Social media is now obligatory, but how can you stand out?

Social media was already a vital tool for small businesses but COVID-19 has made it non-negotiable. Small businesses urgently need strong social media presences with a clear voice and visual brand.

Here’s why social media is increasingly important – and what to do about it.

Does social media matter that much?

Yes, now more than ever. If you think your customers aren’t on social media or you’ve been getting by without it, things are changing. Research suggests consumers’ use of social media and messaging apps have not only increased during the pandemic but that new digital habits are here to stay.1 And small businesses who use social media are more likely to anticipate growth.2

It’s not surprising. With small businesses relying heavily on repeat customers, it’s important to keep products and services top-of-mind in ways that build emotional connections. Social media is a great tool for that, but it’s also just quicker and more efficient for both businesses and customers.

As an example, I’ve personally been relying on small businesses’ social media channels far more during the pandemic. It’s been the most reliable way to track need-to-know information like closures or new operating hours. And, on the business’s end, it’s more time- and cost-efficient than updating a website, which is a big advantage in rapidly changing environments.

As a small business in Australia, there’s opportunity to stand out

Australia’s small businesses are lagging in social media adoption compared to other countries’ and may be suffering for it.2 There’s a silver lining, though – whether you’re already a social media wizard or just starting, you have a greater chance to stand out by improving your presence now.

You have advantages over the big guys, too. While large corporations have bigger budgets, they also use a broader message to fit an “average” customer. Small businesses often have an intimate understanding of their customers and can communicate in more tailored ways.

Finally, there’s a bigger interest in small businesses right now. On iStock alone, we’re seeing searches for terms like “shop local” and “local business” skyrocket.

What steps can small businesses take now?

Despite the massive opportunities, it’s still a noisy space. Understanding how to differentiate your brand on visually crowded platforms will be more important than ever. There are a few ways to do that:

  • Keep it regular and mix it up. Amassing and keeping followers requires consistent posting, while visual variety keeps followers engaged. Different channels can also target different groups – for instance, most 18- to 29-year-olds use both Facebook and Instagram, while 30- to 49-year-olds are more likely to only use Facebook.3
  • Use all the visual tools at your disposal. Photos can be effective engagement drivers, but there are additional tools to consider. Illustrations are sometimes better for conveying complex or abstract ideas and might have more options for matching your brand. Video is fantastic for storytelling and driving engagement, with users typically spending six times longer on a post with video.4
  • Keep it simple. Remember that great ideas simply executed garner better responses than poor ideas with big budgets. You don’t need huge volumes of visual assets – instead, think strategically about the visuals you choose and messages you want to convey.
  • Personalise your content. Personalisation keeps content looking polished and visually consistent. You can use tools to add your logo or crop and insert text, easily making content ready-to-post.

It’s tough going for many small businesses right now, but strategic social media use and engaging visual content can help you weather the storm and cultivate channels for a stronger business all-around.

Petra O’Halloran, Creative Research Project Manager, iStock by Getty Images

 Global Web Index, The global consumer impact: wave V

CPA Australia, Asia-Pacific Small Business Survey 2019-20

Sprout Social, Social media demographics to inform your brand’s strategy in 2020

Brafton, Visitors flee boring websites – Video content increases dwell time 6x

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