Many consumers use social media to look up and research a business before they choose to purchase their products. These consumers want an inside look at your business before trusting you. Social media is a great way to build trust with your audience because of the variety of post options and the opportunity to dive deeper in promoting your brand values.
The focus of your social media program should be on conveying reputability by encouraging customer reviews, which is connected to your online reputation, and showcasing your products, values, and personality on a consistent basis. The overall followers and engagement numbers are not as important as providing your prospects with another way to learn about your business from your team and your previous customers in an online social environment. It’s important to only use essential social media channels to maintain consistency in posting and communications with your followers. Having outdated social media pages can negatively impact your reputation and turn prospects away.
In addition to a consistent social media program focused on providing valuable content to your followers, your business may benefit by using scarcity marketing tactics. Like using this tactic for email marketing, you can offer limited promotions via social media; however, it’s important to note that most social media platforms use algorithms so posts are not viewed in date order, which means your followers may not see today’s post until next week. So, to use this tactic on social media, let your followers in on the limited offer ahead of time with consistent posts and hints. This way, you get the benefits of scarcity marketing while ensuring your followers know the limited opportunity is coming beforehand. In essence, you’re creating a countdown for them, driving interest and being transparent at the same time.
For product-based businesses, social media is the best way to get the word out about your product before you launch because it is generally inexpensive to post organic content. You just need a mixture of professional photos of your product and stock photos; as well as a way to curate social media images (such as using Canva, which is a free web-based tool and app); and great content that follows your messaging guidelines, uses hashtags that relate to your product and brand, and piques the interest of your new followers. Encourage followers to sign up for your email program so they can be the first ones informed of your launch and snag your product first. Then, after you launch your product, keep communicating with your followers on social media.
Social Media Platforms
Instagram and Pinterest are must-have social media platforms for your product-based business. We recommend launching Instagram and other pages, such as Facebook, before your product launches to stir up buzz. Then, after you’ve launched, create your Pinterest business account to discuss your products and share your blog articles.
The key is to cater the content, image sizes, and hashtags for each platform. You want to set up each page to look similar (according to your visual branding), but each page (profile and posts) should cater to the audience members who are likely to follow it.
For example, if your younger audience segment follows you on Instagram but your best customers follow you and find you on Pinterest, your content and messaging will differ for each platform. This takes trial and error, so don’t be afraid to ask your employees and customers what they think (and watch the data).
Social media pages should be consistently active. Daily posts or multiple posts per day are ideal, but unrealistic for many small businesses. Instead, focus on publishing three quality posts per week and scale from there if it benefits your business and you are able to do so.
The day and time you post don’t matter as much as being consistent because the algorithm for most platforms, such as Instagram, means posts are not seen right when they are published, but instead in the order the viewer is likely to want to see the posts based on interest.
To publish social media content, you can use social media scheduling tools, such as Hootsuite, TweetDeck, and Buffer, which include free plans, as well as Zoho Social, Oktopost, SocialOomph, Sprout Social, and more. We recommend choosing one social media scheduling tool based on your platforms, needs, and budget. This way, you can create posts in one sitting and schedule them to publish in a week, a month, or at a later time. This streamlines the time you spend on social media for your business, but don’t forget to check your pages, too. Alternatively, you can publish directly to each native platform, but this often takes longer, especially if you want to share a similar post on multiple platforms, and most platforms don’t have scheduling options, limiting your publishing times to “now.”
Tip: When you need to promote something timely, such as a sale or event promotion, create multiple posts on the same topic and schedule them well in advance to give your audience multiple reminders.
Social Media content
Product-based businesses need to be authentic on their social media pages. Promotional posts have their place, but educational and entertaining posts should be the majority. Product-based businesses have a great opportunity to showcase their professional product photos with informative (and maybe even fun, according to your messaging guidelines) captions alongside how-to videos, stock photos, and user-generated photos.
Using user-generated content is a great way to show your customers what purchasing your product is really like. Encourage your customers to share their experiences online in the format of a review, preferably with photos; this is a great option on Facebook, your website, and other online retailers, such as Amazon. On Instagram and Pinterest, there aren’t review-specific opportunities, but instead, there is the opportunity for organic posts by customers featuring your product.
When a customer is very satisfied with their experience, they are often happy to “review” your product in a post. Then the reviews benefit your online reputation (see Online Reputation in Foundation) and can be repurposed as user-generated content on your pages.
On Instagram, when you see followers tag your brand in a post and positively comment about your product, send them a direct message and ask them if you can feature their post and comment on your Instagram page. If they say yes, you can repost the post on your business’s Instagram feed among your other regularly-scheduled posts.
Promotional posts have their place, but educational and newsworthy posts should be the majority. Depending on your industry and personality, you may be able to showcase a behind-the-scenes look at your business, too. Live video works great for this. You also may be able to entertain your followers with creative posts, which can further showcase your reputability and brand personality.
Video content is powerful on most platforms, including social media and your website. Consider creating Q&A content, live or recorded, to answer customer questions about your product, or take them on a journey to see how your product is made. Videos can be recorded and edited on a smartphone. Remember to use your messaging and visual branding guidelines when developing video content.
Tip: Shorter video clips are ideal content pieces for Instagram posts and Stories as well as Pinterest; the ideal length for Instagram is about 30 seconds with the maximum length being 60 seconds. However, if you plan on creating longer videos, we recommend uploading them to YouTube or Vimeo, and then snipping a short clip from that video for social media sharing.
Creating and sharing video content also involves adding helpful descriptions for YouTube or Vimeo and social sharing. Descriptions that help viewers understand the context of the video (beyond just the video title) can improve SEO as well.
To develop your video content strategy, you need to determine whether it will replace or augment other content you are sharing. Depending on your business and resources, your answer will vary; however, augmenting long-form content, such as blog articles, with videos can help showcase your expertise in a digestible format.
Social Media Influencers
Product-based businesses, B2B and B2C, can benefit from using social media influencers. The key is to find smaller influencers who have an engaged, niche following who are not promoting your competitors; these are called micro-influencers. You may be able to find influencers among your customers. Then, you can encourage them to promote your business even more with discounts or free swag.
The key to developing relationships with potential influencers before you email them and ask them to partner with you is to follow them on social media, and comment and share their posts. Start the relationship with their business (and, likely, personal brand) before asking them to promote your business.
You will likely work with influencers who are on Instagram and maybe have their own blog, but influencers are increasingly using YouTube, TikTok, Snapchat, and Pinterest. But don’t spread yourself too thin. Just because you reach out to an influencer on Snapchat doesn’t mean you need to have your own Snapchat account. Instead, encourage the influencer to let their followers know of other ways to learn more about your product, such as your Instagram handle or website URL.
Tip: Choose micro-influencers who have a decent following in your niche and will represent your brand well. Review their posts and blogs to ensure their messaging style fits with your guidelines (see Messaging in Foundation). For example, if you create a product for a religious audience, you will likely not want an influencer who swears on their Instagram Stories because it’s just not a good fit for your brand.
Social Media Contests
Contests on social media can accelerate brand awareness, lead generation, conversions, and generate buzz about your business. This tactic can even be used in the pre-launch phase of your business. When hosting a contest, be sure to have a relevant but not too expensive prize to offer the contest winner.
For people to enter, they typically have to like your post, comment on it, follow your page, and share your post; all or some of these pieces may be required while others may be additional entries into the contest. You can also request that they opt-in to your email marketing, either as a way to pre-qualify them as a lead or as an additional entry into the contest itself. Adding the email marketing opt-in can lower the number of bad leads you receive during the contest, but it can also lower the reach your contest has. It’s best to test what works best for your audience.
Use the Data
Social media is always changing just as your customers’ needs are always changing, which is why it’s important to review social media analytics for all of your active pages at least monthly. This will help you review the latest comments, messages, and reviews, as well as see what content received the most engagement (e.g. likes and comments) and how many conversions your posts had.
For product-based businesses, the number of conversions will likely be your main focus for your social media program. However, it takes time to build a following that trusts you and engages with you, so pay attention to engagement and awareness as well.
Keep in mind that you don’t want every social media post to sell, so not every post will lead to conversions. But, if you develop a social media program that informs followers about your products and sometimes leads them to your website or email list sign-up form, then you are likely to have high conversions during promotional pushes and sales.
Social media is meant to be “social,” so product-based businesses need at least one dedicated team member to check each social media platform daily, minimum, in order to reply to follower comments and DMs.
If you choose to use Facebook in your social media marketing efforts, set up and use Facebook Messenger bots for your business, which allow you to utilize the benefits of chatbots without any legwork. Messenger can benefit your business because it is likely that a large segment of your audience would prefer to contact you via Messenger than through other avenues. Once you set up your Facebook Messenger bot for your business page, be sure you have a team member who can check it and respond to it most of the time, especially during business hours. It’s also best to create automatic messages so your customers can see your business hours and receive answers to common questions, even if your business is closed.
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