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How small businesses can develop a successful social media plan

Gone are the days when you need to plan a press conference to speak to your consumers.

Social media gives any business — small, medium or large — the ability to speak directly to its customers. That’s why it’s surprising to me that over a quarter of small and medium-sized businesses aren’t using social media to promote their companies, according to a survey from The Manifest. If you’re not making social media a priority, you’re losing out on the best direct line you have to your customers.

One question I’m often asked is, “How can I make the most of my social media efforts, with my limited time?” The truth is, there isn’t one set path to a successful social media plan. That said, the following principles can help guide your small business.

Know your brand

The first step to any successful social media plan is to determine what your business wants to say. For example, do you want to be a source of thought leadership in your industry? Consider sharing insightful commentary and instructional content on your social feeds to highlight your company’s point of view on relevant topics.

Use your employees to ideate and share

Maybe you want to craft a brand image that feels human and relatable. Social media gives you an opportunity to share a humorous, behind-the-scenes look at your company culture. As you begin to create content, be sure to turn to your team for input and ideas. Not only will your content feel more authentic, but it could also improve morale within your business.

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More than half of respondents in a <a target="_blank" href="https://about-content.glassdoor.com/en-us/workplace-culture-over-salary/” target=”_blank” rel=”noopener noreferrer”>Glassdoor survey said that company culture is more important to their job satisfaction than their salaries. Letting your employees contribute to your social media platforms empowers them by giving them a voice in your brand. This connection can help your business retain and recruit talent and expand its reach as your employees share content to their personal feeds for their own audiences.

Set achievable goals

One mistake I often see brands make is trying to be everywhere, all the time, in an attempt to capture the attention of everyone. By that, I mean trying to maintain a presence across every imaginable social media channel without taking the time to truly understand the unique best practices of each platform.

Instead of doing this, I advise brands to strive for a “quality over quantity” approach. Even if you only have one social media channel, if you do it well and genuinely commit, you can achieve much more than halfheartedly investing time and resources into half a dozen platforms. Be realistic about what you are willing and able to commit to, and remember that everyone starts with zero followers. Consistency is key, so make sure you are setting achievable goals and establishing a regular cadence of your best content.

Engage

When starting with social media, it is easy to get caught up in the “content is king” mentality. However, it is important to consider that social media is a one-to-one platform. Don’t neglect your community as you are building it. Research published in the “2020 Sprout Social Index” shows 40 percent of brand followers on social media expect responses to their comments within an hour; 79 percent expect a 24-hour response time. Community management provides businesses an opportunity to foster brand loyalty on a personal level. For instance, if you run a small quick service restaurant, community management enables you to engage with your patrons, hear their suggestions and resolve any grievances at a glance.

Experiment

Social media is constantly changing, so you must constantly be prepared to change with it. For instance, I always encourage my small business clients to use Instagram’s latest products, including IGTV and Instagram Stories. Although the Stories feature is only four years old, more than 500 million Instagrammers use it every day. Because Instagram Stories can have a “lo-fi” appeal and disappear within 24 hours, they offer resource-strapped small businesses a chance to test out content ideas and see what works before investing time and money into larger projects.

Measure your results

As you experiment, make sure you constantly measure your results. One thing I tell my small business clients is to think of social media as a free focus group. More than 3.8 billion active social media users Tweet, send and share globally. If you wanted to know what this extensive base of prospective customers thought about a product or potential product, posting a short poll on your business’s Twitter or Instagram page could get you a wealth of information — for better or worse.

As we know all too well, the internet is never short of opinions. Tons of tools exist to track your business’s benchmarks. Using the power of your following helps you tap into a treasure trove of data with limited resources, so you can make the best-informed decisions regarding your brand.

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Posts By

Natalie Zfat

Natalie Zfat is a social media entrepreneur and Forbes Contributor who has partnered with some of the most iconic brands in the world, including Rolling Stone, Food Network, American Express and Levi’s. Curating original content and videos, Zfat gains millions of impressions for the brands she advocates for. When she's not engaging with her half a million followers, Zfat loves sharing her entrepreneurial thought leadership at conferences and universities, including Carnegie Mellon, NYU Stern School of Business, The Harvard Club of New York and Internet of Things World. Follow Natalie on Twitter: @NatalieZfat

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