(This article was written by Alex Sixt and appeared on entrepreneur.com.)
Social. Media. These two words have made you either jump for joy or curl up in a fetal position in your pajamas at the overwhelming nature of these platforms. Either of these reactions are probably the reason you’re here: either you love everything about social media or the mere thought sends you into a panic-induced sweat.
Like it or not, it’s here to stay, and in these social distancing times, social media is more important than before to the success of your business. Taking on the responsibility of managing your social media accounts can be both an exciting venture and a terrifying process, especially if you’re working from home like many throughout the world. Have no fear, I’m here to tell you that you’ve got this and to give you a few pro-tips.
The good news is that you don’t have to be a celebrity or a household name—even if you’re not a Kardashian, you can build a great following and get more attention for your posts. There are plenty of little-known hacks that can upgrade your social media game and boost your business’ following especially during a time when it is vital to stay connected to your virtual community. Many platforms have acknowledged the hardships that small businesses are facing during the coronavirus COVID-19 crisis, and have developed features to aid these users to expand their reach across social media.
These features can be a fantastic addition to your toolkit, but there are plenty of other ways to reach new audiences that don’t have to involve an expert understanding of the algorithms or hours of your precious time. I’ve pulled together some of my favorite, essential hacks that can help you build your business’ social media presence from home.
1. Get on a schedule.
You may have heard the old adage that “content is king.” If that is true then scheduling software can be considered the court jester that makes living in the kingdom fun and also slightly easier. If you’re like me, you’d prefer to not be glued to your phone or posting content manually hour after hour, during lunch, and in the middle of the night.
The perfect solution: social media management tools. There are a variety of apps that give their users the ability to schedule content ahead of time and free up your schedule while saving you from the hours that manual posting can take. Depending on your specific needs, there’s likely an app or tool that will be the perfect fit for your management style, and most provide more tools—such as analytics—that will give you the opportunity to monitor your social media from one dashboard.
2. Don’t underestimate the power of a hashtag.
Hate ‘em or love ‘em, hashtags can be an excellent way to reach new audiences on social media. It’s easy to get carried away with them and tack on the maximum amount to every post, but don’t get lost by thinking too broadly. Using popular hashtags such as #love or #summer may put you into the mix of other related posts, but there is another type of hashtag to consider when targeting audiences who are already interested in your industry: niche hashtags.
For example, a wedding business in San Diego, Calif., should consider using #sandiegowedding in addition to widely used hashtags such as #wedding, to reach a more local audience.
But hashtags don’t have to be restricted to just your posts; add them to your profile’s bio, as well. Instagram recently added the ability to add clickable hashtags to your bio, making your page more searchable and leading followers towards branded content on social media.
3. Boost blog traffic by promoting them on social media.
Blogs and online articles are an excellent way to build your business’ online community and keep followers engaged. So, if you haven’t considered starting one, go do that now! Whether you’ve just started one thanks to my advice or already had one up and running, that’s great, but don’t stop at simply posting your content to your own site.
To increase traffic to your website, publish the post on your social media accounts. Try to schedule a few posts about your blog and include a clickable link to it, if possible (Facebook and Twitter have this feature, Instagram requires a bit of extra finesse to give links to users). This will help your users find your posts easily and boost your blog views – a win-win!
4. Partner with micro-influencers.
Influencer marketing is a hot trend. It’s a type of social media marketing that involves product placement and advertising from social media users with a large following in a specific industry (influencers).
While that may sound intimidating, don’t worry; you won’t need a Kylie Jenner-level influencer (with her $1.2M per post price tag) promoting your product to do this. Think smaller, a-la the micro-influencer. These are influencers who have anywhere from 2,000 to 50,000 followers on social media and focus on a specific topic or niche market.
Partnering with micro-influencers gives small businesses the opportunity to tap into influencer marketing without the costly and often arduous task of promoting your products through top influencers. Try searching hashtags related to your brand (remember Hack #2?) and look for popular social media users that share a passion for your industry.
Once you’ve identified a few potential candidates, reach out to gauge their interest in working with your brand—some will work for cash, some will barter, some might accept product in exchange for posts. Find even one person who is passionate about your product or brand and you’ll be on your way to reaping the benefits of influencer marketing in no time.
5. Understand the ideal times to post.
To post or not to post, that is the question we’ve all faced when deciding whether or not to hit “publish” on our genius social media creation at 12 a.m. Unless you’re a celebrity with millions of global followers, it’s best to wait to figure out the best posting times for your specific audience. Each platform has a general time they suggest when most users are scrolling through—but beware of adhering to these guidelines—they’re very broad and no audience has the same habits.
To determine the best posting times for your audience, begin with making informed guesses as to time slots that could garner traffic, such as the morning and afternoon commute or lunch break. Pay attention to which times earn the most traffic, and tailor your strategy from there. Build it into your plan as you set up the scheduling strategy you learned about in Hack #1. However, this is not a one-time fix; holidays and major events such as the COVID-19 crisis can change your followers’ daily schedules. Pay attention to these changes as they fluctuate and adjust your social media scheduling strategy accordingly.
6. Focus less on vanity metrics, more on engagement.
Vanity metrics, by definition, are considered the number of likes and followers you receive on social media. It’s extremely easy to buy into the idea that these are a true measure of your content’s success but, in reality, engagement should be the number one focus. Hundreds of likes on a social media post can show that your posts are performing well, but engagement such as comments and conversation will demonstrate that audiences are truly interested in your business’ services or goods and the information you share.
Many social media platforms offer free analytics tools that can provide insight into what types of content earn the most engagement on your page. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram all offer a free analytics tool that can help you to figure out what your audiences are really responding to. Similar to when determining posting times, experiment with content and constantly adjust to posting what your followers engage with the most.
7. Harness the power of Instagram Stories.
It’s time to add the Instagram and Facebook Stories feature to your toolkit. Instead of a standard post, Stories allow users to post photos or videos that appear at the top of your feed and disappear within 24 hours. They’re a goldmine for interacting with followers, gathering feedback, and promoting your business on social media in a fresh, fun way. Best of all, it’s free.
Try posting to your Story a few times a week and add things that viewers can interact with such as questions, polls, or other stickers. But beware of over posting—users will rarely click through dozens of Story posts from a single brand or account. Instead, try to keep it around 10 Story posts to share your content while keeping viewers engaged.
Need some inspiration? A great social media account to watch that nails the Instagram Story game is Colourpop Cosmetics. They are a perfect example of posting beautiful Stories that earn them feedback on products and content that their audiences want to see.
8. Check out new small-business Instagram stickers.
In response to the hardship that the COVID-19 crisis has brought to many small businesses, Instagram has developed stickers to add to your Story. These stickers are designed specifically to bring your business more traffic.
When posting an Instagram Story, small-business users now have the option to add stickers that include buttons for purchasing gift cards, donating to a fundraiser, or ordering food. Each button allows users to link to a partner site, where they will be able to complete the action such as ordering food or donating money—helping to support your business with the click of a button. In a time where convenience and contactless purchasing is the new normal, these stickers can help to keep your social media community connected to your business (insert sigh of relief).
If you’re worried about how to manage your social media during these strange times, you’re not alone. While it can seem like an overwhelming task to stay connected to your community despite being socially distanced, adding some of these hacks to your social media strategy can help you stay engaged—even from six feet away. Your followers are bound to respond and engage and, in turn, support your business. Happy posting!