7 Actionable Small Business Social Media Hacks

Today, social media is integral to any type of business, from the sole proprietor to the small business to the large enterprise corporation. People are constantly reviewing online content in order to determine whether they will do business with a business or not. Facebook and Twitter (more notably, Twitter) are avenues where people are venting their frustration about companies that may not otherwise be giving them the best type of user experience. 

Small businesses especially are seeing a focus on Facebook and Yelp for location reviews. Gone are the days when social media was just something those big companies with a brand budget cared about. Everyone needs to be mindful of what’s being said about them on every single platform. There are no excuses and there’s no way out.

What’s Your Social Media Style?

What are you trying to go after in social media? Are you trying to create a brand? Acquire customers? Create thought leadership? Drive conversions? Bring foot traffic into your institution? Harness the power of the collective to build a strong network of like-minded people from which to lean onto later?

Stray Rescue helps their strays get adopted and acknowledges the new owners who adopt them through Instagram

Figure out what you’re trying to do FIRST before you can choose channels and methods within those channels that may make sense.

You shouldn’t be focusing on every platform just because you can. Chances are, Facebook and Twitter will be part of your mix, but that’s just half the battle.

What’s next? Do you want to create a Facebook Page? A Facebook Group? Do you want to network under your name or under your brand’s name? How are you looking to engage? Many considerations such as these exist for every network. Once you’re there, you will need to tailor your engagement toward what makes the most sense for your business.

The Primary Channels You Should Be Focusing On

Here’s a shortcut: For customer acquisition, you should focus more on the review sites. Look at what people are saying about you and respond accordingly. Monitor this regularly.

The biggest review site in our opinion is Yelp, followed closely by Google. Some other 2nd tier review sites include:

  • Yellowpages
  • CitySearch
  • MerchantCircle
  • Judysbook

We’ve got a few rules of thumb for you:

  • If you’re in a specific vertical, you should look for big vertical based search sites in your industry. For example, Zomato (formerly Urbanspoon) is big for restaurants, Edmunds & are great if you’re an auto-dealer. Zillow is where you should be if you’re a real estate agent.
  • For larger brands, your focus should be on nurturing Facebook and Twitter, because the conversations will already be happening there and it is in your best interest to react and engage. Create valuable content and build relationships with customers. Respond to feedback and comments on your posts. Don’t ignore anything–people hate that!

Bear in mind that Facebook has a review component built in, and if you are looking for customer acquisition, leveraging this functionality would be beneficial to you too.

There are other sites that you’d want to focus your energy on that are more specific to your type of brand, and we’ll go into that later in this article.

If you’re a physical and local business, you should focus 60% of your efforts on Yelp and Google+, since those are still the most ubiquitous networks when you search for reviews of local businesses. Thirty percent of your energy should focus on Facebook; while Facebook is big, their reviews section is more of a secondary convenience for businesses, and isn’t a big focus for the network or its users, though I believe that is shifting ever so slowly. Focus the remaining 10% on big vertical sites like TripAdvisor and Zomato.

If you’re a national brand or in the travel vertical, your focus should be 80% on Facebook and Twitter, and 20% on Google+. There will likely be the majority of activity on the major networks, and you’ll need to be omnipresent to keep on top of it all.

1. Listen To What Your Customers Are Saying

Social listening is step #1 in good social media management.

The most important question: What are people saying about your brand?

This is critically important every step of the way. We’ve seen a pretty big deal of customers who engage–and the brand doesn’t respond for months or even YEARS. That doesn’t bode well for growing your potential customer base, I assure you, especially if the initial posting was negative. On top of just listening on Facebook and Twitter (and other platforms you may have a social presence on), customers should also be looking into web mentions and reviews.

Some tools I use for listening are:

  • Google Alerts: they still work, but mostly for media mentions over anything else.
  • HootSuite: great for Twitter mentions, which help for bigger companies/brands
  • Synup’s Review Monitoring: a great and simple way to aggregate your reviews by site and sentiment.

Try to gather reviews by encouraging them wherever possible, monitor for those reviews, and respond to them. To elaborate on the Synup offering, it helps local businesses monitor what’s being said on review sites like Google+, Yelp, and Foursquare. After all, that’s a huge challenge to do manually!

2. Communicate Actively On Your Social Media Accounts

It’s not just about being reactive. It’s about being proactive. What are you trying to convey on a regular basis? Would you be interested in sharing deals or specials your company is offering? Perhaps you represent a restaurant that has a special menu this week? Perhaps your roofing company is having a giveaway for $500 off on the next bill? Perhaps you simply want to share photos of staff members in action on the job, doing nonprofit work, or whatever else? 

fine artistik salon uses Facebook to update their clients on holidays

Communication is paramount. Not only does it keep you top of mind whenever these people are paying attention, it gives off the impression that you’re a forward-thinking entity.

I’d like to also say that you’re an early adopter. For some reason, people aren’t doing this so well!

Think about it this way, wouldn’t you rather engage with companies that seem approachable over those that aren’t? I thought so. Approachability starts with responsiveness. If you respond to me, I’m happy. Wouldn’t you feel happy if a brand made sure to answer your questions quickly, within minutes or hours?

So what does communicating actively look like?

  • It’s about using the tools we’ve suggested that you monitor and respond to them in real time.
  • That means not waiting more than 4 hours (and that’s being generous) between a tweet and your response.
  • You should apply the same tactics to email communication; there’s no reason in today’s day and age to have a disconnect between customer service methods. These days, customers turn to social media because they’re too impatient to wait a standard 24-48 hour response time for a ticket to be responded to. That’s pretty critical, and is why I started offering real-time email services.

Proactivity is also about pitching out customer promotions on a semi regular basis (I like to say 1x/week is good, but if that’s too much, that’s fine too). It’s about showing customers behind the scenes images, and being humorous with your customers too. It’s about humanizing your brand and letting them know that it’s being run by people, not corporate drones who have no empathy. Your voice should be laid back, informal, and fun. This is the real world. It’s called social media because we’re being social.

After all, being boring and formal is so 1990.

There’s no particular rule of thumb into how much you can post. I like to say not to be obsessive. One or two times a day is usually plenty!

3. Don’t Share Obsessively; You Need To Share Stuff People Want To Read

Communicating value is important. But don’t overdo it! As companies and brands, tweeting or posting to Facebook more than 2-3 times a day is probably overkill. Make sure those updates count. Let them be valuable to the community at large. Would they benefit from knowing how to rid their homes of fruit flies? If you’re an exterminator and they are following you, definitely. But if you’re an exterminator offering recipes of brownies, while I love my brownies, I fail to find the appropriate value in that type of off-topic communication.

If I’m following a marketing agency, I expect to learn about their company but also expect to learn about things that would help me market better. That’s thought leadership. They’re not giving away the kitchen sink by telling me things I would probably not employ anyway! If I’m following a stroller brand, I’d probably find parenting tips valuable too. Think about whether your community would benefit from the relevance of the content and promote appropriately. Don’t be too self promotional!

If you are looking for some great places to share content, have a look at this Buffer post. You can get inspired by thinking creatively, watching the competition, using social sites, monitoring hashtags, checking the news, and even using social networks like Pinterest.

4. Respond Back & Don’t Take It Personally

There will be times in your life when you will deal with some of the worst insults ever slung to you and it will all unfold online. You may want to respond with emotion. You may want to get super defensive. Don’t! It won’t look good if you get super defensive, even if that means you resort to name calling. Respond back, kill with kindness, and most of all, don’t take it personally.

If you need some customer service inspiration, have a look at these three examples.

5. If You’re Operating Locally, Ensure Your Data Is In Sync

Local businesses require some special considerations to to ensure you’re even found online. Their data should be in sync, so that you look good on listing and review sites, and also just to ensure you’re found! After all, if your information is not current and someone follows you on a site like Yelp and Foursquare and are given the WRONG address (this has happened to me so very recently when I followed a Yelp address to the wrong doctor’s office), you may lose a customer and possibly a business.  

Make sure every single website shows the correct information! You can run a scan to check if your information is correctly put up on all websites. In case you’re information is incorrect you manage your information manually(here’s a DIY on how to claim your listings) or use a service like Synup. Synup helps local businesses and larger brands with multiple outlets, manage all their locations from one place.

6. Don’t Ignore Non-Obvious Social Media Channels

We talked about a lot of the main networks, but we didn’t get into the nitty gritty of where you really should lie.

  • If you’re a retail store, for example, you need to pay attention to Foursquare.
  • If you’re a local business providing services, AngelList and Yelp are key, with the latter being a bigger and more publicly accessible focus.
  • If you’re B2B software, you need to use GetApp or Capterra.
  • If you’re a photographer, Instagram or Flickr aren’t bad places to be either. 

Rachel Demy uses Instagram to promote her photography 

In short, know where your audience would be and follow them. The most appropriate audiences aren’t the biggest social networks. I even found data that shows that not all top leads come from Facebook; sometimes Pinterest is where it’s at.

7. Keep on Testing!

You will find that things will change. The marketplace changes. People get “banner blind” regardless of platform and of the network, so the tactics that work today will likely die tomorrow. You will have to change things up. You will have to try other networks. Don’t be afraid to test and retest, until you find things that work for you. But don’t get too comfortable; the early adopter gets the worm (and a lot of the clients!)

Social media is not to be ignored by businesses, regardless of where you are at, from a small one-man shop to the largest company on the planet. But those who leverage it best, and who engage with their customers, find the best return. What are you waiting for?




I work as Growth Marketer at Synup, an integrated dashboard to make life easier for local marketing consultants, agencies and brands. I am tinkerer with a passion for building things and finding out new (and ambitious) ways of fixing problems. You can follow me @nooruzzonline

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