Social media has taken the business world by storm, and it isn't going anywhere soon.
It might seem like a waste of time if you haven't seen a considerable ROI, but instead of running scared you should embrace the power it gives you.
Social media marketing allows you to communicate directly to your customers and give them information they need.
The one thing some of you may find is that keeping things consistent can be tricky. Employees take holidays, other jobs get in the way, and you may not have time to post daily. That's where a social media toolbelt comes in.
Here’s how social tools can help your business generate more growth through social media marketing.
Example: Margaret’s Cakes
This is Margaret; she runs a cake shop.
Margaret’s cake shop is very popular in the local area, and she gets lots of regular local customers. However, Margaret is keen to expand her customer base to other towns. She wants to make people aware of how lovely her cakes are and get them to travel to taste them.
Her goal here is awareness.
The problem is that Margaret is often too busy baking the cakes and selling them to customers to spend time marketing her business. Another issue is Margaret’s marketing budget. She has a small local business and can’t afford another monthly salary for to someone else to do the work.
What's The Solution?
The solution is social media. Not only is it free advertising for her business, but it’s also easy for her to access user-generated content (we’ll discuss this later). She can also use free social tools to schedule pre-made posts in when she’s busy baking or serving customers.
Margaret’s story might sound familiar to you. When running a business, it’s easy to feel like you don’t have the time or the energy to organise your social media.
Scheduling and design tools are some of the best ways to give the impression you’re a top-notch social media guru. You can prevail even when you’re snowed under with other jobs.
Post scheduling helps when your business is closed, you have the day off, or staff take a holiday. It means that your customers are still being updated and keeps your company in their minds.
So on to the next part, what tools should she be using?
The market is crammed with social tools that promise to increase engagement, build a following and grow your business. While we aren’t saying these are the best options for you, these are the four we think stand out.
What's User Generated Content (UGC)?
It’s social media’s best mate. It’s content your customers generate that you can reuse to promote your business.
B2C businesses can take advantage of this because they have a plethora of loyal customers willing to shout about their brand. Having said that, it doesn't matter whether you're B2B or B2C, as long as you have people willing to shout about your business you can generate content.
How Does UGC Work?
The UGC Cycle
Margaret was asked to bake a 3 tier chocolate unicorn rainbow birthday cake for one of her customers, Olivia. She took some photos when it was finished and sent it off to be enjoyed. Margaret can use those photos to promote future cake orders and let people know what she can make.
Now we have a new character, Olivia. She receives her cake and is overwhelmed with joy at how lovely and perfect it is. Olivia takes a photo and puts it on her Instagram page making sure to tag Margaret's shop. This is user-generated content.
Margaret can now re-post the photo to her social media and show her customers how pleased Olivia was with her cake. This will build trust that she can deliver what's promised of her orders. Not only that but now Olivia's followers have seen the cake.
They know the next time they’re looking for a bespoke birthday cake they can go to Margaret's shop.
Planoly and UGC
Planoly is an Instagram-only scheduling tool; it makes curating your user-generated content simple.
Planoly makes it easy to schedule and auto-post so once the image is loaded into the app you don't have to return to post it
Planoly also allows you to search hashtags and repost images that have them attached. So if Margaret decided to encourage her followers to use the hashtag #margaretscakes she can see all posts with that hashtag and schedule them to go out on her page.
Not only that, but you can group hashtags and add them to every post, so you don't have to type them out each time you schedule something.
Planoly’s package starts at $7 a month (roughly £5.50), so it’s an affordable service that can up your Instagram game and save you plenty of time.
Find out more about creating a social media strategy by reading our social media ultimate resource.
Hootsuite has an excellent free service where you can schedule across Twitter, Instagram and Facebook in one place.
Unlike Planoly, Hootsuite doesn’t have automatic posting for Instagram. That means when you schedule posts they’ll send a notification to your phone, and you have to copy the caption over and post the photo.
This is the reason we use both tools, as some work better for specific platforms than others do. It’s not great to have to bring up Instagram on your phone every time a photo is due to go out and defeats the purpose of scheduling in the first place.
However, the features they have for Facebook make things simple. They allow you to see how the photos you attach to your post will look when uploaded and mean you can curate your posts to look exactly how you want.
The free version of Hootsuite gives you three profiles, 30 scheduled messages a month and one user. This is ideal for a small business (like Margaret’s) who’ll only need to schedule across a few platforms a few times a week.
If you do want to upgrade, the cheapest paid plan starts at £25 per month with ten social profiles, unlimited posts and one user.
Scheduling makes it easy to keep on top of things when you aren’t around. However, design and brand is an element of social that can be harder to get to grips with. Not everyone has a graphic designer on hand that is a photoshop whizz and can create a brand style for your social media.
Canva is a graphic design tool that makes creating logos, social media templates and branded posts simple. Let’s revisit Margaret’s cake shop.
Margaret is organising a special event; she’ll be offering 3 for 2 on cupcakes. She has a photo of the cakes and is keen to put the offer over the top of the image to make a poster and some social media posts.
With Canva, Margaret can use her brand colours and font which are all saved in the brand section of her account. She can use a template to design a poster that attracts customers to her event and informs them of the offer. The best thing is she doesn’t need a degree in design to figure it out! Hooray Margaret!
Once she's happy with the template, it's easily customisable. She can add in her own photos and message and then resize it for the platform she needs.
The free version of Canva offers templates, font options, the chance to customise graphics and easily resize for different platforms. The premium version gives access to more exciting graphics and templates, allows you to upload your fonts as well as lots of other features.
The premium version starts at $9.95 per month (about £7.80) and is worth the investment so that you can make easily editable graphics and flawless designs.
We’re always talking about the benefits of HubSpot, how we use it and what it can do for your business. However, social scheduling is just another string to the HubSpot bow. You can use HubSpot to schedule posts across many platforms, and it’s included in their paid package. You can read more about that here.
Hubspot will automatically shorten links for you and allows you to change the photos attached to your posts. For a small business like Margaret’s Cakes, HubSpot is not vital. However, she could use the free version to help with her email marketing.
For a company that's keen to integrate content, and SEO into their digital marketing, paying for HubSpot provides a much bigger return on investment.
It still sounds like a lot to keep on top of…
If you’re looking at that list and thinking it still sounds like a lot of work you haven't got time to do, that’s where partnering with an agency can help. Agencies will have subscriptions to these tools, and others to use for clients every day.
Instead of hiring an extra pair of hands to do your social, you could hire a whole team to make your business shine online. That way you can focus on the day to day running of your business.
Social isn’t as easy as taking a photo and posting it. When you’re building a brand things can get much more complex, and it's not always easy to know which route to take.