If you’re a small business owner, that last fact is particularly important. Fourteen years after MySpace officially became a social network and Facebook got its start in a Harvard dorm room, social media has become a staple in our society and daily lives.
It’s important for your small business to have a presence on at least some of the more prominent networks, like Facebook or LinkedIn. But if you’ve tried growing your following through those channels, you also know it’s not as easy as it sounds.
If you’re dedicating part of your already limited digital marketing budget to your social media efforts, not seeing the results you want can be incredibly frustrating. But don’t get discouraged! There are plenty of money-saving tricks and tools you should try before you start burning through your budget.
I took the opportunity to sit down with the Infusionsoft social media manager Crystal Heuft to take a close look at how small businesses can maximize their social media impact while minimizing the strain on their bank accounts.
1. Start organically
Before you start putting money toward your social media advertising, Heuft recommends finding a baseline by starting with your organic content.
“Facebook rewards you with more reach if you perform your post organically and then put money towards that content,” she says. However, it’s important that you only put money towards organic posts you know are already performing well. When Facebook recognizes the popularity of the post, it’ll give it more audience reach. You can access insights on your organic posts natively (on the platform you’re posting on), or through the social media management tools you deploy.
Once you’ve put money behind your popular organic posts, wait a few days before increasing your spend. You’ll want to make sure it still performs well. If it does perform above average, you should feel comfortable applying more money to make it get further reach.
2. Be choosy with your spend
“I only put money behind something that goes to our core initiative,” Heuft says. “For example, I’m more likely to put money behind our own content versus anything unowned because it helps get our leads through the funnel. So, put your money behind things that will actually help your business.”
If you don’t have a lot of owned content, post content relative to your business (be sure to avoid your competitors’ content), accurate articles or videos you think your followers would be interested in, or even link to your own website.
For any social media advertising you plan to pay for, try to do it natively. Your social media management platforms like Buffer or Hootsuite may let you set up paid advertising through their platforms, but the truth is, channels like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn tend to favor and reward advertisers more when they set up their ads directly on the channel.
Additionally, you can get fairly granular with the markets you target. Most platforms let you choose custom or lookalike audiences (used primarily for testing your ads) by demographic, location, age, gender, etc. When you get specific about who you’re targeting and how far you want your reach to go, you’ll be surprised at how much ROI you’ll receive from minimal spend.
3. Create engaging content
Engaging content is defined as content (graphics, images, posts, video) that gets followers to engage in some way: like/favorite, share/retweet, comment/respond, etc. Facebook, Twitter, and the likes recognize these engagements and will reward businesses the more their content receives engagement. Here are some ways to get your audience engaged without spending an arm and a leg:
- Write short and catchy content: While you don’t have to be the next Dan Brown, it’s important that the written content you provide creates a response from your audience. This is done best by keeping your content clear and precise, but also relative to your audience, on-message and on-tone with your brand, and relative to ongoing trends.
- Add images and video: People like content that’s easy to consume and interesting to look at or watch. Images and video help draw your audience in and retain them by being funny, culturally relevant, or educational. Luckily, modern technology has made it so easy to create this kind of content for pennies and dimes, simply by using your own phone. Check out this handy guide from Wistia and Infusionsoft on how you can create high-quality videos like a Fortune 500 company.
- Include a poll, survey, or quiz: Online polls, surveys, and quizzes are having quite the moment (just check out Buzzfeed’s main content feed for proof). And for good reason! Polls, surveys, and quizzes aren’t just entertaining, they give businesses (basically) free data from people. They also give businesses a 20 percent boost in web traffic. EasyPolls, Poll for Facebook, and Cupli are all tools to help you create the perfect poll, survey, or quiz.
4. Optimize your content for mobile
According to author and Facebook guru, Mari Smith, who contributed to our 2018 Small Business Marketing Trends Report, a whopping 90 percent of Facebook users access the platform from their mobile device. Additionally, more than 80 percent of Twitter’s users are mobile, and 80 percent of Instagram users follow at least one business on the platform. This means that now is the time to optimize your social media advertising efforts for mobile:
- Use posts shorter in content that are easy to read on a small device
- Post at peak mobile usage times, generally when people are traveling to-and-from work (around 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.)—don’t forget about time zones
- Specify the types of devices you want to target when setting up your ad, and
- Make sure your video and images are compressed and optimized for mobile.
Some free tools you can use are:
- Clipchamp: Online video compressor with no file size limits
- Magisto: This A.I.-powered tool lets you create and edit videos quickly and distribute across multiple channels and devices
- Facebook Slideshow: Available to Power Editors and Ads Managers, Slideshow makes it easy “to create video ads from still images”
- Facebook auto-captioning tools: Facebook Power Editor users have the ability to automatically adds captions to their video ads, but it’s currently only available in English
- TinyJPG: Compress your JPEG and PNG image files for perfect optimization and balance on any platform or device
- Pablo by Buffer: Choose from a library of more than 600,000 free images to edit and add text to for increased engagement
5. Follow the rules
Facebook and Instagram are known for constantly changing their feed algorithms month-to-month, if not week-to-week. This causes a shakeup in how people receive information on their feeds and how businesses reach their audiences. Businesses that are apprised of these changes when they happen and can adapt quickly are rewarded with more reach than those that don’t.
“It’s their playground, so if you’re not playing by their rules, you’re going to have less of everything,” Heuft says. “Once they see a pattern of you following their rules, they’ll reward you with more reach, which leads to more engagements, more followers, and hopefully more visits.”
Heuft recommends keeping a regular watch on the native blogs of your social media platforms, because, “the minute you nail it, they’ll change it.”
She also recommends a good, ol’ fashion Google search each month for algorithm changes from all the platforms you advertise on. Keep a lookout for blogs announcing the changes from companies like Hootsuite, Buffer, or Sprinklr, as these are well-established and well-respected social media management companies that are constantly first-in-line for this type of news.
Another resource Heuft depends on is YouTube. She recommends this search equation: “X social media channel” + month + year. There is a number of social media influencers and gurus that take to their vlog regularly to discuss these changes, and they tend to be pretty accurate and timely.
You can make a small social media advertising budget stretch a long way if you go about it the right way. By being picky about where and how you spend, and by being resourceful with what you already have, you can accomplish more than you ever thought you could with your social ads.