Social Media Advertising for Small Businesses

Let’s get down to the dirty little secret – advertising! In social media, the prevailing ideology has been that it should be free – if your content is good enough then you will attract followers.  This is a topic, that I discuss in my new book and this idea is partially true; it is also partially false. If your content is good enough you will attract followers; unfortunately, it will be at a slow rate. There is always the edge case where viral content spells massive growth instantly (Dollar Shave Club or Laughing Chewbacca Mask Lady) but for most brands, it will be an uphill battle to get even a small amount of followers. All small businesses should have a paid distribution plan for ensuring their social media content reaches the largest number of customers.

In the battle for followers, the most effective weapon is advertising. Let’s break it down:

1.      Do you need advertising?

Determine this by looking at the work we’ve asked you to do in other posts using the Social Works One Page System. Look at those goals and then ask yourself the questions listed below. Determine if your response would be yes or no.

  • Do you hope to see (or need to see) rapid (i.e. 3x or more increase) in followers within the next six months?
  • Do you hope to see (or need to see) rapid (i.e. 3x or more increase) in followers within the next six months?
  • Do you hope to see (or need to see) rapid (i.e. 3x or more increase) in followers within the next six months?

If you checked yes one time or more times, then consider social advertising as a facet of your plan. It drives growth a lot faster than an unpaid, organic strategy which can take years.

2.      What would advertising look like if you were to do it?

Social media advertising can take a number of different forms (side bar ads, boosted posts, in channel posts) and it can serve a number of different purposes. Amongst the different purposes are:

  • Fan Acquisition/Engagement: Help to grow your followers through advertising that targets a specific demographic and asks them to follow or like.
  • Website Traffic/Conversion: Help to drive traffic to your website in the same way that any other type of online ad does.
  • Post Reach/Engagement: Help to boost a particular post by increasing the chances that more people will see it.

Within these three key categories there are a number of more discrete actions you can take. Overall social advertising will help you acquire fans, drive traffic and increase the number of eyeballs on a specific piece of content.

You can run all three types of advertising but if your budget it smaller you may want to only one or two types at a time. If that’s the case, then you need to figure out which one of these will have the biggest result. Choosing this is largely dependent on understanding how these results will affect your business.

How do you figure out what’s right for you? Let’s break the categories down further.

  Fan Acquisition Website Traffic Post Reach
Why Creating a bigger Facebook page can create the illusion (or the reality) that you have a big and successful customer base.
It is also an ongoing community of people who will be receptors of your content – i.e. a captive audience of consumers
Increasing better Google’s understanding of your relevance – which will increase your visibility in page ranks. More traffic means that search engines believe you have more authority and are more relevant. Boosting the reach of a specific post helps to get more eyeballs on your content. This is useful when you are trying to get more people engaged and naturally sharing and consuming your content.
 But why for business? More consumers on your channels means more opportunities to promote your brand, create product evangelists and drive sales. More web authority means higher ranking in search results which means the potential for more eyeballs and more sales. More engagement with your content means that there are more people who consumed what you shared. This means that they will have your brand and your message top of mind when it comes to purchasing.
In short? Best path to long term community growth and hopefully sales. Most immediate path to raising traffic and sales. Best path to product and message retention.
Next steps? Test Facebook ads. Test Google and Pinterest ads. Test Facebook, Pinterest or Twitter ads.

3.      How much advertising can you squeak by with?

You don’t have to spend hundreds of thousands or even thousands of dollars on advertising but, you likely have to spend something when you are starting out and looking to grow your community. The simple truth is that it’s hard to stand out online. New pages rarely get the visibility you’d hope for.

My friend, an author of a fiction novel who recently launched her Facebook channel, spends about $20/week on advertising. So far each new fan has cost her about a dollar. Because her book sells for $20, if she can convert each new fan to a purchaser, she will see a significantly higher ROI for the dollar spent. Even if just one out of twenty fans buys her book, she still has a net positive return immediately and the long term benefit of an active fan pool for future books. She is not paying for fans! She is advertising her channel to Facebook users so that they can find her page and choose whether or not to become her Facebook fan. You will likely want to employ a similar strategy. To do so, go into your Facebook page dashboard, click Ads Manager on the left. The system will then guide you through the process to get started.

Additionally, I’ve worked with a number of brands who use Pinterest as an advertising platform. This is an interesting way to boost your website traffic and engagement. Pinterest can be viewed as more of a search engine than a social network, as I discussed earlier. For many brands it is the number one e-commerce driver. If you have consumer products for sale, this is a must test. Great boosted posts on Pinterest (bright, long vertical images) can see massive increases in traffic and conversion. To do this, log into Pinterest. Then click Ads on the upper left hand task bar. Their system will walk you through what to do.

The beauty of social media advertising is that you can set up the advertising to align with your specific business goals. Therefore, you can target advertising for growth of your social media channels or traffic to your website. So, play around. You can A/B test your content by trying out different types of ads and seeing the results you get. For a full primer on A/B testing methodology refer to the blog post by KISS Metrics on A/B testing or check out A/B Testing The Most Powerful Way to Turn Clicks into Customers by Dan Siroker.

Fill in your advertising goals into the appropriate box in the Social Works One Page System.

4.      How do you create the right type of advertising?

Advertising creation is the whole reason advertising agencies are in business. It’s not easy. First, focus on headlines – a poorly crafted headline will immediately turn away over 90% of users. Not to mention, 5 out of 7 people will only read the headline before sharing a post or other advertising boosted content. Secondly, focus on simple images. These images should say something without text. Find a picture that is sharp, clear and evocative.

For more ideas on advertising, I’d suggest reading deeply about David Ogilvy, the father of modern advertising, or following some of the major social networking tools like Hoostuite for their downloadable PDFs and guides on the topic.

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5 Easy Ideas for Your Social Media Strategy (AND WEBINAR!)

Do you ever feel like you are sitting around creating social media post after social media post but your audience size isn’t growing and you aren’t seeing results? You are not alone. The majority of small business owners who participate on social media don’t see the results they want. The number one culprit for this occurrence is that your social media strategy and your business strategy are not aligned.

Tonight, starting in two minutes, I’ll be hosting a live webinar on Facebook to talk about why your social media strategy and your business strategy need to be aligned and the simple way to do it. Join to ask questions in real time!

If you can’t make it, here are the 5 Easy Ways to Connect Your Business Strategy with Your Social Media Strategy.  First off, get two pieces of paper. On one, write your business vision, business goals and business audience down. Repeat this on a second piece of paper.

  1.  Visualization: Take one of those two pieces of paper and put it in front of wherever you sit when you are creating your social media posts. This will help you to constantly check that what you are posting on social, aligns with your business goals.
  2. On the second piece of paper, look at your business goals and ask yourself which of this will be improved by social media? Often, not all your goals have a social media component. This is important direction to have as you are building your social media platforms.
  3. Then ask yourself: who is your audience? What social media platform would they be using? Re-position your social media time to invest in those platforms over others.
  4. Now, write down next to your business vision, goals and audience, your social media vision, your social media goals and your social media audience. This will help you to understand what you are trying to accomplish on social media and why.
  5. Finally, spend time understanding how your social media goals can benefit your business goals i.e. what would have to happen on social to see you have a successful business result. Make sure there is a way to track and measure this.

Social Media Strategy for Small Businesses

Confused about what it means to set a business goal or vision? The below taken from my upcoming book on social media titled “You Don’t Need Social Media, Unless You Are Doing It Right: A Small Business Guide to Social Media” coming out in July, explains:

You want to understand the goals and vision of your business because it should directly translate to the goals and vision of your social media plan i.e. your social media plan should help reinforce and be reflective of your company goals. This may sound like common sense to some but it is often surprising to realize that small businesses with two or more owners don’t have common understandings of the business’s vision and goals.

When I was teaching a class in Nairobi a few years back, I was asked to consult on the creation of a social media plan for a start-up incubator hub. The five partners sat with me in a room and explained why they needed a social media plan. When I asked them to step back and tell me what their business plan was, I received five very different and somewhat conflicting answers. I explained that until they knew and were aligned on what their business should do, I wouldn’t be able to craft a social media plan that achieved results. If I didn’t know what the business wanted to do, the social media would only reflect that and they would see the slow, listless growth that had been the impetuous for the original meeting.

Similarly, last year, I was working with a professional leadership development coach who shared that while her business was growing rapidly, she was struggling to see any growth in her social media channels and she couldn’t figure out why. She routinely spent an hour a day on social media and yet, she only saw one or two followers increase per week. When I asked her why she was on social media, she looked at me like I wasn’t listening.

“I have to be on social media,” she said.

“Why?” I asked.

“Because everyone is,” she said.

“But, why are you on it?” I asked again.

Then she stopped talking and looked at me and really listened. Eventually, we determined that she wanted to use social media to build her brand personality so that she could get speaking gigs and eventually launch and publish a book. Now, she has a laser focused vision for how to engage on social media and a plan that is tuned to getting her in front of the TED community, interacting with leaders in her sphere and sharing her thoughts online, so that she has the material to write a book in the next few years. Her goals of speaking and book publishing align with her business goals to increase her passive income (i.e. ways to make money without requiring service) and to enhance her credibility with top tier corporate leaders.

A social media plan to be successful needs to have a central thematic topic and vision in order to allow customers to understand why the channel exists and how to relate to the channel. A business vision does this for your social plan.

To determine your business vision, look five to ten years in the future and ask yourself, if I was wildly successful, what would my business do? Examples of business vision statements include Microsoft’s previous vision “to put a PC in every home in the world;” Starbuck’s vision statement ss “to inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time;” and Tesla’s vision statement is “to create the most compelling car company of the 21st century by driving the world’s transition to electric vehicles.”

If you are having trouble creating a vision statement, check out Five: Where Will You Be Five Years from Today by Dan Zadra. It’s a useful book for figuring out your personal or professional vision statement and simpler to use than a lot of the MBA books on the topic.

I believe that setting a big business vision is the single most important thing that you can do for your business. As Lafley and Martin say “A too modest aspiration is far more dangerous than a too-lofty one.”  The reason being that a modest vision mostly achieves modest results. Modest results are boring for your employees, for your investors and for your customers. You could be a run of the mill car manufacturer or you could be Tesla. Which do you think gets people more excited and interested in being associated with your brand? Tesla wins every time.

When I host classes, I challenge students to expand their business vision using a simple exercise that I have outlined below. I’d encourage you to try this as well before you read any further:

  • Take a few minutes to write down your vision statement.
  • Then ask: how could I expand what this statement accomplishes? Can I make it bigger?
  • Then ask yourself again: how do I make that more interesting to me?
  • Then ask: would I be happy doing this and if not, what would make me more satisfied?
  • Then ask yourself, one more time: how can I expand this?

Having a vision for your business is about having a vision for yourself, for each person who works for you and for every person that will come in contact with your brand. It’s also about understanding why you are doing what you are doing and creating alignment on the why is what directs your social media execution i.e. the story you tell across those platforms.

Noted speaker and author Michael Hyatt’s recent book discusses the concept of drift. Drift is what happens when you are living a life without intention and strategic goals. Drift happens when you’re just floating through your life taking what comes to you. Drift happens all the time in social media when we do not align with our business visions and instead waste time tweeting, liking, friending and following rather than strategically acting to ensure the biggest results. Fight the drift, by engaging in a big business vision.

…………….

A business goal is a one to two-year goal that you want to accomplish because it helps your business get that much closer to achieving your vision. These are measurable, and actionable goals. In general, these goals will be focused on the bottom line i.e. these goals should in some fashion help you to increase your ability to SELL your products and services or fundraise to be able to accomplish your mission.

There is a business acronym for setting goals called S.M.A.R.T. This stands for specific, measurable, assignable, realistic, and timely and is a tool to make sure that the goals you are setting you can achieve. First created by G.T. Doran in the early nineteen eighties, this framework has been widely embraced by the business community. In his book, he writes “Ideally speaking, each corporate, department, and section objective should be:

  • Specific – target a specific area for improvement.
  • Measurable – quantify or at least suggest an indicator of progress.
  • Assignable – specify who will do it.
  • Realistic – state what results can realistically be achieved, given available resources.
  • Time-related – specify when the result(s) can be achieved.

Notice that these criteria don’t say that all objectives must be quantified on all levels of management… (it) is the combination of the objective and its action plan that is really important. Therefore, serious management should focus on these twins and not just the objective.”

Examples of business goals can include:

  1. Selling X number of products in 2016
  2. Raising X amount of dollars in 2017

As you think about your business goals, make sure they are achievable in the short term, easy to understand, and something that is measureable. You generally do not want to have more than three goals and one of those goals should be a definitively focused sales goal. Well this may seem like a lot of work to do just in order to make your social media plans more effective, I can tell you it is worthwhile.

If you, your social media team or any other member of your business does not know your goals then they will not be able to effectively implement them. If they don’t know how to implement against them, time and energy are being wasted caught in the drift of social media.

Is Social Media Dead? No, but you don’t need social media for your business.

Students often ask me: Do I need social media? Generally, they are already in my class and at this point it’s a bit late for them to turn away. Yet, they are often surprised by my response. No. No you don’t need social media. You can still run a surprisingly effective business without engaging in social media. And, if you don’t have a plan for how to do it effectively, then you are better off not doing it at all.

My dear friend Monica Villa said something really insightful to me about social media the other day. She said, that content is not king but rather context is king. She then went on to elaborate that what small businesses and companies need is to focus on what the context of their social media platform is, i.e. what is the conversation that they are trying to start on social media, who are they listening to and what are the conversations that they want to drive in return.

Brilliant, right?

It also made me think a little bit harder about the context that I want to set for this blog and for the work that The Social Works Co and our sister brand SoCu will engage in. The contextual conversation I want to set is the fact that when asked “Do I need social media?” the answer that pundits and everyone else should give is “No. Unless you are going to do it right.” Doing it wrong means hundreds of thousands of hours of wasted time.

Yesterday, I was on the phone with Michael Hyatt who told me that on average people spend 72 hours working per week. For the record that’s 8-8pm Monday through Friday and then half a day on the weekend. That’s essentially your whole life and it doesn’t have to be spent working.

Instead, small business owners, in particular, need to learn how to create and run social media strategies and campaigns that are efficient, effective and strategic. We need to automate the content and its distribution. We need to rely on partner and influencer networks to extend reach. We need to measure and tweak. We need to make social media engagement a part of our employee’s lives and a system.

That’s what I want to talk about and how I want to provide value for for you. In return, I want to know:

  • Is this working for you?
  • Are you simplifying your strategy?

And I want to start a broader conversation about social media strategy: simplifying the rules, creating a social media certification and a process that people can use to manage social media in the same way other industries have processes, established best practices and workflow content.

Do I need social media? No. Should my business have social media? No. Unless you are able to do it in a smart, strategic and timely manner than no. No one needs social media. However, when done effectively social media can improve your business. It just needs to be done right and we, as social media gurus, owe it to you to tell you how to do it in the easiest way possible.