A recent survey of small business owners shows that social media use is on the rise. According a report from Manta, 50 percent of small businesses are spending more time on social media than they did last year.
Yet, that same survey revealed that 61 percent of small businesses owners are not seeing a return on their investment in social media.
Why is social media on the rise if two-thirds of businesses are not getting results from their efforts?
But, perhaps here’s the bigger question for small businesses – is social media really worth your time?
Social media can indeed be an effective tool for small businesses. It can help you build awareness, engage with your customers and yes, social media can even help generate more business.
But, here’s the problem – many businesses jump into social media without a clear strategy or realistic expectations about the time or resources needed to make it successful.
That’s why so many businesses fail with their social media efforts.
Checklist: Before starting social media
If you want to be one of the small businesses that DO see a return on your investment, there are a few steps you should take before even getting started with social media. Following these tips will help your social media efforts be far more successful:
1. Develop an overall marketing strategy.
Social media is just one of many tools you can use to help grow your business. Before diving into social media, build an overall marketing strategy that will help you define your ideal customer, how you are different from your competitors and why someone should choose you.
Once you do this, you can determine the tactics that will help you reach your business goals. You might just find that there are far better ways to spend your time and money than social media.
And even if social media is still on your list, building a strategy first will help your efforts be more focused and effective.
2. Take time to listen.
A key component to the strategy development process is customer research and social media listening. You must take the time to discover where your customers hang out online and what they are talking about. Understanding where the conversations are taking place online will help drive the rest of your decisions about your social media and marketing efforts.
You also need to pay attention to what people are saying about you. It can uncover useful information about what customers value about your brand or improvements you may need to make with your business. These are valuable insights that can help make a huge difference for your business.
3. Build a strong foundation.
Social media won’t help you if you haven’t built a strong brand first. That means developing clear and consistent messaging about who you are, what you do and why customers should buy from you.
This also means making sure your website, your digital storefront, is up to snuff. Social media should not be a replacement for a website. With social media, you want to send people to an online property that you own and control. Not only does that make you more credible, but it also gives you better ability to drive revenue for your business and makes you less reliant on social channels that may dry up down the road or change the rules on you.
4. Create compelling content.
Social media needs content to be successful. Sadly, many businesses have done this backward. They’ve built out profiles on Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus and Pinterest, but have yet to develop interesting, original content to share.
Without content, your social media efforts will be thin on value. After all, people want to hear from YOU. If you want to be successful on social media, spend time creating compelling content first. Then, you can focus on using social media to share that information with the world.
Are you struggling with social media? What questions do you have about it? If social media is working for you, what has been the key to your success? What items would you add to the list?
A version of this post originally appeared as a guest article on the Nashville Business Journal.
Image credit: Stephendl