How an engaging social media presence will make your small business stand out from your rivals

The best way to think about social media marketing is to look at it as a courtship rather than a one-night stand. If you do that, you’ll naturally create content your audience enjoys, and win them over. That will help your small business stand out from your rivals, who will generally be posting self-centred content.

Here are seven things you can do to keep your audience engaged:

1. Decide who your target audience is

Don’t be afraid to narrow it down – a lot. As marketing guru Seth Godin said, “Everyone is not your customer.” If you try to market to everyone, you will reach no one, because your content will be so vague as to be meaningless. The narrower you go, the more effective your content will be.

2. Get to know them better

Research your business niche and read the comments on your rivals’ social media accounts. This will help you understand better what your target audience wants. What are their pain points? What do they need? Where do they hang out (i.e. what social media platforms do they use)?

3. Design all your content especially for them

Solve their problems. Fulfil their needs. Hang out with them on the platforms they use.

4. Work towards establishing a long-term relationship

Want to build a long-term relationship with your customers? Then be attentive, by paying attention to and acting on what people are saying. Be approachable, by responding helpfully to comments and queries. Be consistent, by posting targeted content regularly. Be natural, by using everyday language. Prove that you are trustworthy, by being all of the above.

5. Add value to their lives

Your posts should contain a mixture of education, news and analysis, with the occasional offer thrown in. Humour can work well, as long as it’s not offensive. Use keywords and hashtags that are relevant to your message and audience. Before you publish anything, ask yourself this question: “Does this post add value to my audience?”

6. Remember the big picture

Social media marketing never works in the short-term. That’s because it takes time to build trust, credibility and brand recognition. So, play the long game by consistently publishing content your audience cares about. If you do that, you’ll gradually establish a reputation as a trusted authority figure.

7. Get help if you’re struggling

Don’t let your social media engagement become a ball and chain. If you find social media management a bind, outsource it to a reputable agency. Done right, marketing will cost you money in the short-term but make you money in the long- term.

Five of the best places to engage with potential customers

You don’t need to post on every social media platform, only the one or two most popular with your target audience.

Here are some quick tips to using five social media platforms to your best advantage:

1. LinkedIn is for business. It’s like Facebook with a necktie. Use LinkedIn to share content relevant to business owners. Short posts, videos and infographics work well.

2. Facebook has the most reach because it’s used by 25 per cent of the world’s population. But avoid the temptation to try to appeal to everyone. Stick with your plan to engage your target audience.

3. Instagram photos need to be eye-catching to attract people’s attention. Also, you need to make sure the first few words of your post are interesting enough to get people to click ‘more’.

4. YouTube is a great place to share tutorials, “how to’s” and DIY videos.

5. Pinterest can work well for businesses in a creative field.

Again, the best way to approach social media is to think of it as a long-term courtship. When you’re really into someone, you put a significant amount of effort into making them feel valued. Apply the same principles to your relationship with your target audience, and you’ll stand out from your self-centred rivals.