Small Business & Social Media Takeaways from The Index

Small Business and Social Media

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A majority of the clients I work with own and run small businesses. Small business has many opportunities to capitalize on the power of social media but they arent sure how. When the Sprout Social Index Edition XV came out this year I knew it was the right report to break down to help these small businesses see the value of social media.

Social Media is in a constant state of change. Everybody has their theories on what will happen next. These reports provide you with stats that support some opinions and actual trends that paint a picture of what is happening in the world of social media. As a content creator and social media manager, it is my job to take all of the information and see how it applies to what I am seeing with my clients. I generally walk away from one of these reports with at least a few takeaways, this time I was directing those takeaways towards small businesses.

The Nuts and Bolts of the Index

Nobody can deny the power and value of social media. As I mentioned earlier this year, social media touches almost every single aspect of a business. It is too big to ignore. It supports virtually any marketing objective, and moreover provides useful insights to teams outside of marketing. The team at Sprout Social surveyed over 1,000 social marketers and asked about their social goals, challenges, and expectations. They also surveyed 1,000 consumers to understand what people want from a brand on social media. The Index XV explores how social media and marketing teams can better use social data to drive success for bigger picture business goals. It also explores how to use customer insights and trends to improve social performance.

Breaking It Down

For this blog, I focused on a few of the findings that are relevant to the small businesses I tend to work with. When you view the report through that lens some different items stick out.  However, all the results are exciting and relevant. If you are interested in knowing more, I recommend getting your copy of the Index and digging in. And speaking of digging in, here we go!

Marketers and Businesses Need to Dig Deeper to Understand the Audience

Forty-three percent of all social marketers say a significant challenge is identifying and understanding their target audience. To address this concern, marketers turn to social data. Sprout Social explored what your audience wants, and I comment on some of the findings below.

What Your Audience Wants

Why do people follow your business on social media? What do they want to see from your company? To answer these questions, you need to understand how and why people use social media in the first place. While 50% of people follow a brand to find out about new products and services, almost as many (48%) follow a brand to be entertained. Other key reasons that a consumer follows a brand is to get up to date news, connect with others, to be educated, and to communicate with the brand.

What Your Audience Does Not Want

Equally crucial for businesses is to understand is what consumers do not want to see on social media. In business today, the customer experience is of the utmost importance. Delivering poor customer service, including being late to reply to a customer concern can be considered poor service. Poor service can result in an unfollow (read like a lost customer) for 56% of those asked. Your audience wants you to respond quickly, knowledgeably, and provide them with entertaining and informational content daily.

Content Misfires

Poor customer service is the number one reason to unfollow. However, posting irrelevant content, too many ads or too much promotional content can all result in a consumer unfollowing your brand. The importance of having a well-planned posting schedule is evident, and it must be robust with entertaining, useful, and educational content. A plan that does not merely focus on your products and services but adds value to the consumer. A social media calendar like with the aforementioned items is a great way to make sure what you are posting is not pushing customers away.

Social Media Essential Post Framework

Our framework for businesses on social media has addressed this since the beginning. The 9 Essential Posts for Businesses helps you create relevant content in 9 categories. It also serves as a reminder of the 80/20 Golden Rule of Social Media, 80% of your content should be informational and 20% of your content can be promotional. When used with a content calendar, a business can plan content and ensure that it is varied, tells a larger story, and engages the audience. Download your free copy of the 9 Essential Posts here to jumpstart your audience engagement.

Social Media Accountability

This report also made it clear that social media is a massive and essential job. Small businesses need to look at who is manning their social media daily. Are they equipped to answer customer questions? Are questions being responded to within an hour on your social media platforms? Have the correct answers been available? It is my opinion that businesses need to embrace new technology and dedicate capital to the task of engaging customers on social media. Look at chatbot options to serve as the front line and invest in a dedicated “position(s)” to manage social media every day. Social media is no longer a part-time job for the business owner. It is crucial for building an audience and growing your business.

Potential Solutions 

If your business can not afford to hire someone internally to manage your social media look at hiring an outside company to handle it. Make sure that the company you hire will be posting custom content that speaks to your brand. JRH Graphics specializes in delivering customized content to our clients. Another option for minimizing expenses and maximizing return is to look for interns at a local college to help you post and manage your daily social media presence. No matter what you do, we recommend upping the attention you pay to your social media. It will continue to be an integral part of your business.

What Content Do Your Followers Like

We know that your followers want to be inspired, entertained, educated and informed. The pattern is the same with the types of posts that a consumer will take action on. Sprout Social asked consumers what types of posts they are most likely to leave comments on or share, the answer was posts that entertained them. This is in line with what most social marketers consider to be effective; 50% of social marketers say entertaining and inspirational posts are the most efective in helping them reach their goals according to the Sprout Social findings.

Consumers Want to Be Engaged and Entertained- Edutained As We Say at JRH Graphics 

As you saw in the above chart above, posts that inspire, entertain, teach, and have a story are the most likely to create engagement. What is interesting is that consumers are engaging less and less with offers and coupons promising savings. While sales can attract consumer interest, entertaining, and inspiring posts get the most engagement. Both marketers and consumers supported this finding.

People Want to Learn

Creating posts that are engaging and entertaining and speak to your brand can be slightly overwhelming. But here are a few key things to keep in mind. Remember that you are the expert, share what you know in an engaging way. Use what you have around you when thinking about things to post, your company is unique highlight it. Look at what your competition is posting to get ideas, don't flat out copy it, but research is ethical. Use your brand story and differentiators as guidance on what to post. Finally, use your team to deliver the message.

Employee Advocacy to Shorten the Long Game

Social media is part of the long game. You are building a loyal customer base that likes, knows, and trusts your business. One way to get your audience to like, know, and trust you sooner is if your employees like know and trust you. According to the Sprout Social report, almost three quarters (72%) of all social marketers use their employees as social media advocates. The report also revealed that forty-five percent of consumers say they are more likely to research a product or service when someone relatable, like an employee, posts about it. Using your employees as advocates helps you keep the content varied on your social. It also helps shorten the time it may take for a follower to become a faithful customer.

Converting Followers to Customers

Not every consumer is going to click the checkout button on the first go-round, and that’s okay. It is vital that you still invest in your followers online. Strengthening the connection you have with your followers can lead to more authentic interactions, more word of mouth referrals, and a loyal customer base. Merely looking at the actions consumers take when they follow a brand highlights some of the value they are bringing to the brand.

Actions Followers Take with Your Brand

Eighty-seven percent of consumers who follows a brand on social media will visit the brands' website.  Seventy-eight percent of consumers visit the brands' physical store, talk about the brand, or recommend the brand to friends and family. Finally, 77% of consumers will buy that brand over another. These are all substantial numbers that indicate a relationship that is worth nurturing. When it's time to convert people into active buyers, social marketers should use a combination of discounts, product demonstrations, and educational content, Once again, it is the educational and informational content that is driving consumers forward in the customer journey.

Brands Are Only Scratching the Surface of What Social Can Do

Social media has so much unforeseen power, and you are in a position to experiment and see what else it can do. While sizeable social marketing firms are working to break down silos, you have the freedom to break down existing social barriers and see what lies on the other side. You have the benefit of seeing an opportunity on one day, and the next day be capitalizing on that opportunity. It is not necessary to chase after every wild idea that passes, but it does mean you have the chance to try new things. Based on what has worked in the past or what trends you are currently seeing.

What Trends Could You Capitalize On

From creating video content to building a community around your brand, the opportunities to get more out of social media are out there. An excellent place to start experimenting would be with those things your followers have requested. The end of the Sprout Social report provides you with some trends to watch out for in the future. How could you do more with live video, user-generated content, Instagram Stories, and creating a community around your brand?

In Conclusion

Social media is not going to disappear tomorrow. It will continue to expand before it disappears if it disappears. If you are a small business and you have not been investing in social media, the time is now. Get on the bus because it is about to pull out of the station. And for those of you who say, “I am good right now, I will start doing it if I see my sales slipping,” at that point, it is too late. The long game of social media will have passed you by then.

I am not saying that you need to come by my office and sign up for a social media management or content creation package immediately. Although we do things differently and would have a package that fits your needs. What I am advocating is that you do more to increase your reach. It is time to tap into the power of social media for your business.

Sprout Social Social Media Index Cover
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All Stats and some inspiration provided by the team at SproutSocial Download Your Copy of the Sprout Social Index Today!

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