How To Effectively Use Social Media For Business

How To Effectively Use Social Media For Business

Marketing | Posted by - December 1, 2015 at 1:00 am

There are more than a billion blogs, articles and other resources on “how to do” social media. Seriously, look…

but there’s no way that one blog could ever teach you all there is to know about how to “do social”. I teach a 14-week Introduction to Social Media Marketing course, and even at that, there’s a ton of information and content that can’t be covered because there’s just so much to know, and each platform—Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest—changes so often.


Great,” you’re thinking. “So, where do I start?"


Stop Trying to Drink From the Firehose

Accept that you’re not going to be able to know everything all at once, and you’re not likely going to become an immediate expert in any one of these platforms. Nor should those be goals for you at this point, either.


Let’s step back a moment, and look at this strategically rather than tactically. Tactics you can google, and you’ll find a slew of resources that provide you with checklists and tools. Strategy though, frames your approach, and if you’re clear on your approach, then you’re more likely to realize success, as defined by you for your business, because only you know these answers.


First things first. Invest in your future success by doing the work upfront.


Do Your Homework


Start by taking the time to answer some of these questions so that you can build your own digital roadmap.


  • Define Who You Are

    • Begin by taking the time to articulate what your business’ voice is: formal vs. casual, traditional vs. contemporary, corporate vs. personal, authoritative vs. collaborative. Knowing how to tell your story (your brand story) sets the framework for everything else.

  • Know What You Are Trying to Achieve

    • Can you clearly articulate your goals? Are they creating sales opportunities; network growth; being regarded as an industry or thought leader; having influence; being a community leader; supporting a movement, an event or a cause? These goals are not necessarily mutually exclusive, but identifying what you want to achieve helps you identify the steps you need to take to get there, as each goal will require a different approach.

  • Understand Your Challenges

    • We all have constraints. What are yours? Write them down. Get them out of your head, and out of your way: time, knowledge, money, skill sets, access to information. When you clearly understand your constraints, you can start to identify a way to overcome them.

  • Identify Your Opportunities

    • Same thing as with challenges and constraints, except these are the things to which you already have access. Write them down. Can any of these help you overcome your challenges?  

  • Build a Clear Action Plan and Create a Digital Dashboard

    • In the same way you plan your business, plan your digital activity - at least a quarter at a time. Then identify what’s going to be important for you to measure. Audience growth, sales, white paper downloads? What metrics are going to indicate what’s working and not working in your plan? Track it. Track it. Track it.

  • Prioritize & Execute

    • You can’t do it all at the same time, so decide which things you should tackle first, and then put some dates to them. If you don’t, “some day” becomes never.

  • Keep up the Momentum

    • The worst thing you can do is start your social media activity and then have it just peter away, leaving your audience with a negative impression of your commitment to your company, your brand and your success. It’s far better to start slow and do it well, than “spray and pray” and fail across all channels at the same time.


Okay, so that’s the setup, but your homework doesn’t stop there.


Know Your Audience


Whos online? Everyone. Well, in Canada, it’s about 93% of the population, so just about everyone.


You really have to know where your audience is, and that takes research. Are the same people on Twitter as are on Facebook? Who’s using Pinterest? LinkedIn? Sure, we all make assumptions about these platforms, but those assumptions are usually based on our own usage of them. If you remember nothing else from this blog, let me remind you of this: you are not your audience. You may have some commonalities with your audience, but how you use social media is not how your target market does.


There are some excellent resources out there that can give you some insights into social channels and their demographics from right within each platform. Start with the social audience you currently have and look at Twitter Analytics, or Facebook Insights for Pages. LinkedIn’s analytics are getting better, and Pinterest’s have gotten considerably more robust as well.


I know, I know, it’s easy to look at your existing audience, but what about where your target audience is? There is a plethora of research and insight available to you for free, from trusted and credible sources, including Pew Research, Sprout Social, We Are Social, Business Insider, Comscore, McKinsey and Company, and AdWeek, just to name a few.

It’s Not About the Numbers

Back in June 2014, the Wall Street Journal posted an article titled Social Media Fail to Live Up to Early Marketing Hype. To be honest, it was a pretty clickbaity title to begin with. The gist of the article was that the Ritz-Carlton Hotel chain was re-evaluating their use of social media because they were having a hard time engaging with their actual fans through all the likes and follows on their social channels. Stay with me...


There’s a huge difference between quantity and quality. There is little value to your business having 100,000 likes on your Facebook page when those people don’t really care about you or your business or your products at all, versus 100 loyal, passionate cheerleaders who will spread the word about your business because they love what you do and want to see you succeed. There is nothing more valuable than those 100 brand ambassadors, because they help your business grow organically. And that organic, authentic growth is sustainable and repeatable business.


So don’t think that those outrageous numbers of Twitter followers or Facebook likes will translate into business growth or sales. They won’t. Besides, there’s some valuable criticism of the value of the ‘like' that you should be mindful of before you start spending thousands of dollars on advertising campaigns.


Friction: It’s a Bad Thing


Have you ever been frustrated trying to get in touch with a company through their interactive voice response (IVR) system (zerozerozerozerozerozerodammit!), or their website (PageNotFound)? Have you abandoned buying something online because there were just too many steps to take before you could just get a receipt confirming that your purchase was on its way, or stopped trying to read an article because there were too many ads or the page was too hard to read on your phone? That’s not just poor design. In the digital world, we call that friction.


Friction is not a good thing. Friction slows things down. It stops people from engaging with you, contacting you, and buying from you. So you need to be aware of friction in every single part of your online presence. Every. Single. Part.


Due to multi-tasking, people are currently cramming 31 hours of activity into 24-hour days, and they are spending a huge amount of those hours interacting with and engaging in social and other media. Notably though, in those online hours, they are really only spending time in their favourite apps and go-to websites. So what makes more sense? Going to where your audience is, or asking them to leave their comfort zone and dragging them to your online presence? Clearly, the former approach is the more frictionless, and hence, the more desirable.


What does that look like for you and your business? Here are a couple of examples.

Is your audience predominantly on Facebook? (If you’ve done your homework, then you can answer that question readily.) If so, then think about how you can work
within Facebook to connect with them. Create calendar events, complete with maps and directions, to your pop-up sales or speaking gigs and have your Facebook call-to-action (CTA) button ready. Whether you’re selling products or tickets online, connect that CTA “Buy” button to services like Shopify  to give your audience what they want, and then get out of their way.


The Shopify Buy Button is the very definition of frictionless. According to Satish Kanwar, Director of Product for Shopify, business owners are already talking to their customers and building ongoing relationships, and doing it where those customers spend their time: on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, or the company’s website. Furthermore, since those customers are using their mobile phones more and more, Shopify’s solutions purposefully don’t get in the way of the customer’s natural flow. They work within the social platforms, and don’t require any additional websites or extraneous steps to fulfill purchasing decisions.


If you’ve not tried these kinds of solutions before because they seem complicated, onerous or taxing, think again. The benefits of these world-class design considerations are no longer the sole domain of huge enterprise businesses. These opportunities are now at the ready for small business owners like you, and the only thing standing in your way of successfully taking advantage of them is your commitment to make it happen.


And what about that commitment? Without change, there is no change. Start small: a few hours a week. Go through the homework steps, break down your work into quarters, be realistic about what you can accomplish and in which time frames, and then, make it happen.




Tags: twitter, social media strategy, social media, pinterest, linkedin, content marketing

Karen Schulman Dupuis

Karen Schulman Dupuis is the COO and VP Business Design at Ellipsis Digital, a leading digital agency in London, Ontario. Prior to working with Ellipsis Digital, Karen held two roles at the MaRS Discovery District in Toronto as the Manager, Business Development, ICT Venture Services Group, and the Manager, Digital Communications. She is also an instructor in Continuing Education at George Brown College.

Karen is a Business Designer with a specialty in digital and social media, who brings her extensive experience in the fields of sales, education, operations, process design, business analysis, project management and marketing communications together to guide businesses on how to design internal efficiencies to create external opportunities. She is an intrapreneur, and an award winning communicator, who has worked with startups and entrepreneurs for 15 years in ICT.

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