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Learn the golden rules of small business social media

Is social media marketing really worth your time?

How can you make social media work for you? Find out from the experts.

A new study shows that almost two-thirds of UK business owners don’t believe social media has an impact on their success . Many business owners dedicate up to 10 hours a week to social media, but is it worth such a large percentage of your time?

Jamie Gavin of inPress Online is a social media, PR and marketing expert. He believes spreading your reach too thinly could mean you’re not targeting the right people. 

‘I see far too many businesses adopt a scattergun approach, doing a little bit on lots of platforms,’ he says. ‘They should be targeting the platforms that are relevant to them.’

Do you know your audience?

Jamie believes it’s about knowing your business and what you’re selling, not just understanding your customers. So how do you choose which platforms to use? ‘It’s really a case of playing to your personal and company strengths,’ he says. ‘If you have people who are very visual, explore Instagram. If your business is all about sales, empower staff to use LinkedIn. We use Twitter a lot because it’s good for thought leadership.’

What’s your tone of voice?

What you say is just as important as where you say it. Social media marketing tends to be informal, so how do you define the right tone of voice for your business? Laura Hampton of digital marketing agency Impression says it’s all about visualisation: ‘Imagine your business is a person – what do they look like, what do they sound like, what do they believe?’ This ‘pen portrait’ can also be useful to ensure consistency if the responsibilities for social media are shared in your team.

Should you pay to boost posts?

Facebook, Twitter and Instagram give you the option to ‘promote’ posts – paying to insert them into people’s timelines and feeds. It’s popular with big businesses and isn’t as expensive as you might think, so should smaller businesses be doing it, too? Laura believes so, but only with a picture or post that’s already proved popular. ‘Promoting posts can be very powerful because, especially on Facebook, you can choose to target certain locations, age ranges, even relationship statuses. It can also be cost effective, with a post boost starting at £5.

‘The key is to promote content that’s already doing well, and to have clear and clickable calls to action, such as ‘book a demo’.’

How do you know it’s working?

On most platforms it’s easy to see which posts have performed well – shares, likes and retweets are all reliable indicators. But Jamie believes you should measure outcomes, not outputs, focusing not on what’s been seen but whether people have acted as a result. 

‘We see the company website as the final destination for all PR and marketing,’ he says. ‘By directing to the same end point we can track the effectiveness of everything we put out. This helps us refine our approach.’ 

Laura agrees: ‘Looking for improved brand awareness? Measure whether web traffic has increased, using a tool like Google Analytics. Looking for a wider reach? Measure how many new followers you get. Always set clear goals and have tangible methods of measuring them.’

Should you do it yourself?

Although Jamie and Laura are both from agencies, they don’t recommend outsourcing the daily management of your social medial channels. Laura says: ‘Social media needs to be a conversation happening in the here and now, and you’re best placed to manage that.’

Jamie advises a holistic approach: ‘I don’t think social media should be seen as isolated from PR or marketing. So, if you already have someone suitable in-house to take care of those things, social can be an extension of what they do.’

But if you’re feeling completely overwhelmed, it may be worth asking a consultant to help you plan your strategy. Laura advises: ‘Use an agency to set goals, and have them provide training to help you to manage it from there.’ And how should you choose that agency? Jamie has some sage advice: ‘If a PR agency has no Twitter followers, I’d be very reluctant to use them!’

Meet 3 business owners getting it right:

Anna-Lee Kewley 

Baby Moo's

‘I started my kid’s clothing business 5 years ago on eBay. I work alone and do everything myself, including the social media. I now have more than 100,000 likes on Facebook. 

‘The key is to remember it’s not a sales platform. I’ve established a parenting community. I’ll write posts like ‘Today’s toddler tantrum was about…’ and encourage people to respond. 

‘I’ll also turn the best responses into images people can share. I now have unofficial business ambassadors who do a lot of the marketing for me, just because they love the brand!’

Ian Fitzhenry

London Laksa Company

‘We’re a pop-up food stall and we use Twitter to tell people where we’re going to be, when we can’t make it to a market and when we’ve sold out of stock. We also use Instagram, because food is visual. We encourage our customers to take pictures and share them with our hashtag, too. 

‘Don’t use too many hashtags – only those that are relevant to your business, like #streetfood is for us. It’s about targeting the right people. We’ve connected with Malaysian and Singaporean students in London through Facebook. We’ve also created events to invite people to our stall and now they’re some of our best customers.’

Ian Davies

Injury Clinic Berkshire

‘Until recently I was doing my social media – Facebook, Twitter and Instagram – alone, but now I’m working with a consultant to help with the planning and promoted posts. 

‘We use all the channels to show potential customers that we have expertise in our field, sharing interesting facts, articles and knowledge. We’re also starting to talk about marathon training, targeting people who may have injuries. 

‘My advice would be that even if you outsource social media, keep trying to learn about it yourself behind the scenes, so you understand what you’re paying for.’

Want to learn more about social media marketing? Get started with Digital Wings, by Barclays .

This article is proprietary to Barclays Bank PLC. Every attempt has been made to try to ensure that the information contained in this article is accurate at the time of publication. However, any articles written by any third party are the views of the authors alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Barclays Bank PLC Group ('Barclays) nor should they be taken as statements of policy or intent of Barclays. Barclays takes no responsibility for the veracity of information contained in any third party articles and no warranties or undertakings of any kind, whether express or implied, regarding the accuracy or completeness of the information is given. Barclays accepts no liability for the impact of, or any loss, however arising, from, any decisions made based on information contained and views expressed by any third parties or in their articles.