How to do Social Media: A Small Business Owner’s Guide
Managing social media for your small business can be an overwhelming task. It takes time to invest in a strategy, creating a calendar, and actually implementing your plan. Small business owners often don’t have the resources to hire a marketing or communications person and, despite their best efforts, don’t typically have the time to spend getting their social media accounts set up for growth and to encourage their followers to interact with them.
If this describes your current situation, take a deep breath. We hear you and know how you feel. There are a lot (seriously, so many!) of tools out there to help you manage your online presence. Each of them has a complete set of pros and cons. At DQB Strategies, we want to help you be successful, whether that’s offering a free hour of advice to give you the pep talk you need and access to resources, providing articles on our website that you can process in your own time and apply as it works for you, or providing full account management each month.
Whatever your end goal is, we are here to help you succeed.
Let’s work through the process for creating a social media plan for your business. This is going to get long, but don’t worry. We’ll get through this together. At any point as we go through planning, if you feel like it’s too much, let me know. After chatting on the phone with you for a few minutes, I can do an evaluation and let you know what the best next steps are for you.
EVALUATE YOUR CURRENT SOCIAL MEDIA SITUATION
Do have social media accounts already? If so, are they the right ones? Did you create an Instagram account because someone told you it was a good idea, but you don’t know how to use it and never post on it? If so, then it’s not worth your time! It’s much better to do less better than to do more worse. If you only have time to manage one social media platform (a platform is a specific social media like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, YouTube), then only manage one social media. If a potential client finds you on Instagram and sees that you haven’t posted in 10 months, they’re not going to have a good feeling about you right away because you don’t keep your information updated.
Let’s pause for a minute and talk about what each of the social media channels are and what they are good for.
If you want a more in-depth look at the social medias, check out this article. If you don’t need this breakdown, skip to the Planning What to Post section.
- Facebook – The place for classic social media. You can post photos, videos, and lengthy text. You can pay to promote your posts to reach your desired audience.
- Instagram – The place to share great photos. Instagram can show photos and videos, but it’s harder to put long stories and text with it. You can’t include links in Instagram posts, so it’s much more about sharing and much less about getting your followers to do something specific.
- Twitter – The place to focus on brevity. Twitter has a limit of 280 characters, so you must be quick in saying whatever it is you want to say. It’s great to include an image or GIF (more on those here [insert link]) because they’ll draw people in, but you can only include one, so choose wisely!
- Pinterest – The place to get sucked in. Just kidding, I really love Pinterest, which is a place to find and share ideas and inspiration. Looking for a great outfit, new recipe, steps for a DIY project? Pinterest requires an image with a post to draw you in, then will send you out with a link to find the details of what you’re looking for.
- LinkedIn – The place for professionals. LinkedIn is a professional social network. As a business owner, you can post about conferences you attend, thoughts about trends in your industry, and find people who do similar work to you. It’s a great tool for small businesses that often gets overlooked.
- YouTube – The place for videos. A picture is worth 1,000 words, and a video is worth 1,000 pictures. Video is EVERYWHERE, and YouTube is the biggest and most popular place to hold all the videos. If you regularly post videos, you’ll hold them on your own “channel” (like TV) that people can search for to watch specifically about you or can find you by watching “similar to this” videos from other people that match your industry.
Whew, that felt long, but it was the brief version. If you’re ready for more, read in-depth about the pros and cons of each platform.
Consider it Done!
As you read through that list, if you immediately started skimming one because you don’t think it applies to you, yay! You just did some of the leg work. Choose the platforms that make the most sense for reaching your customers and growing your online presence. If you have a social media platform that doesn’t make sense, delete it. Give your followers fair warning and let them know to find you on the social media that you plan to pursue. You don’t want to lose people who already want to follow you.
If you decided to jump into a new social media platform that you have not yet joined, go ahead and do that now. Each platform is great about walking you through the steps to get set up. You’ll need your logo and some photos handy, as well as information about your business. Don’t feel like you have to make up a new ‘About Us’ section with each social media; copy and paste from your website or other information you have already created about your company.
Planning What to Post
“I’m going to sit here all day and write things to post online,” said no one. ever. Content creation (coming up with things to say online) is hard. Do people care what I write? What do my followers want to hear? I don’t have time to post on social media. Can’t I just find a millennial to do this for me? There are a lot of thoughts running through your head as you think about managing your social media. All the people in the world who are handing out advice will tell you that it will save you time to create your content ahead of time. And they’re right. They’ll tell you to create a calendar to help you plan. Which is an important piece of advice. They might suggest that you sit down for an hour a month to do all your social media for that month, following their proven system. And for $34, you can buy it now! Their system or method might work, but if you really don’t have a budget for marketing, you can totally do it for free.
Business Forecasting Translates to Social Forecasting
In your business, you’re probably already forecasting. If you are a shop owner and have a storefront window, you’ll start thinking about how to decorate it for the holidays in September and October. Planning for your social media is the exact same way. When you’re doing this planning for your business, tack an extra half hour onto your brainstorm session to think about what you’ll post on social media. If you have a storefront that you’ll be decorating for the holidays, plan to post some great photos on social media encouraging people to come check out your display and see all the great gifts they can buy for the holidays in your shop.
Let’s run through this as if we were a small local coffee shop. If it’s August and you’re running a special for teachers, you’ve got several posts available to you:
- Teaser post: “Starting August 1, we’ll have a special deal just for teachers. Stay tuned for the details!”
- Announcement post: “The kids still have a few weeks of summer left, but teachers have headed back to prepare their classrooms for another great year. Teachers, we know your summer is shorter, and we appreciate you! Now through the first day of school, teachers can buy coffee for just 25 cents per cup. We hope to caffeinate you soon!”
- Reminder post a week later: “Don’t forget, teachers, you can buy a cup of coffee for just 25 cents. Stop in on your way to work to try our new java flavor.”
- Bonus post: Take a photo of a teacher coming in for their coffee and post with a caption like this: “Ms. Manilla just grabbed a 25 cent coffee on her way to set up her classroom. We can’t wait to see her again soon at Meet the Teacher Night!”
- Last chance post: “Happy first day of school to all the teachers, school staff, students, and parents out there! Today’s the last day of our 25 cent coffee promo for teachers. Start the school year off right with a delicious cup of coffee.”
There you have it. You just got four posts in a one-month time frame from a promo you’re running in your shop! Once you’ve planned posts for social media based on the upcoming business plans you have, you can add some fun content.
Fun, easy content
It’s important to note that people don’t want you to sell your business to them all the time. They want a combination of information that tells them when you have a sale or a new product, as well as when you can offer them helpful information. For example, if we keep following our coffee shop example, we have lots of advice to offer because we are professionals in the coffee-making space. We could add a couple posts like this:
- Want to know the secret to cold coffee? Next time you make a pot of coffee, pour some of it into an ice cube tray and stash it in the freezer. When you’re ready for an ice cold coffee, make your cold brew as planned and add your coffee ice cubes. Now your coffee won’t get diluted when your ice cubes melt. #protip #coldbrew (include a photo of your ice cube tray and your coffee ice floating in the coffee)
- Do you love how cute your latte is with that beautiful heart in the foam? You’ll love this video of Barista Juan creating just that! Include a close-up video of Juan making a latte, and you’ll have a hit!
- Coffee, coffee, coffee, coffee, coffee! We are at full-speed getting your Monday morning coffee ready. See you soon! (insert photo of a line of coffee mugs with steaming coffee in them)
Excellent; that took me about 10 minutes to prepare. You can either scroll through your phone to find photos you’ve taken and add captions to them, or you can create captions like this based on things you know happen and take photos to match them later. We’ll talk about scheduling posts later.
There are also THOUSANDS of national holidays that you can celebrate on your social media. I’ll continue to follow our coffee shop to share ideas. There are subtle and fun ways to keep people engaged and remind them that they always want coffee without constantly saying “COME BUY COFFEE”.
- April 7: National Coffee Cake Day. “The best things in life come in combinations: peanut butter and jelly, cheese and crackers, sweet and salty, and of course, coffee and coffee cake. We’ve got delicious coffee cake in the shop today in celebration of National Coffee Cake Day! This will go fast, so stop by early!
- July 26: National Coffee Milkshake Day. “We love coffee of all kinds. Today is National Coffee Milkshake Day, so we’ve teamed up with our friends at the Diner and borrowed their milkshake machines. Stop by today to enjoy a delicious coffee milkshake!” Insert a picture of a barista making a milkshake)
- September 29: National Coffee Day. “To celebrate National Coffee Day, we’re offering a buy one, get one special. Come grab a coffee for you and one for a friend!” (insert a picture of a smiling customer holding two coffees)
- There are also these relevant holidays:
- January 18 – National Gourmet Coffee Day
- January – National Irish Coffee Day
- September 6 – National Coffee Ice Cream Day
- October 1 – International Coffee Day
You can also take slightly obscure holidays and spin them in your favor. For instance:
- August 9: National Book Lovers Day: Slow down and celebrate National Book Lovers Day today in the shop. We’ve got hot coffee and great reads! (Insert a photo of your bookshelf)
- August 16: Tell a Joke Day. If you can’t decide on just one, post a couple throughout the day.
- “What do you call a sad coffee? The first person to answer correctly gets a free coffee today in celebration of Tell a Joke Day.” The answer: Depresso.
- “How did the hipster burn his tongue? We’re celebrating Tell a Joke Day. If you know how the hipster burned his tongue, come by the shop and tell us the answer. If you guess correctly, you’ll get a free add-in of your choice.” The answer: He drank his coffee before it was cool.
- “Drinking too much coffee can cause a latte problems. But just one is fine, so stop by today, tell us your favorite joke, and we’ll give you $1 off any coffee”
That took me about 15 minutes to prepare. Once I’m in the mindset of creating coffee-related content, I can cruise right on through. That’s the value of planning again on your social media. Once you get in a groove, you’ll go much faster. In about an hour, you can prepare all your social media for a month.
Getting your posts online
Once you’ve got your content plan, it’s time to get your content online. Everyone organizes information differently. There are lots of tools available (so many that it’s overwhelming) to help you organize, plan, and schedule your posts. Did you know you can schedule posts ahead of time? Yep, it’s a great way to get ahead and not have to worry about your social media every day. You can schedule posts in advance in Facebook, but not in Instagram or Twitter. Many people use a third-party website to schedule their posts. You upload your photos or videos, add the caption, choose the date and time you want the post to run, and you’re done! After this hour-long brainstorm session, you could also have the majority of posts for the month ready to go. Later is my favorite scheduler. It’s more focused on Instagram, but it works on Facebook and Twitter, too, and for most of my clients, it’s the perfect tool.
What to do when your posts are online
If people like your business, they will likely like your posts, too. They will comment, like, and share the things that you post. You need to respond to people. If it’s a comment, you can like the comment or respond to it. If people share your posts, you can comment and thank them for sharing and helping to spread the word.
People also might send you a message on Facebook, (a DM). Be sure to respond quickly to their message, even if you’re responding to say it might take you a little bit to find the answer. If people don’t hear from you quickly, they’ll move on and find someone who does have a fast response time.
Plan, post, respond, repeat
Guess what? That’s the end of your crash course for planning and implementing a social media strategy.
If you’ve gotten through this and feel empowered, that’s great. I wish you all the best as you prepare to kick butt on your social media. If you are only feeling medium about it all and want to ask questions, feel free to reach out to me. I can clarify things or we can bounce ideas off each other for your plan. If this leaves you scratching your head thinking about how you just don’t have the time to deal with it, I understand. DQB Strategies offers affordable plans to manage social media for small business owners. We would love to talk to you about a plan that works best for you.