building from there. The results will speak for themselves and inspire you to keep going.
Do you have any methods for coming up with content that works really well for you? Reach out on Twitter and let us know!