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Using Social Media to Grow Your Business

Adam Coughlin
Adam Coughlin

Social media can be an effective marketing tool to grow your business, but remember that what helps grow a business and what attracts massive amounts of followers are not always the same thing.

Social media can be an effective marketing tool to help you grow your business. The key, however, is to remember that what helps grow a business and what attracts massive amounts of followers are not always the same thing. If you want to be Insta-famous, this blog post might not be very helpful. But if you want to engage a loyal customer base, drive value and, as a result, increase revenue, then there is a blueprint you can follow. 

But before your business can succeed using social media, you have to dispel some of its myths.

Social media is an often misunderstood marketing tactic. That may be because anyone can have a social media account and social media accounts are so public. The No. 1 thing to remember about social media is that everything is not always as it seems. That guy posing on an epic nature hike really just posted a zoomed-in photo of his backyard. That brand with 75,000 Twitter followers paid for many of those followers.

While it is important to learn tactics and ideas from other people on social media, never get discouraged. You're using social for a very specific reason: growing your business. To do that, you need to do two things: grow a follower base and then drive them to your products or services. It is also important to remember that there is organic social and paid social. 

Create a follower base.

The first place to start is understanding your prospective customers. What social channels do they use? If they primarily live on LinkedIn but never use Facebook, then focus your efforts on LinkedIn and ignore Facebook. Don't waste cycles on social channels that have limited return on investment. Most small businesses, with limited resources, get in trouble because they spread themselves too thin. It is much better to truly own one channel than to do a mediocre job on five channels. Staying focused is crucial for successfully leveraging social media. 

By focusing on the channel that your customers use, you will also be signaling to them that you understand. This is an important step in establishing authority and credibility within your industry, which is the reason someone would want to follow you to begin with. 

The next thing to do is to start following people within your industry. Are there reporters who cover your space? Thought leaders or influencers who are always sharing strong insights? What are your competitors doing? Follow them. This will help you understand the conversations that are happening within your space, which will ultimately help inform the type of content you write.

If you write content that you know your audience is interested in, they'll be more likely to read it, which will increase your engagement. It is a very happy cycle that is created. Sharing your own content, which lives on your blog, is very important because it drives people to your website. Once on your website, if you've created a simple path from your blog to your product or services page, you increase the chances of converting viewers into customers. 

Once you've identified the right channel and have developed a following, the first phase of your approach is to consistently post. This does not have to be advanced social media marketing. This is simply about committing to posting one to two times per day, five days a week. These posts can be your own original content (either blogs or quick thoughts), resharing content that you found interesting and relevant or simply retweeting. 

The goal here is to show you have a consistent pulse. There are a lot of things vying for your customers' attention. You need to remain top of mind. To do that you need to beat that drum. Consistency also shows that you are dedicated to your social media efforts and find them valuable.

If you find them valuable then, over time, others will, too. If you show no commitment or limited efforts, why would others? That's an important point to make clear: Using social media to grow your business is not easy. It takes effort and commitment. 

Inject your brand.

For example, social media is a great, relaxed opportunity to showcase your brand. What are the core values of your company? What is your personality? Social media allows you to inject that brand into everything you do, which can help your company stand out from the crowd. According to a popular Harvard Business Review survey, customers who have excellent experiences with brands spend 140% more. That seems like it is certainly worth the investment. 

However, it is important to remember to remain authentic and that social media is simply one customer engagement channel. If you post funny memes and high fives on social but then your sales team is pressuring and bullying customers to close deals, you're going to send a lot of mixed messages, and your brand will be damaged more than helped. 

The most important three words in the above paragraph are "customer engagement channel." It is easy to fall victim to turning your social channel into a megaphone where you simply yell at your customers all the wonderful things that you're doing as a company. Don't get me wrong, this is important. It is even more important with new companies who don't have a long track record so they don't have other people (customers, reporters, analysts) talking about how good they are. 

Start a conversation.

But social media must be a conversation. That is how you use it to your advantage. If your customers think they're part of the conversation and not just being talked to, then they will open and the information you learn will be priceless. 

Of course, it is difficult to have a conversation by yourself. This is why your first efforts need to be on building a base of followers. How big does that need to be? It depends. But once you have 1,000 followers, you should continue posting about your company, but you should also ramp up your creative campaigns. 

Campaigns can include anything from a quiz to a contest to everything in between. Contests are helpful because they can incentivize people to take action. Do a contest where you say, "Sign up for our newsletter and win a free [your company] T-shirt." People like free things. This works great, because if people give you their email, you can more easily market to them, and if they're wearing your T-shirt, then they're marketing for you.

That type of contest is also good at training people to take action. While it is nice to have a bunch of people following and liking your content, it is critical to growing your business that you convert a portion of those people into buying your products.

That is one thing that seems obvious but people often forget. With social media people often focus on follower count. Sure, that is important, but only because the larger the number, the greater the chances that a small percentage will buy something. To grow your business, it is more valuable to have a small group of engaged, targeted followers who are willing to buy than appealing to every person on the planet. 

Don't be afraid to sell.

To grow your business, your social media accounts can't just be engaging, they have to sell something. I once worked with a company that was great at getting media attention. If you put the names of the publications that covered them on a piece of paper, it would have been a PR person's dream. Yet, the coverage never included what the company actually sold. In fact, people didn't even realize they were a company. This does not help grow a business. 

If you use your social to help you sell, then you better use it to help support your customers after the sale. Social is one of the most popular ways for customers to try to reach a brand. Be responsive. This helps with the previous brand discussion. In customer service on social, quick is better than perfect. Respond quickly even if it is simply acknowledging the question and letting the person know you're looking into it. Or simply pass along the customer support email or phone number. For some companies, it may make sense to have a separate support social account, so as not to detract from the main brand-building handle. 

Don't rush into paid social media.

All of the above is focused on using social for organic growth. This is foundational for every company. Once you have owned your channels, developed an audience, it is a good time to experiment with paid social. Many companies make the mistake of rushing into paid social. This ends up being an expensive mistake. You will learn invaluable lessons on how to communicate with your customer base through your organic efforts. Those learnings will make your paid efforts much more effective. 

The key to paid social is to run a lot of tests using a little amount of money. This will help you narrow down on the right target audience and the right messaging that converts that audience. Paid social is a great vehicle to drive action. This means your end goal should be to get people to sign up for a newsletter, an e-book, or, ideally, a trial or demo of your product. 

Use social media to speak to all of your audiences.

It should be noted that the primary focus up to this point has been on your customers. But there are other audiences that are important to a company's growth. As you continue creating your social accounts, occasionally view them through the lens of potential investors, potential employees, the media and your competitors. Speaking to all of those audiences is important. 

But if you build a strong brand, deliver value to your customers, remain consistent and engaging, all of the above-mentioned audiences will benefit greatly from your social media efforts. And that will certainly help grow your business.

Adam Coughlin
Adam Coughlin,
business.com Writer
See Adam Coughlin's Profile
I have always loved to write. As a young man I dreamed of becoming the next Ernest Hemingway. However, I am afraid of bullfighting and get a stomach ache if I drink too much. So though I began my career in journalism, I eventually became passionate about corporate storytelling. I've worked with startups as both a team member and now as an investor. When I write I like to look at the human side of business and find the little universal truths that appeal to us all.