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2020 has been challenging for small businesses, but COVID-19 hasn’t prevented digitally savvy entrepreneurs from connecting with customers. While most small businesses have experienced decreased brick-and-mortar sales this year, 49 percent have seen their online sales grow, according to Bluehost. Not surprisingly, most small businesses (69 percent) recognize the importance of increasing their online presence by updating their websites and expanding their social media marketing efforts amid the pandemic. But that’s not easy to do when budgets are extra tight and teams are working from home.
You can take matters into your own hands with online design tools like Ripl — an app that lets you use your own photos and video on your smartphone to create professional, consistently branded social media posts and videos.
“Five years ago, our founder had a simple idea,” explains Ripl CEO Clay McDaniel. “If we put the power of storytelling and short-form video-making directly in the hands of small business owners, it would give them a kind of superpower — the ability to rise above the crowd and stand out on social media. Now more than ever, that’s what customers and potential customers want: to hear directly from the people creating products and services.”
So how does Ripl work? What are the benefits for small businesses, and what are the social media marketing best practices — during the pandemic and beyond?
How Ripl works
Ripl was built to be quick and easy to use, right from the start. Simply register for an account, enter your business details, set colors and fonts that align with your brand, and you’re ready to start making professional social media content.
“The app does the hard work for you,” McDaniel explains. “It provides you with a home screen with personalized recommendations about what kinds of social media posts you should be creating and sharing with your followers that day or that week. We walk you through a three-step process where you edit and customize your video or post to ensure all your content is consistent, professional-looking and aligned to your business and brand.”
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Ripl also includes thousands of social media post templates, a stock library of more than 500,000 images and short videos and a wide array of music, colors and specialized fonts.
When you’re happy with your content, you can publish it to all your relevant social media channels with just a few clicks — including your business and personal accounts on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook — or you can schedule the post to go live later.
The evolution of video and social media marketing
Small business owners once needed to hire a graphic designer or video marketing company to tell their stories or promote their products with professional, branded content. That has changed with the emergence of robust drag-and-drop–style online design tools, McDaniel says.
“You don’t need graphic design experience or video editing capabilities or to really even understand the technical nuances of each platform,” he explains. “You can create that beautiful and consistent branded content that historically would have taken weeks or even months, and maybe thousands of dollars, and create it quickly using Ripl and complimentary website-building tools like Squarespace.”
Making marketing videos yourself might sound intimidating, but thanks to the latest technological advances, you’re not doing it totally alone. That’s important, McDaniel says, because 85 percent of small business owners who use Ripl want help with their social media marketing strategy.
“With our app, you have personalized recommendations and best practices and tips and tricks right in your hands,” says McDaniel. “We’re doing a lot of that heavy lifting to get you started moving along with what you need to create, what it needs to look like and where it needs to go. We’re helping you put your marketing efforts and your best foot forward, without you having to do all the research and make all these strategic marketing decisions on your own.”
The more content you create and post, the better Ripl gets at recommending and personalizing your content — and the better you get at creating engaging social content.
“Our data shows that the more our customers use Ripl over time, the greater their average downstream engagements and impact on social media outlets is over time,” explains McDaniel. “You just need a little practice making content and following those personalization recommendations and tips and tricks and best practices.”
Social media marketing best practices
COVID-19 has created many challenges for small businesses, but it’s also created new social media marketing opportunities.
“Social platforms are critical communication tools for small businesses, even more than their websites, maybe even more than their email newsletter flow,” says McDaniel. “Digitally savvy customers are looking to their social media accounts first and foremost to find out what’s happening with the businesses they frequent, how those companies are operating, what products and services are available on that day, whether there have been any changes and how to get the latest information and stay connected with small businesses. Social media is also increasingly the best place to prompt customers to start a purchase or an order. Consumers are now more accepting of starting a purchase on Instagram or on Twitter. And we believe this is a permanent change for the foreseeable future.”
How can you take advantage of these opportunities? McDaniel suggests three social media marketing best practices:
- Get personal: “Make sure your passion and your personality shine through. It’s been shown that more than half of what people remember about a brand is associated with what they think about the head of the company, so don’t be afraid to put your personal touch on what you create and what you share.”
- Post daily: “Social media needs to be an everyday thing and stay consistent. It’s kind of like friendships: You get out what you put in.”
- Mix things up: “You need to have beautiful images and a healthy mix of short videos that you sprinkle around all your social channels. The social media platforms over the last three or four years have changed their algorithms and how they optimize newsfeeds and search. As a small business owner, you need to think about how you stand out in that really crowded field and what would be the best possible way to engage different audiences across different platforms. And our software is built to help you do that.”
Start building your social media superpowers
Much like your social marketing skills, Ripl will only get better over time. McDaniel’s team continuously adds new purpose-built templates, and they’re planning additional integrations with other popular productivity and design tools — all to help small businesses accomplish their social media goals.
“Social media marketing can truly be a superpower for all small businesses,” says McDaniel. “It is frankly impossible to compete head to head with the very largest companies and brands in the world as it relates to paid media, paid advertising and internal content marketing and copywriting teams. Small business owners don’t have the resources for that. Social media is the one channel where you can truly succeed and stand out, and often make a bigger impact than the big companies.”