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Social media is a driving force for much of our communication in the 21st century. Many people cannot go very long without checking their Facebook and Twitter feeds. The recent South African Social Media Landscape 2016 study conducted by World Wide Worx and Fuseware has revealed that in South Africa there are 13 million Facebook users and 7.4 million Twitter users.  As a small business, the popularity of social platforms is an opportunity for you to create brand awareness, drive more traffic to your website, create a valuable relationship between you and customers, and increase sales.

This being said, social media marketing needs to have a strategy – it requires clear objectives and planning to achieve those goals. Here are some easy ways you can use social media to positively impact your business.

1. Choose platforms suited to your business

Keep it simple. You don’t need to use every social media platform under the sun. If you have a restaurant, Instagram is a great option. It’s a very visual platform that can help you showcase your dishes. If you have a consulting business, you’re probably going to want to stick to more professional platforms like LinkedIn. Do some research to find out what social media sites your audience spend time on and are using. This way, you don’t waste time and resources posting on platforms that won’t generate leads and engage with potential customers.

2. Planning is essential

Create a social media marketing plan before you do anything else. Your plan should have clear objectives and goals that you want to achieve. Perhaps your business is new and you want to create more brand awareness, or you simply want to increase sales. With goals in mind, you can assess whether your social campaigns are successful or not. Create a content calendar for your social media postings. This can help you plan content for the week or month and allow you to schedule these in advance so that you can save time.

Tools like Hootsuite can prove to be quite handy. HootSuite is a central platform from which you can schedule tweets, Facebook posts, LinkedIn updates, and other social content. It also allows you to  read and respond to what’s happening across various feeds. Here’s a great video on more of that.

3. Engage with customers and potential customers

Listening to your customers is as important as sharing content with them. The best way to show them that you are listening is to engage with them on social media. This makes your customers feel like you understand their needs and hear their concerns. It also shows that you are proactive when it comes to dealing with complaints and shows your customers that you value them. Lyra Communications gives some great tips on how to engage with your social media followers below. Take a quick listen.

4. Be aware of what to avoid doing on social media

One of the most annoying things brands can do is use click bait. This is when someone uses controversial headlines to gain more attention. More often than not, the article offers no new information or provides content that contradicts the headline. This can be extremely frustrating for audiences and should be avoided at all costs.

Another thing you want to steer clear of is using social media purely for advertising purposes. This makes customers feel like your only concern is the bottom line. Instead use it to add value to your customer. Share information that they would find useful and can help and inform them.

If your business is online, at some point or another you might receive a negative comment. The worst way to handle these is to ignore or delete them. Rather use this as an opportunity to show the kind of brand that you are and the kind of service you work hard to provide. Answer these types of queries timeously, try to solve the issue quickly and engage with the customer to see what you can do to make things better.

Remember that every interaction online is an opportunity to showcase your brand and the type of business you are. Turn negatives into positives, and determine how you are going to handle these situations before they crop up – this goes back to the first point about planning.

5. Make use of curated content

Don’t just talk about yourself. Everyone hates the hard sell. If all you do is bang on about your product or service and how awesome your business is you’ll start losing followers. There will be other businesses or industry leaders who write better blogs than you do, or have a greater knowledge of the industry than you do – don’t be afraid to share their content. Always keep in mind that the content you share on social media is there to add value to your customer. Let that rule of thumb be a guide on what and how you share curated content.

6. If you can, make use of social advertising

Social advertising can make a meaningful difference. Boosting content on Facebook or using LinkedIn sponsored content can help you reach a wider, targeted audience. Take advantage of these opportunities if you have the budget, it is a great opportunity to make more people aware of your business, make your content accessible to those who don’t yet know about you and gain new customers.

Check out this video that explains the reasons you should be using social media

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