Having levelled the playing field when it comes to marketing and communication, your business can now use social media to tell your story, and demonstrate your expertise on a global scale in real time with very little cost.

Here's how you can use social media channels like Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat to grow your audience and customer base, and build your brand and business in a strategic way.

An introduction to social media for small businesses - Small Business Victoria Workshops

Video Transcript

An introduction to social media for small business

Tim Gentle -Small Business Victoria Workshop Leader

[Vision:  Tim Gentle sitting at table]

G’day. It’s Tim Gentle here, and we’re talking social media. Now when I think of social media, I think of it like the heartbeat of the internet. That’s where you participate and how you are perceived in social media.

So what are the benefits? Well one that I really like is that you get to people at the early stages of the buying cycle. To break that right down, it’s like when you’re sitting on the couch and you’re thinking about going on holiday. You’re browsing on your iPad, and slowly but surely little social gems come into your feed. It’s a bit like when dad brought home that QANTAS jet, you know, now I’m flying QANTAS. So social media isn’t all about the now, it’s about the early seed.

Now also it can help you with your search engine rankings. How you are perceived, and how you participate in social media, is part of the algorithm that Google use to rank websites. So on occasions you need to get involved in social media just so you get good rankings.

Now it can help increase conversion rates on your shopping cart. If you use social videos to, you know, show how to use the product, or maybe reviews about you as a company.  These are all things that people look for and it’s called social proof.

Now when we participate in social media, we wear five hats. Let’s walk through those.

The first hat is marketing. That’s all about your brand. It’s about customer service, about research and about generating leads.

Now another hat we wear is informative. We want to inform people about, say, an event we’ve got coming up or a product and service we sell.

Now the other hat that we wear is supportive. We want to support people. We want to encourage them. They might be participating in a fundraising event.

We also want to energise people. We want to get people excited, and that’s all about social media.

And the final one is to listen. Make sure you listen to what your customers are saying and what your competitors are doing.

Right. I wanted to leave you with some social media tips to make sure that the effort that you put in, you reap the rewards. All right. We’ll start from the very top.

I always ask my customers what they want in their social feed, so you need to know what the fish are biting if you want to catch the fish.

Now have top level support. What I mean by that is if you’ve got a directorship, or if you’ve got management, they need to support social media, because in social media you have to be able to accept the good, the bad and the ugly. Just like the real world, it’s not always going to be positive and you need to have a policy in place if people say something negative about you.

Now always be transparent and be honest. People want to get the human factor when it comes to social media. And don’t let perfection get in the way of progress.

So another tip is to be consistent. If you’re in a bad mood one day maybe just pull out of social media and attempt it tomorrow. But at the same time, you know, don’t be this one day and that another day.

Another thing is website integration. Do you know that you can feed in your Facebook feed or your Twitter feed into your website? That’s a fantastic thing. And always measure success. A lot of these social media platforms have insights which tell you what people are looking at, what they are sharing and what they’re liking.

Alright, well my name’s Tim Gentle and I’m one of the Small Business Victoria workshop leaders that put on an array of workshops for you as a small business to grow. My suggestion, check out some of the knowledge, attend the workshops and grow your business online. I’ll catch you soon.

[Victoria State Government - Authorised by the Victoria Government, Treasury Place, Melbourne - Spoken by Tim Gentle]

Why use social media?

As traditional methods of marketing to customers like advertising or direct mail become less and less effective, businesses are turning to social mediums to connect in positive ways with consumers and the people who influence them. We need to be acutely aware just how social media has fundamentally changed the way we are connecting, communicating and collaborating as individuals, and therefore society as a whole.

The key to social media success is not to get hung up on the tools and technology, but to focus on how you can use them more effectively to:

  • increase the visibility of your personal brand and that of your business
  • build and cultivate your personal and professional networks
  • develop and grow relationships with customers and influencers
  • engage in real-time two-way interaction with people, including answering queries
  • publish and distribute original content that demonstrates your expertise
  • share curated links to relevant information that adds value to the lives of your customers
  • communicate with your community of followers, advocates and supporters
  • ultimately generate new leads and boost sales for your business.

Understanding the social media equation

Think of social media in two parts.

Firstly, there is social media participation – this is where you're present on social channels and are constantly delivering value to the online community in the form of:

  • sharing other people’s content (User Generated Content or UGC) on Facebook or LinkedIn, retweeting them if you’re on Twitter or regramming on Instagram.
  • answering people’s questions if you’re in a position to help – whether they’re directly related to your business or not
  • joining the conversation on a particular topic – this could be a group on Twitter talking about a certain issue that’s sprung up through the media, or joining a LinkedIn Group
  • leaving genuinely interesting and relevant comments on selective blogs you read and podcasts you listen to
  • promoting other people’s businesses and causes, for example, your municipal council may be running a street festival that could be good for you to be promote via your networks.

Before jumping into conversations on social networks, it’s critical that you:

  • listen first
  • sit back and take note of the ‘lay of the land’
  • try and get acquainted with the nuances of the particular network on which you intend to become active.

Secondly, there is the creation and distribution of original content that informs, empowers, educates and/or entertains – content that will attract the right people to your brand, potential customers as well as the people who influence them.

To be effective however, content published and promoted via social media needs to be created with the audience in mind, which is why it’s important you first understand who you’re trying to communicate with and where they hang out online.

Make sure you have a Marketing Plan template, which you can download below.

Creating content with the customer in mind

More often than not your content should provide utility. In other words, it needs to be useful, relevant and add value to people's lives. It could simply be information that answers people’s questions or satisfies a need they have relevant to your business, or it may be more around providing ‘thought leadership’ and demonstrating your knowledge and expertise.

For example, this might mean an accountancy practice that publishes a blog post outlining its top tips on how to approach end-of-financial-year tax issues.

Once you create your content, it’s then simply a matter of publishing it to one or more of the myriad of platforms available which is best suited to your business needs, and sharing the links with your followers on social networks.

Building your presence on social networks is important – not only because they make for excellent content distributors, search engines such as Google use social media shares to determine the usefulness of content to an audience, so social media presence can also positively affect search rankings.

Google Garage offers free training to help you make the most of online opportunities including modules to decide which social media platforms are right for your business, set goals, get noticed on social media, measure your success and avoid pitfalls.

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