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Social media hacks for small businesses
In: Web Design, Website Development

Whether you’re a social media addict or a hesitant acceptor of its powers, one thing remains true: it’s not going anywhere. So, regardless of whether you’re new to the industry or if your brand has been around for years, you’re going to need these social media hacks under your belt to have your marketing strategy sing.

Illustration by OrangeCrush

There’s a misconception that to do well on social media you have to be a superstar celeb with hundreds of thousands of followers. And sure, we all wish we could have Kardashian-level followings that bring in business with the click of a button. But the good news for your small business is: that’s not the only way to grow your brand on social media. In fact, campaigns that work with micro-influencers with smaller, more dedicated followers are actually proven to be up to 11 times more successful.

So, with a little digital know-how, you can still reach expansive new audiences, gain new customers, stay connected with your loyal fans, and even dip your toe into different kinds of digital marketing—all by using the major social media platforms. And you don’t even need to understand that algorithm (well, not completely)…

14 social media hacks for small businesses

  1. Strategizing your posting
  2. Simplifying your content creation
  3. Analyzing your competition
  4. Using a scheduler
  5. Knowing when to post
  6. Cross-posting your content
  7. Focusing on video
  8. Remember: shorter is better
  9. Making it shoppable
  10. Paying attention to engagement
  11. Don’t forget to hashtag
  12. Finding the right influencers
  13. Keeping it conversational
  14. Automating your customer service

1. Strategise your posting

Whatever you’re posting on social media, the goal should be to cut through the noise. And there’s a lot of noise to cut through. Since 2019, stats showed that more than 3.2 billion images and 720,000 hours of video are shared online daily. The answer to this, brands are learning, is not to go all out and contribute to pushing this number even higher with high quantities of posts. But rather to focus on quality content that will catch the attention of their audience.

This is especially good news for small brands because:

  • Social scheduling app Hootsuite suggests that one post per day is plenty; even less is needed on Instagram
  • Rather than spending ages planning and creating 30+ posts per month, you can focus on the quality of a few
  • an influencer marketing platform
    Finding the right influencer for your brand doesn’t always mean working with big celebrities by Ivan Pina

Smaller brands often have a very distinctive style but lack the manpower larger corporations have to churn out high levels of content that are consistent to that style. By scaling back the number of posts and ensuring everything you do share is 100% on-brand, your audience—and new audiences—will understand your message and get what you’re about without feeling overwhelmed by too much content.

2. Simplify your content creation

You don’t need a full social media strategy and design team to ace your content creation. Most smartphones now have hi-res cameras capable of taking professional-level shots and videos that can be used on all your social channels. You can use your phone’s editing tools to crop and recolor, or more advanced programs like Adobe Photoshop if you’re committed to more advanced levels of editing.

Canva also offers an easy-to-use content creation format where users can pick templates designed to fit different social channels and create gifs, slideshows, and static imagery all within the same theme. If you’re lacking inspiration, take a look at some of your favorite brands in your industry to get a feel for the kind of visuals your audience will be attracted to.

User-generated content (UGC) is another popular way for brands to create content with the help of their audience. Running a competition or asking your followers to submit images and videos of them using your product—or whatever it is you want them to be doing—will help you build a bank of content that can be shared on your social without the effort of creating it yourself. Just be sure to tag the creators when you share their content.

3. Analyze your competition

The digital landscape has always been an exciting and fast-paced place for small businesses to connect with new, bigger audiences and generate more sales. Now more than ever, if you’re not online then you’re probably losing out on audiences that are being won over by your competition.

Regularly viewing your competitors’ social channels and staying aware of their activity makes it easy to analyze what they’re doing, how well it’s performing, and whether there are any tricks you’re missing when it comes to reaching your shared audience. Of course, you might also find that you’re nailing it in comparison, and you can use other brands’ social content and engagement levels to confirm lots of things you’re already doing right.

As part of your social media strategy, be sure to include an in-depth competitor analysis. This should account for your major competition, and take into account where their brand sits in the market, what makes them appealing to your shared customer base the things you think they’re doing well, and the tactics that you won’t be taking inspiration from—both are useful in informing how you want your digital presence to look and perform.

4. Use a scheduler

If one of your concerns around using social media as a small brand is time, then there are plenty of benefits you can harness to free up your valuable hours and make the process of social media posting much speedier. After all, any social media manager or small business owner will tell you that stepping out from dinner to post a brand’s social at 9pm on a Saturday is not the dream.

social media analytics report
Analyzing your social performance can help you understand when to post by Maria Shevchenko via Dribbble

That’s where social media schedulers come in. These are platforms that will automatically post your content plan for you, with some of the most popular being Hootsuite and Later, which allow you to schedule the same post across multiple channels with a view of how it will look in each one, or Meta’s Business Suite that manages both Facebook and Instagram posts together. Using these platforms, you can claim back hours of time. All you need to do is upload your posts and images, set the time you want them to be posted, and you’re done!

Upload a week’s or a month’s lot at a time to make your posting even more efficient. But be flexible with this—sometimes unforeseen events will happen that your brand will have to comment on or share. Be sure to make use of the handy analytics reports these platforms provide on the performance of your posts.

5. Know when to post

One such metric that social media schedulers can provide is the most successful time and day to post. Of course, it’s likely that lots of brands will find that the same day or time is the best for them which can lead to an influx of posting at that time. But since the metric is informed by how well your post performs and the peak activity times of your audience, it’s worth bearing in mind.

Try to schedule your content in line with your optimal posting time, but don’t let it limit you. It’s not just a matter of guesswork: many platforms will tell you when the best time for you to post is. For example, Meta Business Suite will offer optimum posting times when you’re scheduling a new post, which is based on the times when most users are active, and when posts tend to generate the most engagement. Of course, this won’t always be 100% accurate and optimum times can fluctuate, so experiment with all kinds of times and days just to find what works.

You might think that Sundays aren’t a great time for businesses to post if they’re not open, but that might be just when all your followers are scrolling. So pay attention to the numbers, and include the most effective days and times to share your posts when creating your social media schedule.

6. Cross-post your content

One of the best ways to increase traffic and followers is to cross-post your content across multiple channels. This could be as simple as posting the same image with a similar caption on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. And in other cases it might be more complicated – but it’s always worth it.

For example, the dimensions for sharing video on Instagram and Youtube are not the same. But the time it takes you to convert the same content into two different aspect ratios could earn you a wealth of new followers that you’d otherwise miss out on by only posting on one platform. ViaMaker, InShot, and Adobe Premiere offer different levels of video editing capabilities, but most smartphones also come with simple editing features that allow you to change the ratio of a video in an instant.

video content for a beauty brand
Most social platforms favor accounts that post native videos by Ansal Design via Dribbble

Similarly, if you’ve published a blog or been featured in an article, don’t think that Twitter and LinkedIn are the only places to share. There are plenty of creative ways to share non-visual content on image and video-focused channels. For example, as Instagram only allows one link to be shared in a profile bio, many brands use a Linktree which creates a landing page with a list of website links to direct audiences to content across different sites.

7. Focus on video

It’s been estimated by Cisco Visual Networking index that 80% of global internet traffic in 2022 will be made up of video content, and 81% of internet users say that video is their favored way to consume digital content. So it’s no surprise that every platform seems to be battling to become the next big video streaming channel.

Facebook’s algorithm actively favors video content that is uploaded natively, rather than shared from another platform. This was further confirmed when Adam Mosseri, Head of Instagram, declared that the photo-sharing app was ‘no longer a photo sharing app’. A move that led to uproar among some of the platform’s most influential users including Kim Kardashian and Kylie Jenner.

Videos might seem like greater effort to create for your small business, but those who embrace it come out on top. 60% of online shoppers have said that they have been influenced to make a purchase based on watching a video about a product, and thanks to algorithm updates brands that share videos can expect to receive higher organic reach, engagement, and clicks than they will on static images.

Embracing newer platforms like TikTok is a great way to reach younger audiences. You can share your own content, or get involved in existing trends and challenges if you’re lacking inspiration or not sure where to start. Some of the brands that do best on TikTok use the channel to share authentic content featuring their teams and spokespeople, and often giving audiences an insight into the behind-the-scenes work that happens at their business.

Each social platform also has its own native video features, including YouTube Shorts and Instagram Stories and Reels. 58% of Instagram users have said they’ve developed an interest in a brand after seeing them on Instagram stories, and 500 million Instagram users view Stories every day. So making the most of these features isn’t just an extra thing to add to your social media to-do list–it’s all part of developing an effective strategy that’s profitable for your small business. And the best part is, it takes just seconds to make them.

Just consider the type of video that will be useful for your audience rather than trying to dive into viral trends. Reviews, tutorials, how-tos, behind-the-scenes, expert and opinion-led videos, and user-generated content featuring your brand are all easy themes that can be turned into quick 30-second clicks. You can record these directly in each social media and use the platform’s own suite of editing features. Or pre-record and edit in your chosen software, where you can adapt the ratio to fit different platforms.

8. Remember: shorter is better

The reason we recommend 30-second videos? The average attention span of social media users is gradually shrinking. In fact, Youtube is now the only channel that states its optimal video length is over one minute and that doesn’t include its new feature, Youtube Shorts.

A study by Microsoft found that the average online attention span is now 8 seconds, down from 12 seconds 20 years ago. But that doesn’t mean your videos should only be 8 seconds long – it means that you have less than 8 seconds to really grab your audience’s attention with your content.

So cut out the filler and focus in on the best-quality, most important information that your audience will really benefit from. If you don’t kick your video off with a strong hook, you won’t catch viewers. Eye-catching visuals, statements or questions that grab attention, or fun and quirky content like dances are all commonly used methods to hook viewers within the 8-second window. Once you’ve created enough video content, you can analyze your engagement and see the types of openers that really work with your audience.

9. Make it shoppable

With almost all social media channels developing in-app shopping experiences, the time for using these platforms purely to market products is over. Now, your audiences can shop your products in a tap of their screen, without even leaving your Instagram page.

a shoppable Instagram post
Most social channels allow users to shop without leaving the app by Instagram

Brands simply need to integrate their Shopify or other ecommerce platforms with their social channels and tag their products whenever they’re posted. It’s easy for brands, and it plays in the impulsive nature of online shopping and social media usage.

Making the most of new features is a sure way to generate revenue and grow audiences.  Platforms are known to sway their algorithm to benefit users that make the most of any new tools they’ve released—and that includes in-app shopping.

10. Pay attention to engagement

It’s easy to focus on how many followers your social channels have and get bogged down in wanting to find more. But in reality, these vanity metrics don’t mean much. What you should really be looking at to measure the success of your social posting is engagement.

In social media terms, engagement refers to people interacting with your posts. So the number of users that view, click, like, and share your posts are far more valuable than those who follow you and don’t take action. This is why 200 engaged followers are far preferable to 2,000 unengaged followers—particularly for small businesses that rely on a higher ratio of sales to make a profit on their marketing efforts.

Comments and shares can be extra useful in understanding which of your posts most appeals to your audience. So you can keep creating the images, videos, polls, memes, and other content that spark conversation among your community, and eventually grow your followers without your engagement rate dropping off.

11. Don’t forget to hashtag

No matter what you think about hashtags, they work. But there’s a strategic approach that should be taken rather than adding thousands of irrelevant or overly popular tags in your caption. Using hashtags properly can be a great way to expand your audience.

For example, photographers that use a certain camera or lens are more likely to use specific tags relating to their equipment rather than #photography. And travelers visiting a certain location are more likely to follow tags that share content from their destinations rather than #travel.

So spend your time researching the tags that are popular for your industry and most likely to be followed by your audience. And while it can be tempting to add as many as can fit, the optimal number on Instagram is as low as 3-5 hashtags. According to Instagram, this is just as effective whether you choose to put them in your caption or the first comment, so base your decision on how long your caption is. If it’s already lengthy, opt for hashtags in the comments.

12. Find the right influencers

Like vanity metrics and overuse of hashtags, there’s a misconception around the use of influencers to promote your brand. And while everyone would like to partner with the social accounts that have the highest followers, that might not be the best approach for small businesses.

Instagram Stories for a food brand
Instagram Stories are an easy way to increase engagement by tubix UX via Dribbble

Audiences respond best to influencer campaigns that they feel are authentic and trustworthy, with 92% of millennials putting more trust in their favorite influencers over celebrities. So don’t bankrupt yourself dishing out for an expensive celeb with millions of followers. Instead, consider the kinds of people your audience might be influenced by – from industry experts to other customers sharing product reviews – and forge a plan to find an effective influencer that’s within your budget.

Micro-influencers who have 2,000—50,000 followers are not only more affordable for small brands, but they often have more influence over their loyal followers as they’re a trusted voice, regardless of their celeb status. So for many small businesses, micro-influencers are often the answer to a successful influencer campaign.

13. Keep it conversational

Social media is only useful for brands because people started using it on a personal level first. While there are platforms, like LinkedIn and Twitter, which lend themselves more to business-like chat, platforms with younger audiences might not respond well to overly formal posting.

And that doesn’t just mean using colloquial language. In fact, it’s best to steer clear of language and trends that doesn’t fit your brand’s image, regardless of how popular or on-trend they’ve become in other subcultures. It means that many users are fed up with brands infiltrating the spaces where they connect and communicate with friends, and don’t want to be constantly bombarded with promotions aimed to get into their pockets.

a small business’ social media moodboard
Fun posts that are shareable but not focused on selling will perform better by Arthean

So make sure your posting strategy is made up of a good mix of conversational content that aims to get to know your followers better as individuals—not just get them to spend money. Meaningful conversations—like polling your audience on their most-used items or asking them to share experiences relevant to your product or industry—can help brands understand their customer’s needs, where those needs aren’t being fulfilled, and how customers want their favorite brands to behave online.

You’re more likely to gain followers by showing you care about them, and lose followers by showing you only care about their money.

14. Automate your customer service

Higher followings mean higher levels of communication and inquiries. So make sure your brand is up to the task of responding to any customer queries as soon as possible. For small businesses, an effective way to manage an influx of messages is by using automated customer service platforms like chatbots.

Remember that 8-second attention span we mentioned earlier? Users are now used to immediate responses, so your customer service needs to try to meet this need. Chatbots are a great solution.

In some cases, it might be automated well enough to answer their question, like basic information such as shipping times or opening hours. For more complicated inquiries, a chatbot can collect information from the user that an agent can then use as soon as they become available. This cuts time for your agent and creates a buffer for the user, so they don’t grow frustrated or impatient.

Be sure to pick a service that sounds natural rather than robotic, which you can preload with your business’ FAQs that might be useful to customers while they wait to speak to a person. Zendesk is a preferred platform for many brands as it can fully integrate all your customer service needs across different channels. Lobster by EBI.AI is another highly-rated chatbot platform that comes with a free trial.

Boosting your business with social media

It’s a lot to take in, but with these 14 handy steps in your arsenal, your small business should be well on its way to nailing social media. It can feel overwhelming at first. But by focusing on quality, short-form content, knowing which metrics to measure, and incorporating time-saving automations and algorithm-favored tactics, you’re sure to begin growing your online engagement in no time.

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