Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, YouTube, Vimeo, Flickr, LinkedIn, Google+…The list is endless, and every social network has its own little niche. For the small business owner, the task of choosing which social media outlets to invest time and money in, and which to maintain a smaller presence on, is often daunting. This decision is not one to be made lightly, and it can often feel like a juggling act. So how do you know where you need to be?
Who does your social media?
When figuring out your small business’s social media strategy, it’s important to know who will be implementing it. Is anyone who works for you already active on various social networks? It may make sense to have that person involved in getting your company on those platforms. If no one in your company is social media savvy, make sure the person who ends up taking on the job does some sort of training – even if that training only consists of sitting at a computer and reading social media blogs like this one for several hours to get a handle on best practices. Too many small businesses enter the social media arena and make a bad impression because they don’t know what they’re doing and they come across as spammy. You don’t want to make that kind of a name for yourself.
If you’re a very small business – where you are the whole company – you’ll need to make a decision about how your time is best spent. Social media presence is important, but not to the detriment of doing those things that actually bring in the money. There just aren’t enough hours in the day to stay active on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and all the other places while also taking care of the bread and butter of your business. It may be worth the investment to hire someone – an individual or an agency – to handle your social media marketing if you can foresee a good ROI but just don’t have the time, energy, or skill to do it yourself.
It helps to see what other small businesses have done with their social media strategy. Here are a few examples from a handful of top verticals to help paint a picture for you.
Social Media Marketing for Small Business in the Food Industry
The Julian Bakery an establishment based in La Jolla, California. They began in 1989 by servicing the needs of those with gluten intolerance or other allergies to wheat or dairy in their baked goods. The bakery has been able to utilize social media to achieve its sales goals since its creation of Paleo Bread in 2012. The bread was marketed heavily through Facebook, and in the month of June alone, it gained over 13,000 Likes and generated unique stories by over 18,500 people. The approach that Julian Bakery uses in marketing Paleo Bread on Facebook – the only social network they are using for promotion – is unique in that it caters to such a small sample of the population, but due to their down-to-earth posts and the well crafted niche market coupled with an easy to recognize brand logo on their product – their customers are talking about it and then some.
Another example of well executed marketing in a top vertical is PaleoKits, a new brand of food-on-the-go aimed at the health conscious consumer. The proceeds also go to help youth learn about CrossFit (a unique type of fitness routine) and bring nutrition and wellness lessons into impoverished areas of the country. PaleoKits are taking off with their use of Twitter and Facebook and their easy-to-navigate website. Considering some of the customer testimonials they have on their Paleo Love page and the comments on their Facebook wall, it seems they’ve been winning over the new fans they’ve reached through their social media efforts.
Social Media Marketing for Small Business in the Fitness Industry
The entirely-online based fitness company Nerd Fitness was created by enterprising entrepreneur Steve Kamb, who used his social media skills and compelling writing talent to create a product that resonated with over 10,000 users to date. Nerd Fitness maintains an active website with published blog content weekly, as well as a thriving set of community forums, and a very active Facebook presence. Their users remain engaged through fitness challenges, a sense of community based on a common set of interests – gaming, fantasy, fitness, and more – and they are inspired to comment and share their knowledge with the community at large. (Check out the number of comments and social media shares on each of their blog posts for a snapshot of their community engagement.) This creates a sense of belonging within their brand or service, and often can gather more sales through word-of-mouth alone.
Nth Degree Fitness is an independent gym in Royal Oak, Michigan. Their numbers differ from other businesses that can cater to customers hundreds of miles away, but a quick look at their community on Facebook shows how loyal their fans are. Their Twitter feed is pretty active, too, although it could do with some more engagement in the form of @replies with their customers. Their YouTube channel looks a bit lacking at the moment – only two videos and one subscriber – so it would serve them well to either devote more attention to building up their videos or remove the YouTube link from their site navigation and focus more on their Twitter and Facebook efforts.
Social Media Marketing for Small Business in Video Games
Independent video game companies have also benefited from using social media to further their causes. Publisher Zeboyd games has seen wonderful success using the Steam platform, Facebook, and Twitter to further their branding and marketing goals. Their online presence is remarkable due to the number of video sites that have reviewed their games. The popularity of the games speaks to both creativity and affordability. As video games go, these are cheap, engaging, and fun. Small companies like this must walk a fine line between building presence and losing focus.
Enterprising RPG developer Kisareth Studios is a video game company using YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter to further their brand in the world of independent gaming by using these three social networks in harmony to create a unified presence. Their subscriber numbers on YouTube are still fairly low, but they are building a good video content base to grow their following. Engagement on Facebook is still growing as well, as is Twitter. It may be that the company has spread itself too thin with these networks because they are focused more on their core business. They could take a cue from one of the big boys like Blizzard Entertainment, though, and feed their fans screenshots from their games and sneak peeks at corporate “behind the scenes” happenings to get their customers more invested in their brand.
Social Media Marketing for Small Business in the Women’s Health Industry
Childbirth centers and doulas have also used social media to increase their brand awareness and further their client base. The Utah Birth Center in Salt Lake City, Utah is one such example. They post birth reports on Facebook and get glowing recommendations from clients in response. For them, focusing on one social network seems to be working. Cute baby pictures would be a hit on Pinterest if not for that sticky issue of patient privacy, but The Birth Center might want to consider creating a group board where their clients could post photos themselves. For now, though, the birth announcements on their Facebook page are a bright and cheerful corner of the Internet, with new moms adding positive testimonials for prospective clients searching for a place to have their babies.
The Nurturing Tree is another amazing example of doulas using social media to further their businesses via the power of the unique form of marketing social networks offer. Their timeline is filled with industry news, photos, humor, and engaging conversation. Moms-to-be who appreciate the particular brand of humor shared as political cartoons and someecards may find kindred spirits at The Nurturing Tree – and that kind of bonding is often important for women seeking the services of a doula.
So, How Many Social Networks Does Your Small Business Need?
Sitting down with your team and figuring out where your marketing efforts should go is never a wasted conversation. Take to heart that building a social media presence does take time if you’re a small business, and expecting results right away is setting yourself up for disappointment. Be where your customers are, and remember that it’s better to be phenomenal on one or two social networks than it is to be crappy on six or seven of them. Hard work and persistence will pay off in the form of increased brand awareness and repeat customers…if you carve out your social media niche correctly.