The one thing all successful small businesses do on social media is spend money.
Captivating images, enticing "click me" tweets, and engaging Facebook posts are all completely crucial to effective social marketing, but the fundamental social media tactic separating thriving small businesses from stagnant startups is found in the form of "paid promotion". Although coughing up money on platforms that are free and easy-to-use seems quite counterintuitive, we now have to pay to play in today's social media world.
In conjunction with TNS, LinkedIn recently released a study surveying the social media habits of 998 small businesses. The researchers quickly noticed a surprising correlation between profits and social media expenditure. Small businesses that are in "hyper-growth mode" (those seeing significant revenue development since last year) have enthusiastically increased their social media budgets at a quicker pace than companies who are still reserved on the approach.
Almost 75% of these blossoming SMBs increased spend on social last year compared to only 42% percent of non-growth businesses who allocated to social (Tweet This Stat!)
Why Do I Have to Pay to Be Heard?
The opening word "spend" most likely made your budget-conscious heart stop beating for a quick second. What made social media such an attainable and effective marketing channel for small business owners on a tight budget was the zero investment cost that comes with it. So why do you need to spend money here too? Two major reasons: to communicate with your existing followers and to reach new fans.
Paid promotion plants your posts and tweets directly into the news feed, which is where you'll reach and engage people. But constant algorithm changes have made it difficult for businesses of all sizes to get their content into news feeds. As of Facebook's December 2013 algorithm modernization, "high quality" content is now given prime news-feed real estate over standard company updates. This means that users will now see what's important to them: which is what they're friends and family are interested in. Therefore, if users aren't liking, sharing, or commenting on your content, then your page and updates will be "weighted less" and cease to appear in the limelight.
Some small businesses can't even reach their followers, let alone new customers. This weighted algorithm, according to Business Insider's Nicolas Carlson, resulted in businesses noticing that "a shockingly small amount of their 'fans' actually saw their post." Businesses are responding to this major change by adding buzz-worthy headlines, creating viral content, and attaching provocative images-- all in the name of adding more "weight" to their posts to accommodate the new set of rules. But the one major factor that will increase the rank and significance of your posts is by throwing a little money at them.
The second wise reason to invest in paid promotion is to reach new people. The only way to expand past your normal reach is to put your content in front of new faces- to amplify your message outside of your normal circle of "friends" (it's how the cool kids become popular). Twitter facilitates this race to popularity. With the platform's Promoted Tweets, you have the capability of targeting new users who are similar to your current followers. Likewise you can set your sights on users that search, tweet about or engage with specific keywords related to your product. Additional features like where the promotion will appear (in their search results or timeline) and on which devices makes this cost-per-engagement model a great way for small businesses to realize their brand awareness objectives.
How Small Businesses Can Start Paid Social Campaigns
Start out small. Unlike major enterprises that boast a hefty marketing budget to divvy up and spend unreservedly on social media, you're (maybe sometimes painfully) aware of your restricted marketing budget.
Jason Miller, VP of LinkedIn, recommends building a foundation by organically promoting solid, quality content. This means posting content that is relevant to your core demographic- be it discounts, local events, product releases, blog posts, or educative white papers and eBooks. Then "release the kraken", turn up the heat and throw some money at the posts.
It's definitely unnecessary to financially promote every single tweet or status update, as this could quickly drain your social funds. Start with messages that will accrue a direct ROI- new product releases, special events, and limited-time discounts. But how much spend is enough? Each social platform will help you out with easy-to-use forecasting interfaces. Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn will calculate your expected reach dependent on your budget, targeting parameters and timeline.
Paid promotion is a bit like overnight delivery. You can deliver content directly to the doorstep of your target audience, rather than waiting for your message to make its way through the circulation process and hopefully reach new customers. But the most successful small businesses, the ones deemed flourishing at a confounding rate, pay a little more for overnight delivery.
If your business goals include hyper-growth and prosperity this year, then begin a paid social campaign today. As in right now. Challenge yourself with a little social media experiment: choose a new or existing post (via Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn) and throw $20 at it. When the campaign has finished, be sure to measure your ROI in terms of new followers, increased engagement actions, and additional customers. All it takes is a few bucks to start.