In the digital age, small businesses have limitless choices in how to market to their target audiences. Small businesses can use a variety of social media platforms, from Linkedin to YouTube. They can announce new product lines and directly respond to customer questions on Twitter for everyone to see. They can use geofilters on Snapchat to transform a person's face into a cyborg, dog, superhero, or taco. These marketing options are available even for businesses with limited budgets, and the possibilities are limited only by the marketer’s creativity.
Of course, it’s difficult to make a noticeable splash in a large body of water, and the internet is a virtual ocean. To be successful, a social media marketing campaign must be crafted and delivered strategically.
Here are 5 common mistakes you’ll want to avoid when advertising on social media.
Mistake 1: Choosing a platform just because it’s popular.
Social media is not going away, but different platforms attract different people for different reasons, and those patterns change over time. It's important to be aware of the shifting sands in social media, particularly since user and technology changes tend to hit small businesses disproportionately.
Ample research should be conducted on each platform to determine which one is best for a business’s marketing strategy. Billions of people use Facebook every month. Still, it might not be the best platform on which to focus and advertise if you plan primarily to post pictures of your product or service (platforms such as Instagram and Pinterest are excellent for posting photos). Before jumping in and creating social media accounts for your business, take time to learn what each platform offers and how people are using it.
Mistake 2: Choosing a platform without knowing who uses it.
There is a growing trend among younger people that they use Facebook less often. In the past decade, Facebook use among older people has increased, while younger people have migrated primarily to Snapchat and Instagram. Demographics are a key market segmentation for targeted marketing. Small business owners and marketers who have the most current statistics for different age groups or cultures that are using social media platforms will be able to design a marketing campaign tailored to a customer segment. You may want to market to a group based on age or income level, so knowing which platforms fit your customer criteria is critical.
Mistake 3: Ignoring social media influencers.
If your small business already utilizes a social media platform like Instagram, how many followers does your account have? One thousand followers? How about one hundred thousand? Six million? If you haven’t quite met the million (or even thousand) follower mark, the good news is that you don’t need to in order to reach your target audience. Instead, you can partner with people who do have a lot of followers, also known as social media influencers. When influencers post a picture, message, or video, thousands of people will see it the next time they open that social media platform. These individuals or accounts have a significant influence on their audience and the distribution of information on a platform because they are popular, powerful, well-connected, and/or knowledgeable about a particular thing. Often, influencers are greatly trusted by their audiences, so finding the most suitable influencer for your business can be one of the most critical factors that will affect a marketing campaign.
But don’t get too caught up in the numbers. The right influencer is not necessarily the one with most followers. Just like the right social media platform, a small business should choose an influencer with an audience that the small business wants to reach.
Mistake 4: Making posts that don’t age well.
Culture changes over time, and with the advent of the internet, that change has accelerated exponentially. No longer does it take months or years for something to have its meaning altered or become a faux pas. It can happen overnight and in a big way. Words and acronyms can take on entirely different meanings than previously thought, comedic tastes can evolve, and businesses without their finger on the pulse can quickly become the laughing stock of the internet. Before executing a marketing strategy, a small business must be aware of the current social climate and cultural trends on social media to avoid publishing content that can potentially harm your brand and amplify a bad message. And if you’re ever in doubt about the appropriateness or sensitivity of post, it’s probably best to go back to the drawing board.
Mistake 5: Posting too infrequently or responding too slowly.
In addition to following cultural trends, social media monitoring must also be done constantly. Consumers today expect instant gratification, and quickly become frustrated when they cannot contact a business with a question, concern, or complaint. Despite the many tools available, social media marketing is not a "set-it-and-forget-it" way to market; it requires fairly regular tending. Efforts must be made to ensure that the output of content is cohesive, on-brand, and high-quality. Furthermore, it requires trust in the individuals managing the accounts to use good taste in the content being created and posted.