13 Budget-Friendly Marketing Tips for Small Businesses

There’s good news on the horizon for small businesses. Emerging research finds that 61 percent of millennials plan to shop more at small businesses this year, and they’ll spend twice as much as baby boomers.

How can companies maximize the opportunity? Two words: digital connection.

More than 80 percent of millennials expect small businesses to have a website and be active on social media. After all, half of these shoppers say they discover retailers through online channels, and a third admit they are less likely to choose a company if it does not have an online presence.

These numbers may be problematic for small business owners – according to the OnePoll study, four in ten don’t use social media for their company – but it’s a relatively easy hurdle to overcome. With 13 budget-friendly tips on deck, building a strong social media marketing strategy is within reach. 

1. Make social media a priority

    Fads come and go, but social media is clearly here to stay. Facebook alone now boasts 2.3 billion active users every month. Pinterest has 150 million people searching and sharing content. And both Instagram and Twitter drive massive engagement with hundreds of millions tuning in.

    Being able to quickly access that many consumers makes this an exciting time for small business development. It’s not enough to just have a company page, though. “Set it and forget it” marketing won’t work in this type of environment. The sheer volume of new content published on the Internet every day means only the dedicated come out on top.

    To capture the golden goose, business owners need to deploy cutting edge strategies. Now, don’t worry. That isn’t code language for “expensive” or “time-consuming.” Building a solid online presence can be done with limited resources, as long as you are committed. Companies that stick with it, adapting to the marketplace as needed, are going to experience the largest growth.

    2. What’s the end game?

      Diving into digital marketing without a plan is a bad idea. Before doing anything else, determine how social media fits into the company’s overall goals. Without defined targets, it’s easy to get sucked into a vortex of costly, fruitless endeavors – and it’s tough to measure results over time if you don’t know where you’re aiming.

      Want to boost engagement with likes and shares? Generate new leads? Build brand awareness through product promotion? Create connection points with consumers? These are all fantastic reasons to use social media. Whatever you choose, create attainable goals by breaking them down into actionable steps. Be specific with numbers, and always set deadlines.  

      3. Know your audience

        A key goal of social content marketing is to present the brand as a trusted, relatable resource, so knowing who you’re speaking to is of utmost importance. As digital strategist Jayson DeMers describes in Forbes Magazine, “Beginning every campaign with a strong understanding of your audience is one of the best ways to ensure your success.”

        Defining a customer profile usually involves bullet points like age, income, interests, and habits. These are fundamental details, DeMers says, pointing to core needs and motivations that drive consumer decision-making.

        For small businesses wanting to capture the attention of one of the largest demographics, we’ve assembled a helpful list of essentials in “The 10 Secrets of Marketing to Millennials”.

        4. Choose relevant platforms

          Not all social media networks are created equal. Each platform is unique, attracting a specific type of user. Professionals flock to LinkedIn. Do-it-yourselfers swap ideas on Pinterest. Periscope is home to live streamers around the world, while Instagram is known for its foodies, fashionistas, and artists. With Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and a growing list of others to choose from, too, maintaining a presence on every channel is impractical.

          Once you learn about the different options, you’ll be able to select the platforms that mesh well with your business personality. A good rule of thumb is to first, define your target audience, and then select the three most suitable networks.

          When small businesses take the time to understand how and where consumers prefer to communicate, you’ll find a target audience more likely to pay attention.

          5. Post regularly, but not excessively

            Spam is annoying. Even too much of a good thing – like promotions and product info – can be off-putting. But, on the flip side, do too little and consumers will wonder if there are better options elsewhere.

            Finding balance is key.

            Depending on the social media network, it’s standard practice to make between 5 – 70 posts a week. But maintaining engagement is less about quantity, and more about quality. Especially for small business owners, it’s OK to start slowly. A great way to start is by curating UGC that gets people saying, “Wow, cool!” Because when outreach meets customer needs – in this case, a craving for highly-visual, interactive content – engagement will naturally follow.

            6. Be human

              Remember when brands relied on corporate lingo to showcase their professionalism? Yawn. Social media is not the place for canned responses. Successful outreach is about connecting people with people.

              Like executive Sally-Anne Kaminski told CNBC: "It's about humanizing our brands and not just being a marketing engine. You have to have a voice and have a personality. If you are just pushing marketing, you are just a bulletin board."

              This is an area in which small businesses have a leg up. Shawn Pillar at Business.com put it this way: “Larger businesses aren't all that personable. Their human component is often relegated to a vaguely relatable stock photo you swear you saw somewhere else. This is where being a small business retailer gives you a competitive edge. Founder narratives, community involvement and personal touch are the human components you can provide that the big guys often don't.” 

              To stand out, try flipping the camera around to give followers an insider look at your brand. Share authoritative articles and link to content relevant to your audience’s interests. Host contests, ask questions, and put fans in the spotlight by featuring their comments and reviews. The point is to be personable, adding value to their lives and creating incentive for others to follow along as well.

              7. Invest in highly-visual content

                Images result in more retweets, likes, and comments on social media, so it’s no surprise that the most successful businesses have a strong visual identity. Whether it’s alluring photos or candid videos, this is content worth having.

                Fortunately, you don’t actually need to be a graphic designer to nail this strategy. There are loads of options for outsourcing the job, but the smartest marketers don’t pay a penny for it. Thanks to the prevalence of social media in our daily lives, fans are regularly uploading photos, videos, and testimonials relevant to your company. If you’re having trouble creating your own eye-catching content, take a look at what your customers are posting.

                In fact, fan content offers more value anyway. Nielson reports that 92% of consumers trust personal advice over all other forms of advertising, and a recent study by BrightCove revealed 74 percent of consumers drew a connection between watching a video on social media and making a purchase!

                Chances are your customers are already posting about your products, and that is content you can easily capture and repurpose through an aggregation and display engine like TwineSocial.

                8. Run contests that educate and entertain

                  Millennials, in particular, prefer to be part of the conversation, not just passive viewers of an ad.  62 percent say they are more likely to become loyal customers of brands that engage them online.

                  One of the best ways for small businesses to cultivate that relationship is by inviting fans to participate in contests. Camera manufacturer GoPro rocked this technique by inviting adrenaline junkies to upload their best, jaw-dropping fears to social media networks with the #GoPro hashtag. In addition to instantly expanding reach, the company also saw its net income more than double! Another great example? Lay’s Potato Chip received millions of submissions during its new flavor contest.

                  This is a strategy that works for heritage brands and start-ups alike. So, go ahead. Ask a question, and watch the magic unfold. Hashtag contests not only generate a slew of exciting new social media posts but also introduce others to your brand story.

                  9. Showcase your company’s community spirit

                    When asking why so many millennials expect to shop small businesses this year, the OnePoll survey found that community commitment and a desire to support the local economy were the leading reasons. “Playing to this ethos through social media with humanized posts related to your community, the people in it, and your role in supporting the community will pay dividends,” advises Business.com.

                    For many small brands, community may not necessarily be local. Rather, your customer base might be centered around a common idea. That’s great! Millennials are constantly on the lookout for brands that align with their values, and they’re willingly to pay more to these companies if they feel it makes a difference.

                    10. Capitalize on social influence

                      We humans have a fundamental desire to belong, and social media helps create a sense of community around a brand, product, or idea. “We take our cues from our environment, especially other people, on how to act,” Psychology Today confirms. “Most of us do not have time to increase our knowledge of all merchandise and research every advertised item to measure its usefulness. Instead, we rely on signals like popularity. If everyone else is buying something, the reasoning goes, there is a good chance the item is worth our attention.”

                      This phenomenon is why influencer marketing is now one of the hottest trends on social media. But it’s no longer just the rich and famous plugging products with sponsored posts. Influencers come in all shapes and sizes, and many small businesses are finding it more affordable and effective to pursue “ordinary” superfans. While these niche users may reach fewer people, their recommendations convey an intimacy that resonates better with peers.

                      Locating these loyal customers isn’t difficult. The best way to start is by aggregating existing UGC into admin-friendly hubs, so brand managers can see and partner with superfans.

                      11. Put UGC everywhere

                        Many businesses put social media marketing in a box, leaving customer posts to linger on the networks themselves. That’s a huge mistake. Bazaar Voice discovered an astonishing 84 percent of millennials are influenced by UGC on a company’s website. Showcasing fan loyalty on landing pages, social hubs, and even the check-out process is the most credible advertising a brand can do.

                        With the content permissions module, you can unlock rights to valuable UGC—turning earned content into owned content. This means your brand’s social proof can be transferred to ad copy, live events, retail displays, anywhere you need extra sway.

                        12. Monitor and respond to incoming social posts

                          With limited time and resources, small businesses may find it difficult to monitor social media accounts regularly. But the Internet never sleeps, and leaving comments or questions unanswered gives visitors the impression you’re not there or you’re too busy too care – neither desireable for your company image.

                          “Treat your social media channels like your office phone, in that when someone calls, you answer, and you do your best to help,” says social media consultant Daniel Kushner. “It’s a useful analogy, except for one key difference. Billions of people around the world can listen in on this phone line.”

                          That’s why acknowledging posts is so important. It shows customers they matter.

                          This could be a daunting task, but curation platforms make quick work of it – compiling relevant social media posts into a private administrative hub for easy review. While this is useful in moderating for display on website and live event screens, the dashboard also gives companies a bigger picture of how customers are talking about the company and its competitors. That, in turn, helps you know how to tailor future marketing efforts for maximum impact.

                          13. Track performance with analytics tools

                            Millennials are clearly driving the “shop small” movement, but it’s not a given that every small business will benefit from the enthusiasm. To know if you’re making effective strides in reaching these young shoppers, you need to be familiar with online reporting tools.

                            Key performance indicators – KPIs – are a small business owner’s dream, providing actionable insight to ensure social media campaigns are getting the best results possible. Counting likes and follows isn’t social media marketing. To know how your efforts are impacting your business, you need to be looking at KPIs. Metrics like post popularity, follower demographics, engagement rates, and reach will help you know how to boost success over time.

                            No matter how large or small your business, social media marketing connects brands with shoppers. To join the world’s most sophisticated marketers, request a complimentary demo of TwineSocial’s social media curation engine or enjoy a free trial today.

                            For more ideas on how to promote shared enthusiasm around an idea, product, or community, check out our solutions gallery. Then, kick off your own success story with a free 7-day trial of TwineSocial. Let us know how we can help!

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